The Global Gin Masters 2015 results

1st July, 2015 by Annie Hayes

Few spirits categories offer as much variety – or provide as much fuel for discussion – as gin, and our Global Gin Masters provided the perfect forum.

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The Global Gin Masters 2015 received a record number of entries

Independent gin producers are eclipsing many big brands in the style stakes, attracting curious mixologists with bizarre infusions, rare botanicals and quirky essences (ant-infused gin, anyone?).

Since 2009 more than 35 micro-distilleries have opened up and down the country, forcing leading producers to up their game by reviving retro recipes, creating limited edition expressions and rejuvenating packaging to keep up. Make no mistake, gin continues to be the drink du jour, and everyone wants a sip.

To meet this surge in demand big-name supermarkets have expanded their lines to provide a choice of more than just the usual back bar offerings, including Waitrose – who last year doubled the size of its range. And it’s not just Brits enjoying a mix of Mother’s Ruin – according to latest figures, 70% of the UK’s gin is exported overseas, attracting a whopping £1.76 billion-worth of business. This fact of course was of no surprise for our dedicated gin experts, who gathered at the elegant One Canada Square in London’s Canary Wharf to put each entry through its paces. Chairing our first team was independent gin consultant David Smith, who was accompanied by head sommelier at St James’s Hotel, Andre Martins.

Our second team was headed up by Melita Kiely, The Spirits Business’ senior staff writer; Clayton Hartley, co-owner of The Candlelight Club; and John Burke, co- founder of the Craft Gin Club.

We started with the smallest offering of the day, Standard – no surprise for what is now a decidedly upmarket category. The flight immediately attracted a Gold medal for Gibson’s Gin, praised for its “clean, citrus” flavour and “soft herb finish”. Premium yielded only a slightly higher number of entries, and attracted three medals for its modest size – Silver, for Beefeater London Dry Gin, and Gold for Bedrock Gin and East London Liquor Company London Dry Gin.

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Clayton Hartley and John Burke analyse the day’s entries

With anticipation we embarked upon the biggest round of the day, Super Premium, which, with its variety and size, reflected just how far the premiumisation movement – led by a gin-focused cocktail renaissance – has developed. A spectacular 31 brands rightfully claimed medals: 10 Silvers, 16 Golds, and five Masters – the latter bestowed upon Hernö Old Tom Gin, Makar Glasgow Gin, Williams Great British Gin, Berkeley Square London Dry Gin, and Hayman’s Family Reserve Gin.

Smith said: “Evidently a lot of care has gone into the production – they were of excellent quality and had lots of sipping potential.” Burke added: “ Herno Old Tom Gin was lovely and would hold up well in a cocktail.” More Master medals awaited our Ultra Premium brands, this time awarded to Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve’s “exceptionally complex age character”, Hernö Export Strength Gin for its “citrus and spice” notes, and Bathtub Gin, a “fragrant” spirit with “sweet woody spice”. Martins said: “To be worthy of an Ultra Premium price tag, a gin has to have the ‘wow’ factor, and that was certainly present here. Our Master gins had rich and intriguing complexity, and a character you long to experience again and again.” One Silver and four Gold medals joined the Master accolades, rounding off the price classification rounds, which in total collected an impressive 40 medals.

A flight of London Dry gins were next – the most popular style of gin – and, disappointingly, the most “underwhelming” of the flights. Aside from some exceptions – Portobello Road Gin, which picked up a Master, and five other Silver medalists – judges found this flight to be juniper deficient, and in need of complexity.

Kiely explained: “Many of the gins were lacking juniper, leaving a very bland flavour profile. It would be great to see producers embracing juniper, rather than shying away from it.” Burke agreed: “I feel like they’re playing to the vodka crowd.”

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David Smith and Andre Martins formed one of two judging teams on the day

From possibly the lowest scoring round, we moved on to a flight featuring the highest, with a selection of powerful Navy Strength gins. Hartley said: “This was a very uplifting category. Tasting neat has its own problems… Some were quite fierce to say the least. However, all things considered they knew what they were about. They had excitement and complexity.”

None exhibited this more than judges’ favourite, Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin, which leant itself to a “surprisingly soft” mouth feel and “malty” flavour with a hint of spice. Additionally, Bathtub Gin and Hernö each attracted a Gold medal for their Navy Strength expressions, while Pickering’s Gin was recognised with a Silver.

The two smaller flights up next gave judges the chance to refocus their attention and fine-tune their tastebuds, starting with the 18th century-inspired flavours of modern Old Tom gin. Hernö, which has done remarkably well in this year’s Global Gin Masters, once again stole the show with a Master medal, while Bathtub Gin’s Old Tom offering attracted a Silver.

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Andre Martins was part of our esteemed panel of judges for the 2015 Global Gin Masters

It wasn’t long before Hernö was praised again, this time for its Juniper Cask Gin. It was one of a few competitors in our slowly growing cask-aged gin flight; a sign that producers are turning to the historic barrel- rested practice as a way of experimenting. Hartley said: “This was a very good example of an aged gin. The biscuit notes you’d expect from a whisky come through, while the character of the gin is preserved.”

We moved on to Contemporary, a flight added to the Global Gin Masters just last year to recognise products pushing boundaries by exploring beyond the traditional citrus and juniper-forward styles. Seven medals were awarded here: five Silvers, a Gold to Edgerton Blue Spice Gin and a Master to Makar Glasgow Gin; its second of the day.

Hartley said: “I think they’re trying to target a market of non-gin drinkers by not being particularly juniper-forward. The producers are still using old world botanicals like spices, dried fruits and herbs but juniper isn’t the top note. It’s a healthy category to be going into.” Kiely added: “For consumers who haven’t tried gin very much before, or not tried it at all, I think this flight is a very good starting point.”

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Our judges included David Smith, Melita Kiely, Clayton Hartley, John Burke and Andre Martins (not pictured)

After a day of clear spirits, it was time to sway the status quo with a flight of Flavoured. Greenall’s Wild Berry Gin won Gold with its “sweet confectionary” aroma and flavour of “fresh raspberry with a balanced spice”.

We pressed on to our Sloe entries, which produced Silver for Bathtub Gin’s Sloe offering, Gold for Greenall’s Sloe Gin, and a Master medal for Hernö Sloe Gin, which judges felt “ticked all the boxes” with its “tart, jammy, sweet and sour” notes. Smith remarked: “Sloe often divides opinions. Some like wild, exciting flavours, while others prefer a gin-heavy product.”

Then it was time for the Microdistillery flight, where five Gold medals and one Silver were bestowed upon brands for their artisanal offerings. New entry and Gold medallist Vibe New Western Style London Dry Gin was singled out for its “dry, elegant finish” which “builds as you sip”.

We rounded off the day with a petite but sweet Organic flight. Two Silver and three Gold medals were awarded, four of which went to Hernö. Burke said: “There were gins of a very high quality in this round. Many featuring cardamom, which added some lovely spicy flavours to the gin while still keeping it juniper-led.”

Summarising the day, Kiely said: “What’s fantastic about gin is that there are so many different styles and innovative products adding to the category. It means there’s a gin to suit every palate, whether you’re looking for the more traditional styles or something slightly different.

“While there are some brands that are shying away from juniper a little too much, there’s no denying the diversity of flavours on the market.”

Click through to the following pages for the complete list of medal winners from The Global Gin Masters 2015. 

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