The Top Gins from Around the World
Originating in the Middle Ages in Holland, when juniper-infused spirits were popular herbal remedies, gin later became greatly popular in England during the “Gin Craze”, and is now experiencing a renaissance as a new generation discovers its intense taste.
Gin’s distinctively piney character is produced by distilling a neutral spirit with juniper berries. An assortment of flavorings known as botanicals — herbs, flowers, fruits and roots — are then added to achieve each gin’s proprietary flavor profile.
Take a look at GAYOT’s list to help you discover the Best Gins from around the world and then check out the Best Gin Cocktail Recipes to learn how to mix your own drinks.
1Anchor Old Tom Gin
With the gin renaissance has come the revival of all manner of traditional gin styles, among them Old Tom.
Tom gins are sweeter than London Dry offerings; historically, they served a public that adored sugar, and bartenders would often sweeten each batch based on customer preference. The gin is pot distilled, which gives it a mellow, almost gentle character with sweet notes coming courtesy of star anise, licorice root and stevia. This spirit shows its spicy colors beautifully in a classic Martinez.
2Aviation American Gin
Pair this nicely rounded dry gin with pizza. Seriously.
Oregano wafts under the nose, and the spirit’s savory, dry mouthfeel offers a nice break from overly piney, bitter versions. New gin drinkers will appreciate the underlying notes of cardamom and lavender.
3Barr Hill Gin
Caledonia Spirits founder Todd Hardie started as a beekeeper, and maintains strong ties to local producers in Vermont.
Barr Hill begins with a corn base and locally sourced juniper; raw honey is added after distillation. The result is a supremely smooth gin with a delicate floral character. Its pale yellow color varies from year to year depending on the flower bloom and the season in which the honey is collected. Neither a London Dry nor an Old Tom, this spirit borrows from both styles. Barr Hill works best in gin punches and less assertive cocktails where a sweet, flowery character defines the drink.
4The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
The Botanist may well be Scotland’s finest gin.
Its complex mash bill is sourced from across the country, and includes hawthorn, white clover, angelica root, cassia bark, coriander seed, juniper berries, licorice root, orange peel and elderflower. In all, there are nine of the traditional botanicals and 22 plants unique to Scotland. This is an immensely floral gin, with the addition of apple, menthol, honey, coconut and a touch of peat bog. The intensity recalls that of its sister Islay whiskies. The flavors explode on the palate, and the finish is huge before settling into a lovely licorice-tinged warmth.
Distilled in the heart of Scotland’s single malt country, Caorunn is made with botanicals hand-foraged from the grounds around the Balmenach Distillery.
Locally harvested ingredients include rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, dandelion leaf and Coul Blush apple. The result is an impressive balance similar to that of a London Dry — it’s juniper-forward, but emits a lovely sweetness after a few seconds on the tongue.
Genevieve Gin is designed to resemble genever, gin’s Dutch cousin.
This product from San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling Company emanates aromas of roasted grain and apple cider that stem from a robust mix of rye, wheat and barley malt. Take a sip and you’ll discover rich prune and dark fruit notes leading to a long, raspberry finish.
7Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin
Germany checks in with an outstanding example of what quality ingredients can become in the hand of a master distiller.
Schwarzwald’s version does not monkey around, using six different types of pepper, plus a mind boggling medley of botanicals, including acacia, angelica and spruce. This potpourri is elegantly steeped in French molasses alcohol for 36 hours prior to distillation. The resulting spirit then rests for three months in earthenware before the initial cut. All this skill and effort produces a worthy gin with indelible aromas of forest, ginger, hibiscus, jasmine, lime and sage with a hint of rose. The palate explodes with rare complexity. The dominant spice, floral and fruitiness are enveloped in a piney embrace. Finishing with discernible weight, it delivers all the ingredients as if they were one.
When Sipsmith opened for business in 2009, it was the first distillery in London to use a copper still in nearly 200 years.
This old-fashioned way of doing business results in timeless gins with modern character. There is nothing new in terms of botanicals — juniper, Seville orange peel, Spanish lemon peel, orris, licorice, angelica, cinnamon bark, Spanish ground almonds and coriander are all familiar players in the gin game. Still, it’s the combination of ingredients and the distillation process that has brought Sipsmith consistent notice. In 2014, the company released a high-proof version of its London Dry style with the tongue-in-cheek name of V.J.O.P., as in “Very Juniper Over Proof.” The juniper is not just at the fore — it’s a booming symphony in “J” major, as Sipsmith says, thanks in part to the strong character of the spirit. The scent, the taste and the finish scream juniper. This is a gutsy gin that never apologizes for its bold flavors.
9Uncle Val’s Restorative Gin
One whiff of this small-batch Oregon gin is enough to predict the ultra-dry taste to come.
Uncle Val’s doesn’t disappoint with its crisp, complex and refreshing palate. There is minimal distraction from the coriander, cucumber and rose petal notes that peek from behind the juniper, making Uncle Val’s Restorative Gin highly versatile in boozy, stirred cocktails — particularly martinis.
10Watershed Four Peel Gin
Ohio’s Watershed Distillery has nailed it with this light and modern gin, uniquely distilled from corn and fruit.
Offering strong aromas of butter, the gin also tantalizes with hints of rosemary and orange peel. The flavors marry in a way that doesn’t overwhelm, resulting in a slightly sweet, herbal taste with a long finish. This gin is versatile enough to mix in a simple cocktail or sip over ice with a twist.