Bringing a new gin in to an already saturated market is a tall order for anyone. But if you realise you are a direct descendant from the family that introduced one of the oldest gins ever made, then the temptation must be there to revive it for a new generation. Which is why Nicholas Browne and Tim Walker have brought back Nicholson Gin, a brand that dates back to 1736 with many a story to tell…
Nicholson Gin can claim to be completely different from any other new gin launch. It’s a brand with a history that goes back some 281 years, which might give it an edge over the competition, but makes it even more of a challenge for the family descendants looking to revive it today.
On the face of it Nicholson Dry Gin is like any other new gin launch. It can claim to have 10 different botanicals – juniper berries, coriander, Angelica root, citrus peels from oranges and lemons, cinnamon, Orris root, Cassia bark, nutmeg and liquorice – is 40.3% proof and will be available in 70cl bottles.
But few, if any, can also claim to have a heritage that not only helped create the classic London Dry Gin style in the 1830s, but was said to be a favourite of the Duke of Wellington and helped save Lord’s cricket and the Maleybone Cricket Club .
Apparently one of the founders, William Nicholson, lent the MCC in 1866 enough money to purchase the freehold of the now world famous Lord’s Cricket Ground. He went on to lend further money in 1880 to help build its now landmark pavilion. The MCC was said to be so grateful to the man that “saved Lord’s” that it went on to adopt the Nicholson gin’s ‘egg and bacon’ colours for their own use.
That’s not the only influence the original Nicholson gin family has had on London that is still here today. In 1873 it started its own pub chain, which still operates, admittedly under different ownership, under the Nicholson’s name.
For cousins, Nicholas Browne and Tim Walker, the opportunity to bring back not only a bit of their own family history, but to revive one of the UK’s oldest known gins was too much to resist.
What’s more neither of them have any previous experience of working in the spirits industry. But as successful businessmen in their own right, they have brought that experience to re-creating Nicholson Gin for the modern gin drinker, making sure it keeps as close to the original as possible by referring to old company archives.
They particularly hope the new look Nicholson Gin will resonate with bar tenders as it was one of the named gins to be included in The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails and the original Savoy Cocktail Book, dubbed the ‘bar tender’s bible’. We caught up with them to see what specific plans they have.
What are your personal backgrounds?
Nicholas Browne: “I come from a business and finance background and have a wealth of experience in building businesses.”
Tim Walker: “My background is also in business as well as commodities, product development and branding. I’ve spent many years abroad experiencing a host of different markets, living and working for 13 years in South America before moving to Cape Town, South Africa.”
Why go in to drinks now?
TW: “Nick and I have been discussing this incredible opportunity to revive Nicholson Gin for a few years now. As well as wanting to return this historic brand to the UK market, the Nicholson brand is fully entwined within our own family heritage. Being direct descendants of the original Nicholson founding family makes the revival even more special.”
NB: “With the tremendous growth in the gin category in recent years, particularly in the UK, we saw an opportunity to revive one of England’s great gin brands with tremendous history and heritage.”
Has the brand been in the market recently prior to re-launch?
NB “No, Nicholson Gin ceased production in the early 1980’s when J Nicholson & Co was sold to Allied Breweries.”
Who is making the gin for you?
NB: “The original gin was distilled in London in Clerkenwell and at Three Mills in Bow, so it was very important to bring the distillation of the new Nicholson Gin back home to London. So we are working with Thames Distillers in London and Master Distiller Charles Maxwell.
What different styles are there?
TW: “We decided to launch Nicholson Original as our first product. It is being made true to the original Nicholson Gin family recipe, incorporating 10 of the finest botanicals to create a long, dry and balanced finish. There is a wealth of brand history to explore with the potential to launch further expressions of gin and other spirits in the years to come. However, this very much depends on consumer tastes and market conditions”
What is your target distribution channel?
NB: “We are initially making Nicholson Original available to buy via our website and online platforms such as Master of Malt and Amazon. In today’s digital-minded market we wanted to ensure that our product is available to purchase online and we can build from there. It is why since launching earlier in the summer we have focused our PR and marketing strategy on digital. We have been working with an experienced digital agency to support us with social media and digital engagement, allowing us to speak directly to our target consumers.”
Who is that target consumer?
TW: “Our target consumers are those with an active interest in fine spirits and gins – a discerning clientele who are interested to know more about the heritage, background and distillation processes of the products they are consuming. We are not targeting a specific age range as we want all gin-lovers to have the opportunity to enjoy Nicholson Original.”
How are you getting distribution and gaining visibility for the brand?
What are your key markets for the brand?
NB: “At launch we are concentrating on the UK market only.”
What is the price point and why?
NB: “Nicholson Original has an RRP of £32.50. We believe this reflects the quality of the spirit as well as the heritage and history and places us roughly in line with other leading super premium gins.”