What is gin?

Table of Contents

How to make sloe gin and our best sloe gin taste test

Looking for the best sloe gin to serve to guests this Christmas? Read on to find the best sloe gin to buy and how to make your own sloe gin

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What is sloe gin?

What is in sloe gin?

Sloe gin is made up of sloe berries, caster sugar and gin.

Recipe for sloe gin and tips

1) Use the best sloes you can get your hands on

2) Don’t use cheap gin. Here are our favourite British gins for you to try.

You only get out what you put in, so make sure it’s worth making sloe gin. Once you’ve got those two things sorted, you need to start by sterilising your bottle (just run it through the dishwasher by itself), then half-fill it with sloes, add 2 tbsp caster sugar and top up with gin. Lay it on its side in a dark place for 2 months, giving it a shake every couple of days.

Looking for recipes to make that use sloe gin?

Best sloe gin to buy

How the best sloe gin taste test worked

Four members of the olive team conducted a blind taste test to find the most flavoursome shop-bought sloe gin. We tasted nine sloe gins from various brands. The group choose a 1st place winner, a runner up and then other alternatives that we tried.

All products have been chosen and reviewed independently by our editorial experts. This page contains affiliate links and we may receive a small commission for purchases made, but this comes at no extra cost to you and helps us to continue providing top-quality content for our loyal readers.

The results for the best sloe gin taste test

About the sloe gin: Haymans have been making gins since 1863, and this sloe gin uses hand-picked sloe berries, steeped in their London dry gin. This gin has a volume of 26%.

Comments: This winning sloe gin had a nice balance of sweet sloe berries and a gentle hit of alcohol. It had a rich, fruity flavour without being too sweet and tasted like the most classic sloe gin.

Runner up: Sipsmith sloe gin, £22/500ml, Waitrose

About the sloe gin: Sipsmith sloe gin is made from their London dry gin which is then combined with wild sloe berries picked in 2016. This gin has a volume of 29%.

Comments: We thought this sloe gin had a slightly spiced flavour with notes of almond. It had a smooth mouthfeel and reminded us a bit of mulled wine.

The best alternative sloe gin: Gibsons sloe gin, £20.95/350ml, Gibsons Organic

About the sloe gin: Gibson’s sloe gin is also flavoured with blackcurrant. It is a mixture of organic sloe berries grown in the Cotswolds and gin, and sweetened with sugar. This gin has a volume of 22%.

Comments: This sloe gin is slightly different from the others as it is a mixture of juniper green gin, sloe berries, sugar and blackcurrant liqueur. We thought it had a mellow sloe flavour with citrusy notes.

Since our taste test, we’ve found two more great sloe gins to try

Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Sloe Gin, £39.45, 31 Dover

Monkey 47 has macerated Black Forest sloe berries into its acclaimed gin, and the result is gorgeous – a super-fragrant, complex nose, with earthy juniper, heady spice and rich dark fruit notes. One for those who prefer less syrupy sloe gins.

Pickering’s Sloe Gin, £21.45, Amazon

One for fans of sweeter sloe gins, this festive number has subtle spice, rich red fruit and distinctive cherry bakewell notes – sip this alongside a slice of stollen.

Other sloe gins we tried

Warner Edwards sloe gin, £26.95/700ml, Amazon

About the sloe gin: This sloe gin is made by steeping Harrington Dry gin in sloe berries. It has a volume of 30%.

Comments: If you’re looking for a classic sloe gin, this is a great value one to buy. It has a dry texture and rich flavours of cherry and spice. We also detected notes of coffee.

Sacred sloe gin, £35.95/200ml, Amazon

About the sloe gin: Made with organic sloes and rested in Sacred gin for two and a half years, this gin has a volume of 28.8%.

Comments: Like a cross between PX sherry and tawny port, this sloe gin is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. There are notes of liquorice and a lingering spice, too. While it does have musty notes on the nose, this doesn’t translate to the flavour and we think it would pair well with a cheeseboard.

Lyme Bay winery sloe gin liqueur, £12.99/350ml, Lyme Bay Winery

About the sloe gin: This sloe gin made in Devon’s Axe Valley has a volume of 17%. It won silver in 2012 from the taste of the west awards.

Comments: This sloe gin is great if you have a sweet tooth. The flavour wasn’t too overpowering and it had notes of blackcurrant.

Gordons sloe gin, £21.64/700ml, Master of Malt

About the sloe gin: Gordon’s sloe gin is a combination of Gordon’s original gin and handpicked sloe berries. This gin has a volume of 26%.

Comments: Gordon’s sloe gin had herbal notes and a slightly tart flavour. We thought it tasted like a good standard sloe gin.

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Looking for sloe gin recipes or alternative boozy bakes?

A List of the Different Types of Gin

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Gin is a liquor used all over the world in mixed drink but it’s terribly underappreciated by customers who take it for granted. The average customer never stops to think about the gin that goes into their martini or other cocktails; so they never know if they are getting the best drink possible. In the 500 years since gin was invented by a Dutch chemist it has evolved into several different types. Each version of this neglected liquor has their own unique flavor, aroma, and body that effects what it should be mixed with and how customers should drink it.

London Dry Gin

London dry is what the average person thinks of as gin, this type of gin is usually very dry with a pungent aroma and juniper flavor. In order to increase the flowery or botanical flavor that its known for distillers will usually inject London dry gin with a wide range of aromatic ingredients. Done during the 2nd or 3rd distillation process, every distiller uses a different set of ingredients creating unique tastes for every brand. This is the type of gin customers will want for their classic martini, gin and tonics, and aviation cocktails.

Plymouth Gin

A close cousin of the London dry gin, Plymouth gin is less dry that offers an earthy flavor and softer juniper tones than any other type of gin. Plymouth gin is injected with a heady mix of roots that give it that unique earthy flavor that customers won’t find in any other type of gin. Plymouth is unique for two other reasons, first it is only produced in one place in the world Plymouth, England. Second there is only brand of Plymouth gin in the world, unsurprisingly called Plymouth, it was first distilled in 1793 and is now a common part of any bar.

Genever or Dutch Gin

The original type and style of gin created in Holland for medicinal uses by a Dutch chemist, it stands apart from other gin types in several ways. Its biggest difference from other types of gin on our list is that it’s made of malt grains instead of a mix of cereal grains. Those malt grains give Dutch gin a far darker color and flavor that gives it a similar taste to botanical flavored whiskeys; with a light body to match. Dutch gin is usually sipped straight or chilled rather than mixed into martinis.

Old Tom Gin

Another close cousin of the London dry, Old Tom is a much sweeter type of gin. It’s often described as being somewhere between a London dry and Genever because of its sweeter flavor but dry body. It was the favorite drink of actor Tom Collins which makes its name so appropriate. Over the years it has almost completely disappeared from the market but has recently started making a comeback. Old Tom gin is most famously used in making Tom Collins, gin Rickeys, and Martinez cocktails. It can also be used for making Ramos Gin Fizz.

International Style

Otherwise known as the “New American Style Gin” it’s a name for types of gin that have appeared recently and use different distilling processes than other types. They all use the same base process for distilling but use flavors other than the juniper berries other gins are made with. Instead they focus on more botanical flavors and fragrances, that are being used by mixologists to invent all new cocktails like the Tante Marie Fizz. Customers will be the most familiar with the Hendrick’s brand international gin that’s flavored with cucumber and rose to give it a sweet and botanical flavor.

These might be the five recognized types of gin but customers must keep in mind that a gins taste will change depending on the brand. Every distiller has their own unique mix of botanical ingredients that can create a sweeter, earthier, or drier style of gin no matter the type. This list is best for deciding on the type of gin that you would most prefer before experimenting with different brands. Try out different brands in your favorite cocktails or different brands in an all new cocktails to learn what you like best.

Top 24 British gins

We love gin here at olive magazine, but with so much choice out there, how are you supposed to know which bottle to buy? Here the olive drinks experts share top gins produced in the UK, all with varying flavour profiles, from spiced to floral, citrus to juniper-forward. Which British gin will you pick?

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We’ve also peppered this piece with gin-inspired recipes, from gin cocktails to cakes, just in case it gets you in the mood! To learn more about the world of gin,

All products have been chosen and reviewed independently by our editorial team. This page contains affiliate links and we may receive a small commission for purchases made, but this comes at no extra cost to you and helps us to continue providing top-quality content for our loyal readers.

Our favourite British gins to try (in no particular order)…

Buy top British gins here…

Fishers Gin, Suffolk, £39.95/70cl

This unusual gin features a host of rare botanicals foraged on the Suffolk coast. Herbaceous and subtly saline on the nose (we were reminded of sea vegetables), it’s slightly sweeter to taste, with aromatic cardamom notes.

Flavour profile: herbaceous

Botanicals: spignel, rock samphire, wood avens and bog myrtle

Perfect pairing: try it in a dirty martini

Porter’s Gin, Aberdeen, £29/70cl

Made in Aberdeen, this is a classic gin with bold juniper and bright citrus notes. It’s created using a combination of old and new techniques. Light flavours are extracted from delicate botanicals through cold distillation so as not to damage them with heat, while other more robust ingredients are distilled at one of the UK’s oldest gin distilleries, allowing the unique characteristics of each to shine through.

