Pippa Middleton and Spencer Matthews at the launch of The Clean Liquor Company in London
It was once guzzled in such large quantities it earned the nickname mother’s ruin.
But now gin is getting a teetotal makeover.
From January, Sainsbury’s will stock a version of the spirit with so little alcohol that its makers claim you can knock back 62 G&Ts before it becomes unsafe to drive.
It will initially be stocked in 496 Sainsbury’s supermarkets and Matthews says he is in talks about supplying a number of pub, bar and hotel groups.
The 31-year-old, who gained a reputation as a lothario on Made In Chelsea and was a regular on the London social scene, gave up alcohol 18 months ago.
He now has a one-year-old son, Theodore, with his wife, Irish model Vogue Williams, and says he called time on his partying days to carve out a career as a serious businessman.
His new venture, called The Clean Liquor Company, aims to cater for Britain’s growing numbers of teetotallers with a range of low and no-alcohol spirits.
Clean rum and whisky drinks are also in the pipeline, plus a ‘Clean Green’ spirit containing no alcohol at all to cater for Muslim countries and those who abstain from alcohol completely. The botanical-infused CleanGin drink contains 1.2 per cent alcohol by volume.
Matthews told The Mail on Sunday that you could swap one G&T containing the typical 37.5 per cent ABV for 31 ‘clean’ gin and tonics – meaning drinkers would have to consume 62 G&Ts made with his new product to be ‘anywhere near the limit’.
‘You can drink CleanGin to your heart’s content all night long and always drive home,’ he said.
The Clean Liquor Company, aims to cater for Britain’s growing numbers of teetotallers with a range of low and no-alcohol spirits
But you would risk one hangover – the effect on your waistline. Putting away 62 clean gins would add up to a massive 3,658 calories.
Matthews and business partner Justin Hicklin got the Clean Liquor Company off the ground thanks to a £1 million investment from ‘a number of friends and a couple of family members’.
Matthews’s father David made a fortune in mining and luxury coaches and owns the A-List Eden Rock resort on St Barts in the Caribbean.
Older brother James, who is a wealthy investment manager, is married to Pippa Middleton, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge.
The £1 million start-up funding will be matched in the coming months by a seven-figure investment from a US venture capital fund. The Clean Liquor Company will sell its low-alcohol spirits through its website, promoted by its Instagram page, which has 62,500 followers.
Matthews hopes to work with other major supermarkets once his exclusive deal with Sainsbury’s ends.
The firm aims to launch a low-alcohol drink in every major spirits category, in partnership with Union Distillers in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.
Matthews said: ‘My dream is to be in the majority of the major spirit categories with no or low alcohol so you can enjoy any drink at all: a clean Mojito, a clean Cuba Libre, a clean Whisky Sour.’
He added: ‘We aim to do what vaping did for smoking in terms of helping people make a health-conscious decision.’
The UK market for low and no-alcohol drinks is worth more than £200 million, with sales of clean spirits expected to increase by 80 per cent by 2022.
Industry forecasts show clean drinks could account for a quarter of all alcohol sales by 2025, as drinks giants such as Pernod Ricard and Diageo cash in on the trend led by younger drinkers for moderating alcohol consumption.
TASTE TEST REVIEW
By Richard Godwin author of The Spirits: A Guide to Modern Cocktailing
Ultra-low alcohol gin might sound completely pointless to some – like a one-legged centipede, or a plane with hardly any wings.
The Clean Liquor Company’s CleanGin takes the spirit of abstention one step further. It has no detectable juniper, either, which is the signature botanical in gin. Its aroma is a healthful waft of ginger, peppermint and lemon verbena, more reminiscent of a fancy spa than a night on the tiles. It’s ginless gin.
However, many great inventions are a result of subtracting rather than adding: think wireless headphones or driverless cars. And CleanGin is perfectly – you might say cynically – on-trend within the alcohol industry, where the finest minds are trying to stay ahead of the turn towards sobriety and moderation.
No doubt Made in Chelsea’s Spencer Matthews, who created the ‘spirit’ in collaboration with Union Distillers in Leicestershire, has taken inspiration from Seedlip, the ‘non-alcoholic gin’, created by a British farmer named Ben Branson in 2015. Branson managed to persuade legions of drinkers to buy what is basically perfumed water for £27.99 a bottle. That takes a certain genius, as the booze behemoth Diageo recognised when it became a majority shareholder in Seedlip earlier this year.
If you ask a trendy mixologist-type about Seedlip, you will often hear a brusque four-letter word. If you ask a pregnant woman or a practising Muslim, however, the response is often more enthusiastic. It clearly fills a gap in the market for a drink that tastes grown-up and isn’t full of sugar.
CleanGin has trace elements of alcohol – 1.2 percent ABV – which gives it a stronger aroma than Seedlip at the expense of appealing to strict non-drinkers. Taste-wise? It’s steely and herbal, with pronounced peppermint and ginger, a soft mouthfeel and a citric acid aftertaste. It lends a faraway perfume note to a gin and tonic made with Fever Tree tonic. The ‘founder’s favourite’ serve – with raspberry and basil over ice – tastes a little like essence of yoga studio. As soon as the ice melts, however, the flavour dissolves.
You could get a similar effect by leaving a couple of herbal tea-bags and some lemon slices to steep in water overnight. For money-conscious non-drinkers, kombucha or neat tonic is a more flavourful alternative. But clearly, that’s not the sort of customer Mr Matthews has in mind.