Having shared a few things you should know about Gin, I thought perhaps I should write about some of the gins I think you should try. I originally thought it would be difficult to narrow down the list to just 10, but bearing in mind the fact that I want to offer a selection of gins that are quite different from each other it has proved more difficult than I imagined. Trying to find a selection of new and old gins that all have something unique and remarkable about them, and that don’t sit too close together has been a challenge to say the least.
Below you will find a good range of products, which are (in my opinion), well made and interesting to drink. Many of the ‘new’ gins I have tried (and I’ve tried quite a few) are perfectly fine products, but haven’t made the list because they either don’t bring anything different to the category, or they stray too far away from what I consider to be the key characteristic of gin, and that of course is being juniper led. I’ve ruled out the ones with over-powering botanicals (no coconut gins here thank you very much) and have crossed off the fairly standard ones that just taste like another average gin. The result is a list that should cover all of your drinking needs!
There are of course others that could have been included; I’m not for one moment saying that this is THE definitive list of the best gins on the market, but this is an interesting starting point for discovering the wide selection of gin styles that are available today. To my friends whose products don’t appear in this blog, it’s not that I don’t like your gin, it’s that I had to choose only one of each style to fill the list. In other words, here are just some of the great gins that you might enjoy drinking along with a few recipes to try if you fancy it.
No list of good gins would be complete without including Plymouth Gin, for two reasons: firstly it is a great gin, and a fantastic base for cocktails, and secondly, it has a unique designation and so should be on the list purely because it is something other than a standard ‘London Dry Gin’. That being said my favourite is the Navy Strength, which weighs in at a hefty 57% abv and was a standard of the British Navy for over two centuries. The high abv goes back to a time when alcohol rations were part of the sailors’ salary, and to prove that the alcohol was not watered down it would go onboard ship at 57% abv, the strength at which if you dampen gunpowder with a spirit it will still ignite (but not explode). A demonstration would be made that this was the case and thus you would ‘prove’ the strength of the spirit. So a spirit of 57% was referred to as 100 proof, and anything stronger was overproof, a term still used today for high abv rums.
Plymouth Navy Strength has an intense juniper aroma with notes of coriander seed and cardamom in the background and just a hint of citrus. The mouth feel is intense due to the high abv, but rich and lingering. Juniper is definitely the centrepiece of this gin, with earthy and spicy notes coming into play as the flavour opens up. Crisp and clean with a long finish, this is a gin like no other on the market. For me there’s one particular drink that can only be made perfectly by using this particular gin and that’s the Gimlet. I know it’s one of the simplest drinks there is, being a combination of Gin and lime cordial, but trust me, use Plymouth Navy Strength and you’ll understand what makes this a great drink!
60ml Plymouth Navy Strength Gin
30ml Roses lime cordial (do not substitute, it must be Roses!)
Shake all ingredients with cubed ice and strain into a chilled coupe, leaving the drink ungarnished… this is true simplicity!
It wouldn’t be right to present a list of gins without giving a nod to the past, and in the case of Old English Gin, Henrik Hammer (the man behind the brand!) has created a gin that pays homage to the original style of gin in England, based on a recipe from the 1780s. Old English Gin falls into the same category as Old Tom Gin, being very slightly sweetened. There’s not much I don’t like about this Gin, from the packaging to the liquid, to the thought process behind it, every aspect has been thought through to perfection. If you have yet to try it, I suggest you waste no time and either find a bar near you that stocks it, or buy yourself a bottle immediately. You won’t regret it.
On the nose there is still a clear hit of juniper, but there are also high notes of spices such as nutmeg and cardamom, and a well considered hint of citrus. It manages to be sweet, earthy, spicy and juniper led all in perfect balance, and trust me not many gins do that The sweetness is restrained, making this a perfect Gin for both the old classics that call for Old Tom and modern drinks created with London Dry in mind. For my money this is the best base for a Martinez you’re likely to find, whether you choose to have it dry or as Jerry Thomas made it, sweet… don't get me started about the different recipes though, read that blog for yourself!
60ml sweet vermouth
30ml Hammer & Son Old English Gin
1 barspoon Maraschino
1 dash Boker’s bitters
Stir all ingredients with cubed ice and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass, before garnishing with a lemon twist. If you want to know more about this family of drinks why not check out this blog that I wrote after doing far too much research on the subject!
This is the Gin that started the whole super premium end of the category going, and to this day is still considered by many to be the benchmark for ‘top-shelf’ gin. Differing form the standard Tanqueray, which is also a fantastic gin, Tanqueray 10 infuses whole fruit, not just peel, giving it a lively citrus edge, balanced with hints of spice and an almost floral aroma which must be derived from the chamomile they use.
