It started out a few years ago as nothing more than a unique client gift, but Toronto agency Giants & Gentlemen has now turned its eponymous gin brand into a standalone venture.
Giants & Gentlemen Gin is now listed in about 10 LCBO stores throughout Toronto, with plans to expand into the restaurant/bar space. “There’s been a ton of interest,” said G&G’s co-CEO and chief creative officer Alanna Nathanson, who conceived the brand with fellow CEO/CCO, Natalie Armata.
The original intention wasn’t to create a consumer product, but they were inspired to try after receiving positive feedback from the recipients and judges at spirits awards, leaning into their extensive marketing and advertising background to bring it to life.
“Honestly, we saw a lot of potential in this product,” said Nathanson. “And Natalie and I are consummate entrepreneurs, always looking to challenge ourselves in new ways. As an ad agency, we’re obviously perfectly positioned to create a successful brand and, as an avid gin drinker myself, an outstanding product.”
Winning multiple gold medals at the 2019, 2020 and 2021 SIP Awards (the only internationally recognized consumer judging spirits competition), convinced the G&G co-founders they had a viable product on their hands. “We were like, ‘We have to make this real,” said Nathanson.
Working with Concord, Ont.-based Still Waters Distillery, they have created a contemporary twist on Old Tom gin—a type of gin popular in England in the 18th and 19th centuries that Bon Appetit magazine once colourfully described as “corduroy-clad hipster of gins.”
Once known as “bathtub gin” because people in Victorian-era England tended to make it themselves, Old Tom is richer in flavour than counterparts like London Dry and Plymouth, and is regarded by experts as a better fit with mixed drinks and prohibition-era cocktails. Nathanson describes G&G gin as possessing notes of vanilla and caramel, “really smooth with a hint of sweetness.”
The packaging itself is similarly designed to evoke the spirit of an old-time brand, with the liquid housed in a distinctive ceramic bottle sourced from Phoenix Packaging, a 42-year-old Montreal company that has worked extensively with beverage alcohol brands. The logo is a subtle reference to the agency’s name, featuring a bowler hat-wearing cyclops wearing a monocle.
“It’s an old-school recipe with a contemporary twist, and we feel that way about the bottle too,” said Nathanson. “It’s sort of harkening back to that time, but it also feels contemporary. It’s also designed to stand out [on shelves] which is imperative.”
“We were researching a lot of different looks and feels, wanting it to be unique and make sense with the tone of the brand,” she said. “When we found this bottle we just really loved the shape.”
Nathanson said that creating a brand from scratch and bringing it to market has given them a greater appreciation for the business challenges faced by their clients. “We’re getting first-hand insight into the priorities and challenges they face,” she said.
The agency also plans to introduce marketing support for the brand later this summer, starting with social before potentially expanding into additional channels. “We’re going to try not to be bad clients,” she said. “It’s not always easy when you’re really close to it.”