The best British Gins to try

Article published on Decanter.com

Decanter recommends a selection of eight top gins from around the UK

Gin has a very long history in England, but the gin scene in the British Isles has never been as exciting as it is today. The ‘ginaissance’ that has seen the popularity of the spirit rocket in recent years led to 80 new gin distilleries opening in 2019, bringing the total to 441, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. Even the Queen has got in on the act, launching her Buckingham Palace Gin earlier this year.

The demand is certainly there – Britain exported £672 million worth of British gin last year, taking total sales at home and abroad to over £3.2 billion.

We’ve picked out eight gins that give a real flavour of where in the British Isles they are made, usually through the specific mix of botanicals.

Tour the British Isles in 8 gins

1. City of London Christopher Wren Gin

When the City of London Distillery opened in 2012, it brought gin distilling back to the city after an absence of almost 200 years. Inspired by the architecture of famed London architect Sir Christopher Wren, this gin celebrates the buildings that make up the iconic skyline of London’s city centre – the distinctive bottle, featuring the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, would make the perfect gift for friends or relatives overseas. A collaboration with the then-Master-Distiller of Tanqueray, Tom Nichol, this gin represents a very classic London Dry expression. Focusing on just one citrus, dried orange peel, the profile is rounded with the earthy spice and bitter-sweet balance taking centre stage. Alc: 45.3%

2. Wrecking Coast Clotted Cream Gin

Produced in North Cornwall using local ingredients where possible, including fresh Cornish clotted cream, Cornish natural spring water and Cornish sloe berries. Clotted cream and gin don’t sound like obvious bedfellows, but an innovative two-distillation process has been used to add mouthfeel, texture and softness to a classic London dry gin style. The clotted cream is cold distilled under vacuum, bringing across the oils and essences of the cream, and then blended with a 12-botanical gin that has been made separately. Garnish with strawberries and you have your own, adult version of the traditional West Country cream tea! Alc: 44%

3. Conker Dorset Dry Gin

The name conjures up images of crisp autumn walks in the English countryside, and indeed this Dorset gin is produced with local ingredients top of the list. In Spring, when Dorset’s clifftops are ablaze with bright yellow, prickly gorse bushes, the distillery team don impenetrable gloves and pick enough gorse flowers to last for a year, drying and vacuum packing it to lock in the flavours and aromas. Other local ingredients include New Forest Spring Water, samphire, elderberries, and coriander seed from a farmer’s field in Sussex. Slightly less dry than the classic London dry style. Alc: 40%

4. The Lakes Gin

This elegantly packaged, award-winning gin is inspired by the beautiful Lake District National Park, in England’s northwest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A classic London style, the recipe features only a few botanicals, gently steeped overnight in British wheat spirit and pure water from the Lakes, like loose-leaf tea, to encourage the essential oils to release more slowly and protect their delicate nature. The result is a classic English gin with vibrant notes of juniper, cracked black pepper and orange peel. It’s incredibly smooth and harmonious to taste. Recommended garnish: pink grapefruit. Alc: 46%

5. Shortcross Gin

Ireland’s most awarded gin, Shortcross is distilled on the 200-hectare Rademon estate in Co Down that dates back to the sixth century. It’s made by husband and wife team Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong, who married in 2011 and launched their first bottles of gin just three years later after travelling the world to learn the craft of gin making. The first gin to be distilled in Northern Ireland, Shortcross is named for the village local to the estate, Crossgar, which translates from Gaelic as ’Short Cross’. The label carries a picture of the Shortcross Penny. Inspired by the gardens and surrounding forests, the botanical mix includes wild clover, apples, elderflowers and elderberries, and fresh water drawn from the estate well is used in the blending. The recommended serve is with elderflower tonic and a twist of orange peel. Alc: 46%

6. Arbikie Kirsty’s Gin

Kirsty’s Gin is named after Arbikie’s master distiller Kirsty Black, who carefully chose local botanicals to represent the distinct landscape and surroundings. The kelp, carline thistle and blaeberries embody the elements of ocean, rock and land that surround the Arbikie Estate’s Scottish east coast farmlands. Farmers since 1660, the estate grows, distils and bottles on site, in a true field-to-bottle operation. Fresh and crisp, with black pepper, seaside notes – almost an iodine tang – and a subtle, wild florality. Alc: 43%

7. Jin Môr Gin

Staying in Wales, this ‘gin of the sea’ enhances classic botanicals with a pinch of the famous Halen Môn sea salt from the Isle of Anglesey. The owners of Halen Môn ran an oyster farm, fish and game wholesaling business and an aquarium before hitting on the idea of making sea salt. The gin is distilled in Snowdonia using water from the mountains, for a true taste of coastal North Wales. The lick of salinity is perfectly balances the earthy juniper berry flavours. Alc: 43%

8. Bara Brith Gin

A celebration of the traditional Welsh tea loaf bara brith, this unusual gin from the Snowdonia Spirit Co brings a whole new meaning to sense of place! The key ingredients of dried fruit, candied peel, black tea and spices produce a richly flavoured, warming gin with distinctive sweet fruit cake, citrus and spice aromas. Garnish with a twist of orange peel, and enjoy by the fire on a cold winter’s day. Be sure to admire the image on the reverse of the label through the bottle, a wild Welsh landscape painted by Alan Rankle. Alc: 40%

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