This is an elegant, crisp gin that really is a treat to drink. The strong citrus element cuts across the juniper creating a crisp light aroma that makes you want to take a sip right away. You’re rewarded with an equally clean and crisp flavour, with grapefruit and lime dancing alongside the juniper, before giving way to hints of earth spice. This gin dries out beautifully and as such is perfect for using in cocktails such as the White Lady or even a very indulgent Aviation. For me though, I have to say I think it’s great in a French 75, where it’s one of the few gins I know that can still shine through as the star of the drink.
50ml Tanqueray 10
25ml lemon juice
Stir the gin, gomme and lemon juice with cubed ice and strain into a chilled champagne flute, and then top of with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve.
This product is labelled on one side of the bottle as a single botanical gin, and on the other as juniper vodka. For years friends of mine who work for vodka brands have jokingly called gin ‘juniper vodka’ so the chaps at Chase decided to make a product out of it. The idea has actually worked a treat and the result showcases exactly what juniper should bring to any gin. OK this one lacks the complexity added by using all the supporting botanicals, but if you like juniper then this is well worth a go!
Chase single botanical Gin has thus far only been produced as a limited edition bottling, but hopefully it won’t disappear any time soon. The tasting notes are pretty obvious I guess, but don’t let the simplicity put you off, this is a great product. On the nose you get the clean, uninterrupted aroma of juniper berries, both the high sharp pine notes, and the more earthy dark berry aromas too. The flavour delivers exactly what you expect, so if like me you prefer your Gin to have plenty of juniper, you won’t be disappointed. The great thing about this product is that when using it in cocktails you can add ingredients to it to play the supporting role usually filled by the other botanicals.
50ml Chase Single Botanical Gin
20ml lemon juice
20ml St Germain elderflower liqueur
2 dashes Bitter Truth orange bitters
10ml egg white
Shake all ingredients well with plenty of cubed ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with cubed ice, and garnish with a lemon twist and a few juniper berries.
From the simplicity of Chase single botanical to the complexity of Monkey 47, which breaks all my rules for what makes a Gin great, and yet I still love it. There are those who say it isn’t a true Gin because it has so many botanicals (47 officially but more like 51 I’m told) and as such many say that juniper is no longer the dominant flavour and aroma. I see where those people are coming from, and it’s true that there’s a lot going on in the flavour profile of Monkey 47, but I’m going to have to disagree. Having been lucky enough to visit their small distillery in the Black Forest, and actually make a batch of their Gin myself, I can attest to the huge amount of juniper used, and many of the other botanicals are present in relatively small amounts. Personally when I taste it I get plenty of juniper, but every time I try it in a different drink, I find different supporting flavours coming through as well.
On the nose there is the customary juniper, but also initial floral notes, hints of berries and citrus, and then as you take a second sniff the spice and earthy notes come through. There’s no limit to the layers of aroma that come from Monkey 47, and tasting it you find the same. Sharp piney juniper, with red and black berries, and a great citrus kick, that ranges from grapefruit through lime, start you on your journey here. Dried spices, woodland notes and even an almost grassy flavour come through next, followed by peppery hints at the end. What I love about this Gin most though is mixing it, as it seems every time you dilute it differently or pair it with another ingredient, then a different element of the gin comes into play. This is one of my must have bottles for my home drinking.
50ml Monkey 47 Gin
20ml lemon juice
10ml cranberry juice
1 dash lavender bitters
Soda water top
In a highball glass combine all the ingredients and add plenty of cubed ice. Stir to mix before topping it off with a splash of soda water and garnish with a lemon twist.
Sadly this great Gin is no longer produced, although there are still bottles on the market if you look hard enough. This was originally created as a ‘duty free only’ product, but always had a huge bartender following. Beefeater took it off the market was several years ago, much to the disappointment of many, and despite the lovely Beefeater 24 being created as a replacement (and not forgetting their excellent seasonal gins), the loss was still apparent. Crown Jewel was, well, the jewel in the crown of their range. I’ve included it here as I still feel it sets the benchmark for premium gins, and it’s still my go-to for a Martini when I spot it at the bar.
Up front on the nose there is a lot of juniper, with a lovely sharp grapefruit and lemon aroma in support. The spicy and earthy notes are still there but they don’t come through right away; instead they appear later and then linger as the initial juniper starts to fade. Despite being a healthy 50% abv, the alcohol doesn’t overpower, instead lends a hand to the spicy botanicals and lifts them through the clean crisp juniper and grapefruit flavours that greet you on your first sip. This is a Martini waiting to happen, and despite my general preference for wet Martinis, I lay off the vermouth a little more than usual when I use Crown Jewel.
90ml Beefeater Crown Jewel
15ml dry vermouth
1 dash Bitter Truth orange bitters
Stir all ingredients with plenty of cubed ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, finishing off with a healthy twist of lemon or if you prefer pink grapefruit. Sit back and prepare to be dazzled.
I know it’s a mouthful to say, so let’s just refer to it as Cream Gin for the time being! This madcap gin was inspired by cream gins from the past, but instead of adding the cream after distilling the spirit, the guys from WSWS thought they would try adding it to the still with the other botanicals and spirit and distil the whole lot together. The result is a deliciously rich and subtle gin. It would be wrong to say that the cream dampens down the other flavours and aromas, as instead it adds a creamy richness that counter-balances the high notes of juniper and citrus.
