International gin and tonic day 2019: 14 best British gins you need to know about
From the Isle of Islay all the way to Tooting by way of County Down, we've been on a juniper-fuelled adventure
Gin’s popularity doesn’t look set to wane anytime soon. In fact, the number of UK distilleries has more than doubled in the past five years, making it highly likely that there’s a gin distillery local to you.
What makes this category of spirits so exciting is the scope for experimentation. All that’s legally required in order to call itself gin is a minimum ABV of 37.5% and juniper as the base botanical in the spirit – after that, anything is fair game, and it’s this openness that brings with it a whole host of regional variations.
We’ve found gins with only a handful of botanicals and others with more than 30, proving there’s really no right or wrong when it comes to gin production. One of the only constants is the distillation process, which happens in stills or pots of various shapes and sizes – often these will be made from copper for the best distribution of heat.
If your favourite way to drink G is with the T, then it’s important you don’t skimp on quality – after all, it’s often three quarters of the glass. Aside from the perennially popular Fever Tree, we’d also recommend Double Dutch and Sekforde (a non-quinine alternative to tonic). You’ll find that almost every gin has its own signature serve so it’s worth updating your ice and a slice with the various suggestions to really bring out the best of the gin. A large balloon glass is our vessel of choice.
Just to confuse matters, many gins are labelled as “London gin”, but this has nothing to do with where it’s made, and everything to do with the style or recipe of the gin. Back in the day, most gin distillers could be found in London and hence the name has stuck.
We've searched the length and breadth of the British isles to find the most exciting gins on offer, looking for taste, value and that extra something special. Gins were tasted neat, and as their signature serve.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Ramsbury gin, 70cl, 40%: £35, Ramsbury
Made on the Ramsbury estate in Wiltshire (also home to the UK’s pub of the year, The Bell), the gin utilises wheat and barley farmed on the estate, combined with water from their own chalk-filtered source. It’s finished with quince (also grown on the estate) and left over grains are fed to their friendly herd of cows. For a taste of the British summertime, serve with a slice of apple and pear over plenty of ice. The Prince of Wales visited recently, who’s said to be a fan of the sustainable product.
Graveney gin, 70cl, 45%: £40, Abel & Cole
Made in Tooting, southwest London, Graveney gin is a London dry variety using organic ingredients. You’ll taste goji berry, superfood baobab and pink grapefruit – we think replacing ice with frozen berries makes for the perfect garnish. Each handmade batch will have slight variations and is therefore given a unique batch number. If you like your booze ethical, you’ll approve of Graveney gin giving 10 per cent of all profits to a conservation charity that protects and cares for the rare mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, DR Congo.
Brighton gin, 70cl, 40%: £37.45, 31Dover
What’s more British than a stick of rock? A G&T and a stick of rock? Forgo the classic slice of citrus and flavour with a minty chunk of Brighton rock to really bring out the flavours of the seaside. It sounds gimmicky but it’s actually incredible and we’re clearly not the only ones to think so – it was voted the UK’s best gin in the 2017 People’s Drinks awards. Created with 100 per cent organic grain spirit, juniper, fresh orange and lime peel, locally-grown coriander seed and milk thistle, each bottle is filled, labelled and wax-sealed by hand. Because we do like be distilled by the seaside…
Collagin gin, 50cl, 40%: £34.89, Drink Supermarket
Distilled in Birmingham and bottled in Lancashire, the rather aptly named Collagin contains anti-ageing botanicals such as star anise, pink grapefruit and orris, along with the star of the show – pure, powered collagen. The result is a velvety smooth drop with a hint of vanilla and a tang of fresh oranges. This would make a great gift and despite taking inspiration from perfume bottles for the packaging, it is definitely not a case of style over substance.
Cambridge dry gin, 70cl, 42%: £38.18, Master of Malt
Best known for making seasonal gins from locally grown botanicals, this blend is the first to be available all year round. Individual ingredients are macerated and distilled under vacuum to keep them as fresh and flavoursome as can be. Fragrant basil and rosemary, lemon verbena and blackcurrant leaf make this a great choice for martinis.
