Gin is defined in EU regulation* as a juniper-flavoured spirit with a minimum alcoholic strength of 37.5% ABV: meaning low and alcohol product cannot, by definition, be considered as gin (Similar regulations exist in the US, where gin needs to be bottled at 80° proof).
But the rise of low and low alcohol drinks has led to a number of brands using the term ‘gin’, while the UK guild wants to protect the use of the term for genuine gin brands.
Gin-style? Gin-like? NotGin?
“Gin is defined in the Regulations as a juniper-flavoured spirit drink with a minimum alcoholic strength for of 37.5%. Products that do not comply with these criteria cannot use the term “Gin” anywhere in their labelling," notes the Guild.
“In addition, the words ‘like’, ‘type’, ‘style’, ‘made’, ‘flavour’ or any other similar terms cannot be used to describe it.
“Products with 1.2% ABV or less, clearly do not satisfy the definition for Gin. As such, any statement that uses the word Gin may not be used anywhere on the labelling. Examples include NotGin, Gin Style Spirit, Gin Flavour drink.”
When creating labels and branding, the key is to ensure that the product is not misleading in any way, continues the guild.
“The name given to the drink will be taken into consideration together with all of the additional information available to the consumer to ensure the product as a whole does not mislead, such as pictorial representation on the label and presentation of the drink. For example, if the shape and colour of the bottle and the style of the label clearly imitates a popular brand of Gin, this could be seen to be misleading and therefore breach the requirements of the legislation.”
The UK's Wine and Spirit Trade Association has noted the same issue, publishing guidelines this month as to how low and no alcohol spirit based drinks should be named. It suggests products use the phrasing 'made with gin' (or the relevant spirit) and state the percentage of gin used in the product. "By alluding to the presence of gin as an ingredient it is clear to consumers that the product is not 'gin', but does include gin as an ingredient.'
In September, The Gin Guild confronted a UK 29% spirit ‘gin’ brand: which it described as “an ill-advised, blatant and cynical attempt to market products to leach on the good name and reputation of the gin category.” It obtained a written undertaking to confirm that the sale and trade of the products as ‘gin’ had ceased.
* The EU (Withdrawal) Act retains applicable EU legislation in the UK for the time being, including these regulations on spirits drinks.