Ten award-winning gins for summerBy Melita Kiely
A crisp, cold gin and tonic can be hugely refreshing on a warm summer’s day. We’ve tasted hundreds of brands to determine the best of the bunch.
In June, The Global Spirits Masters hosted the first instalment of The Gin Masters 2022. Nine panels of experts were called upon to assess the entries at Lola’s at the Hippodrome Casino in London.
The first panel comprised Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions, and Andrea Paleari, head bartender at The Aubrey.
A second panel was chaired by Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks, who was joined by Marie Cheong Thong, wine and spirits judge, and Wine and Spirit Education Trust educator.
Derek Millar, retired whisky sales advisor, joined Nicola Thomson, director of Practical Matters, who chaired the team.
David T Smith, spirits consultant, writer and co-founder of the Craft Distilling Expo, chaired another group. He was joined by: Peter Downes, senior spirits partnership executive, Craft Gin Club, and Vanessa Piromallo, gin expert, judge, and founder of That’s The Spirit.
Tobias Gorn, co-founder and senior partner of International Drinks Specialists, chaired a panel comprising Dr Winifred Bowman, wine and spirits judge, and drinks writer; and Masha Twemlow, associate specialist at International Drinks Specialists.
Joining Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of her panel, were: Christine Perrett, drinks photographer at A Twist of Citrus and co-founder of The Spirits Hub; and drinks consultant Stephen Kennard. Bernadette Pamplin, freelance drinks writer and founder of the Under the Ginfluence blog, chaired a panel consisting of: Sara Jane Eichler, founder of the Negroni Club UK; and Millie Milliken, freelance journalist.
Evan Prousaefs, bar manager and assistant general manager of Los Mochis, Notting Hill, was also called upon to chair a team of judges. He was accompanied by: Marko Stanar, bartender at Annabel’s; and Nick Larsson-Bell, senior buyer – spirits and beer, Harvey Nichols.
Finally, Matt Chambers, co-founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog and the North London Whisky Club, chaired the final team, which included Anne Jones, drinks experience and events at Waitrose, and Angelo Sparvoli, head bartender at St James Bar in London.
For gin lovers and novices alike looking for new expressions to sample this summer, we’ve picked out 10 award-winning bottlings for your perusal below.
Whitley Neill Original Gin
Halewood Artisanal Spirits secured four Gold medals in this year’s competition, including one for Whitley Neill Original Gin.
The gin is distilled at The City of London Distillery and is made with botanicals including juniper, coriander seed, cassia bark, orris root, angelica root, sweet orange, lemon, gooseberry and baobab.
The award-winner impressed the judges with notes of “fresh pine, zesty citrus and a touch of woodiness”. They agreed the gin delivered “great balance” and enthused it would “make a great G&T”.
Whitley Neill Distiller’s Cut, Whitley Neill Oriental Spiced and Whitley Neill Connoisseur’s Cut also received Gold medals.
The Craft & Co Navy Strength Gin
Among the eight medals collected by The Craft & Co, one was a Master award that went to The Craft & Co’s Navy Strength Gin. The expression is bottled at 57% ABV.
“Lemongrass, ginger, coriander, basil – very aromatic and cereal-like in texture and flavour,” said Milliken.
Located in Australia, The Craft & Co distils its own spirits at its production site in Collingwood.
The producer’s Old Tom Gin secured a Gold medal for being “very citrusy, especially on the mid-palate and the aftertaste”, as noted by Prousaefs. “Great balance and long aftertaste,” he added.
Brand founders Jen and Manuel Aczualdez fell in love with gin years ago in Spain. The infatuation with the juniper spirit inspired them to create their own brand – leading to award-winning Aczu Gin.
The Master-winning gin is crafted with botanicals found in the Andalusian region of Spain. The distillery is located in the farming region of Chipiona.
To make Aczu Gin, the spirit is distilled six times. The producer then macerates the botanicals in the alcohol for six days. The liquid is then left to rest for seven months. It is bottled at 47% ABV.
Kiely said: “This gin has a lovely texture, lots of juniper, some cinnamon spice and herbaceous notes come through on the palate. The higher ABV is well integrated.”