Flavour profile: juniper forward

Botanicals: juniper, angelica, almond, coriander, liquorice root, lemon, orange, buddha’s hand, pink peppercorn, orris root, cassia bark and cinnamon

Perfect pairing: pink peppercorns

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Slingsby Gooseberry Gin, Yorkshire, £40.25/7cl

Slingsby’s rhubarb gin was a hit at olive HQ and now the Yorkshire distillery has released another tart and zesty winner. Here, tangily fruity gooseberries (also sourced in Yorkshire) marry perfectly with the citrussy notes of the base gin.

Flavour profile: citrus

Botanicals: severn sea rosemary, silver posie thyme, green and jasmine tea, citrus thyme, garden thyme, rhubarb, sage, lovage, chervil, nettle, sweet cicely, rose hip, angelica, cassia, orris root, coriander, liquorice, grapefruit and juniper

Perfect pairing: the gin’s creamy mouthfeel means it would be lovely sipped neat with ice, or try topping up with some sparkling white wine for a spring-like spritz

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Cambridge Distillery Japanese Gin, Cambridge, £65/70cl

One of the first gins to focus exclusively on Japanese botanicals (with each distilled individually and then blended together, as per the brand’s distinctive distillation process), this is an elegant, complex yet balanced gin, with cool, vegetal cucumber notes, citrus from yuzu, earthy spice and subtle pepperiness. Combine with a beautiful bottle and this would be a great gift for a gin connoisseur looking for something more unusual to try.

Flavour profile: citrus

Botanicals: juniper, sesame seeds, shiso leaf, cucumber, sansho and yuzu

Perfect pairing: tonic and a slice of green apple

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Want to try the best pink gins?

Flavours include:

  • Pinot noir gin
  • Pink grapefruit gin
  • Rhuabrb gin

Biggar Gin, Scotland, £34.95/70cl

This award-winning gin, made in batches of just 200 bottles at a time, uses botanicals local to the Scottish town of Biggar, where it’s made. As to be expected from a London dry gin it’s got plenty of juniper character, as well as vibrant orange notes, subtle herbaceousness and spice, and a restrained sweetness. It’s also super smooth to drink, with a lingering finish.

Flavour profile: juniper

Botanicals: rowan berry, rosehip, nettle, pink peppercorns, coriander seed, cardamom pods, lavender cassia bark, orris root

Perfect pairing: tonic and a few pink peppercorns

Buy it now

Darnley’s Spiced Gin, Scotland, £29.95/70cl

One for those who can find some spiced gins a little overpowering, this Scottish number has a subtle, restrained spice that’s balanced by juniper, with a lingering, peppery finish.

Flavour profile: spiced

Botanicals: juniper, cloves, grains of paradise and ginger

Perfect pairing: drink with ginger ale

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Salcombe Gin by Start Point, Devon, £40/70cl

Devon distillery Salcombe Gin ‘s London dry is a classic, super-smooth affair. Though earthy juniper is dominant, it’s followed by bright, zingy citrus – as well as a subtle, warming spice.

Flavour profile: juniper

Botanicals: juniper, coriander seed, ruby grapefruit, lemon, lime, cubeb

Perfect pairing: slice of red grapefruit

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Ramsbury Gin, Wiltshire, £35/70cl

This single-estate gin is made in Wiltshire by a distillery whose ethos is very much grain to glass – the gin’s base spirit is distilled onsite using wheat grown on the Ramsbury estate (and chalk-filtered water from their own aquifer). A lovely, balanced London dry gin with heady citrus and floral aromas on the nose and a smooth, fruity finish.

Flavour profile: citrus

Botanicals: juniper (picked nearby on Salisbury plain) and homegrown quince

Perfect pairing: tonic and a twist of orange peel

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Tarquin’s Gin, Cornwall, £32.50/70cl

With English wine growing in stature internationally, and Craft distilling moving from urban hubs and out into the countryside, Tarquin’s Gin isn’t just representative of a burgeoning movement; it’s one of the leading lights within it.

To taste, Tarquin’s Dry Gin is a well-balanced gin with all the classic botanicals coming through on both the nose and the palate. The juniper is prevalent (as it should be) but a strong lemony coriander reminds us of a deep pine forest on a hot summer stroll – earthy notes and warm orange blossom faintly joining in.

Distiller and owner Tarquin Ledbetter’s Devon violets (which he grows in his back garden) only come through after a couple of sips, but are balanced by the amount of citrusy and rooty/earthy botanicals mingling around.

Flavour profile: citrus

Botanicals: juniper, coriander seeds, orange, lemon, grapefruit, angelica root, orris root, green cardamom seeds, bitter almond, cinnamon, liquorice root, violets

Perfect pairing: twist of grapefruit peel

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East London Liquor Company Batch No.2, London, £33.95/70cl

The first gin distillery in London’s East End in over 100 years, ELLC distills its gin in hand-built copper stills in an old glue factory in Bow Wharf. June is Negroni Month, so we’ve chosen this herbaceous and savoury gin as it stands up really well in a negroni.

Flavour profile: herbaceous

Botanicals: Batch No.2 gin is made with eleven botanicals inspired by an English herb garden – thyme, winter savoury, sage, bay leaves, lavender, fennel seeds, orris root, coriander seeds, lemon peel, angelica root and juniper berries

Perfect serve: this gin is made specifically for negronis, so combine with equal parts of Campari and Cocchi Storico Vermouth Di Torino for the perfect serve

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Hendrick’s Gin, Scotland, £28.29/70cl

Clean, floral and refreshing, since launching in 2001 Hendrick’s Gin has been the success story that has set the template for modern gin brands to follow, spearheading a resurgence in the spirit. It can now be found in all bars across the globe, with glasses of Hendrick’s and tonic served with cucumber instead of lemon or lime. We’d recommend that if you don’t like gin or don’t know where to start, this is the place to do so as Hendrick’s is not a juniper-forward gin.

Flavour profile: floral

Perfect pairing: tonic and a slice of cucumber, or a twist of lemon peel

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Recipe: try our rhubarb and rose gin fizz

We’ve given a classic gin fizz an update, swapping orange blossom water for rose water and adding a touch of homemade rhubarb syrup to give it a blush of pink. It’s delicate in flavour and creamy enough to replace dessert, and is bound to impress.

Tanqueray No.10, London, £32.50/70cl

Launched in 2000, Tanqueray No. 10 is an exceptionally smooth and fresh tasting gin. It’s handcrafted in small batches using an unique quadruple distillation process, with the heart of the gin created in the affectionately named Tiny Ten still. Using fresh, whole citrus fruits during the process greatly adds to the depth of character inherent in Tanqueray No.10 Gin.

Indisputably a step up in class, this gin is smoother than Tanqueray’s classic offering. It has a full-bodied grapefruit and citrus hit and is recommended by many bartenders as the perfect choice for a martini gin. There’s still plenty of juniper in the mix, as well as a lovely floral note on the nose. The smooth citrus finish and the relatively high strength (47.3% ABV) makes this gin one of the very best on the market.

Flavour profile: citrus

Botanicals: juniper, grapefruit, lime, orange, chamomile flower, coriander, angelica, liquorice root

Perfect pairing: tonic and a wedge of grapefruit or a bay leaf

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Star of Bombay, Hampshire, £35.25/70cl

Featuring two additional botanicals – Bergamot orange peel from Calabria in southern Italy and Ambrette seed from Ecuador – on top of the 10 botanicals that feature in its flagship gin Bombay Sapphire, Star of Bombay is packaged in a sexy-looking bottle with an amazing amount of detail. It is slightly musty on the nose, with dried flowers and an underlying spice.

Almost strangely, the classic notes of juniper, angelica and coriander have been intensified, but ambrette is immediately apparent. It’s jammy to taste, with piquant spice, bergamot and ambrette seeds offering an exotic twist. It’s an intense gin, but one that also retains the lightness of Bombay. At 47.5% ABV, the finish is both long and richly aromatic, but not oily or full – just rich when it hits and leaves behind a vivid memory.

Flavour profile: spiced

Botanicals: juniper, grains of paradise, coriander seeds, cassia bark, orris root, liquorice, lemon peel, cubeb berries, angelica root, almonds, bergamot peel, ambrette seeds

Perfect pairing: tonic and a wedge of orange

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Portobello Road Gin, London, £25/70cl

Portobello Road Gin has established itself in bars and cabinets alike over the past three years, with its classic flavour and a name that’s reminiscent of an iconic bar.

Designed by the team at Portobello Road and distilled at Thames Distillery nearby, this is a gin that is hard to knock. With its booming juniper, classic coriander seed core and peppery nutmeg finish, it’s a perfect choice for those who like a classic G&T with a wedge of lime. Great price and great design – expect it to be a lot more visible in the next few years, as legions of gin fans discover this modern classic.

Flavour profile: citrus/spiced

Botanicals: juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, lemon peel, orange peel, liquorice root, cassia bark, nutmeg

Perfect pairing: tonic and grapefruit peel and cracked black pepper

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Recipe: try our double lemon, gin and tonic cake

This double lemon, gin and tonic cake combines two of our favourite things. It’s easy to make and sure to please a crowd – a new way to enjoy your G&T.

