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15 best gins: Add these wonderful tipples to your home bar cart

Splashed into cocktails or sipped straight, shake up the party season with these bottles

Alicia Miller
Thursday 27 January 2022 17:03
<p>We considered the balance of botanicals, flavour intensity and complexity, and the length of the finish</p>

We considered the balance of botanicals, flavour intensity and complexity, and the length of the finish

We needn’t tell you that the world is awash in gin. Ever since the great gin renaissance of the 2010s, new brands have launched on what feels like a daily basis. Even Buckingham Palace now sells its own bottling, made from botanicals grown on the grounds.

So, what makes the best gin? Like with a favourite perfume, or preferred pizza topping, it’s a deeply personal choice. Some swear it’s not gin unless it’s London Dry – bursting with resinous juniper, and earthy dried notes of coriander, angelica and liquorice. Others embrace modern gins, with exotic fruits, foraged herbs and pinky hues. While we haven’t gone so far as to include coloured gins in this list, we did feel it was important to include something for everyone.

What makes a gin “the best” also depends on your go-to serve. Every decent gin should be pleasant in a G&T, but some really shine this way; others are better in martinis, shaken into cocktails or even sipped straight. We’ve aimed for diversity in this department, too.

There are, however, a few standard boxes that all the best gins tick. Some are technical: the balance of botanicals, the intensity and complexity of the flavours, the length of the finish. Others are more philosophical: what gins do you remember (in a good way), long after trying? And which would you reach for again and again? All the gins on our list tick these boxes: not only are they well-made, and memorable, but we’d like to – and have – drunk them again and again.

Finally, value – rather than price – was a key consideration. The best gins aren’t the most (or least) expensive, but those worth their price tag. You wouldn’t expect the same thing from a £20 party-perfect gin as a £100 collector’s gin, and nor did we when compiling this list.

Read more:

The best gins for 2022 are:

No. 3 London dry gin

Best: Overall

  • ABV: 46%
  • Size: 70cl

The marketing spiel says this is “gin, just as it should be”, and while marketing spiels are usually guff, this one happens to be spot on. It’s hard to find a gin simultaneously this archetypal – it’s a classic London Dry – this elegant, and this flavourful (the finish goes on and on). Whether you’re a G&T obsessive or martini connoisseur, No. 3 hits the mark every time. Though, for the record: we like it best with a slug of classic Indian tonic.

Made by historic London wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd, the six-botanical spirit took two years to develop with Dr David Clutton – a man who holds a PhD in gin (yep, that exists). It was worth the effort.

The No. 3 moniker comes from the gin’s perfectly balanced trio of elements: juniper, citrus and spice. All traditional gin hallmarks, but elements rarely combined so effortlessly, harmoniously – or memorably. Expect a perfect, clean succession of resinous pine, orange peel and earthy cardamom that keeps you craving the next sip.

Conker Spirit Dorset dry gin

Best: For British flavour

  • ABV: 40%
  • Size: 70cl

Made in small batches in Dorset, Conker has a real sense of place – give it a taste and after the initial hit of juniper fades away, in creeps a herbaceous note of wild gorse; a generous, fruity richness from elderberry; and a salty lick of marsh samphire. Throw in the fact that it’s copper-pot distilled using New Forest spring water and British wheat spirit, and this is basically the south coast in a glass.

Lighter and fresher than many classic London Dry gins – they call this one “Dorset Dry” – it lends itself particularly well to a Gin Sonic (the G&T’s lesser-known cousin that’s half tonic, half soda water). But we love it just as well in a summertime martini, where you can appreciate the rambling finish, each sip whisking you away to one of England’s loveliest counties.

Tanqueray London dry gin

Best: Classic gin

  • ABV: 43%
  • Size: 1l

It can’t compete with the complexity or refinement of some of the gins on this list, but nor is it trying to. Tanqueray is crisp, juniper-forward, crowd-pleasing – and a classic for a reason. With just four botanicals, quadruple-distilled, it’s purportedly been made to the same secret recipe since it was first produced by Charles Tanqueray back in the 1830s. Keep it as a staple in the drinks cabinet for those impromptu G&T moments or cocktail-making sessions with friends.

Cambridge Distillery three seasons gin

Best: For aficionados

  • ABV: 45%
  • Size: 70cl

Yep, it’s £90. But like a crafted whisky or fine wine, the latest release from the innovative Cambridge Distillery is something special. While three seasons might be too splurgey for the casual G&T drinker, serious gin geeks – and martini lovers in particular – might find it worthy of the investment.

The name comes from the flavour profile. Each sip is like a walk through spring, summer and autumn – a lengthy, elegant procession of flavours from bright lemon verbena to opulent rose, and finally, herbaceous blackcurrant leaf. It’s a delicious sensation best experienced via a very frosty, ultra-dry martini (keep the bottle in the freezer for optimum enjoyment).

