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Eight Gins On Our Radar

Intriguing new blends and highly-commended old English favourites are all in the mix.

It started out, in the Middle Ages, as a herbal medicine. It later came to be nicknamed ‘Mother’s Ruin’, an idiom which derives from 18th Century gin outlets allowing women to drink alongside men for the first time. Back then it was associated with social decline, high mortality rates and even insanity. And yet, Gin is, a couple of centuries on, a premium product: as long as you do your homework.

“An increase in consumer demand for better products, plus an increase in information on distillation techniques and exotic flavours, has led to a gin renaissance spearheaded by exciting craft brands,” explains Jason Nickels, Head Distiller at Salcombe Distilling Company, of gin’s success in shuffling its way up to the elite category.

“These brands’ craftsmanship warranted a premium product, and in turn forced global brands to innovate to keep up. The now successful brands have harnessed their provenance and craftsmanship, defined solid propositions, and innovated in flavour and occasion to satisfy the ever-growing consumer demand for unique tastes and experiences.”

Indeed, a little-known fact about gin is, whilst many spirits’ names and identities are subject to all kind of conditions (scotch whisky must be matured in Scotland in a cask made of oak for at least three years and one day), with gin, all that’s mandatory is the inclusion of juniper. Which basically means distilleries can be as whimsically creative as they like with the rest of the seeds, berries, roots, fruits and herbs that make up a gin’s character.

So what are the best gins out there right now? Here are a few botanical blends we’ve tried lately, and heartily recommend.

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Seventy One Gin

Launched last year by fashion photographer Mert Alas, Seventy One, its makers would claim, should no more be mixed with tonic than a Bowmore 52 Year Old should be with supermarket cola.

Now boasting a host of celebrity fans including Madonna, Irina Shayk, Dua Lipa, Liam Payne and Kate Moss, the gin is matured in three different oak casks for 71 nights resulting in a woody bouquet tinged with dark chocolate notes.
£140, BUY NOW

Artingstall Gin

We’ve had Steven Soderbergh’s take on a classic Bolivian spirit, Singani 63; Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin; and George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila. Now, actor and filmmaker Paul Feig (best known for Bridesmaids and the latter day Ghostbusters revisit) is the latest prominent Hollywood figure to get in on the premium spirit act.

The liquid contained within the elegant, crystal decanter-like bottle is the result of a collaboration between Feig and Canadian distiller Ravinder Minhas: expect a gentler experience across the palate than the botanically-rich flavours currently in fashion, making it all the better for cocktails.

Artingstall, by the way, is  Feig’s mother’s maiden name.
Around £40, BUY NOW

 Plymouth Gin Navy Strength

What is meant by the increasingly ubiquitous term “Navy Strength”? Whilst brought into modern parlance by Plymouth Gin in the early 90s, the term actually goes back to the early 19th Century, and the more spirited buccaneers in the British Royal Navy working out that, for gunpowder to be mixed into a paste with a spirit and remain flammable, that spirit had to include 57 per cent alcohol by volume.

Plymouth Gin, more than any other brand, had first dibs on resuscitating this phrase: the brand was supplier to the Royal Navy for nearly 200 years. The headier variation of their gin features juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, green cardamom, coriander, angelica and orris, all contributing to a nuanced but not over-bearing flavour profile.
Around £55, BUY NOW 

Ferdinand’s Saar – Goldcap Dry Gin

The 200 year old Avadis Distillery, when it comes to this once-a-year distillation, throws Riesling wine in to the mix, to add a playful note or two to a symphony made up of the must convention-spurning ingredients list on this page: one in which cranberry, dalmatian sage and ground-ivy to battle with Mirabelle plums, cocoa beans and acacia shoots.

