King of Soho gin bid to convert Russians from vodka

A London gin maker is launching an audacious export drive to the land of vodka with a launch in dozens of stores across Russia.

Entrepreneur Alex Robson, who co-founded the King of Soho brand four years ago, will fly to Moscow next week to finalise a distribution deal for a country where gin is virtually unknown - writes

Ms Robson, who set up the craft gin company with property developer Howard Raymond - son of the Soho club owner Paul Raymond - said she believed Russians were ready to embrace the spirit despite their famed preference for vodka.

She said: ”Our gin is soft on juniper and has a high presence of citrus botanicals led by grapfruit peel, as well as anegelica and cassia.

That means it makes a good martini and we are very keen that it could drunk neat. That suits the Russians because they like their drink neat in vodka shots.

“I think it will play to their taste buds, it’s their time for gin and I want to be leading the charge.”

Ms Robson visited Russia for the Moscow Bar Show earlier in the year and was approached by drinks wholesaler Metro about stocking the gin in Russia. The first batch is due to be be shipped to Russian before Christmas. It will be stocked in 89 stores mainly in the Moscow area.

Gin is little known in Russia, where supermarkets have entire aisles dedicated to different types of vodka, and only drunk by around one per cent of the population, The Russian market accounted for only a tiny fraction of last year’s total exports of £474 million, which overtook overseas sales of British beef for the first time.

It is not the first attempt to crack the potentially lucrative Russian market. In 1997 the Queen’s cousin and society photographer Lord Lichfield launched his own brand Lichfield Gin in Russia.

King of Soho is produced in Clapham by eleventh-generation master distiller whose family set up the gin business in the 17th century.

It was initially stocked only in central London bars and in one Soho store. It is now on the shelves of Harrods and Fortnum & Mason and also sold by supermarket chains Asda and Morrison nationwide. It also has distrubtion deals in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Japan.

Ms Robson, who lived and worked in Moscow and St Petersburg earlier in her career, said: “We want to become an international brand.”

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