As for the price? That’s a direct result of its unique, premium production style. The botanicals that master distiller William Lowe uses to achieve this singular drinking experience simply cannot be captured using normal mass-production distillation methods. So, each carefully sourced element must be individually distilled and carefully blended, in a style similar to wine. And that, as you might guess, is an expensive process.

Hernö old tom gin

Best: For cocktails

  • ABV: 43%
  • Size: 50cl

If you’ve never tried an old tom gin, time to get involved – it’s an indispensable part of a well-curated drinks cabinet. Typically sweeter than the classic London Dry style – and often punchier in alcohol level – they are as great for cocktail making as they are for flavourful single-shot G&Ts.

We’re big fans of this organic iteration from Hernö, a boutiquey Swedish distillery that has a cabinet full of awards for gin-making. Besides classic juniper, coriander, cassia and black pepper, you’ll find a clutch of interesting botanicals emerging from the glass: lingonberries, vanilla and meadowsweet included. And yet none are so pronounced as to cause cocktail clash – home mixologists could just as easily use this in a French 75 as a Bramble.

Snowdonia Spirit Co. Welsh dry gin

Best: For the juniper-shy

  • ABV: 43%
  • Size: 70cl

Juniper is a prerequisite in gin – by law the dried berries of this aromatic shrub must be the predominant botanical in the spirit (otherwise, what you’re drinking is vodka). But juniper doesn’t have to overwhelm the drink, either. If you’re on the fence about this potent, resinous botanical, don’t give up on gin entirely: simply give this light, fresh Welsh bottling a whirl.

Smooth and fruity, with a creamy palate and clean finish, Snowdonia is gentle on the juniper, instead letting its other botanicals do the talking. It can be popped into pretty much any cocktail with harmonious effect, but try it in a martini – silky, fresh and infinitely drinkable.

Seven Hills Italian dry gin

Best: For negronis

  • ABV: 43%
  • Size: 70cl

It’s not that often you meet a gin especially designed for negronis, but this “Italian dry” gin is exactly that. The secret, in our opinion, is in the tart pomegranate and blood orange notes on the palate: the perfect partner for the cherried orange flavours found in the popular Campari-based cocktail.

Saying that, this gin makes a lovely G&T too. Roman camomile, celery and artichoke also appear, resulting in a gorgeously transportive mix of Italian countryside flavours that strikes a pleasant balance between sweet and savoury. Try it with an antipasti platter in a sun-drenched garden and you might just convince yourself you’re in Tuscany.

Hendrick’s gin

Best: For a garden party

  • ABV: 41%
  • Size: 70cl

Hendrick’s just tastes of the Great British summer. Is it the hint of rose, bringing to mind blooming gardens? Is it the dash of cucumber – reminiscent of sandwiches on the lawn (crustless, obviously)? Whatever it is, this is a perfect gin for sipping with a few mates when the sun is shining, in a giant ol’ G&T. A modern Scottish-made classic that’s best served as the brand suggests: with a simple sliver of cucumber on the side.

BeauFort fifty-seven smoked sipping gin, 50cl

Best: For sipping

  • ABV: 57%
  • Size: 50cl

If you’re looking for a gin to slug into your Tuesday night G&Ts, this is definitely not it. First of all, it’s on the pricey side – £39 for 50cl. Secondly, it’s a pretty punchy 57 per cent (commonly referred to as “navy strength”). Thirdly, it’s not meant for mixing at all, rather for slow, thoughtful sipping.

The idea of a sipping gin might sound gimmicky – as might the sound of a “smoked” one (BeauFort fifty-seven is infused with an oak-smoked water, originally created by Heston Blumenthal). But one sip and you cannot deny its finesse. Soft, smooth and almost nutty in character, with added flair from citrus and Szechuan pepper, it’s complex enough to keep you interested all the way to the bottom of the glass. Think of it as gin’s equivalent to a single malt whisky or sipping tequila.

The Story Wines gin

Best: For a holiday in a glass

  • ABV: 42%
  • Size: 70cl

Can’t get away to Australia? Just grab a measure of this gin instead – it’s bursting with exotic botanicals designed to mimic the Australian rainforest. Even if you haven’t the faintest what finger lime, lemon myrtle or mountain pepper berry normally taste (or look) like, you can’t help but feel transported somewhere tropical by the intense aromas of this crafted spirit.

Made by a winemaker, Rory Lane, The Story is a fabulous gin for a G&T, where you can really let the palate – reminiscent of kaffir lime leaves, lemon and cinnamon – sing against a simple, lightly sweet backdrop of tonic. Leave it to the side when it’s cocktail o’clock; as the star rather than the supporting act, it can be a trickier one to mix with.