Caorunn Gin, Scotland, £28/70cl

Distilled and bottled in Scotland, Caorunn firmly takes on the mantle of a national product. The distillery is situated in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park, at the foot of the Haughs of Cromdale. It’s inspired by the landscape that surrounded them – Simon Buley (one of the distillers) wanted to use the ancient skills and recipes of spirit-making, using age-old Celtic botanicals that grow on the surrounding hills of Balmenach Distillery.

Drunk on its own, the gin is crisp, dry and well-balanced yet still full-bodied. The botanicals jump out in the palate with spices, citrus and floral notes all working well to compliment a dry juniper note that leaves you with a crisp, clean finish.

Flavour profile: floral

Botanicals: juniper, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, angelica root, cassia bark, rowan berry, heather, dandelion, coul blush apple

Perfect pairing: tonic and thin wedge of red apple

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Warner’s Gin, Northamptonshire, £32.75/70cl

Created by best friends Sion Edwards and Tom Warner, Warner Edwards Gin is made in a 200-year-old converted barn in Harrington, Northamptonshire.

Its flagship Harrington Dry is soft on the nose, with warm citrus from the orange peel and piney juniper. There’s a touch of juniper on the nose and a good dose to taste. It’s orange forward gin for sure, but coriander, cardamom and juniper anchor the gin while balancing out the flavour profile. Warner Edwards is a beautifully soft and crazy smooth gin with a sweet and moreish lingering aftertaste. It’s a must try for any gin fan.

Flavour profile: spiced

Botanicals: juniper, cardamom, black pepper, orange peel, coriander

Perfect pairing: tonic and a twist of lemon peel

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Hayman’s Royal Dock Gin, London, £30.75/70cl

The advantage of having been in the gin making business for generations is that one can always look to the archives to find inspiration from the past. This is very much the case with Hayman’s Royal Dock Gin, as records show that it was supplied to both the Royal Navy and trade from 1863. More precisely, it was delivered to the Royal Dock in Deptford, South London (established in 1513 by Henry VIII) on the River Thames.

The Royal Dock and the surrounding areas were known as one of the largest Navy food and drink headquarters, with London being the largest port in England. Other ports famously made their own Navy Strength Gins, notably Plymouth and Liverpool, but with the Navy’s thirst for gin reputed to be several tens of thousands of barrels a year, the London dock would have been awash with the stuff.

Navy Strength Gins are at 57.5% ABV and as a result, Hayman’s Royal Dock has an aromatic nose with citrus and floral notes, namely orange blossom wafting out as soon as you begin to pour. The mouthfeel is smooth, but also carries an unrivalled botanical intensity of flavour thanks to the higher strength. It’s a classic of the genre and a must-have gin for lovers of this over proof style.

Flavour profile: juniper forward

Botanicals: juniper, citrus, coriander

Perfect pairing: tonic and a wedge of lime

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Rock Rose, Thurso, Scotland, £32/70cl

Proving the British craft distilling movement has gone all the way to the northern tip of Scotland, Rock Rose harnesses its regionality in its gin. One of the few craft distillers to have a British-made still, it vapour-infuse all the botanicals in a steam basket at the neck of their custom-made John Dore & Co beauty.

Rock Rose is bright and packed with fruity berries and a delicate astringency. Combined with a beautiful ceramic bottle and a passionate team, this gin is perfect for summer.

Flavour profile: floral

Botanicals: juniper, rose root, sea buckthorn, rowan berries, bilberries, cardamom, coriander seed, verbena

Perfect pairing: tonic and a sprig of rosemary

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Recipe: try our Bramble gin cocktail

This recipe for a classic Bramble cocktail is a great one to have in your repertoire. Invented by Dick Bradsell in the 80s and is now a modern classic.

Ophir Oriental Spiced Gin, £29/70cl

A well-balanced gin, perfect for colder nights, with exotic, spicy botanicals that make it warming and easy to drink.

Flavour profile: spiced

Botanicals: juniper, cubeb peppers, cumin seeds, coriander, black pepper, orange peel

Perfect pairing: tonic and a slice of fresh ginger

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Silent Pool Gin, Guildford, £33.89/70cl

A clean juniper-driven spirit that uses an impressive 24 botanicals and fresh spring water from the Albury Estate, where the gin is made. The end result has gentle citrus and perfumed floral notes that make it the perfect summer tipple.

Flavour profile: floral

Botanicals: juniper, chamomile, lavender, citrus, honey

Perfect pairing: tonic and a twist of orange peel

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Aber Falls Small Batch Welsh Gin, £27/70cl

Piney juniper and lavender are surprise best pals in this subtly floral number, with peppery notes adding to its complexity. One for those who prefer sweeter gins.

Flavour profile: floral

Botanicals: lavender, rowan berries, black pepper, juniper, angelica and liquorice

Perfect pairing: tonic and a slice of cucumber

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Victory Gin, London, £31.95/70cl

A peppery gin made with 10 botanicals, this cold-distilled gin is light and fresh with bright notes of orange and anise, warmth from cardamom and black pepper plus a subtle sweetness from liquorice and chestnut.

Flavour profile: spiced

Botanicals: juniper, coriander, liquorice root, angelica, orange, cassia bark, orris root, black pepper, cardamom, chestnut

Perfect pairing: tonic and a twist of orange peel

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Sipsmith London Dry Gin, London, £27.99/70cl

You can’t have a list of British gins and not include Sipsmith. In 2009 the first new licence to distill in London since 1820 was granted to Sipsmith Independent Spirits and since then, a raft of new micro-distilleries have followed. This original recipe is bold, complex and aromatic with a floral nose followed by dry juniper and citrus on the palate.

Flavour profile: juniper forward

Botanicals: juniper, angelica root, coriander seed, cassia bark, orris root, ground almond, cinnamon bark, liquorice root, lemon peel, seville orange peel

Perfect pairing: tonic and a wedge of lime, or a few coriander seeds

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Boatyard Double Gin, Northern Ireland, £38.95/70cl

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but this smooth, juniper- led gin lives up to its classy label. It also has a hint of floral sweetness thanks to the wild sweet gale that’s foraged from Boatyard’s farm in Fermanagh.

Flavour profile: juniper led

Botanicals: juniper, sweet gale, grains of paradise, angelica, lemon, orris, liquorice root, coriander

Perfect pairing: tonic and a twist of orange peel and juniper berries

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LoneWolf gin

The first gin from beer legends BrewDog, made from their own malted barley spirit and using a BrewDog yeast to create the desired flavour combination. It’s a precise and thorough labour of love. To taste, there’s an initial whack of citrus, especially lemon peel, with underlying lavender tones. Next, a hint of lingering pine needles, a little coriander seed and lemongrass. But the overall impression is definitely a citrussy one.

Flavour profile: citrus

Botanicals: juniper, Scots pine, grapefruit peel, lemon peel, coriander seed, cardamom, angelica root, orris root, Thai lemongrass, pink peppercorn, kaffir lime leaf, mace, almond, lavender flower

Perfect pairing: tonic water and a sprig of lavender or, if you really want to ramp the citrus up, a slice of grapefruit

waitrose.com

The best cask aged gin: The Collection oak-aged gin

This stylish juniper-led bottle has an impressive 22 botanicals and the result is a subtle, elegant gin with slight oak, spice and citrus notes, and intriguing hints of aniseed that don’t overwhelm the palate.

Buy it now

Make your own gin

So you like drinking gin? But how about making your own?

Recipe: try making your own clementine, ginger and bay gin

Infuse your own gin with festive flavours, wrap it up nice and give it to a special someone. It’s a unique and thoughtful gift that’s really easy to make.

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Olivier Ward wrote the above, and all the gins he recommends are available from ginfoundry.com

When it comes to living an elegant lifestyle, the Hamptons and Cape Cod tend to be the hotspot for classic American coastal culture. A staple in these regions is the ever popular Gin and Tonic, pairing two ounces of gin and tonic water with fresh cut limes.Nothing is more refreshing. And with summer officially here, we’ve turned our attention from whiskies and wines to bright, floral and refreshing drinks. It is with pride that I introduce you to The Gin Guide in our ongoing SERIES ON SPIRITS & COCKTAILS.

The History of Gin

The history of gin begins with a drink known as Jenever, or in some cases Genever, which is a Dutch or Belgian form of gin with a very unique flavor profile and aroma unlike the London dry gins we know today.

Also known as Genièvre, Peket, Holland gin or Dutch gin, it is the official liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium, flavored with juniper and what modern Gin evolved from.

Jenever is traditionally made from malt wine spirits and so different from modern gin that most who don’t know the relationship between the two spirits, would never categorize them as being from the same family.

Around the mid 17th century, Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius is credited with inventing the glorious spirit well known today as Gin. It is commonly accepted in my circle of spirits critics that this is where the term ‘Dutch Courage’ actually originated from. Despite, this account, Genever has been around since long before with the first written account appearing in the 13th century Der Naturen Bloeme encyclopedia and recipes following in the mid 16th century writings of Een Constelijck Distileerboec.

