Every week we’re sent information about drinks that are described as ‘revolutionary’, ‘innovative’ or ‘game-changing’. Most aren’t, but today a product has arrived at MoM that might be all three. We talk to Jonathan Gibson from Hayman’s about its fiendishly clever Small Gin.

Distillers around the world must have been slapping their foreheads and saying ‘why didn’t we think of that?’ when they learned about Hayman’s Small Gin. While most of the drinks giants are responding to the demand for low alcohol products with, naturally, low alcohol products, the team at Hayman’s has approached the problem from a different angle. They have come up with a full strength gin (43% ABV) so strongly flavoured that you only need to use a tiny bit. 

Jonathan Gibson, brand director at Hayman’s, told us: Small Gin has been developed to match the flavour profile of our London Dry Gin when mixed (it’s not intended to be consumed neat)”. And indeed, they wouldn’t let us taste it neat at Imbibe this year. Instead I tried it in a G&T next to one made with Hayman’s London Dry. According to Gibson: “the flavour match is so close that most consumers (and even the vast majority of experienced trade palates) can’t tell the difference between a Small Gin & Tonic (containing 5ml of gin or just 0.2 units alcohol) and a London Dry & Tonic (25ml or one unit alcohol).” We did notice a slight difference, if anything the Small Gin & Tonic tasted a little more intense, but you’d never guess it was low alcohol. The only drawback we can see is if you let unwary guests loose on your drinks cupboard and they accidentally pour a full measure of Small Gin.

Hayman's Small Gin and Tonic

Small gin, big flavour

So who came up with such a brilliant idea? Gibson explained: “The idea came out of a conversation I had with our distiller Sam Pembridge. It struck us that there was a clear consumer demand for products that could be mixed like gin to create a low alcohol G&T equivalent but in our opinion there was nothing available on the market that actually tasted like a G&T when mixed. We believed it should – theoretically – be possible to create a real gin that had so much botanical character that it would provide all the flavour with just a fraction of the alcohol, so we set out to see if we could make it work.”

Sounds straightforward, but it was easier said than done: “The development process took a huge number of working hours,” Gibson said. “While the basic premise of Small Gin is simple – pack more flavour into the base spirit so that only a small serve is required – the process of achieving that proved to be technically very challenging. It struck us at several points throughout the process that there might be a reason that nobody had done this before!” He refused to elaborate on the production process which must be a closely guarded secret though he did say that the botanical mix was designed to mimic the standard London Dry as closely as possible when mixed. Gibson described the flavour as, “a hit of bright lemon and juniper on the nose, a generous mouthfeel with notes of warming spice and citrus and a satisfying finish with pleasingly earthy notes.” 

Hayman family

Gin royalty, from left, Christopher, James and Miranda Hayman

The Hayman family is distilling royalty, descended from James Burrough, founder of Beefeater Gin. Today the business is run by fourth generation distiller Christopher Hayman and his children Miranda and James Hayman.  Since moving to a purpose built distillery in Balham, south London, in 2018 (modestly dubbed the ‘Home of English Gin’), Hayman’s profile has risen dramatically. Last year, it got the trade talking with its “call time on fake gin” campaign and hosted a conference about the future of British gin. Now with Small Gin, Hayman’s has created a landmark product (which is crying for an RTD version). Your move Gordon’s, Beefeater, Sipsmith, et al.