Boatyard double gin

Best: For G&Ts

  • ABV: 43%
  • Size: 70cl

Double the juniper, double the gin-drinking pleasure, right? If you like your gins to have that hefty resinous hit, you’ll love this Northern Irish number, which gets its name from the fact that juniper is introduced not once (as is standard), but twice during the production process. It’s a technique that takes inspiration from Dutch genever, the precursor to gin.

It’s all this flavour, plus a higher alcohol content of 46 per cent ABV, that makes Boatyard a dream for G&Ts, especially when served up with a rich, sweeter mixer like Indian tonic – you really don’t need more than a shot to make that drink flavourful. With each sip, the other botanicals begin to come to the fore, too, showing off the gin’s complexity: lemon, coriander and sweet gale from the distillers’ own family farm.

Tarquin’s cornish dry gin

Best: For summery martinis

  • ABV: 42%
  • Size: 70cl

Hello, violet! A crop of these purpley blooms, grown in Devon, gives this Cornish gin a powerful, enticing aroma. On first whiff, it’s like you’ve stepped into a plant nursery at the height of summer.

The rest of the botanicals – all distilled in copper pot stills – are just as carefully sourced; cinnamon from Madagascar, bitter almond from Morocco; and liquorice root from Uzbekistan. The delicious blend of low and high notes, earthy spice and heady florality gives it just the kind of complexity that we love in a very dry martini.

Hyke gin

Best: For innovation

  • ABV: 40%
  • Size: 70cl

Sustainability is as big an issue in the drinks world as it is everywhere else at the moment, and so the founders of Foxhole Spirits decided to do something about it: they created a gin produced from surplus supermarket grapes that would have otherwise gone to waste. Less fresh fruit going into the bin, more gin in your glass – talk about a win-win.

The gentle fruitiness of the base grape spirit comes through on the nose, interwoven with a medley of botanicals, most predominantly coriander, South Africa rooibos and heady myrrh. It’s the bite of spice, mixed in with a perceived sweetness from the fruit notes, that gives it such lovely balance. Meanwhile, a tickle of citrus peel keeps everything tasting fresh.

Roku gin

Best: For Asian flavours

  • ABV: 43%
  • Size: 70cl

Some gins have long lists of botanicals, many of which you’ll often struggle to identify in the glass. This Japanese gin keeps things simple by highlighting just six prominent picks: yuzu citrus, sansho pepper, sakura (cherry blossom) flower and leaf, and two types of green tea. When combined with a strong juniper backbone the result feels like a classical London Dry gin that’s had a whirlwind trip to Japan – with delicious results.

Another reason we like this gin? It’s surprisingly food-friendly. Serve up a G&T of this with a Japanese feast – perhaps a platter of sushi or steaming deep-fried tempura – and that’s your evening sorted.

Warner’s London dry gin

Best: For sustainability

  • ABV: 40%
  • Size: 70cl

A classic gin, made in a modern way. Family-owned Warner’s aims to source as much as it can locally, whether that’s citrus peel (discarded from a nearby fruit factory) or lavender (grown, along with angelica root and lemon verbena, on their own farm). Even the Harrington spring water used to produce the gin is top quality.

Clean, fresh and juniper-forward, the gin has also got one more big selling point: an ethical backbone. Warner’s is signed up to 1 Per Cent for the Planet – a global movement committing to give back that equivalent amount of sales to environmental nonprofits – and they’re working towards becoming a B Corporation in the future.

Gin FAQs

What is gin made from?

Gin is made from a distilled grain spirit with juniper berries.

Does gin go off?

The great thing about gin is it can be stored for years without going off, but it’s recommended to drink it within two years of opening. Even if you tightly reseal it, it’ll likely lose taste and quality if you leave it any longer.

What are the different types of gin?

There are four different types of gin: London dry gin, old Tom, Plymouth and navy strength gin.

Is gin gluten-free?

While gin is made from distilled grain spirit, it doesn’t contain gluten peptides and is therefore gluten-free and safe for coeliacs.

The verdict: Best gin 2021

Of all the gins out there, none hit the sweet spot between classic gin flavour and moreish complexity quite like No. 3. If you have room for just one gin on your shelf, we’d make it this one.

When it comes to bigger brands, Hendrick’s never fails to disappoint. But if you’re looking for something truly artisan and unique, look no further than crafted Australian gin The Story Wines. Or – if you’ve got a mega bank balance to splash on spirits – Cambridge Distillery’s elegant three seasons.

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For something a little different, we’ve rounded up the best flavoured gins to upstage the classic G&T

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