The Gin Shop

On of the most well known written references of Genever is actually from Massinger’s play The Duke of Milan from 1623. While many mistakingly believe Dr. Sylvius to be the creator of Genever as well, it stands to reason that this would be unlikely as in 1623 he was but nine years of age even if we only took Massinger’s play into account forgoing all earlier references. In addition, if we look through the history books, we’ll find there are claims that as early as the late 1500’s, English infantry soldiers would use Genever to help calm them down before and after battle. In fact, there are many accounts that say Genever was quite prominently consumed by English Forces while providing support services in Antwerp against the Spanish in 1585, during the Eighty Years War. This makes sense as the Een Constelijck Distileerboec which contained recipes for Genever was published in Antwerp. Coincidence? I think not.

Since Gin was created by a well regarded physician, many believed it to have certain medicinal powers, capable of ailing gout, stomach disease, kidney failure and gallstones, among other afflictions. By the middle of the seventeenth century, hundreds of small distillers opened up across Europe, predominately in Amsterdam as well as other Dutch and Flemish colonies. These distilleries opened up so rapidly fulfill the needs of local pharmacies that by 1663, there were four hundred in Amsterdam alone. Dr. Sylvius had successfully popularized the spirit by re-distilling it with juniper, caraway, anise and coriander.

As its popularity continued to spread, England began to see a resurgence in the once popular spirit. Since William of Orange, the ruler of the Dutch Republic occupied the British throne at the time of the Restoration, and due to his love of Gin, the spirit took a new stance as one of the most popular spirits sold in the local pubs. One of the reasons behind this of course, is his order to allow unlicensed local production of gin, while simultaneously pseudo-prohibiting the importation of spirits by imposing heavy duty on those who tried. This of course created what he was looking for which was a minimization of local breweries due to the poor quality of grain available in England. Since beer became difficult to produce and the quality suffered so terribly, local gin shops began to open up across England like a wildfire spreading under the hot sun. In fact, gin became so popular so fast, that a term was coined and that period of history shall forever be known as the “Gin Craze”. Of more than 15,000 drinking holes in London alone, more than half were gin shops providing what we now call London Dry Gin to the masses.

Gin Lane

Unfortunately, because of the quantity, gin became fiercely popular with the poor. Since juniper was considered expensive for those without money, the gin ended up becoming quite rudimentary, with local makers trying to cut costs by using the less expensive turpentine in lieu of juniper to flavor the spirit. The result of course, was a far inferior product that smelled almost as bad as it tasted. Because of this, gin became a contributing factor in higher death rates across London. That combined with unhealthy drinking water, beer reintroduced itself as the “safer alternative” becoming prominent in pubs yet again. This reputation of the two drinks (beer and gin) is what gave William Hogarth the inspiration to create his famous engravings ‘Beer Street’ and ‘Gin Lane’.

Unfortunately, because of these historic works of art, this negative reputation still continues today in parts of Europe where those who abhor the drink refer to establishments as “gin mills” and “joints”. One of the more common terms of course is “gin-soaked” used to describe a person of disrepute who is drunk and often smelling of their own bodily fluids.

Today, in England, one of the more common nicknames for gin is a “mother’s ruin”. With the reputation of gin taking a nosedive, the government imposed The Gin Act of 1736 which placed high taxes on retailers causing those who did enjoy the spirit to riot in the street. Due to enormous public appeal from impoverished members of society who sought relief from gin, the taxes were gradually refused and finally ceased six years later in 1742.

Then, not even a decade later, the government reintroduced new legislation called The Gin Act of 1751 which required distillers to sell their product only to licensed establishments giving them more quality control of the product. Each gin shop was put under the jurisdiction of a magistrate responsible for policing it and this is what perpetually forced the industry to regulate its production in an effort to improve the spirit’s reputation and ensure consistency and quality industry-wide. By the 18th century, gin was produced almost exclusively in pot stills, often in legally registered and governed residential homes, licensed to produce. By 1726 there were approximately 1500 residential stills in London, and while their production was of far better quality, distillers continued to use turpentine as flavoring to give it a woody note in addition to the floral aroma of the juniper.

Juniper

Another common method of distillation was to distal the gin in the presence of sulphuric acid. Even though the acid itself wouldn’t be distilled, it would still allow the gin to adopt it’s diethyl aroma adding to the profile of the gin. The result of distilling in the presence of the acid is a far sweeter gin with analgesic effects that physicians and pharmacists at the time deemed important to help in the treatment of the ill and suffering, since, if you recall from earlier, gin was often prescribed by medical professionals for many various ailments and injuries.

Under the heavy influence of brandies, sherries, ports and other fortified wines, the nineteenth century gave birth to a new, sweeter style of gin without the muddy, medicinal taste resemblant of docosonol or rubbing alcohol. Known as Old Tom Gin, it was infused with sugars, but faded by the early 20th century as men turned to stronger spirits such as whiskies as their beverage of choice.

Then came the invention of the Column Still which gave rise to our now well known aromatic and deliciously floral London Dry Gin that managed to somehow evolve during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Today gin is one of the most popular base spirits used in cocktails. Unlike vodka which tends to adopt the flavor of the mixes used with it, gin evokes a wonderfully superb flavor profile into any drink it is used in, while still being able to be used with a vast array of other mixes and garnishes resulting in everything from the dry martini to the refreshing G&T to the many fruity and tropical cocktails found at oceanside resorts.

While gin definitely enjoys a global popularity, no where is more prolific than in the prep kingdoms of coastal American culture. As one of the most popular drinks amongst America’s high society summering in the Hamptons, Cape Cod and various other coastal landmarks, gin has become the drink of choice for a most refreshing and delicious escape from reality. Whether on a patio with friends, at the beach with family or seeking refuge from a summer shower on your screen in porch at home, gin is the ultimate prep spirit, going hand in hand with that of boat shoes, bow ties and anchor bracelets.

Production Process

One of the many interesting things about gin is that there is such a wide variety of methods that have been employed throughout history to produce it. Today, there are less, but that’s not to say that there aren’t individuals producing it in unique and even peculiar ways for their own personal use.

Coffey Still

In this particular guide, we’re going to focus on the three most popular ways of producing gin that result in the most consistent and high quality distillations of the spirit.

Pot Distilled Gin

This type of gin is representative of the earliest gins and is made by distilling the fermented malt wine, known as the ‘mash’ which is made from grains such as barley and then distilling it a second time with botanicals used to impart their flavor by extracting the aromatic compounds. Generally, this style of gin will be staged in wood casks or even tanks which of course impacts a malt flavor you often get in various whiskies.

Column Distilled Gin

This type of gin is probably the most common today and became the modern way of producing the spirit once the Coffey still was invented. This produces a very concentrated spirit that gets redistilled a second time by placing juniper berries or other botanicals in what’s called a “gin basket” that’s suspended in a pot still. As the heat from the vapor rises, it extracts the flavors from the botanicals. This is where gin gets it’s lighter flavor and the process that’s used for making London dry gin among others.

Compound Gin

This is a process that is used today, but not as often as distilled gin. Basically, in a nutshell the gin is flavored with essences or natural flavors without redistilling it. Often other flavors are added such as citruses or a combination of spices which often include grapefruit, anise, saffron, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg or really anything else the producer wants to add in.

Various Gins

Types of Gin

There are many different types of gin and while these styles were more noticeable in past centuries, there really are only four primary categories that gin falls into.

Juniper Gin

Typically this is a very broad category that not only includes many of today’s products, but also the earliest and most historic forms of gin produced in the older pot stills using a fermented grain mash. Once it has reached a fairly moderate strength, usually just under 70% ABV, it’s redistilled with botanicals to extract various aromatic compounds, most notably juniper.

Distilled Gin

This gin is created by redistilling ethyl alcohol that has its strength of 96% ABV in the stills as discussed above. It is then introduced to the juniper and sometimes various other botanicals. The only requirement for this in order to call it gin is that juniper must be the dominant flavor over the other botanicals used.

London Gin

This is one of the most popular types of gin often called London Dry Gin. It’s produced again by using ethyl alcohol that’s redistilled with a methanol content of 5g per hl that is 100% ABV. In order to be considered a London gin, it must not have any added sweetness that exceeds 0.1g per litre by the time it’s ready to be bottled and sold. It also cannot contain any colorings or other ingredients besides the addition of water. At the bare minimum, it be 37.5% ABV when finished to be called London gin. What’s fairly interesting however, is that in the United States, it must be at least 40% ABV to be called gin which can sometimes result in issues with importation.

Recommended Bottles

Bols Genever

This is really a product all its own. Only by technicality is it considered a gin, but it’s nothing like you’d expect. Don’t let the juniper in it fool you, it’s not going to work very well in your G&T. But, once you begin to try it, you’ll discover a range of classic cocktails you once thought only whiskey could work in. This classic Genever with a twist works marvelously in side cars, manhattans and a wide range of other aperitifs and digestifs. This is a must for your bar. Even if you don’t use it very often, it provides an extraordinary start to the conversation.