Durham gin, 70cl, 40%: £26.02, Master of Malt
Durham Gin was the distillery’s first spirit (it also makes vodka and whisky) and is a unique recipe of 10 botanicals paired with pure grain spirit and spring water locally sourced near to Durham city in the northeast of England. Its distinctive flavour comes from spicy pink peppercorn, savoury celery seed and sweet elderflower.
The Lakes Distillery gin, 70cl, 43.7%: £24.99, The Lakes Distillery
The Lake District is lucky enough to have wild juniper growing in abundance – so it makes sense to put that to good use in this local gin. Aside from this you’ll find 13 other botanicals, all of which are local to the Lakes, including bilberry, heather and hawthorn. A beautifully clear spirit with plenty of complexity, try chilling the bottle in the fridge and drinking neat over ice or with a 1:1 ratio of tonic and a slice of grapefruit.
Slingsby London dry gin, 70cl, 42%: £39.45, Slingsby
A whopping 24 botanicals go into each bottle of Slingsby gin, 17 of which are local to the Yorkshire town. These are added to pure grain spirit and water from the local springs, which are famous for their high mineral content and medicinal properties. Zingy citrus leads the way on the nose, while classic juniper is dominate on the palette – ideal if you like a truly classic gin. Slingsby recommends serving with plenty of ice, a twist of grapefruit peel and blueberries.
Dà Mhìle seaweed gin, 70cl, 42%: £29.95, Master of Malt
Pronounced da-vee-lay, this Welsh beauty is infused with hand-picked seaweed from the Celtic coast for a minimum of three weeks, which is what gives it this pale green hue. To really bring out the unique flavour profile, we’d recommend pairing with fresh seafood – an aperitif with oysters would be outstanding. If you fancy getting creative in the kitchen, it can even be used in seafood recipes themselves, lending itself well to curing smoked salmon. The savoury tipple is great in a martini or with tonic and a slice of kiwi.
Aber Falls orange marmalade gin, 70cl, 41.3%: £23.89, Master of Malt
Proud silver medallist at the World Spirit Competition 2018, this Welsh distillery has worked out that the warm citrus hit is a great combo with its local pine and juniper. As you might expect, it has a wonderful aroma, conjuring up memories of warm buttered hot cross buns. We found it particularly came alive as a citrus fizz (that’s two parts dry white wine to three parts soda water).
Jawbox gin, 70cl, 43%: £27.99, Master of Malt
Triple-distilled in County Down, Northern Ireland, Jawbox uses 11 botanicals to give its London dry gin it’s unique flavour profile. Some of the more unusual ones include local black mountain heather, which is added right at the end so as not to overpower the final result. You’ll smell the juniper straight away, coupled with fresh pine, which gives way to citrus, pepper and green angelica. Jawbox recommends serving with ginger ale (another Belfast creation) and a wedge of lime.
Chase GB extra dry gin, 70cl, 40%: £29.95, 31Dover
Potato farmer William Chase founded crisp brand Tyrrells before moving into the vodka and gin business. He took the potatoes used in the crisps to make vodka, which in turn was the base for the gin we drink today. To give it a lighter body it’s distilled with juicy organic apples and features a touch of spicy cinnamon. Chase recommends garnishing with ginger, which we can confirm works very well.
Two Birds London dry gin, 70cl, 40%: £29.95, Two Birds Spirits
Despite winning numerous awards and being in hot demand, Two Spirits still only makes 100 bottles at a time in its handmade copper stills, so it can ensure the quality of every bottle is maintained. The stripped-back recipe uses only five botanicals – juniper, coriander, citrus and orris root – along with one other top secret ingredient, which gives it a clean and crisp taste. Garnish with refreshing cucumber and serve with plenty of tonic.
The Botanist Islay dry gin, 70cl, 46%: £36.99, The Botanist
The Isle of Islay might be better known for its whisky, but this gin is proving that there’s to offer when it comes to spirits from the Inner Hebrides. The Botanist team hand forages 22 of the botanicals from the local land come rain or shine, before slowly distilling in small batches. The result is a silky smooth tipple with exquisite clarity – you can practically smell the clean Scottish air.
The verdict: British gins
Crystal clear and extremely smooth, we love Ramsbury's gin. It gets extra points for its sustainable approach to spirit making.
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