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. These selections are presented in alphabetical order.
> Check out the Best Gin Cocktail Recipes to learn how to mix your own drinks.
1. Aviation American Gin
Origin: Portland, OR, U.S.A.
Price: $33 for 750 ml.
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.
> For more information, visit the Aviation American Gin official website.
2. Barr Hill Gin
Origin: Hardwick, VT, U.S.A.
Price: $41 for 750 ml.
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.
> For more information, visit the Caledonia Spirits official website.
3. The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
Origin: Islay, U.K.
Price: $40 for 700 ml.
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.
> For more information, visit the The Botanist official website.
4. Caorunn Gin
Origin: Grantown-on-Spey, U.K.
Price: $40 for 750 ml.
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.
> For more information, visit the Caorunn Gin official website.
5. Genevieve Gin
Origin: San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.
Price: $57 for 750 ml.
Genevieve Gin is designed to resemble genever, gin’s Dutch cousin.
This product from San Francisco’s Hotaling & Co. 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.
> For more information, visit the Hotaling & Co. official website.
6. Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin
Origin: Loßburg, Germany
Price: $67 for 750 ml.
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.
> For more information, visit the Monkey 47 official website.
7. 135⁰ East, Hyōgo Dry Gin
Origin: Akashi City, Hyōgo, Japan
Price: $28.00 for 750 ml.
The Yonezawa family settled in Akashi City in 1856, where they started a distillery. By 1917, the family had mastered the rice spirit distillation. Generation after generation, the Yonezawas perfected the art, and 100 years later, Kimio Yonezawa honored his family with 135⁰ East Gin.
This gin is named for the Akashi Meridian, which runs past the distillery in Akashi City at 135 degrees east longitude. In addition to the traditional spices and herbs used for London Dry Gin, it also boasts a boatload of Japanese botanicals such as yuzu (citrus scent), sencha (non-fermented green tea), shiso leaf (from the mint family), ume (Japanese plum) and sansho pepper. To embody the Japanese soul of this unusual gin, they also added a touch of distilled saké to the recipe.
135⁰ East Gin offers a powerful floral aroma over scents of citrus fruit. The silky, balanced palate delivers citrus, bitter and floral notes, peppermint and sansho pepper giving it a spicy, peppery finish.
> For more information, visit the 135° East | Kaikyо̄ Distillery official website.
8. Sipsmith V.J.O.P.
Origin: London, U.K.
Price: $53 for 750 ml.
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.
> For more information, visit the Sipsmith official website.
9. Uncle Val’s Restorative Gin
Origin: Sonoma, CA, U.S.A.
Price: $35 for 750 ml.
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.
> For more information, visit the Uncle Val’s Gin official website.
10. Watershed Four Peel Gin
Origin: Columbus, OH, U.S.A.
Price: $35 for 750 ml.
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.
> For more information, visit the Watershed Distillery official website.