Hendricks

When it comes to small batch gin, Hendricks crossed the finish line while the others were still tying their shoes. Infused with cucumber and rose petals, this is one of the most velvety smooth, yet refreshingly light gins on the market today. It works well with a wide array of cocktails but I probably wouldn’t use it in a martini.

Tanqueray 10

Tanqueray’s base gin is fantastic, but the 10 kicks it up a notch or two. Distilled in a No. 10 still, the compact still imparts some very predominant flavor profiles that make this an ideal gin for your favorite summer cocktails. Just the smell alone is intoxicating.

No list is complete without at least mentioning Plymouth. This award winning gin is often found at arms length of any good bartender. It’s less dry than the typical London gin but has a flavor profile like no other featuring earthy tones and some decreased juniper notes.

Gordon’s London Dry Gin

This is about as classic as gin can get. If you’re looking for a true London gin experience Gordon’s is your best bet for the night. It’s the world’s best selling London Dry and for good reason.

Bombay Sapphire

This is a gin that almost makes you feel majestic when you drink it. With ten botanicals, it is a perfect concoction of everything good about gin. It has notes of almond, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia, cubeb, and grains of paradise. If you only have one gin on your shelf, this one should be a mighty contender for the spot.

Cocktails and Recipe

Dry Gin Martini

Probably the most classic cocktail in the world, it is traditionally made with gin and not vodka, like 007 fans would have you believe. It’s simple to make and packs a punch when you stand up. Here’s the recipe I use at home:

2.5oz of gin (try a classic like Gordon’s or Plymouth)
1/2oz of dry vermouth (I like the Martini brand quite a bit)
olives for garnish (I usually use about three. If you want a dirty martini add a splash of olive juice)

Pour the ingredients into a chilled shaker over ice. Now here’s the important part: forget everything you think you know. James Bond may prefer his martini “shaken, not stirred” but you want to stir this drink. No exceptions. Shaking waters it down. There are only two reasons to ever shake a cocktail.

– If it has cream or egg in it.
– If it has citrus juice in it during the mix.

Shaking a gin based martini will actually dissolve many of the aromatic compounds leaving the martini lacking. If you really want to test this, make two martinis – one shaken and one stirred.

Gin and Tonic

This is one of the classic gin cocktails and if you visit my home, one that’s made almost daily in the summer.

Years ago in the tropical colonies owned by Britian, gin was used to help mask the flavor of quinine which was used to prevent malaria and other diseases that ran rampant through the tropics. They would dissolve the quinine in carbonated water which is how tonic water was created. Today, of course, quinine is used in very small doses and tonic water is produced in other ways that don’t introduce the medicinal compounds into your body.

To make the drink simply take 2oz of your favorite premium gin (I like Tanqueray Rangpur or Bombay Sapphire) and pour it in a tall glass over ice. Add tonic water and throw in a lime wedge for garnish.

One tip I use is to squeeze some fresh lime juice into the glass and give it a gentle stir. On a hot summer day there is no drink more refreshing, except perhaps a mojito.

Vesper Martini

One of the only drinks to ever be created by a novelist, the Vesper martini was invented by Ian Flemming for his first James Bond book “Casino Royale”.

‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’

‘Oui, monsieur.’

‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?’

‘Certainly monsieur.’ The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

‘Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,’ said Leiter.

Bond laughed. ‘When I’m … er … concentrating,’ he explained, ‘I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold, and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I think of a good name.’

That name of course became Vesper, after Vesper Lynd, the beautiful and charming financier from the Treasury.

This particular martini is delicious, but you need to be warned it packs a punch stronger than Bond himself.

Here’s the recipe I use at home:

3oz Gin (Gordon’s does work well)
1oz Vodka (I prefer Belvedere)
1/2oz Lillet Blanc (Kina lillet is no longer produced)
1 Lemon Twist

Place all the ingredients except the lemon in a chilled shaker over ice. Stir and strain into a martini glass. Enjoy and don’t drive after.

Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is a very refreshing cocktail perfect for light drinkers.

2oz Gin (Try Bombay Sapphire)
1oz Fresh lemon juice
1/2oz Simple syrup
Club soda
Maraschino cherry for garnish
Lemon slice for garnish

Pour the liquid ingredients in a chilled shaker over ice. This one you can give a good shake to as it has the citrus juice right in it and the simple syrup. Strain into a Collins glass and garnish with a cherry and slice of lemon.

Singapore Sling

This recipe was invented by a barkeep named Ngiam Tong Boon at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. While the original recipe was lost, this is about as close as it gets:

1oz Gin (Gordon’s is a great pick for this)
1oz Bols Cherry brandy or Cherry Heering
1oz Bénédictine
1oz Fresh lime juice
2oz Club soda
1 dash of Angostura bitters

Combine all the ingredients except for the club soda and bitters in a chilled shaker over ice. Top with soda water, and give it a gentle stir. Strain into a collins glass and add a dash of bitters. The original drink wasn’t garnished which is why I haven’t listed any in this recipe.

Conclusion

Most know that I typically enjoy my brown spirits and wine, however, in the summer you’ll find me sitting on my deck drinking a gin and tonic far more than you’ll ever see me with a dram of Scotch. At restaurants I enjoy a well made martini before dinner and after a tough day at work, my vermouth gets pulled out for one at home. Gin is a delicious and refreshing spirit. It pairs well with such a wide variety of mixes and can be used for a huge array of cocktails. If you’re building a bar, a good bottle of gin is as important as that bottle of vodka and even more important (in my opinion) than a bottle of rum or whiskey.

What is your favorite Gin?

Summary Article Name The Gin Guide Description Learn all about Gin, why different brands taste so different, the history, cocktail recipes, types of gin & what bottles we recommend. Author J.A. Shapira

Gin

Production

Words by Simon Difford

Photography by Video from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust

To produce a decent (i.e. distilled) gin requires a two stage process – first a base ‘neutral spirit’ is made and then this is flavoured by through re-distillation with seeds, berries, roots, fruits and herbs and spices – collectively known as ‘botanicals’.

To make the base spirit, early gin distillers would distil the fermented wash (type of beer) in a traditional pot-still. The first distillation of such a still produces a weak, rough spirit known as ‘low wines’. Repeated distillation of these low wines (rectification) strengthens and purifies the spirit.

To produce a distilled gin this base spirit must be redistilled with the chosen botanicals to extract their essential oils and so flavour the base spirit. Lastly the now gin-flavoured spirit is reduced to bottling strength by the addition of water (hydration).

Different distillers use different distillation methods for redistilling and extracting the flavour of their botanicals, and the botanicals used and their proportions also vary greatly from distiller to distiller.

There are two main distillation methods used for extracting the botanical’s flavour:

‘Steep & boil method’ of gin distillation

The most traditional and still the most common method for gin distillation. A mix of juniper and other botanicals is steeped in neutral spirit which has been reduced in strength with water (normally to approx. 50% alc./vol.). Some producers leave the botanicals steeping for as long as 48 hours before distillation; others believe that maceration ‘stews’ the flavours and so distil the mixture immediately. Whichever, as soon as maceration is deemed to be completed, the mixture is distilled in a pot still, producing a spirit full of the aromas and flavours of the botanicals. Water is added to reduce the gin distillate to bottling strength.

‘Vapour infusion method of gin distillation

With this method, the mix of juniper and botanicals do not come into contact with liquid spirit at all. Instead, they are placed in baskets inside modified stills and only encounter the spirit as vapour. The botanical-infused vapour then condenses into a botanical-infused spirit and water is added to reduce to bottling strength.

The two methods above may be combined with some distillers using a combination of steep & boil and vapour infusion. In this case some botanicals will be steeped in the boil pot with the same still also having a chamber to hold the botanicals, through which the botanical infused vapour from the boil pot will pass. There are other variables a distiller may employ as follows.

Vacuum gin distillation

This is basically the ‘steep & boil’ method but as the name suggests the spirit is redistilled with the botanicals under vacuum so reducing the temperature at which the ethanol alcohol boils. The stronger the vacuum so the lower the boiling temperature.

Proponents of this type of distillation claim a fresher flavoured gin is produced as the need to cook the botanicals is negated by the reduced boiling point. The downside to vacuum distillation is the difficulty in scaling up to an industrial rather than lab/small scale operation.

Individual botanical distillation

This variation to the ‘steep & boil’ method is being increasingly used by new gin makers. Each botanical is steeped and boiled separately and then the numerous resulting single botanical distillates blended together to create the finished gin. Proponents claim this method allows more control while traditionalists say the interaction between the botanical’s essential oils while steeping and boiling inside the still is lost resulting in a disjointed gin.

‘One shot’ verses ‘multi shot’ gin production

The one-shot method simply means a recipe is followed where a given volume of neutral alcohol is distilled with quantities of each botanical as specified by that gin’s recipe.

Whereas, multi-shot gins are made by multiplying the proportion of botanicals to base alcohol during redistillation and then reducing the resulting super-concentrated botanical distillate back to the concentration specified in the original recipe by blending in more neutral alcohol. Thus a two-shot gin with be distilled with twice the amount of botanicals and after distillation thinned back to the proportions stated in the recipe by adding the same volume of alcohol again. Hence, using a two-shot process each distillation yields twice the volume of gin.

