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.
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
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.
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.