In 2016, veteran industry executive Elwyn Gladstone set out on his own, founding New Jersey-based spirits company Biggar and Leith with the launch of the Italian Malfy gin brand ($30 a 750-ml.). Malfy Originale is distilled in Moncalieri, Italy, near the northwestern city of Turin in Italy’s Piedmont province. The gin is made with wild juniper and spring water sourced from Monte Viso, Piedmont’s tallest peak, and is available nationwide. The Malfy portfolio also includes the flagship Malfy Gin Con Limone, as well as the recently launched Gin Rosa and Con Arancia labels. This summer, Mark Teasdale—with whom Gladstone worked at both William Grant & Sons and Proximo Spirits—joined Biggar and Leith, reuniting the duo that helped launch Hendrick’s gin, The Kraken rum, and other successful brands. Daniel Marsteller of Shanken News Daily caught up with Gladstone to discuss the progress of the young company, and its outlook for the future.
MW: Two years after launching, how is Malfy gin faring in the market?
Gladstone: Malfy is doing really well. We’ll do around 90,000 cases globally this year, about one-quarter of which comes to the U.S., imported by Infinium Spirits. Malfy’s Italian provenance has great consumer appeal, and it’s a differentiator for us in the world of gin. If you look at brands like Hendrick’s, Sipsmith, or Bulldog, they took many years to get to 100,000 cases, so we’re much further along at this point than we initially expected, and we’re competing well at that same super-premium price point.
MW: What does the Malfy product range look like?
Gladstone: Our core gins are Malfy Originale and Con Limone. Now we’re launching Gin Rosa, our Italian twist on pink gin, which is made with Sicilian pink grapefruit and rhubarb. Gin Rosa ties in with the millennial fascination for rosé and all things pink, and pink gin is becoming a segment of its own within the category. We’re also introducing Con Arancia, made with Sicilian blood orange. It’s a bright orange-colored liquid, which makes it stand out, and it works well in a traditional Gin and Tonic, but also with soda as a Spritz cocktail.
MW: Where do you see the gin category overall headed in the U.S.?
Gladstone: The gin craze is a global phenomenon. It has yet to really take hold in the U.S., but it’s beginning. Millennials are into it. I think Malfy can be a brand that helps the category bring in new consumers from vodka. In Europe, consumers are now relating to gin almost in the same way they think of single malt. They prefer different styles—whether citrusy, junipery, floral, or other profiles—and they shop around for them. Another positive is the advent of good tonic, with brands like Fever-Tree, Fentimans, and others transforming the perception of the Gin and Tonic. There’s an opportunity to leverage that in the U.S. as in Europe, where you have bars offering a range of different gin styles, tonic styles, and garnishes. It all becomes a more theatrical and interesting experience.
MW: You also have Spytail Black Ginger rum ($25 a 750-ml.), which rolled out last year.
Gladstone: Rum is a tougher category in the U.S. On Spytail, we’re working on some innovation, including a Cognac cask-finished rum. People have been talking about the sipping rum concept, trying to create products that actually convey that message to the consumer and deliver on the taste. That’s the angle we’re going for. We’re developing different products in other categories as well, so this is just the beginning.