Multi-shot has the benefit of saving on still usage so increasing production capacity and efficiency. Proponents say that multi-shot has the benefit of reducing the influence of inaccurately measured botanicals as the ratio of inaccuracy is reduced when compared to the same miss measurement in a one-shot gin. Most international brands of gin are multi-shot with one-shot being more the preserve of ‘craft’ or ’boutique’ distillers.

Rectification of the base alcohol

Distilling wash (beer) in a pot still produces a liquid with an alcohol content of around 21% alc./vol.. Subsequent pot still distillations can be used to increase the strength of the distillate to 70% alc./vol. and this is exactly how Scotch malt whisky is made to this day. Originally this is also how the base alcohol used to make gin was distilled. However, 70% alcohol means there are 30% impurities and while that is OK, even desirable in a spirit that will be mellowed by aging in oak casks, base alcohol made using this process would produce pretty rough gin.

Modern fractional distillation in a column still can produce alcohol up to 96.3% alcohol and in an age where gins are praised for their ‘cleanness’, so column stills of one type or another are usually employed in the production of the neutral alcohol on which gins are based.

In early gin production, prior to the invention of the column still, it was common to mask the hash quality of the base alcohol with strongly flavoured botanicals and the addition of sugar. Today this style of gin is known as old tom.

Grain (particularly wheat and occasionally barley) is most commonly used to make the base neutral spirit for gin production. Thanks to distillers stating ‘made with quality grain alcohol’ or similar on their gin labels, the use of grain neutral spirit is regarded as a premium over molasses neutral spirit, even though some distillers privately say they think it makes better gin. However, gin can be made with alcohol made from any agricultural base and gins made from alcohols including potatoes and grapes are now fashionable.

Traditional pot still gin distillation

The rectified neutral spirit at around 96% alc./vol. (often supplied by a third-party supplier), is diluted back to around 50% alc./vol. using purified or spring water. If the ‘steep & boil’ method is to be employed the botanicals are added, and as discussed above, often left to steep in the spirit for a period before distillation is commenced.

If the ‘vapour infusion’ method is to be used then the botanicals will be loaded into a basket or bag and placed inside a chamber in the still’s lyne arm so forcing the vapour through the botanicals on its journey towards the condenser.

The essential oils and other aromatic compounds found in the botanicals used to flavour gin are absorbed by the neutral spirit in which the botanicals are steeped, or by the vapour as it passes through them in the case of vapour infused gin, and are carried through the distillation process as a part of the vapour.

The stillman exercises considerable control over the distillation – the art is knowing when to ‘make the cut’. Different flavouring agents evaporate at different temperatures, and he has to find the right balance. He (and it almost always is a he) will use only the ‘middle cut’ of the spirit flow for the new spirit. He will assess the standard of the run by taking samples and by measuring the temperature and strength of the distillate as it runs from the condenser.

The first runnings, known as heads (or foreshots), and the last, known as tails (or feints), are either discarded or set aside to be added to the wash of the next distillation. The heart of the run will be collected to become gin.

Because the spirit being distilled is very pure neutral alcohol there will be very little in the way of heads as methanol and other harmful volatile alcohols will have already been removed when the spirit was rectified. Hence in gin distillation there are not really heads as such but a quantity of the initial run will be discarded to ensure any deposits from the last distillation which might remain in the still have been flushed out.

Once the initial ‘heads’ have been discarded the distiller will start collecting the ‘heart’, the spirit which will end up being bottled as gin. The oils from some botanicals will vaporise before that of others so the flavour of the distillate will change with citrus tending to come off first. The distiller will know from experience roughly when bad flavours will start to emerge as unwanted oils and other heavier substances start to emerge. At this stage he will start regularly sampling to decide when to switch from hearts and start discarding what are called tails due to their emerging at the tail end of the run.

Redistilling an already very pure distillate in a copper pot still helps produce a softer, some say ‘smoother’ distillate. The copper the stills are made from plays a part in this process. Chemically copper acts as a catalyst to promote the formation of esters which impart desirable fruity notes to the spirit. Copper also reacts sacrificially to remove unwanted sulphur compounds which smell of struck matches, drains, rotten eggs, farts and cabbage – none of which make for an appealing gin. Copper helps turn these nasty smelling sulphur compounds into easily removed Copper Sulphate (U.S. Copper Sulfate) a copper salt (CuSO4•5H2O). However, while copper may have these beneficial properties the fact that such purified neutral alcohol is being used means that sulphur is not an issue so many gin distillers use cheaper stainless steel pot stills.

Gin recipes

Every gin has a different recipe, but all gins are flavoured with botanicals – seeds, berries, roots, fruits, peel, spices or herbs – and all must contain juniper. After juniper, coriander and angelica are the most popular botanicals and these three are the main flavours in a London Dry gin.

More than a hundred different botanicals are commonly used to flavour gin and individual brands can contain anything from seven to twenty. It is the balance of these different ingredients and the varying distillation methods that give different brands their distinctive styles.

To keep a gin brand consistent in the light of these complex recipes and naturally variable ingredients is a real challenge. The master distiller must buy batches of botanicals which best suit a particular gin’s style and store these for production over the next year or so. To do this, he or she must sample a number of specimens from every crop as botanicals, even from a single crop, can vary dramatically.

Aging gin

Hardly any of today’s gins are aged, although there are signs of a revival of this historic practice. Unlike ‘rough’ spirits such as whiskey and brandy, gin does not require long periods of aging and if left for much more than six months will quickly become over woody and dry. To age gin well-seasoned casks are essential and a mere two to three months maturation is usually plenty long enough.

Getty Images

Gin is a surprisingly complex spirit – both historically and in its make-up.

Gin sales hit a whopping £1 million a day… with Brits drinking 19 million litres in just one year

While many might believe it has its origins in Britain – perhaps due to the classic London Dry Gin moniker – the spirit originally came to Europe via Holland.

The name ‘gin’ in fact is the English translation of the Dutch word ‘jenever’ and the phrase ‘Dutch Courage’ comes from gin drinking too.

Here is everything you need to know about what is fast becoming Britain’s favourite tipple again.

How is gin made?

ilovegindotcom / Instagram

Gin is created by distilling fermented grain and a number of different botanicals – including juniper.

‘Without juniper, you have flavoured vodka,’ Anthony Pullen, from Bulldog Gin said.

Why must juniper be in there?

Getty Images

Cam MacKenzie from Four Pillars Gin says the juniper is important because it creates an ‘aromatic canvas’ for other botanicals.

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Which other botancials can be added?

(Picture: Hazel Paterson)

What’s the base alcohol?

Just peachy (Picture GIN71)

That depends on the gin. Often the base alcohol is made from wheat, others are made from barley, grape, sugar and others.

Crucially, the base alcohol needs to be neutral in taste so that the flavour of the botanicals can come through.

How to make gin

First up. It is illegal to distill your own alcohol in the UK.

The typical way to make gin is by distilling fermented grains. These are then redistilled with juniper and other botancials to give the spirit its flavour.

Another way to do it is to distill the grain but then infuse the base spirit with the botanicals.

A third way is by hanging the botanicals in a basket inside the alambique (copper distilling pot) while distilling the grain so the alcohol vapours collect the flavour as they go through it before condensing back into a liquid again.

Gin is like making perfume

(Picture: Rock Rose Gin)

Yes really. That’s because making gin is all about extracting essential oils from the botancials to create the spirit. Also no two types of gin are the same as they differ in botanicals and the way they are made.

How many different types of gin are there?

London dry gin – this doesn’t necessarily mean the gin was made in London! The name is actually to do with how it is made. To be a London dry gin, the alcohol must be low on ethanol with no sugar added. It also has to be predominantly flavoured with juniper berries and be 140 proof after distillation.

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Bathtub gin: This is made by infusing the base alcohol with spices. This was popular during prohibition when bathtubs were used to made alcohol.

Genever: This is the original gin that was made by distilling malt wine and then redistilling with botanicals. This tends to be a sweet, juniper flavoured drink.

Old Tom: This historically came after genever and was made sweeter and spicier than Genever to cover up the taste of poor quality alcohol. It was named Old Tom because you could buy it from a machine shaped like a car outside bars where you would put a coin in and pull the paw. This was to stop drunks going in into the bars to get their tipple.

MORE: 7 posh tonic waters that’ll change the way you drink gin & tonic forever

MORE: Now you can drink sloe gin and help save Africa’s wild elephants from extinction

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How is Gin Made

In order to make a cleaner, smoother gin, most gin makers distill this macerate in a pot still. This creates what is known as “dry gin” or “distilled gin”. Additionally, some distillers place botanicals inside a basket high up in the still where no liquid ever touches them. Rather, the extraction of the flavors and aromas is performed by the evaporated spirit as it blows past the botanicals inside the still. This process is known as “vapor extraction”.

To make Wheeler’s Wester Dry Gin, Santa Fe Spirits built a still unlike any other gin still: a combination of a direct steam injection still known to moonshiners as a “thumper” and a classic vapor extraction still used by few modern gin distilleries called a “carter-head still”. The resultant hybrid, for lack of a better name, is called “Botanicus Maximus”.