It’s a selection of ingredients as eyebrow-raising as an inexplicable last-minute Champions League team selection from Pep Guardiola: but with better results – a flavour profile featuring hints of fresh citrus notes, cranberry and green tea, with a touch of sweet bitterness and fruity-yet-peppery notes.
Around £100, BUY NOW

 Stonehouse Gin

This toothsome drop from a family-run microbrewery brewery situated on the Cambrian Railway line – we thoroughly recommend a visit – oozes aroma and flavour the moment you take the lid off.

Distilled from a neutral base of 96 percent ABV in a copper hybrid still, the gin, which took the Best London Dry Gin gong at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, is well balanced and has plenty of juniper, coriander and citrus on the nose: the flavour narrative doesn’t stop there though. Underlying these notes are deeper, earthier nuances of cardamom, while a hint of a new make spirit, distilled from the maker’s own malted barley wash, makes the whole complex flavour profile resolve itself beautifully.

How easy on the palette even the Navy version is testifies to how deftly the makers – Shane and Alison Parr – have conquered both smoothness and complexity.
£35, BUY NOW

Monkey 47 

This batch-distilled drop, makers claim, fuses British traditions, Indian spices and a no-nonsense approach to gin native to Germany’s Black Forest.

Just shy of 50 hand-picked plant ingredients, prepped in Black Forest spring water, are behind a flavour profile whose USP, not found in gins elsewhere, is fresh lingonberries. Distillation and maturation takes place in earthenware containers, in order to do justice – say the makers – to a their unique recipe. The tasting experience, for us, supports their claim.

It is testimony to the increasingly zealous, connoisseurial zeal with which gin is being consumed that this brand’s limited edition Experimentum Series, released earlier this year, sold out in 24 hours. This is a delectable alternative.
Around £40, BUY NOW

Salcombe Gin

Gin lovers are already well-acquainted with the multi-award-winning sprits brand based in South Devon. Their Start Point offering is citrus led (lemon and limes, sourced from the trade routes between the brand’s native Devon and the Azores, the West Indies and the Mediterranean), then infused with 13 botanicals including Macedonian juniper and English coriander seed.

 Grapefruit peels, cardamom, liquorice, cinnamon bark, chamomile and cubeb berries also play their part in a flavour that offers a wonderful marriage of smoothness and complexity.
Around £40, BUY NOW

Birch ‘Sumatra’ Coffee Gin

A local legend where it’s made, Birch’s flavoursome drop is made in batches of around 200 bottles a time, in a small village in East Sussex, by husband-and-wife team Justin and Dawn Birch, using the increasingly rare one-shot distillation method (which – and this is a nugget of info for hardcore distillation geeks – sees the still run with the macerated botanicals already in the spirit).

Justin Birch spent a decade perfecting his recipe, and the result is an enigmatic drink whose sweet-yet-spicy flavour profile is attributable to the addition of his eponymous Birch syrup to a range of ingredients including juniper, orange, lime, grapefruit, rosemary… and one secret one.

A new addition to Birch’s repertoire is a coffee and cardamom expression which works beautifully neat, but also sings in sweet harmony with ginger ale.
£70 for a double pack, BUY NOW

The Welsh Wind Signature Style Gin

The Welsh Wind Distillery in Ceredigion, West Wales, having made a plethora of award-winning custom gins for other businesses, now has its own-brand product.

The taste concept is based on ingredients found in a traditional Welsh kitchen: oranges, cinnamon, clove, ginger, tea-soaked currants. The result is smooth and oil- rich, and replete with warm, sweet flavours.
£42, BUY NOW

Tappers Tickled Pink Gin by Simon Rimmer

Merseyside-based Gin Brand Tappers partnered with celebrity chef and Sunday Brunch presenter Simon Rimmer to launch Tickled Pink, a compounded gin in which Tappers’ signature botanicals have been bolstered by rose and hibiscus: a delicious alternative – one with curious echoes of Turkish delight – to the traditional Angostura bitters used to make a pink gin.

“Its all-natural rose hue reflects the traditional method of cold-compounding, lending a delicately sweet and floral flavour,” as Rimmer puts it.
£38, BUY NOW

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