Top 10 award-winning gins, part two
Whether you’re looking for the best bottle to gift or something for your own booze shelf, these award-winning gins from our blind tasting are perfect for the job.
Gin remains in high demand thanks to its mixability and varied price points – but with so many bottles on the market, how do you know which one to choose?
Earlier this year, we held The Gin Masters – First Tasting to determine the best of the category. It was a behemoth of a competition that welcomed nearly 500 entries, and based on that popularity, we decided to host a second tasting in October.
We found some truly outstanding gins in the process, all tasted by our panel of experts: David T Smith, spirits writer, consultant and co‐founder of The Craft Distilling Expo; Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks; Emma Stokes, aka Gin Monkey and chief of World Gin Day; Marie Cheong‐Thong, wine and spirits judge, and Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) educator; Sarah Miller, founder of the Gin A Ding Ding blog; Tobias Gorn, co‐founder and senior partner at International Drinks Specialists; Nicola Thomson, director of Practical Matters; and Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business and chair of the tasting.
Our judges gathered at the Novotel Hotel in London Bridge to put each anonymously packaged sample to the test. Which gins earned top marks? Read on for 10 of the best.
Elephant Strength Gin
Price: £36.90 (US$48.80)
The highest accolade in our blind-tasting competition – the Taste Master award – went to Elephant Gin’s Elephant Strength bottling. At 57% ABV it packs a punch, but our judges found it to be beautifully balanced: “It was fresh, vibrant, and still had that underlying aspect of juniper,” said one of our experts.
To craft its gin, Elephant uses 14 botanicals, including juniper, orange peel, mountain pine and African buchu, which is said to deliver a ‘blackcurrant-like’ flavour. Our judges found plenty of “cloves, pepper spice, coriander and cardamom” in the glass – and if you needed anything more to entice you, know that the brand donates 15% of each bottle’s profits to elephant conservation foundations, so you’re doing good with each drop.
Price: £37 (US$48.93)
If you’re in search of award-winning gins with classic flavour profiles, look no further than Tiger, a Shropshire-based brand which features juniper, angelica root, orris root, cassia bark, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, orange peel and lemon peel in its botanical mix.
The 40% ABV bottling earned praise from our judges, who noted “beautifully integrated alcohol balancing the juniper”.
Price: £44.50 (US$58.85)
Trii Gin hails from Sylt, the island in northern Germany, and it stood out in our tasting thanks to its “juniper-forward” profile. Made with botanicals including lemons, oranges, vanilla, allspice and cherry blossom, it’s a fruity expression that will especially please liquorice lovers, as our judges detected a “lot of anise and a sweet sensation on the finish”.
Henley Gin – Rhubarb & Orange
Price: £40 (US$52.90)
Whether you adore all things pink or you’re still a bit of a sceptic on the subject, this bottling from Henley Gin is sure to please. English rhubarb lends the liquid a gorgeous blush colour and lovely flavour, while orange zest delivers bright citrusy notes: “Quality‐wise, this was leaps and bounds above the rest,” one of our judges enthused. “It combines so many pink and dark fruit sensations, cassis on the nose, confected raspberry, jammy rhubarb on the palate – but all balanced.”
Whitley Neill Connoisseurs Cut
Price: £30 (US$39.37)
This London Dry gin is bottled at a slightly higher ABV (47%) than the rest of the Whitley Neill range, which contributes to its bright and bold flavours. “Well rounded and balanced, with citrus towards the finish,” noted one judge.
Produced at the City of London Distillery, Whitley Neill was early to the gin boom when it launched in 2005, and has become an important player in the category with a vast and varied collection of expressions, from Protea and Hibiscus Gin to Aloe and Cucumber Gin.
Price: £37 (US$48.93)
Our judges were blown away by Gintl, which was praised as a “great modern example”. The Moscow-made gin sits at 47% ABV and contains botanicals such as coriander, angelica, lemon zest, raspberry, lingonberry, cranberry and cardamom, as well as sagan dali, an evergreen shrub that is said to have medicinal properties.
“This was expressive and big, but still with some elegance,” one of our experts said, praising its “smooth and delicate mid-palate” and “grand finale”.
Etsu Double Yuzu
Price: £40 (US$52.90)
Japanese gin has taken off in recent years, and this yuzu-infused expression from BBC Spirits’ Etsu brand proves why. Produced at the Akita Distillery, near the Ōu Mountains in Honshu, this expression wowed our panel with its “bright, green, zesty” aromas – the result of botanicals such as yuzu, liquorice roots, angelica, coriander and matcha – as well as its “prominent juniper” on the finish.
Jones 1778 Navy Strength Gin
Price: £39.99 (US$52.89)
Fans of barrel-aged spirits may not often look to gin, but Jones Navy Strength 1778 is sure to hit the spot. The 57% spirit spends 120 days in Bourbon casks before being transferred to oloroso Sherry casks for another 20 days. The result? A gin with a “honey, vanilla nose” and notes “Bourbon oak, woodiness” on the palate, all boosted by a hit of “up‐front and dominant juniper”. An excellent slow-sipper served neat or on the rocks.
Berkshire Botanical Honey & Orange Blossom Gin
Price: £19.50 (US$25.79)
Flavoured gin enthusiasts will want to get their hands on this bottling from Berkshire Botanicals. Its headline notes of orange blossom and honey come through vividly on the nose, and on the palate they are complemented by “some cloves and pepper spice”, for a sweet, flavourful liquid that makes a festive G&T.
Barrister Sloe Gin Liqueur
Price: €22 (US$24.87)
‘Tis the season for sipping sloe gin by a crackling fire – and this bottle from Barrister is perfect for the occasion. It’s made by steeping wild Russian blackthorn berries in Barrister’s flagship dry gin, with a well-balanced result that helped it stand out, not only among the flavoured expressions, but also among all the award-winning gins in the competition.
“This had slight herbal aftershave notes on the nose,” commented one judge. “The palate is rounded, with raisins alongside the sloe. The nuttiness is nice and overall not too sweet.”