By utilizing both maceration and vapor extraction (depending on the preference of the individual botanical) Botanicus captures only the most perfect expression of each individual botanical for inclusion in Wheeler’s.

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Nowadays, it’s taken a full turn, he said. “Old Tom is very good gin, the botanicals are usually distilled, the sweetness in it normally comes from a larger amount of licorice that’s in the distillation; they don’t add flavor after.” It doesn’t taste like licorice, in case you’re wondering, but that different balance of ingredients affects the texture and “perception of taste,” said O’Neill. It’s richer in flavor than London Dry, which is why “Old Tom works better in mixed drinks and pre-Prohibition cocktails, anything that has bitter flavors.” At the NoMad, they use it in a Tom Collins because it helps to bring the actual citrus down a notch in the traditionally lemony-sweet drink. O’Neill also recommends it in a Martinez (gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, bitters).

Ransom’s Old Tom is aged in wine barrels, so it takes on that caramel color, but some Old Tom gins are clear, like Hayman’s. Similarly, some use added sugars to sweeten while others rely on botanicals to do the trick. Different brands are creating their own take on the historic gin, so there’s some leeway here, I just wish they’d bring back all the ads with cats in them.

Recommended Gin: Ransom

Photo by Laura Murray

Genever

This is the original style of gin, dating back to 16th-century Holland. The base grains are malted (so the grain starts to germinate aka liiiiive and then that process is halted), similar to whiskey, giving it a more robust flavor. It’s also flavored with juniper and botanicals, but less so than the other gin types.

O’Neill explained the process: “Instead of using a neutral grain spirit, Genever distillers actually create a malt wine spirit, which is the predominant flavor of the gin. The grains are left to ferment for five days or so, and then turned into a mash, which is similar to how whiskey is made. Then they’ll add different botanicals, including juniper, but the difference here between the dry gins and Genever is that juniper is not the predominant flavor. The actual gin is a lot more malty. Flavors added can be cloves, caraway, ginger, nutmeg. So you’ve got vaguely different style of taste, and you certainly have way more earth notes within it.” You won’t often taste citrus like with London Dry, some distillers don’t even add it at all.

If Old Tom is considered “rich” in flavor, Genever is even richer, meaning it’s best in rich cocktails, with something like sweet vermouth, or stirred with a tiny bit of bitters and a touch of sugar like a gin Old Fashioned. “The idea is the malt wine has such a predominant flavor, if you’re mixing it with something richer in flavor, it’s going to work really well,” O’Neill said. We feel like a millionaire just thinking about it.

Recommended Gin: Boomsma

Gin and vodka are two very distinct spirits. Most obviously, one is associated with pine and herbal flavors, while the other is often positioned as an odorless, tasteless entity. Yet the two are frequent substitutes for each other in cocktails such as the Martini or Vodka/Gin and Tonic.

It’s easy to think of gin as essentially a flavored vodka, but several intricacies distinguish the two. Here is a primer outlining the differences and similarities between vodka and gin.

Vodka

Vodka is defined by what it’s not. It’s designed to be flavorless (well, other than flavored vodka), clear, and in all ways indistinct. The U.S. government defines vodka as “neutral spirits or alcohol” that is filtered or treated “so as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.”

Yet Americans love it. Vodka has been the most consumed liquor by volume since 1970, and 32 percent of the liquor market is vodka. The average American drinks the equivalent of more than 3.5 shots of vodka per month. In Russia and Eastern Europe, however, where the spirit originated, people consume more than three times that amount. (Russians clock in at a whopping 17.28 vodka shots per month.)

Fittingly, the word “vodka” comes from the Russian word for water, “voda.” Vodka isn’t the only clear spirit, of course. There are also cachaça, rum, soju, and others. What sets vodka apart is that it can be made anywhere, and from many things.

Popular vodka brands in the U.S. include Smirnoff, Absolut, Svedka, Skyy, and Grey Goose.

Vodka cocktails most commonly take on the characteristics and flavors of whatever else is mixed in the drink. If it’s a vodka and orange soda, it’ll taste primarily like orange soda. If it’s a vodka cranberry, it tastes a lot like cranberry. There are some iconic vodka cocktails, however, including the Bloody Mary, White Russian, Moscow Mule, and the Vesper Martini popularized by James Bond.

Gin is a liquor with some level of juniper flavor that’s bottled at at least 40 percent alcohol by volume. The U.S. government defines gin as a liquid “produced by distillation or mixing of spirits with juniper berries and other aromatics or extracts.”

Juniper, gin’s defining characteristic, tastes primarily like pine, but is also herbaceous and floral. Gin production dates back to the Dutch genever, a wine-based medicinal spirit. The English got a hold of genever during the 80 Years War and the 30 Years War in the 1600s, where it was referred to as “Dutch courage.”

Over time, genever lost the wine base for a distilled neutral spirit base, but kept the juniper. The United Kingdom embraced gin full-heartedly (a little too full-heartedly) and it became known as “mother’s ruin” because of how much gin each person in the country was consuming. In the U.S., gin — or something resembling gin — was popular during the 1910s and Prohibition. Gin became the base spirit for many of the first batch of classic cocktails.

Gin can be broken down into five basic styles. There’s London Dry, which is devoid of all sweetness; Plymouth Gin, which must be made in Plymouth, England; Old Tom gin, which is a little sweeter; Navy Strength, which is 57 percent alcohol by volume or higher; and American or West Coast gin, which is usually more herbal.

Regardless of the style, gin can be produced in three ways.

Distilled: Juniper berries and other aromatics are added to a fermented mash and distilled all together.

Redistilled: A neutral base spirit is redistilled with juniper berries and other aromatics.

Compounded: Made by mixing a neutral base spirit with juniper berries and other aromatics.

Popular brands include Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, and Aviation. Popular cocktails with gin include the Negroni, the classic Martini (which was originally always made with gin), and the Gin and Tonic.

Both

Both gin and vodka can be made out of just about anything, but some common bases are corn, wheat, rye, potato, grapes, and sorghum. Other possibilities include carrots, beets, and even milk.

Whatever the primary ingredient, it is first fermented and then distilled. This usually occurs multiple times in order to remove as much flavor as possible. Then, water is added to bring the spirit down to 40 percent alcohol by volume, and in the case of gin, it is mixed with juniper and other herbs and spices.

How is Gin Made?

Before we get technical about all the different ways Gin can be made, it’s worth first defining what Gin is. To be called a Gin, the spirit must have a predominant flavour of Juniper.
There is a number of different Gin styles and classifications; everything from a London Dry Gin, (which is governed by a number of EU regulations such as only using a pure grain spirit and natural botanicals, the flavour of which can only be introduced via re-distillation), to a sweeter Old Tom Gin, to Aged Gins (which are matured in oak barrels, many of which have previously contained Bourbon, Scotch or even Vermouth).
The one thing that all these different styles of Gin have, in common (or should have), is that they’re all predominantly juniper flavoured.
Any Gin starts life as a neutral (often grain-based) spirit. It’s essentially pure ethanol, and then flavours are added through a process called re-distillation.

Methods of distillation

There are many different methods of distillation, each of which can be used to create different flavours of Gin. The two most common forms for extracting flavours from botanicals are:

Steeping of the botanicals

This traditional method is when the base spirit is placed in a pot still (a vessel which holds the liquid and can be heated), along with the juniper berries and other botanicals. These can be steeped for as long as 48 hours, although some producers will distill the liquid almost immediately. Once completed, water is added to reduce the distillate to bottling strength.

pot stills… and the 150 year old column still in which the first beefeater gin was distilled, still in use!!!

A post shared by krist0ph3r (@krist0ph3r) on

Jul 8, 2017 at 3:32am PDT
This method is still used by Beefeater’s Gin for example. Unique to their is production is the steeping of the peel of lemons and Seville oranges, whole juniper berries and other natural botanicals for a full 24 hours prior to distillation.

Vapour infusion of the botanicals

In this process, the botanicals never come into direct contact with the neutral base spirit. Instead, they’re placed into baskets in the still, above the base spirit, which when boiled, vaporises and rises up and infuses with the botanicals. The infused vapour then condenses into a liquid, and finally, water is added to reduce the alcohol to its bottled strength.
This method is said to give a more gentle flavour to the spirit, and is used by producers such as Sibling Gin, and the iconic Bombay Sapphire, which favoured this production method to give a lighter style of spirit.

The above two methods can also be combined

So while some botanicals are steeped, others will be placed at the top of the still to infuse the vapours. One famous example of this is Hendrick’s Gin, which uses two separate stills (one for steeping botanicals for 24 hours before boiling, and one for vapour infusion of different botanicals) and then combines the distillates for the final blend, along with the addition of its well-recognised cucumber and rose petal essence.

How gunpowder determined the strength of Gin?

New Gin production methods are on the rise

In recent years, there’s been a rise in more unusual production methods. As producers try to develop new styles and flavours of Gin, to push the category and find a niche, the need for trying new methods of extracting flavours, as well as using more unusual botanicals, has grown.
One such way is the vacuum distillation method, favoured by producers of brands such as Sacred Gin, Cambridge Dry Gin and Victory Gin.

