Tell us more about Italy's claim to being the first creators of gin?
According to Aaron Knoll’s excellent Book “Gin - The Art and Craft of the artisanal revival” - and Geraldine Coates’ excellent History of Gin - the first “gin” did indeed come from Italy in the mid 11th Century. Monks were busy experimenting with distilling wines rather than distilling their own grains from scratch, in the kitchens of the Monasteries along the Amalfi Coast. These spirits distilled for medicinal purposes had herbs and spices, foraged locally and added to them to make them more palatable. Juniper, which grew rampantly across the region, was added - and thus, perhaps Italy can lay claim to be the first nation to have created what we now know as gin!
What is the gin industry like in Italy at the moment?
Gin in Italy, as it is in Spain, Germany, Holland and so many other European countries is booming. There are multiple small distilleries that have traditionally made Grappa, Bitters, Vermouths etc all starting up their own gin brand - MALFY GIN for instance, is made at Torino Distillati - a small, distillery owned by the Vergnano Family who make a wide range of vermouths, bitters, grappas and spirits. All the equipment is available - stills, blending tanks and bottling equipment - so it is a natural fit!….and consumption in Italy is growing rapidly too - with Italy being around the 15th biggest consumer of super-premium gins in the world.
Not only is gin growing - but we are also seeing a revival of classic gin cocktails such as the Negroni (invented in Italy, of course) - and being the home country of Campari, there is plenty of opportunity. In addition, Italy is famous for its mineral waters and soft drinks and there are a number of excellent Italian tonic waters - such as Gasco Italian Tonic.
Do Italian gins have a distinct style?
Yes, absolutely! What is so exciting about a country that embraces the concept of “terroir” (the taste of a place) in their wines, Italian Gins also represent the taste of the locality. Sabatini Gin for instance is made with Tuscan botanicals and has exceptional and uniquely Tuscan flavors and aromas... MALFY Gin is a uniquely Amalfi Coast flavor - again because of the ingredients unique to Italy that we use.
How do people like to serve gin in Italy?
The Gin & Tonic craze has definitely caught on - very similar to Spain - but of course, the Negroni is an all time Italian Classic, and is served frequently in the best bars.
What UK gins are most available and popular in Italy?
The mainstream gins such as Hendrick’s Gin, Bulldog Gin (which is of course owned by Campari - and thus does quite well!), Tanqueray Gin and Bombay Sapphire Gin lead the pack - but there is a wide variety of British Gins from small distilleries available in both bars and specialist liquor stores.
What's next for the Italian gin industry and Italian gins?
I think we will see a continued expansion in the styles of Gin - in particular the ones that do well will come up with unique and differentiated botanicals and ingredients. Italy is a country that has a long history and culture of the things that make for great spirits brands - amazing glass manufacturing, exceptional graphic design (for labels, advertising etc), incredible ingredients (fruits, herbs, the best Juniper in the world which grows in the wild!), amazing wheat/grains for distilling and an amazing cocktail culture. The future is bright!