The Gin Cooperative Awards

Launching our 2022 Awards Programme.

Published: 2nd May 2022

Since starting The Gin Cooperative in December 2017, we’ve set out to create a positive and engaging voice for the Scottish Gin industry and our members. Our membership has remained over the 80 member mark during the last four years, with a retention rate of 97%. We’ve grown The Gin Cooperative to be the premium resource for all things Scottish Gin, helping consumers and trade learn more about the people, the stories, the products. We love what we do, and we love the people and brands we get to call members and friends.

Just as the Scottish Gin category has continued to grow, we have also grown as people in the industry. We’ve pushed ourselves to learn more about all aspects of the industry, from the production side of the Scottish Gin industry to understanding the commercials, the supply chain, the challenges and opportunities for innovation. We’ve listened, and we’ve learned. We’ve continued to look at how we communicate the story of Scottish Gin and how we can add value to the term Scottish Gin.

We established International Scottish Gin Day (ISGD) in 2018, with the first day taking place in August 2019, which saw some of the world’s best bars support the day and various events worldwide. Once again, it was a labour of love from the initial idea through to the first ISGD.

The Gin Cooperative established International Scottish Gin Day in 2018, with the first day taking place in 2019. (Pic: ©The Gin Cooperative)
The Gin Cooperative shop features one of the largest, independent selections of Scottish Gin with over 300 Scottish Gins. (Pic: ©The Gin Cooperative)

In December 2020, we expanded our website to include an online shop, specialising in Scottish Gin. Our shop meant we were in a position to buy stock directly from the people, businesses and brands who had supported us through the membership, where it was feasible and worked for both parties. We also saw our shop as a chance to further educate the customer, with each product featuring an in-depth overview of the product and producer. We started with 120 products in December 2020, and as of April 2022, we now list over 300 Scottish Gin products.

We’ve also had the support, encouragement and friendship of many people from the industry and gin community over the last 4 years; writers and journalists, bloggers and content creators. We’ve met many talented, creative and passionate people who care about gin and its success. The journey is more fun when shared with other like-minded people and businesses. Developing a network of people who share similar values, hopes and ambitions for Scottish Gin has helped us grow and create several opportunities for collaboration and furthering the story of Scottish Gin.

We’re in a privileged position doing what we do. Visiting Scotland’s Gin makers and brand owners, earning a voice and place in the world of Scottish Gin and doing what we can to highlight the values and virtues of the industry’s products, brands and people. We’ve also been able to garner industry insight directly from Scotland’s gin makers and brand owners.

Behind the scenes on a photoshoot, The Gin Cooperative co-founder Natalie Reid mixes some cocktails. (Pic: ©The Gin Cooperative)
Judging The Gin Guide Awards 2022. (Pic: ©The Gin Cooperative)

One area of the spirits world we’ve been privileged to be involved in is judging and awards. The Gin Cooperative has been a sponsor and we have been judges for the Scottish Gin Awards and we’ve been judges for The Gin Guide Awards; both businesses and awards programmes that we greatly admire, respect and support. We’ve also gotten to know many judges from other spirits competitions, including the World Gin Awards, IWSC, London Spirits Competition and the San Francisco Spirits Awards, to name but a few.

We’ve seen and heard first-hand how well-executed awards programmes can provide producers and brands with a unique platform for showcasing their products to consumers and trade. Awards programmes should add value to the brands who enter and provide a platform for celebrating and showcasing the entries and generating commercial opportunities. They should be a celebration and recognise the hard work, investment and quality of the entires. Winning an award can open doors for exporting and distribution deals along with new listings. Awards can be something that can help a brand stand out in a crowded market but can also sometimes provide a well needed morale boost.

On the flip side, there’s still a degree of scepticism and the idea that the more you spend entering, the more likely you’ll be to win an award. At times, we hear the collective sighs of producers when it appears brands are given an award for simply entering. A gin one year can pick up a prize and the following year, at the same competition, leave empty-handed. We’ve also heard what the brand’s real value is when the feedback is minimal to none on what the judges thought. Add to the fact that gin is often only judged neat or with a splash of water, which isn’t an accurate reflection of how consumers drink gin.

There is also the question of what makes a gin sell? Is it a well-executed marketing campaign or in-person brand building? Is it how the bottle looks on the shelf or word of mouth from a friend? It can feel like the bigger picture of what makes a gin, including the time, investment and hard work that goes into the packaging and presentation of a gin, is lost when it comes to competitions. And even then, some competitions ask producers to pay a separate fee to enter both a taste award and a packaging award, rather than looking at judging the whole package of what makes up the product.

There was a common theme across many discussions, even when it comes to judges. It’s the same faces judging the same products year after year, or it can appear to be a ‘job for the boys’ club when it comes to judging (sorry, don’t shoot the messenger). Should distillers be judging when it could give an entry an unfair advantage or disadvantage on an entry based on the distiller’s ability to identify a sample? (as we said, don’t shoot the messenger). Of course, having experienced experts on any judging panel brings a weight of priceless industry insight. But what about the people who don’t drink gin for a living or make gin for a living? What about the consumers who are the ones who keep gin brands going and help keep the lights on? What about the consumer perspective?

Finding out who won can also be a minefield, having to scroll through hundreds of pages of results, looking for Scotland to see most Scottish results are filed under UK or in some cases another region.

Then you see old pack shots, incorrect product details and other touch-points are wrong; for what should be a chance to shine a light on a gin as an award-winning product. Is it a case of the competition doesn’t care? Is it the fact they’ve had to manage 4000 plus entries so mistakes are bound to creep in? It’s not for us to say or judge. But regardless, finding out who won should be a simple process, presenting the winners in a way that’s easy to digest.

