In Review

Tried and tasted: 19 best gins for the perfect G&T

The proliferation of gins – and tonics – has created a delightfully daunting choice

1

No. 3 Gin

No. 3 Gin

The explosion of the craft gin market has produced a huge variety of novelty, flavoured or celebrity-endorsed spirits. Some of them are excellent (see below), but many more stretch the definition of gin beyond recognition. It’s therefore refreshing in more ways than one to open a reassuringly solid bottle of No. 3 Gin and inhale the classic aroma of juniper and citrus. Created by Berry Bros & Rudd, the historical wine merchants, this award-winning London dry gin is crisp and uncomplicated. The makers recommend a garnish of grapefruit and rosemary, which serves very well to balance the bright fruity notes with the earthier aromatics. A series of experiments revealed that lemon and thyme also work well together, imparting a more floral finish.

2

Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin

Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin

Paul Feig is perhaps best known as the director of Bridesmaids, the award-winning comedy with a classy ensemble cast. His latest release is dependent on chemistry of a different sort: the harmonious blend of 11 botanicals in Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin. Feig not only worked with the distiller Ravinder Minhas to create the flavour profile, but also gave it his mother’s maiden name. He has resisted the recent trend towards highly fragrant designer gins, producing instead a subtle, versatile spirit which works well in martinis, negronis and G&Ts. It comes in a handsome bottle, too – a classic-looking block of glass which looks very much like a diamond-cut crystal decanter.

3

Height of Arrows

Height of Arrows gin by the Holyrood Distillery

“Made by Edinburgh” is the tagline of the Holyrood Distillery, which produces both whisky and gin beneath the crags of Arthur’s Seat. That explains the slightly cryptic name of the gin: in Gaelic, the mountain is known as Ard-Na-Said or “Height of Arrows” – reflecting the belief that its summit marked the limit of any archer’s reach. The gin is refreshingly simple in approach, bucking the trend towards a laundry list of botanicals and building its flavour around juniper alone. Sea salt and beeswax provide structural support. The clarity of the resulting spirit lends itself to the martini as well as the G&T, in which it pairs nicely with a garnish of rosemary. 

4

Cooper King Dry Gin

Cooper King Dry Gin

Three centuries ago, London’s gin palaces were held responsible for all the city’s social ills. Now, though, gin might just save the world - or at least make a small contribution to the battle against climate change. That’s the hope of Abbie Neilson and Chris Jaume, the founders of Cooper King Distillery, who claim to produce the “greenest gin in England”. The Yorkshire-based operation runs entirely on renewable energy, and since a square metre of forest is planted for each bottle sold, the spirit is certified carbon-negative. All that would be academic if it didn’t also taste good – but it does. The flagship product, Cooper King Dry Gin, is warm and slightly spiced, with notes of cumin and cardamom which can be drawn out with a savoury garnish such as rosemary or cucumber. The distillery’s Herb Gin is green in flavour as well as environmental credentials – and makes for an enjoyably spring-like martini. 

5

44°N Gin

44N gin

The first striking quality of 44°N Gin is the luminous blue of its bottle, a tribute to its home on the Cote d’Azur (as is the latitude-inspired name). The second is the vibrant aroma unleashed by the removal of its stainless steel stopper – and it too can be explained geographically. The 44°N distillery is in Grasse, the centre of the international perfume industry and home to the world’s most sensitive and sophisticated noses. Their experience has contributed to a spirit which is floral and summery, evoking an evening by the Med even in the depths of the British winter. It works well without a garnish, but rosemary brings out a pepperiness that complements the highly perfumed top notes. 

6

QVT Dry Gin

QVT gin

A second French entry on the list also hails from the southeastern corner of the country – and is also named after its home turf. This one, however, is a little more cryptic: QVT stands for quatre-vingt trois, or 83 – the number of the Provencal department of Var in which the distillery stands. Founded by a British couple, the flavour profile reflects a dual heritage: classically Juniper-driven, with hints of lavender and thyme. A slice of lemon brings out the crispness of the former, while orange draws out the sweetness of the Mediterranean influences. 

