Is Pernod Ricard missing a trick with Plymouth gin?

Is Pernod Ricard missing a trick with Plymouth gin?

It seems a shame that a brand with the rich heritage of Plymouth gin lies buried in the annals of one of the world's largest drinks companies.

I was fortunate enough to visit the Plymouth gin distillery yesterday (16 March), courtesy of brand owner Pernod Ricard. What struck me immediately was the idyllic set-up of this small-scale distillery; with its aged, uneven walls and century-old still nestled in what remains of Plymouth's 'old town'. When my friends think (enviously) of my trips to distilleries, these are the images that they conjure, not the industrial reality of modern drinks manufacturing.

I find it quite sad, then, that Plymouth lies so hidden from view within Pernod's portfolio, literally buried in the footnotes of the company's annual report.

It is a long time since Admiral Nelson's Royal Navy sailors swigged Plymouth gin inbetween bouts of swashbuckling with the Napoleonic fleet. In 2008, France's Pernod Ricard triumphed where Napoleon failed by acquiring Plymouth gin as part of its takeover of Vin & Sprit.

However, uncertainty still hangs over the future of the Navy's favourite gin. By the staff's own admission, Plymouth gin has been "passed around a bit" down the years. Indeed, master distiller Sean Harrison has seen five different owners during his 17 years working at the distillery.

There have been rumours of a fresh sell-off since Pernod acquired the brand. Since that deal, Plymouth has played in Beefeater's shadow and Pernod has sought to extend Beefeater's range rather than turn Plymouth's limited production - around 100,000 cases annually - to its advantage and push the gin's potential as a more exclusive brand.

One suspects that Plymouth has also fallen foul of Pernod's profitable preoccupation with all manner of brown liquids in Asia.

So far, the rumours of a sale have come to nothing. Pernod has completed its round of asset disposals following the Vin & Sprit deal and, it seems, the group may keep Plymouth for a while longer.

If that is the case, let's hear Pernod talking about Plymouth gin a bit more. In a world where marketeers are constantly blending poetic licence with historical record, here is a brand that needs little spin. There's heritage, a picturesque distillery - complete with a high quality restaurant and interactive visitor tours - and even Protected Designation of Origin status in the European Union.

From what I gleaned yesterday, there are signs that Pernod's UK unit, Chivas Brothers, is becoming more vocal on Plymouth. It is seeking to woo bartenders, and particularly those in London's plethora of trendy hotels and nightspots.

So, come on, Pernod, don't be shy.