Vacuum Distilled organic Juniper for new Sacred ORGANIC Gin..

A post shared by Sacred Gin (@sacredgin) on

Jun 6, 2015 at 10:14am PDT
Vacuum distillation is, as the name suggests, when the redistillation of botanicals takes place in a vacuum. A vacuum – and here’s the techy science bit – creates a lower boiling point for the ethanol, which in a pot still would be somewhere around 85 – 95 degrees centigrade. The lower temperature means that the botanicals are essentially cooked less than they would be in a normal still, resulting in a more fresh flavoured Gin at the end of it all.

Every Gin has its unique recipe

It’s not just the way in which the botanical flavours make their way into a Gin which affects its flavour. Every Gin is made to a specific recipe, with a specific number and weight of botanicals.
While the flavour of one batch made by steeping and boiling will be totally different to one made using the vapour infusion method, even using the same method, and the same botanicals, can have different results.

The distiller plays a key role

It’s the job of a distiller to ensure that the botanicals used in a Gin are treated in a way which results in the same flavoured end product, despite, for example, using different crops of berries, seeds and herbs over the course of a brand’s lifetime.

Variances in a single batch of juniper berries will occur naturally, so it’s up to the distiller to taste a number of samples from each botanical crop in order to ensure consistency in flavour.
So the next time you’re drinking a Gin (and hopefully that’s now, reading this), think about all the individual botanicals which have made it into your glass, think about the method used to create it, and think about – and thank – the distiller who undoubtedly spent months trying batch after batch, to get that recipe spot on.
Here’s to you, Gin Distillers the world over. Cheers!

Gin is a liquor and its predominant flavour comes from juniper berries. So, juniper is the main botanical and it is the only thing that all gins must have in common. There isn’t a specific amount of this botanical that a gin must have, but it has to be the prevailing flavour.
However, many other botanicals can be used to enhance the flavour of this spirit. The most commonly used botanicals are: coriander, lemon and orange peels, cinnamon, among others.
Ever wondered what is the difference between a Gin, a Dry Gin and a London Dry Gin? Well, we will explain it below.

Despite its name, this type of gin doesn’t need to be produced in London to be considered a London Dry gin.
A London Dry Gin or just dry gin is redistilled in traditional stills and it is usually light bodied, aromatic, heavy on juniper and very dry. The used ethyl alcohol needs to be of high quality, but the distinctive factor about this gin is the way it is produced.
There are no artificial flavourings or botanicals and nothing can be added after the re-distillation process.

Distilled gin is produced in a very similar way to London Dry gin, but the main difference is that flavourings can be added after the distillations and these flavourings can be either natural or artificial. Besides the natural or artificial flavourings, it can also be added sweeteners and other approved additives, which can make the gin sweetened or colored.

In this type of gin there is no re-distillation. It is made by adding flavourings and botanicals to a neutral spirit and they can also be either natural or artificial.
These compounded gins are often seen as gins of inferior quality when compared to the distilled and dry.

Our favourite type of gin is definitely Dry gin, that’s why we focus our efforts in producing one of the finest in the market: Adamus Dry Gin.

Gin Versus Vodka: What’s the Difference?

Gin and vodka are two of the most recognized clear spirits available. They’re used in countless classic and signature cocktail recipes, and drinkers have generally aligned themselves as either gin people or vodka people (we get it, you had that bad experience one time). Despite the tribalism, it’s easy to stumble when it comes to the most basic question: What’s the difference between gin and vodka?

Legally speaking, the U.S. government defines gin as a spirit that’s 40 percent ABV or higher “with a main characteristic flavor derived from juniper berries.” It can be made in three ways: distilled (juniper and other botanicals added during fermentation), redistilled (adding juniper and botanicals to a neutral spirit and distilling again) and compound (adding juniper and botanicals to a neutral spirit and letting them infuse). Vodka, on the other hand, is a neutral spirit made from any fermentable grain or fruit that’s distilled or treated to create a spirit “without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color.”

In other words, the difference is juniper. Juniper is what gives gin that typical pine-like taste. Not all gin is made with the same amount of juniper, however, and other botanicals are usually added that make each gin slightly different. In general, London Dry-style gins like Tanqueray and Broker’s are the most juniper forward. Plymouth Gin is a little softer, and American or new age gins run the herbaceous gamut from a touch of juniper, to using solely juniper and nothing else.

Gin Versus Flavored Vodka

Flavored vodka, like gin, can be made with a distilled, redistilled or compound method. The government defines it as: “Vodka flavored with natural flavoring materials, with or without the addition of sugar, bottled at not less than 30 percent alcohol by volume (60 proof).” If juniper is the predominant natural flavoring material, then the spirit is gin, not flavored vodka.

“The most underrated flavored vodka is gin,” Blaze Powers, the lead bartender at Harlowe, tells Supercall. “Making gin is like flavoring vodka with juniper and other botanicals.”

Flavored vodka is an easy target for ridicule (hello, salmon vodka), but as well-made gins show, the right mix of ingredients can make a quality flavored spirit. American gin toes the line closer to flavored vodka than traditional London Dry. Brands like South Hollow Spirits, Bully Boy and St. George Spirits use botanicals from nearby their distilleries to make gins that taste of a place, similar to wine and terroir.

Gin Versus Vodka Cocktails

Gin and vodka can be swapped in a variety of cocktails. The most classic example is the Martini, which is historically made with gin but commonly ordered with vodka (thanks, James Bond). The original Bloody Mary, called a Red Snapper, is a gin-based drink. The Gin Parlour in the InterContinental New York Barclay hotel, which has more than 85 different gin options, makes a Harvey Wallbanger with aromatic Tanqueray 10, as well as a gin-based Sangria and Old Fashioned.

“With vodka, there’s only so much you can do,” Jessy Fusco, the assistant director of food and beverage at Gin Parlour, tells Supercall. Vodka takes on the flavor of whatever it’s put in, while the right gin can accentuate bright citrus or herbal qualities of a drink. “You just have to be careful with what you put in to make sure it’s not so overpowering that you’ve created something unbalanced.”

Do you know what type of gin you’re drinking? If not, you’re in good company – many of us here at AMASS HQ couldn’t tell you the difference between a London Dry and a Dutch Genever when we first joined. And the answer that follows doesn’t exactly simplify it. Gins can be classified by a range of factors including, but not limited to: how they are distilled, what additives are included in the final product, concentration, geographical origins… there are even categories based on original distillation vs. redistillation. For the purposes of this article, however, we are going to focus on four popular types: Dutch Genever, London Dry, Old Tom, and Modern.

DUTCH GENEVER

The first – and OG – style of gin is the Dutch Genever (also referred to as Dutch Gin or Holland Gin). And it seems that there are many ways to spell it: Jenever, genever, Geneva, Dutch gin… the list goes on. Rather than starting with a neutral grain spirit, a genever starts its life cycle much like whiskey, with a malted grain blend of malted barley, rye, and corn. This grain mix is mashed down and fermented to create the gin’s base. The soft yellow spirit is then macerated with botanicals – most importantly juniper, but also the occasional hit of fennel which increases the spirit’s darker tones. This particular process lends itself well to barrel-aging, as opposed to English gins, which undergo a very quick distillation process. The resulting spirit has many similar characteristics to vodka, albeit with more earthy and malty notes.

LONDON DRY GIN

This is the gin that probably is in your liquor cabinet. If you drink Hendrick’s or Beefeater, you’ve got a London Dry Gin in your glass. This style is the most familiar as “gin” and most widely available is a style called London Dry Gin. Curiously, a London Dry does not have to be made in London; instead it’s defined by getting its juniper flavor from neutral spirits (grain alcohol) re-distilled with botanicals. London Dry Gin must contain only natural ingredients and only a very small amount of sugar; no additional flavorings or colorings may be added after the distillation process.

OLD TOM

First created in England in the 18th century, Old Toms are characterized by sugar in the re-distillation process that makes this style of gin sweeter than a London Dry. Old Tom Gin is often referred to as the missing link between Dutch style Genever (or Jenever) and London Gin. Lighter and less intense than Genever, Old Tom gins are on the sweeter side and get their flavors from malts or added sugar. Old Tom Gin waned in popularity and production over the years, but the recent cocktail renaissance has led to its revival, as independent producers have delved into the history of gin and rediscovered its long-lost recipes. One of the most elusive gin styles, Old Tom is an excellent gin for whiskey drinkers who crave heavier undertones in their liquors.

MODERN GIN (AKA WESTERN STYLE OR NEW WESTERN)

Modern Gin (also called New Western Style Gin) can be made anywhere in the world. It downplays the inclusion of juniper berries in favor of a variety of other botanicals including citrus peels, coriander and even rose, cucumber and lavender. This fresher, experiment-driven category appeals to drinkers who previously avoided the gin category because of juniper’s piney notes. Because of its wide variety of aromas and flavors, modern gin has been a popular option for modern craft cocktails and helped support the spirit’s recent revival.

Photo by Tiffany Chan