7

Monkey 47 

Monkey 47 gin

The numerical part of Monkey 47’s name refers to the gin’s 47% proof strength. The primate takes a little more explaining. It all dates back to 1945, when RAF wing commander Montgomery “Monty” Collins was dispatched to post-war Berlin. “Profoundly affected by the extent of the destruction,” the Gin Foundry said, “he became devoted to the rebuilding of the Berlin Zoo, through which he came to sponsor an egret monkey by the name of Max.” When Collins retired, he moved to the Black Forest, took up gin-making and named the fruit of his labour in Max’s honour. The result is a suitably eccentric gin, with a woody, almost musky aroma. It makes a satisfying martini and a sophisticated G&T, especially garnished with a slice of orange to bring out its sweeter side. 

8

Cotswolds Dry Gin

The first gin produced by the Cotswolds Distillery in Warwickshire is “non-chill filtered, a method which retains the oils”, Good Housekeeping explained. This means when mixed with ice or tonic a “beautiful pearlescent cloud” develops in the glass, as when water is added to ouzo or sambuca. It may sound like a gimmick, but it’s in the service of a fine gin. Crisp, dry and packed with botanicals including fresh grapefruit and local lavender, it makes a bold martini and a sophisticated G&T. Cotswolds Dry has a “very complex, intricate melding of powerful flavours”, said The Gin Lounge, “with deep citrus and floral notes dominating”. Bring out the herbal character with a garnish of bay leaf, rosemary or cucumber. 

9

Kyro Gin

Kyro Gin

According to the bottle it comes in, the Finnish gin Kyro has a “heart of wild nature and naked ambition” – a slogan vividly illustrated on its website by a photo of the bare-buttocked company founders leaping through a field of rye. They are, it seems, very fond of the grain, having decided to make both whisky and gin from it. The gin, perfumed with parma violets, vanilla and orange blossom, is heady and floral, and best served with a more savoury garnish. Rosemary or cucumber both bring out the deeper, herbier flavours. 

10

Brunel Edition, 6 O’Clock Gin

Bristol-based Bramley & Gage, the company behind 6 O’Clock Gin, is celebrating one of the city’s most famous sons with a “Brunel Edition”. Using the excellent original as its starting point, the latest expression includes “six new botanicals – green cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cassia bark, cubeb and lemon”, Beverage Daily said. The spice shines through, making for a muscular G&T – as does the 50% alcohol content. Like the regular Six O’Clock gin, the Brunel Edition comes in a beautiful bottle – dark midnight blue rather than the medicinal shade of the original, but retaining the weighty glass-and-steel stopper. It’s a heavy-duty tribute to one of the world’s great engineers. 

11

Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin

The Eight Lands distillery is named after the number of counties that can be seen from the top of the nearby Ben Rinnes mountain, at least when the Scottish weather cooperates. These dramatic surroundings are put to good use by the father and step-son team behind the gin, which they create from local organic grain, botanicals and spring water. It must be good gin-making terroir – Speyside is a delightfully clean gin, in which sweet, floral notes predominate. You can either accentuate them with a garnish of citrus or even strawberry, or add depth with a slice of cucumber. The gin also makes an excellent (and dangerously drinkable) martini. 

12

The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

Labelled as an Islay dry gin, The Botanist is a subtly flavoured spirit made with 22 botanicals sustainably harvested from its island home. Along with nine more barks, peels and seeds less at home in the Scottish climate - orange, cinnamon and corianders, for example - they contribute to a gin of unusual purity and smoothness, which deserves to be tried in a martini before it gets the G&T treatment. A simple garnish works best with The Botanist - a sliver of lemon peel, bruised to release its oils. 