Four Pillars Spiced Negroni
This award-winning entry from Australian producer Four Pillars was created specifically for mixing in Negroni cocktails. Botanicals used to make the gin include the West African spice grains of paradise and Indonesian cubeb.
Four Pillars Spiced Negroni Gin gained the top Master accolade. Tasting notes included: “Floral and herbaceous aromas, quite unusual – but juniper still detectable. The palate leads to bold spices, coriander, cardamom, and woodiness. Juniper lingers lightly on the finish.”
Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin was also deemed to be Master worthy, while the brand’s Olive Leaf Gin collected a Gold medal. The producer picked up 10 medals in total.
Wabi Sabi Gin
Not one, but two Master medals were bestowed upon Nomu-Japan’s Wabi Sabi Gin. This gin was thoroughly enjoyed by the judges, collecting the awards in the Ultra Premium category and Microdistillery contingent.
Milliken noted: “Big and open on the nose, lots of vegetables packed in there and even more on the palate – coriander, mint and Thai basil.”
Pamplin was equally enthused about the gin. She added: “This delivers on the palate with some fantastic complexity, a powerful journey – it’s wonderful how it develops on the palate. Sweet, floral, citrus, menthol coolness moving into growing heat, grounded by dense sweetness of the base. Lovely stuff.”
Lord of Misrule
Hampton Court Gin collected two medals in The Gin Masters, with a Master awarded to Lord of Misrule (42% ABV). Botanicals used in the expression include quince, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon, mulberry, ginger, grains of paradise, cubeb berries, honey, almond, and juniper.
Cheong Thong said: “Lovely sweet mouthfeel. Chilli heat running through the sweet wood spices. Interesting and complex.”
Gold-winning stablemate The Six Wives was also enjoyed by the judges. Athavia said about the Gold medallist: “Juicy, citrusy, light and elegant.”
Bottled at 42% ABV, the gin is made with six botanicals: orange, thyme, juniper, bitter almond, grains of paradise, and cubeb berries. The gin is distilled 22 times.
Junimperium Blended Dry Gin
Four Gold medals and a Silver were handed to Junimperium for a selection of its gins. One stand-out Gold medallist was Junimperium Blended Dry Gin, which sits at 45% ABV.
Jones commented: “Present juniper, intense and characterful. Complete, coherent and with a well-integrated finish.”
Junimperium hails from Estonia, and the distillery officially opened its doors in 2019. Located in Telliskivi, the Junimperium Distillery was founded by Tarvo Jaansoo, gin creator and brand ambassador.
Junimperium Rhubarb Edition also won a Gold award, enjoyed for its “sharp palate, subtle juniper and thick texture”. Kiely said: “This would be great for those looking for a fruity G&T.”
“Spicy nose with warming spices, hint of curry powder and juniper. Earl Grey tea on the palate – elegant palate – great levels of spice and juniper, elevated high notes give a delightful experience.”
That was high praise indeed from judge Chambers. His panel hugely enjoyed Jukebox Gin, which received a coveted Gold medal.
The Scottish gin is distilled on the island of Islay with seven botanicals, before being bottled at 43% ABV.
The London Dry-style expression was also liked by Jones, who added: “Very direct pine, green juniper and weighty, but also clean.”
Copperpenny Gin 005
Canadian entry Copperpenny Gin 005 blew the judges away in this year’s blind tasting, securing a top medal in the competition: Master.
Cheong Thong’s tasting notes included: “Good hit of green juniper on the nose with pink peppercorns, and sansho on the finish.”
Athavia also greatly enjoyed the gin. She picked up notes of “lovely cardamom” leading to a “light and fresh palate with a backbone of good juniper”.
Copperpenny Gin 005 is bottled at 43% ABV.
58 and Co London Dry Gin
The east London-based distillery secured the top Master medal with its London Dry expression. The judges found the gin to have a “lovely balance” with “sweet, citrus and juniper notes”.
The gin sits at 43% ABV and is recommended served with tonic water and a slice of grapefruit.
The London-based distiller rebranded earlier this year, and was previously known as 58 Gin. The move came to align with the company’s expansion plans.
Situated in London’s Haggerston area, 58 and Co also boasts an apple and hibiscus gin, and a navy strength expression in its portfolio.