Evoking the spirit of the 1688 Glorious Revolution, an English entrepreneur has celebrated the ‘gin revolution’ that followed it by creating a blend dedicated to King William III.
However, it was only when sales spiked in Northern Ireland and Scotland that London-based Matthew Maslin became aware of King Billy’s wider significance.
“When we released the first bottle last year it did well across the UK, but it really lit up in Scotland and in Northern Ireland and we were thinking ‘hello, what’s going on here?’ he said.
“I have a book on my bookshelf called The History of Gin, so that’s how I stumbled upon the information that King William, a Dutch king, brought gin to the UK for the first time, and is basically responsible for the gin revolution that we had from the late 17th century.
“But we are now very aware of the significance of King William in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and all the Twelfth of July celebrations.
“We have had an unbelievable response to the King William gin. Every day we are getting enquiries from Canada, Australia and the US, particularly for gifting.”
Explaining the links between the Orange hero and what became known as ‘mother’s ruin,’ the drinks producer said the king could never have imagined the drunken chaos that followed his free-for-all on gin-making.
“When King William ascended to the throne in 1689, one of the first things he wanted to do was to raise money for future wars against the French and other European powers, and the way he did that was by liberalising the distillation of gin.
“What that meant was the farmers grew more crops, which could be taxed, and so they raised more capital.
“So King William was the person who brought gin to the UK, and when I came across this I thought someone must have done a King William gin because it’s such an obvious thing to do. We did a check of the records and nothing was there, so we registered the trademark and developed the brand.”
Heavy taxes on ‘foreign’ spirits, designed to financially weaken other monarchies, coupled with the mass production of ‘Jenever’ (as gin was originally known) led to a pint of gin being sold for less than the price of a pint of beer.
The widespread abuse of the freely available spirit in the early 1700s led to the introduction of an expensive distiller’s licence to curb production.
The Gravity Drinks boss said the reaction to his King William gin has been phenomenal, “with the exception of a few Celtic supporters” who aren’t fans of the Orange monarch. And with sales going well, he can afford to see the funny side of the religious and political differences.
“We got one bad review on Amazon, which I suspect was a disgruntled Celtic supporter, but nothing apart from that. I also saw an online post from a Celtic supporter saying he’d never touch a drop of gin again,” Mr Maslin said.