Boxing Clever! A review of gin subscription services

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For an up-to-date review of current gin subscription services please click here (June 2017).

With Waitrose recently announcing that gin now accounts for one in three bottles of spirits sold in their stores there’s no questioning that the gin revolution has been fully embraced by the masses. But with most premium gins costing between £30 and £50 per litre finding your favourites can be an expensive business. And with more distilleries opening every month, keeping up with the new gins coming to market can be a time-consuming business. Events such as Junipalooza and Gin Festival are a good opportunity to try a lot of gins in a little time but what if you prefer a more leisurely approach in the comfort of your own home?

That’s where a gin subscription service comes in. Subscription services, and the convenience they offer, have been growing in popularity and you can now have everything from bacon to blooms and chocolates to children’s activity boxes winging their way to your home on a regular basis. Now that long list also includes gin, as five new subscription services have launched in 2016.

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The original gin subscription service, Craft Gin Club, was launched back in January 2015 and for £40 a month members receive one full size bottle of craft gin. The newer subscription services, on the other hand, contain between two and four miniature bottles giving you a larger selection of gins at a smaller price. These selections also give you the opportunity to try a wealth of gins without ending up with a large bottle that isn’t really to your taste gathering dust on your top shelf.

But, with every brand trying to offer something a bit different, which gin subscription service is right for you? I have selflessly tried all 5 to help you out!

I Love Gin

I Love Gin announced their new gin box in mid-May 2016 with an initial run of 100 but due to high demand the waiting list was increased to 250 within a week, proving the popularity of these new services. First boxes are being sent out this month but as I was the lucky winner of a launch competition I received the very first prototype box!

I Love Gin offer two 50ml bottles of gin from the portfolio of one distillery, this month Jensen’s Bermondsey Dry and Old Tom gins, and two mixers chosen to perfectly compliment the gin for £14 a month. In addition boxes will include a recipe card with information about both brand and perfect serve suggestions.

With the craft gin renaissance in full swing the production of premium quality tonics and mixers is also booming and what I love about this box is that it offers the opportunity to try new mixers as well as new gins at an affordable price. This month’s box includes two bottles of Bermondsey Tonic Water (200ml each) which I’m delighted about, as it’s a new one to me. The addition of the full-size tonic bottles does make the whole box a little bigger and bulkier than some of its competitors’ but as none of these boxes will fit through your letterbox anyway it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to anyone except your postman!

Little Gin Box

Equally new to the market is Little Gin Box, which launched at the Plymouth Gin Festival on 4th June 2016. Aptly named, this is the smallest box in both size and cost making it a good place to start if you’re not sure if the subscription service is for you.

Little Gin Boxes contain two 50ml samples of gins and tasting notes for £10 per month. In addition to this, recurring membership customers receive one £10 discount code every three months to purchase a full-sized bottle of their favourite gin from the site, which is a nice touch. Currently gins are decanted into plain bottles, which don’t have the visual appeal of branded miniatures, and Little Gin Box are also using stock packaging. However, I’m told they have created bespoke packaging, which will be rolled out when volume is big enough. I really like this box because it contains two gins from two different distilleries, this month’s are Porters’ Gin and Trevethan Gin, meaning you can try more gins for a really good price.

Tipple Box

Tipple Box launched back in December 2014 with their Craft Cocktail subscription and introduced the Batch Spirit Club in June 2016. The Spirit Club box includes three 50ml miniatures from the same small batch UK distillery for £15 a month (or as little as £13.50 if you sign up for 12 months). As an established business, Tipple Box have got their branding sorted and the box is visually appealing which would also make it a good gift (if you can bear to part with it!).

This month’s box contains Bramley and Gage’s 6 o’clock sloe, damson and original gins and future boxes will primarily, but not exclusively, focus on gin as Tipple Box also plan to include some fantastic vodkas in their boxes. Personally, I’m not a fan of vodka so this wouldn’t be the box for me but if you want even greater variety in your subscription box this is the one to sign up for.

microbarbox

microbarbox also offer two monthly tasting clubs; the original Cocktail Tasting Club and the new Gin Club which was launched in May 2016. The Gin Club boxes contain at least four 50ml craft gins from around the world plus mixers and serving recommendations for £25 per month plus £3.50 P&P.

