Of all the duty free gin joints in all the world… he walked into Gatwick’s

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Rick Blaine, Casablanca

In a recent Blog I lauded Aer Rianta International’s range of international whiskies at The Loop, Dublin Airport as probably the industry’s best.

So how do other drinks categories fare? Let’s take one, namely gin, a product sector historically confined in duty free to the blockbuster names such as Gordon’s, Tanqueray, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire and regional competitors such as Larios, Seagram’s and others.

That’s all changed in recent years as gin has undergone a consumer and brand renaissance in many markets, notably in one of its heartlands, the UK (where a record-breaking 2015 saw 49 new distilleries open their doors and consumers spend nearly £1 billion on the category). Hendrick’s put the cat (and several cucumbers) among the pigeons after its 1999 launch and since then a wide variety of craft and esoteric gins has entered the marketplace.

That fascinating brand and style tapestry has not always been reflected in duty free but no-one could say that of World Duty Free’s outstanding gin offer at London Gatwick Airport, as good as anything you’re likely to find in travel retail. There’s a great high-profile promotion from Gin Mare of Spain, a really impactful presence from Bombay Sapphire and an eclectic, unusual and often surprising line-up of gin brands from international blockbusters to market newcomers.

Here’s a few pictures that tell the story.

gin-5gin-6gin-4 gin-3 gin-2 gin-1

Now, in the spirit as it were, of my Aer Rianta International whisk(e)y article, could I find some suitable gin-related music to illustrate the offer? It sounded like a difficult task, but in fact was as simple as pouring a splash of tonic water over your favourite gin.

Here’s my selection.

To start with, can you believe it, there’s a song called ‘Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world’? Eat your heart out Humphrey Bogart and take it away Fall Out Boy.

From my native New Zealand there’s even a singer called Gin Wigmore. She’s brilliant actually. Try knocking back a large gin and tonic or two then turn this song way up loud, from an album with the kind of name I love, ‘Gravel & Wine’. In honour of gin’s once infamous reputation as ‘Mothers’ Ruin’, I give you ‘Poison’ (disclaimer: though of course it’s anything but).

If legendary drinker and former Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan is good enough to appear in my whisk(ey) Blog, then it’s equally certain that he’ll find his way into an article about gin. How about this bit of magic from one of the great modern-day bards of song, a tune called ‘That woman’s got me drinking’, which includes the immortal lines:

That woman’s got me drinking, look at the state I’m in
Give me 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 bottles of gin.

Yep Shane, I know exactly how you feel.

Legendary US country singer Merle Haggard once recorded a brilliant song called ‘Misery and gin’ (believe it or not, it was written by a man called Snuff Garrett, but snuff said on that subject). It went like this:

But here I am again mixing misery and gin
Sittin’ with all my friends and talkin’ to myself
I look like I’m havin’ a good time but any fool can tell
That this honky tonk heaven really makes you feel like hell

It’s since been re-recorded by a man called (I kid you not) Eddie Spaghetti (by the sounds of it a US country singer well pasta his best). I offer you up both versions, after which you might understand why Merle’s version has generated 658,261 page views and the rather more haggard Spaghetti’s version just 1,790. So much for Spaghetti (Country &) Western music.

From famed American punk rock band The Ramones comes a song that could be the story of my life, called ‘Somebody Put Something In My Drink’ which contains the lines “Tanqueray and tonic’s my favorite drink/I don’t like anything coloured pink”. Somebody obviously also likes the song as it has attracted 1,366,496 views.

From Big Band Voodo Daddy comes ‘You & Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight’ (you’ve gotta love these song titles), with a track called “A gin and tonic sounds mighty mighty good to me”, which goes like this:

Hey Jack…I know what you’re thinking
That now’s as good as any to start drinking
Hey Scotty…Yeah…What’s it gonna be?
A gin and tonic sounds mighty good to me

I also like ‘Bathtub gin’ (surely the Hendrick’s anthem?), described as “the greatest jam ever” (I suppose with so many people in the tub it might have been exactly that), which goes in part like this:

Wendy’s on the windowsill
waiting to be let in
and we’re all in the bathtub now
making bathtub gin

Here comes the joker
with his silly grin
he carries a martini
made of bathtub gin

Coming soon to a William Grant & Sons promotion at a duty free shop near you. You heard it here first.

