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The Caribbean has been synonymous with rum since the beginning of time with every island making its own. Yet it looks like the Caribbean has now a new flirt. While rum is certainly ruling the scene when it comes to Caribbean drinks, a new wave of home-grown distilleries is testing out new flavours with several gin microbreweries springing up on the different islands.
The newly-found passion for the juniper-scented spirit reflects a global trend. The global gin market value is projected to double between 2020 and 2028 with Europe being one of the major consumers, accounting solely for more than 50% of the overall gin market share in 2020.
The classic London Dry Gin has dominated the gin world since forever. Caribbean gin is just like its older British relative but, most who tried it argue, is smoother and subtler. Ideal if you fancy a lighter, fresh taste with a hint of tropical breeze.
Today we take a closer look at the home-grown British Virgin Island gin, BVI GIN which has certainly shaken up the spirit scene.
The distillery was developed by a force other than trends. It was more an opportunity to recover from Hurricane Irma. BVI GIN was launched by the Little Bay Distilling Company based close to Little Bay, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands in September 2018 by Matthew Neal, who had been working as a lawyer in Tortola for three years when Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017.
“Following Irma, there was a great deal of news of devastation coming out of the BVI,” says Matthew. “We wanted to spread more positive messages about the territory – messages of resilience, messages that the BVI was open for business. We had been working on the idea for a while but it seemed the perfect time to set up the Little Bay Distilling Company.”
On top of that, the popularity of gin in Europe was soaring and almost all the gin sold in the Caribbean was imported. Matthew saw an opportunity to bring gin production to a historically ‘well spirited' part of the world.
“We wanted to spread more positive messages about the territory – messages of resilience, messages that the BVI was open for business. We had been working on the idea for a while but it seemed the perfect time to set up the Little Bay Distilling Company.”
Made up of more than 60 idyllic islands, islets and cays, and being well known for its white powdery beaches, crystal clear sailing waters, lush green hills and warm, friendly people, the BVI is the perfect setting for this distillery.
BVI GIN is distilled using carefully selected botanicals using the traditional “London Dry” method in a bespoke copper column still. Each small batch produces just 60 bottles. The branding aims to pay homage to the sailing heritage of the British Virgin Islands with a hand-drawn map of the British Virgin Islands visible through the back of each bottle.
“One of our aims, since we launched BVI GIN, is to promote the British Virgin Islands through the brand. We believe that our product being featured internationally can only be a positive thing in improving awareness of the BVI as a tourist destination.”
Driven by persistence and belief, Matthew and his team learned to overcome the logistical obstacles of setting up a distillery on a small Caribbean island, including sourcing equipment, base ingredients, bottles and labels, and gaining licences and health inspections.
Finding the right scent and flavours to the final gin was also part of the journey: making sure to get the right balance of ingredients between those of the traditional London Dry Gin but that extra Caribbean identity (which involved making hundreds of test batches and running a number of very welcome tastings ). It took a year to get there and the result is a traditional London Dry Gin with beautiful flavours of juniper and citrus from grapefruit and lemon, balanced with floral notes taken from the Caribbean hibiscus flower. Cassia bark and liquorice root are also there, resulting in a gin that is light and refreshing, and pairs perfectly with tonic or Ting, and a twist of grapefruit. There is also a BVI Pink Gin infused with raspberry.
BVI GIN has already won Bronze in the International Wine & Spirit Competition, and Best in the Americas from The Gin Guide. “We’ve had a very positive reaction so far,” says Matthew. “People who don’t usually drink gin have enjoyed the product. We believe we’re putting gin on the map in the BVI and, once we start exporting to the wider Caribbean, we hope to increase the awareness of a new image of BVI
in the region.”
If you're up for some gin tasting and fancy exploring the beautiful British Virgin Islands from the unique perspective of a boat or a catamaran, why not take a look at Sailogy boat rental options in the BVI for you. Fair winds!