Boodles Gin — Then and Now

Then…

By the time I got to Seagram, Boodles British Gin was an idea whose time never came.  As the saying goes, “She was dead when I got there, Officer.”

The brand was developed in the 1950s or 60s under a license from the Boodles Club in London, founded in 1762 by the Earl of Shelburne, later the Marquess of Lansdowne and Prime Minister. The club, which is 250 years old this year, was named after its headwaiter, Edward Boodle.

Get this — the licensing fee was the gin; use of the name in exchange for free goods.

To say that the brand languished at Seagram is an understatement. The fact is, while some gin aficionados felt it was a great tasting gin, Boodles spent many years in and out of the Seagram hospice companies. The problems – real or perceived – included concerns about the square package (too wide for a back bar) and loss of identity when placed sideways. The “oodles” of Boodles taunt by some consumers added to the death rattle, particularly in light of the awful marketing on behalf of the brand.

Boodles…then

The coup de grace for Boodles was the price footballing by the different company divisions. At General Wine & Spirits, it was priced at the Beefeater/Tanqueray level.
At Summit (the hospice) the brand was value priced, a euphemism for cheap. By the
time the company reorganized and the brand was given a new lease on life, the trade resistance and annoyance to the pricing history was too hard to overcome.

So Boodles, great tasting gin notwithstanding, ended its days at Seagram in
no-man’s land.

Now…

I learned recently that Boodles has been acquired by Proximo Spirits, makers of 1800 Tequila, 3 Olives, Hangar 1 Vodka, Kraken Black Spiced Rum and many other up and coming brands.

To me, that changes Boodles’ future.

Boodles…then

For one thing, the gentlemen running Proximo, Mark Teasdale and Elwyn Gladstone are, in my view, top of the game marketers and brand builders with a proven track record. While at William Grant & Sons, they were the creators of Sailor Jerry and, guess what, Hendrick’s Gin. They know how to build gin brands.

From the prototype packaging I’ve seen so far, they have kept the Boodles look and feel but updated it, introduced premium cues and cleaned up the packaging weak spots like the cap. They have already dealt with the branding issue by embossing the name Boodles on the sides of the package.

The real challenge will be the marketing – overcoming the trade’s negative memories, leveraging the Boodle’s name and positioning the brand as a world-class gin.

If anyone can do it, these guys can.

 

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16 comments

  1. Arthur,

    I think you know I entered the sales companies at seagram with Park Avenue Imports and aside from Myers’s Rum there were just those dreaded chocolate liqueurs like Vandermint and Sabra….. Boodles at 94.4 was the only real brand we had…But as you say it was a long, long, long, long time ago!

    Sentimentally I hope Proximo can resurrect Boodles!

  2. Arthur

    This is still my favorite gin and I love the bottle-iconic. We didn’t always do justice to the treasures we were given, but marketing heroes like you often “made chicken soup from chicken shit. Thanks for the homage to Jerry M. Can’t tell you how many times I chuckled hearing him use that line…and “nothing good ever came from the sea”.

    Upon arriving in Australia, after 27 hour drink filled flight from NYC, J-Man proclaims: “what’s the big deal? Just Puerto Rico with kangaroos!”

  3. I am very happy (dare I say ‘psyched’?) to see this pack design and hear of the acquisition and (re)positioning. I am a fan of gin (personally and as a bev-alc marketing strategist) and feel it has so much unrealized potential. It is as versatile as vodka but has brown spirit man-cred. Reminds me of an older Shaken & Stirred column from the nytimes describes the Negroni:

    “A Negroni demands your full, upright attention. It will not tolerate mindless swigging, the way all those sweet summertime drinks do, which is just one reason no one has ever ordered one at a swim-up bar at a resort pool. Each sip telegraphs a terse forget-me-not message to the tongue, a pinprick of bitterness demanding respect and contemplation.”

    So I have to ask, is Boodles the same liquid? Is it 94 proof? (doubtful, but I’m an optimist). I’m also curious if the original or current liquid, if different, are/were “ginny” tasting; that is, plenty of juniper or any other botanticals. (cucumber does not count as a botanical)

    Love the design — the branding is gorgeous, a retro-modern clean look I’m a sucker for. I will be rooting for this brand!

    thanks for posting – i’m new to your blog and enjoy it a lot.

  4. Oh, no–they’re changing the bottle? Why meddle with a classic? I love the original and very British design. Very sad…I’m certain they’ll get many complaints.

  5. @jennifer

    The new label treatment has the ABV at 45.2%. Not quite 94 proof, but 90.4 will suit my Martinezes just fine..

  6. I’ve loved the incredible taste of Boodles gin for over 20 years.

    I just purchased a bottle of the elixir at my local ABC store in Virginia. The taste was something awful. No botanicals – no bouquet just a terrible chemical taste.

    The new distributor is selling something different from my beloved Boodles, albeit in the same bottle. The local ABC store has agreed to give me my money back. So ends a long (alcoholic) romance. Sad!

  7. Oh Sambo, say it ain’t so! This will be the third gin that I was a big fan of who changed their formula. Haven’t had the “new” Boodles yet – hope I won’t be as disappointed. Not sure what I’ll start drinking now…

  8. I just did a taste test of Boodles, old and new, and I am somewhat relieved! Not as smooth at the end but pretty darned close – phew!

  9. My husband came home with recent purchases of Boodles and when I saw the “new” bottle, I thought “oh no.” Now having read the dialogue, realize there is a new formula. What a shame. Boodles in the freezer with jalapeno-stuffed olives has been our go-to cocktail for too many years to count. Not the way I had hoped to start the new year …

  10. I am so disappointed in this new label. Call me old fashioned,but I love the British looking old label, this label looks cheap to me! And now I read that they’ve changed the recipe. That makes me so mad. This has been my Gin for 30 years. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I am going to pray that they haven’t changed the taste too much! I may have to go to the Beefeater Rack.

  11. Great commentary. You say the brand was developed in the 1950s or 60s. Did it exist prior to that? If not, what then is the significance of the EST. 1845 on the label? And who exactly is Cock Russell and Company?

  12. The new lable is okay, but the new flavor is not as magical as before. Bring it back!

  13. The old bottle had some class. The new one looks like “generic brand”!
    Change in taste is not that much. Too bad bad management destroys nostalaga.

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