If Tanqueray and Hendrick’s can have their own song, then it’s only fair to Mike Birch, head of travel retail at Bacardi, that Bombay Sapphire gets one too. I am one of a privileged few to have heard Mike play the Ukelele (it was at a select street party and very talented he is too) and I can just hear him now belting out the lyrics to ‘Bombay Gin’:

Ah, ah Dicker gib mir, gib mir, gib mir
Bombay Gin, Bombay Gin, Ah

Catchy, isn’t it? And it gets better…

Ich komm in den Club und bin gleich mittendrin
Die Fräulein will ein Drink und ich geb ihr mein Gin

(Actually in the interests of sanitisation, I substituted the original, rather more basic word with Fräulein)

And now the big finish, back over to you Mike…

Bombay Gin
Ich trinke wieder Bombay Gin
Bombay Gin
Ich trinke wieder Bombay Gin

I’m telling you, get a DJ spinning that at a few high-profile promotions around the duty free world and Bombay Sapphire sales will just explode.

I’ve got to include ‘Gin and Juice’, of course, by rapper Snoop Dog. The YouTube video below has attracted an impressive 44,170,102 views and while most of the lyrics are unrepeatable in a family-friendly title like The Moodie Blog, the following couplet just about makes the cut:

Rollin’ down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice
Laid back (with my mind on my money and my money on my mind)

Boy these drinking songs can get pretty edgy. Here’s ‘Whiskey and Gin’ by Dance Hall Crashers:

In the back room of the bar, crusty fingernails I saw him
Everything was hidden by all the greasy hair he was in
Never looking up, he seemed so sad I tried to offer him
My shot of whiskey but he said I only drink gin

And they get pretty damn bleak too, as in ‘Cold Gin’ by Kiss.

Whoa yeah
Ooh, it’s cold gin time again
You know it’ll always win
It’s cold gin time again
You know it’s the only thing
That keeps us together, ow

In the interests of trading shoppers up to the larger litre size in European duty free, I’ve got to include the great Jerry Jeff Walker’s ‘Suckin’ A Big Bottle Of Gin’:

I tried my best just to stay at rest
When the moon and the wind both died
But you locked me in with your best friend
Honey your window was open wide
I escaped in time to see your man
Truckin’ in that bar again
He was fondlin’ Lucy and singin’ to Suzy
Suckin’ up a bottle of gin

Alas, the master’s version is not available on YouTube so you’ll have to make do with the Joe Ely/Butch Hancock version, though it’s not too bad.

My personal favourite though, at least lyrically, is called ‘Love is like a bottle of gin’ by the Magnetic Fields. Talk about a tonic with your gin, listen to this:

It makes you blind, it does you in
It makes you think you’re pretty tough
It makes you prone to crime and sin

It makes you say things off the cuff
It’s very small and made of glass
and grossly over-advertised

It turns a genius into an ass
and makes a fool think he is wise
It could make you regret your birth
or turn cartwheels in your best suit
It costs a lot more than it’s worth
and yet there is no substitute

They keep it on a higher shelf
the older and more pure it grows
It has no color in itself
but it can make you see rainbows

You just get what they put in
and they never put in enough
Love is like a bottle of gin
but a bottle of gin is not like love

But I simply have to conclude with a story linked to one of my literary heroes, the great Ernest Hemingway.

After his plane crashed in Africa in 1953 while he was on safari, the writer was believed dead. A day later he emerged from the jungle carrying a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin, and greeted his rescuers with the immortal line: “My luck, she is running very good.”

That story inspired a song called ‘A bunch of bananas (the Heming way)’ written by Dick Cummings and legendary satirist Ogden Nash. It was recorded by Rosemary Clooney & José Ferrer and goes (in part) like this:

BOTH: I got a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin
They keep the hunger out and the happiness in
I got a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin
My luck she is running very good

JOSÉ: I fly over jungle and my aeroplane boil
No gasoline and I run out of oil
I fill the tank with the gin and the banana oil
My luck she is running very good

BOTH: A bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin
Make a crazy sandwich full of vitamin
Outside you put the bananas and the gin in-between
My luck she is running very good

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