‘Expensive it is’ – Star Wars fad spurs craft gin bidding war

Graphic: Rob 'Jedi' Johnson

In one of the unlikeliest corporate stand-offs of our time, Pernod Ricard, Diageo and Bacardi have become embroiled in a vicious three-way bidding war for a tiny Nigerian craft gin distillery.

Bids for a majority stake in the tiny Yo Da distillery – which makes 200 cases a month of its cult ‘Abujin’ – are already over $50m and expected to keep rising.

Obi wan for all

The current corporate stand-off can be traced back to February when Pernod Ricard bought the Japanese Ki-No-Bi distillery, as part of their ‘one new gin distillery a month’ strategy.

Maris Piper, the company’s Global Marketing Tsar, realised that the new addition sounded like a Star Wars character, and decided there was a chance to create a whole themed gin portfolio.

Before long they had added Skywalker gin from California, Zhou Bak Ah from Taiwan, and Hans Zolo Botanischer Kollektiv from Hamburg.

‘The Star Wars range gave Pernod some really fertile marketing ground to work with,’ says drinks analyst, Emma Knott-Real. ‘Everything from “A long time ago in a distillery far far away” to “I find your lack of gin disturbing”.’

Fans of the film franchise quickly picked up on the range. Gift packs were launched, and a comic voice-over clip ‘Return of the Gin-Di’ went viral on social media.

The phrase ‘12 foraged botanicals it has’ became a massively-shared gif, and there was even talk of a retro 1970s-style sticker album.

Fight to the death (star)

But Pernod Ricard’s success didn’t go unnoticed, and their competitors locked onto their strategy like a TIE fighter to an X-Wing.

In the last three months, Bacardi has bought Jedi Gin and Jabba no 3 while Diageo picked up Jawa London Dry and the Emperor Palpatine Flavoured Gin range.

‘For the moment, Yo Da is almost the last gin out there that sounds like a Star Wars character, and everyone’s desperate to get it at any cost,’ said Knott-Real. ‘Bids are going in on a daily basis. If it carries on much longer the guys in Nigeria will be able to build their own Death Star with the money they get.’

There is only one other potential Lucas-inspired brand on the market, the Jar Jar distillery in Jamaica, which makes ‘Jar Jar Ginks’.

‘But that’s absolutely shit,’ said Knott-Real. ‘Nobody would buy that. Not even Brown-Forman.’