On the nose it smells rich, with the familiar pine of the juniper berries coming through more gently than in most other gins. Also there’s a wood shavings earthy aroma in the background, against which the citrus adds a subtle top note. The mouth feel is rich, with a hint of sweetness there, before the citrus and juniper cut through, leaving behind a subtle hint of spice. It’s an unusual gin, but something different is sometimes a good thing. We accidentally discovered that it goes surprisingly well with brazil nuts, when snacking on them while trying it in a G&T, so here’s a cocktail for anyone who doesn’t have nut allergies!
50ml WSWS Cream Gin
5 toasted Brazil nuts
15ml dry vermouth
10ml King’s Ginger liqueur
Muddle the Brazil nuts into the gin before adding remaining ingredients, then stir with plenty of cubed ice, before fine straining into a chilled coupe. Serve with a few Brazil nuts on the side. This is an unusual one, but it really seems to work!
A cousin of the well-recognised blue bottle that kicked off the premium gin category, Bombay Dry is to me a more intense gin with bag loads of juniper, especially on the nose. Bombay Dry was the original gin from this company, although it disappeared in the shadow of Bombay Sapphire, thankfully it’s back now and the gin category is all the better for it.
Bombay Dry has a clean crisp juniper led aroma, with plenty of spice and lemon peel lifting it even further. The liquid is sharp and clean on the tongue, releasing its flavours very cleanly and almost cleansing the palate as it goes. There’s a tiny hint of bitterness on the finish as the drier spicy notes come through, but this is pleasant and balanced. It’s a pleasure to make cocktails with this gin, and it seems to be a really versatile product, working in classics, sour drinks and the ubiquitous G&T. I thought adding a touch of richness and bitter notes and a great big kick of orange might work well so here goes…
60ml Bombay Dry Gin
15ml China China
15ml amontillado sherry
Stir all ingredients with cubed ice and fine strain into a chilled coupe, finishing of with the oils from an orange twist (which you should discard)
This is a real favourite of mine but it almost got left off the list as it sits close to Tanqueray 10 and Crown Jewel in terms of being a crisp, juniper led, super premium Gin. In the end I just couldn’t leave it out, it’s just too darned tasty. Berry Brothers and Rudd created this Gin just three years ago, and from the first sip I knew they’d created something special. Produced in Holland, this is a classic London Dry style Gin, with just six botanicals perfectly balanced to create a dry, clean Gin that stands up perfectly in classic cocktails.
The nose bursts open with juniper and bitter orange followed by a lovely cardamom and coriander seed finish. There’s no distraction from the juniper, which leads the flavour profile, just supporting notes of grapefruit peel, and plenty of spice and the almost floral cardamom. Classic, clean and a delight to drink, No.3 is a modern classic in the making in my opinion. Despite making a great Martini, I actually love this Gin in citrus drinks such as the aviation or bramble, where it shines through letting you know there is still gin in your glass.
50ml No.3 Gin
20ml lemon juice
10ml crème de mure (Merlet please) float
Shake the first three ingredients with plenty of cubed ice and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Top up the crushed ice and float 10ml of crème de mure on top and garnish with a couple of blackberries.
Another relatively new Gin on the market, Cremorne 1859, more commonly known as Colonel Fox’s Gin, was the brainchild of our friends at CASK liquid marketing. Simply put, Stuart Ekins and Richard Herbert wanted to create a clean, crisp, juniper led Gin, at a sensible price point, which would make an outstanding G&T… I can safely confirm that they ticked all those boxes!
It’s a fairly straightforward Gin with plenty of juniper and citrus and the usual supporting botanicals, but interestingly there is just the tiniest hint of licorice on both the nose and the palate. Don’t be put off if you don’t really like licorice, it’s a hint, but adds an interesting top note and at the same time an almost woody body to the Gin. Delicious, simple, junipery goodness in a great looking bottle and all at a very sensible price. Colonel Fox, we salute you!
60ml Cremorne 1859 Gin
Yeah, I know you don’t need a recipe for this one, but I’m just trying to be consistent! Fill a highball with cubed ice (fill it, don’t skimp!) and add your gin and a slice of lemon, before topping with tonic water. To add a different dimension try adding a piece of licorice stick (literally a twig from the plant, trust me they’re amazing) as a stir stick and to draw out the licorice aroma.
Gin is a diverse category, even though it is confined by being essentially neutral spirit infused with juniper and botanicals. The thing about it is that many new products while being perfectly good, don’t bring anything new to the table, or simply overdo their ‘unique’ botanical of choice, distracting from the juniper (coconut? Really?…). I hope this list of 10 interesting Gins gives you a place to start from if you are exploring Gin for the first time or the cocktails inspire you to try something new with your favourite Gin.