This Gin Is for People Who Don't Like Gin

New Brand Is Cultivating Star-Studded Cachet to Win Over Drinkers Who Hate the Taste

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Spirit brands launch with unusual brand propositions all the time, but superpremium Right Gin has a new one: disdain.
Right Gin
Right Gin

"We hate gin, and so do most people," said Cory Isaacson, part owner of the $40-a-bottle brand making its debut in Las Vegas, with launches in Boston, Chicago and New York set for later this year. "People see you drinking gin, and they say, 'What? Gin sucks.'"

So Mr. Isaacson and his business partner, W. L. Lyons Brown -- a former Brown-Forman executive who is a descendent of that company's founder -- set about using premium botanical ingredients, distilled separately, to make a gin that doesn't taste so much like ... gin.

"We dialed down the spice and the oily aftertaste and dialed up the citrus to make it drinkable," Mr. Isaacson said. "People who are predisposed to hate gin will try this and be pleasantly surprised."

High-profile sippers
For its first 100 days, Right will be available exclusively at the Palms Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, where it hopes to shed once-elegant gin's stodgy-old-man image with a series of celebrity-studded events. It recently sponsored a Gwen Stefani after-concert party at the hotel, where it was quaffed by the rocker and other boldface names, including actor Luke Wilson and now-incarcerated heiress Paris Hilton. It was also featured at an "Ocean's 13" premiere party, where George Clooney imbibed. Publicity is handled by Entertainment Fusion Group.

Right is counting on price, as well as star power, to imbue the brand with an exclusive air. At $40 a bottle, it's priced two to four times as high as Seagram's gin and $8 to $10 higher than Bombay Sapphire. Its price is more comparable to hot haute brands such as Grey Goose and PatrĂ³n.

Right isn't the first brand in recent years to try to revive gin's image. In 2005, Bacardi's Bombay Sapphire and Diageo's Tanqueray each launched new ad campaigns designed to appeal to younger, urban drinkers. "We're trying to present a brand image that is exciting and vibrant and contemporary," said Giles Woodyer, Bombay's brand director.

Bombay and Tanqueray -- which have generally seen moderate growth and flat sales, respectively -- are two of the category's better performers. Between 2000 and 2005, a stretch of unprecedented growth for spirits, total U.S. gin sales fell 0.6% even as gin's signature cocktail -- the martini -- saw huge popularity growth as a vodka drink, according to the trade magazine Impact.

'Vodka fatigue'
Much of the hope for a gin revival comes from a perception (not yet reflected in sales figures) of what some in the industry call "vodka fatigue," a widespread hunch that the onslaught of upscale vodka launches in recent years has made the spirit boring -- creating an opportunity for spirits with more taste. Right's plan is to come directly between the two, with a product that's more flavorful than vodka but less biting than the average gin.

A surge in upscale-tequila sales is seen as evidence this could be happening, but gin has yet to capitalize on what could be a budding phenomenon.

Bombay's Mr. Woodyer said he sees a limited opportunity for high-end gin because the spirit's "complex" taste -- derived from as many as 10 different botanical ingredients -- isn't for everyone. "The people who enjoy it tend to be people who have a really sophisticated palate and experiment a lot."

Arthur Shapiro, a former Seagram executive who runs an alcohol-industry consultancy, concurred in blunter terms: "Everyone assumes gin will be the next big thing, but I'm not sure, because the taste is so polarizing," he said. "There's a lot of swinging but no connecting."
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