As time goes on, we’re seeing more businesses appearing that include some form of gin awards in their awards programmes, often forming a subcategory in a more extensive awards programme for food and drink or hospitality. Usually, they apply the same judging structure across all the drinks categories with very little understanding of the different gin styles and production methods.

On the face of it, many of these new awards programmes can come across as little more than a money making exercise, rather than being genuinely invested in the long term success of the businesses that enter. This is perhaps being cynical, but all these issues surrounding awards have at one point or another been discussed with us over the last four years. We believe there’s a balance between how gin is judged and by whom and the value for the businesses who enter.

And it got us thinking, if we were a gin producer, what would we want? Where is the value for us as a business? What would a real-world judging panel look like? How would we want our gin judged? As these things often do, we put pen to paper and started developing the idea of an awards programme for Scottish Gin created by The Gin Cooperative based on the elements we see as fundamental to Scottish Gin’s success. Taste neat. Taste as a gin and tonic. And how the bottle looks, as well as how the gin tastes.

The idea of a competition that judged the gin not only neat but also a gin and tonic and a score for how the bottle looked, stuck with us. But how could you judge all these elements fairly and transparently? What’s the difference between a gin scoring 14 for the palate and a gin scoring 15? If we were to launch an awards programme for Scottish Gin, we wanted it to be different from other competitions. It couldn’t just be about what elements were judged but also a unique scoring system based on what the judges feel, see, and taste.

The Gin Cooperative Awards 2022

We’re super proud to launch The Gin Cooperative Awards 2022. A new competition for Scotland’s gin makers and brand owners. Our programme for Scottish Gin looks at the qualities of the Scottish Gin category from a different angle. The Gin Cooperative Awards recognise the spirit in the bottle and the time and investment that goes into how Scottish Gin is presented; looking closer at how gin is enjoyed and purchased.

The Gin Cooperative Awards is also about fairness and transparency, including our judging panel. The Gin Cooperative Awards judging panel is made up of judges from three key sectors – Industry, Community, Consumer; to provide a cross-section of the people who work with gin, write about gin and drink gin.

Entries will be judged based on three key criteria - gin neat, gin & tonic, packaging. (Pic: ©The Gin Cooperative)

The Gin Cooperative Awards 2022. (Pic: ©The Gin Cooperative)

Judging Panel Overview

We’ve carefully handpicked a diverse and exciting range of judges that make up our judging panel of 60 people. To ensure complete impartiality, no one from The Gin Cooperative will be involved in the judging process. Also, no Scottish distillers or gin brand owners will be involved with the judging. A selection of judges from across the industry, community and consumer categories hold some formal qualifications, including WSET.

Industry judges come from various backgrounds, including on-trade, off-trade, hospitality, food and tourism. Industry judges will all have a level of insight and understanding of gin production and an understanding of the spirits supply chain. Some will be more focused on flavour, with some more focused on marketing, but all will provide valuable industry feedback.

Community judges come from the online communities for gin, food, travel and hospitality, including reviewers, bloggers, content creators and amateur mixologists. Community judges are all passionate individuals who are active online and use their blogs, websites and social media channels to showcase and talk about gin and their areas of expertise.

Consumer judges cover a wide range of gin drinkers, from collectors to gin drinkers who have recently discovered gin. Consumer judges have been carefully selected based on data we have collected through our content and website.

Some of our judges include:

The final judging panel will be announced in due course as we finalise and publish the remaining judge’s bios.

Judging Process

Judges will be provided with a detailed judging pack that will cover the scoring process. The top three highest scores in each gin category will be awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. The scorecards will also be used to determine a number of other awards, including Best Scottish Gin of the Year and Best Scottish Gin and Tonic.

Taste Score

Packaging Score

A “drink and judge responsibly” message will be communicated to all judges throughout the judging process.

The Gin Cooperative Awards programme delivers value for money for the producers and brands. An awards programme created to help showcase Scottish Gin with a considered and unique approach to judging gin, based on how it is consumed. An awards programme created by a business established to help further promote the global reputation of Scottish Gin.

Award Categories

The full list of award categories:

All entries will also be automatically entered into one or more of the following awards:

All finalists that meet or exceed the finalists scoring threshold across the competition will be provided with a finalists badge.

Awards Entry

All entries must meet The Gin Cooperative’s definition of a Scottish Gin and be submitted via the online awards entry form, which you’ll find on the awards section of The Cooperative website.

Finalists and winners will be announced via The Gin Cooperative website.

Full details of the entry process, benefits, timeline and more can be found in the awards media pack, which can be downloaded from the awards section of our website here.

We’ve invested significant time and resources to create an awards programme and judging panel that we believe can help provide the producers and brands who enter with further valuable feedback about the liquid in the bottle but also the packaging, scored by a judging panel that will provide a real-world set of results.

We’re proud and excited to have created a new competition for Scottish Gin based on our insight and feedback from the last four years. We will continue to support and champion the other businesses that we admire and respect in the world of Scottish Gin and gin, including the team at KD Media and the Scottish Gin Awards. We will continue to cover our member’s achievements at all the leading spirits competitions and see The Gin Cooperative Awards as another unique opportunity for us to help showcase and promote the Scottish Gin category.

Everything we’ve done up until this point has been to help elevate Scottish Gin as the gin category consumers and trade should have at the top of their ‘must check out’ list when it comes to gin. We’re confident that The Gin Cooperative Awards will provide us and the Scottish Gin category with a new format for showcasing the very best that the Scottish Gin category has to offer. A competition that will help add value to the brands and producers who enter, with the valuable feedback they will receive from the judges split evenly across industry, consumer and community, all looking to discover their new favourite Scottish Gin.

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