13

Tanqueray No. Ten

“One of the most respected gins available on the market,” said the Gin Foundry, Tanqueray No. Ten is flavoured with “whole fruit botanicals such as fresh white grapefruits from Florida, whole limes from Mexico along with juniper, coriander and chamomile”. Fever Tree’s Indian tonic water is an ideal match for a G&T, and with citrus to the fore, No. Ten responds well to a simple garnish of lemon or lime (or both), but it takes on an enjoyably herbal complexity with a slice of cucumber. Its distinctive clarity makes it the “go-to choice” for a classic martini, said The Daily Telegraph

14

Dyfi Original

This clean, potent gin, distilled in Wales, sold out in days when it went on the market in 2016. Subsequent batches have also sold out quickly, so bag it while you can. It’s a versatile spirit which pairs well with a range of tonics and garnishes. The distiller recommends bruised juniper, twisted lime peel and a sprig of dill or fennel - but there’s no shame in bunging in a wedge of lemon instead. The clean, punchy flavour also works well in a negroni. For something more floral, try Dyfi’s Pollination Gin: its fresh and fruity blend of 29 botanicals makes for a revelatory martini. 

15

Porter’s Modern Classic

Produced in a micro-distillery under a bar in Aberdeen, Porter’s Modern Classic is a crisp, fresh and distinctively floral gin. It is also an attractive shade of pale green. The flavour profile is in part down to an unusual botanical – the buddha’s hand fruit (pictured on the label), which looks like a fistful of yellow chillis and has a strong citrus aroma – and partly down to the way the gin is made. While most distilleries boil up their botanicals with the raw spirit, Porter’s uses pumps to create a vacuum in the still, which means the gin will boil at a lower temperature, preserving the flavour of the fruits, herbs and spices. It might sound like a gimmick, but “a quick side-by side comparison of conventionally-distilled versus [vacuum] rotavap-distilled buddha’s hand reveals just how much of a difference this low-temperature process can make”, said The Scotsman. “The former is insipid and flat with a vague aroma of overcooked popcorn, whereas the rotavap distillate practically fizzes in the nostrils like freshly-poured old-fashioned lemonade.” 

16

Procera

This unusual gin is distilled in Nairobi using a species of juniper that grows in the highlands of Kenya and Ethiopia – Juniperus procera, after which it is named. Nine other botanicals, all African in origin, include Madagascan pink peppercorns and orris root from Morocco. The result is a deeply savoury gin, quite different from the others on this list. Less fresh and citrussy than its rivals, it sits at the cedar-and-old-leather end of the flavour spectrum, more like a vintage claret. It works well with similarly earthy garnishes - try rosemary or cucumber. Or else just admire the beautiful hand-blown bottle in which it arrives. 

17

Piston Dry Gin

The Piston distillery in Worcestershire produces a range of flavoured gins, infused with everything from strawberries to coffee, as well as an excellent London dry gin with a clean, sophisticated flavour. The name – not a pun on the slang term for the inebriated – is a tribute to the engineering heritage of the Midlands, and the canal boats that brought in botanicals from the ends of the earth. The dry gin is well balanced, with hibiscus flower and lemongrass offset by rhubarb root and ancho chilli. It’s a combination that pairs well with floral Mediterranean tonic waters – or, for a more classic G&T, mix it with Indian tonic and garnish with lemon. 

18

Herno

A subtle, ultra-smooth spirit, Herno would make a good gateway gin for the sceptical drinker. Produced in Sweden using organic botanicals, it adds vanilla and cassia bark to the typical London dry botanicals. A good squeeze of lemon brings it to life in a G&T, but Herno also makes a mean martini. The Cocktail Geek recommends “the substitution of vermouth with a dry sherry”. 

19

Bullards Coastal Gin

Hailing from Norkfolk, Bullards Coastal Gin is flavoured with a selection of botanicals foraged from the county’s picturesque coastline. Sea purslane and marsh samphire give the gin a savoury, salty topnote, which is underpinned by the sweetness of douglas fir. Your choice of garnish will determine which flavour comes to the fore: the maker’s recommendation of blackberries emphasises the sweetness, while rosemary or cucumber brings out the salinity. It comes, like many craft gins, in a beautiful – and hefty – glass bottle, which can be guilt-inducing to dispose of. Unusually, however, the Bullards beauties can be reused: simply order a recyclable refill pouch and decant its contents into the original bottle through the easy-pour spout. 

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