Uniquely, every new member receives a standard welcome box containing Anno Sloe Gin, Egerton Pink Gin, Brecon Gin, Martin Miller’s and two Fever-Tree mixers.  Whether or not this appeals to you will depend on whether or not you know and like those gins but one could certainly argue that knowing what to expect in your first box is an advantage when trying out a new service; receiving a box full of gin you already own could certainly be a disappointing experience.

I received the June box and I must say it was very exciting.  It is a very substantial, well-packed and stylish box and opening it made me feel like a kid at Christmas!  The June box contains Brighton Gin, Dr J’s Gin, Raisthorpe Gooseberry Gin Liqueur, Masons Lavender Gin, Fever-Tree Indian and Naturally Light Tonics (150ml), Qcumber sparkling spring water (250ml) and, as an extra surprise, Itsu’s crispy seaweed thins to tie-in with Brighton’s ‘beside the seaside’ theme.

There’s no escaping that, at £28.50 all in, this is the most expensive subscription box on the market.  However, it certainly offers the widest range of gins and mixers and it’s a really smart box; the sort of thing that would be perfect to pull out on a girls’ night in.

Gin Explorer

Gin Explorer, from the folk at Gin Festival, launched back in March 2016, making it the most established of the gin subscription services. Like microbarbox, Gin Explorer offers four 50ml samples of gins from around the world plus mixers and other “goodies”. In addition to this, members receive 10% off the month’s featured gins at the Gin Festival shop which is a good perk if you’re likely to want to buy a bigger bottle of a gin you’ve sampled. The Gin Explorer box comes in at £24.99 a month (or slightly less if you sign up for 3- or 12-month subscriptions) which makes it ever so slightly cheaper than microbarbox’s Gin Club.

The Gin Explorer box is really something quite special to receive. Their tagline is “Enjoy the Journey” and, in keeping, the box is designed to look like a small retro suitcase. The level of detail is quite astounding and the box is a delight to unpack. Inside June’s UK centric box are (decanted) samples of Pinkster, Masons Yorkshire Gin, Lakes Explorer Gin and Anno Kent Dry Gin plus one bottle of Peter Spanton No. 9 Cardamom tonic (200ml), Joe & Steph’s Crisp Gin & Tonic popcorn and a few slices of Gin Festival rock. In addition to this is a wealth of information about the gins including cocktail recipes and serving suggestions and Gin Explorer’s monthly map. This is a real bells-and-whistles box which is unlikely to disappoint.

All the boxes have something to offer and, indeed, there is something for everyone and every budget. On balance, given my enthusiasm for trying new tonics as well as new gins, I’d be torn between I Love Gin and microbarbox. I do also prefer the visual appeal of the branded mini bottles which both provide too.  However, I have to say I’m impressed with all of the boxes and it is worth noting some are still a work in progress. Given that I already have a pretty extensive gin collection I am particularly impressed that I haven’t received any gins I already own and only one (Pinkster) that I’ve sampled before. I also haven’t tried any of the mixers included in the I Love Gin, microbarbox and Gin Explorer boxes before (with the exception of the Fever-Tree) so that’s a bonus. As are the gin popcorn and seaweed thins, which I can’t wait to try, but personally I could take or leave the extra goodies; it’s all about the gin and tonics for me!

Tempted?

Sign up for I Love Gin here.

Purchase a Little Gin Box here.

Order a Batch Spirit Club Tipple Box here. Use discount code SPIRIT10 for £10 off your first box (valid until 10th July).

Join the microbarbox Gin Club here. Use discount code GINDING50 for 50% off your first monthly Gin or Cocktail Club box (one use per customer only).

Become a Gin Explorer here. Enter discount code TAKEOFF for £5 off your first box.

 

For an up-to-date review of current gin subscription services please click here (June 2017).

 

With thanks to Little Gin Box, Gin Explorer and microbarbox for sending free samples of their products for review. As mentioned above, I won the I Love Gin box in a launch competition featured in their email newsletter. I purchased the Tipple Box (using the above discount code).

 

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