Gins with bold new flavours, stylish new bottles and exotic twists come together with a couple of whimsical gin gifts and even a make-your-own-gin experience in our selection.
The last couple of years have witnessed an absolute explosion of gin – not literally, of course – as it seems barely a day goes by without someone announcing a new distillation made using Arctic ice meltwater and bottled in a scale model of the Alhambra, or some such.
So the days of having to choose between Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire are long gone, which is a shame in some senses since there really isn’t anything wrong with either, and an awful lot that’s right with both. Gordon’s is as much of a classic in the world of gin as Johnnie Walker Black Label is in the world of whisky, while Bombay Sapphire’s gins are great, and their ‘experience’ at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire a terrific afternoon out for a gin-lover.
That said, if you’ve come here you’re probably after something a bit different – and there’s little point in us writing a piece about gin gifts for Christmas and mentioning things you already knew. So here’s our pick of some of the gins you may not have heard of, but which are definitely worth a look for something just that little bit different.
This is probably our favourite of all the many, many gins that we’ve crossed paths with this year. Warner Edwards’ elderflower has long been one of our go-to gins, and this honeybee version retains a similar delicacy. The wooden box it comes in, however, turns this into a beautiful present: it’s absolutely lovely, and includes instructions on how to re-use it as a bird-box, planter (it comes with a packet of seeds) or even a miniature beehive.
This small batch gin has been made in County Down for a couple of years, but has made a name for itself and won a ‘best UK gin’ award a few months ago. It’s a straight-down-the-middle, top-class traditional London Dry gin with notes of liquorice and heather, goes particularly well with ginger ale. And yes, they are selling those cool ceramic mugs as well.
Whitley Neil’s rhubarb and ginger – that’s their purple one – was the first tipple to really convince us that flavoured gin has a place in the drinks cabinet. It’s sensationally good, and has quite rightly gone mainstream in the last year or so. Since then they’ve branched out in all sorts of directions, with everything from blood orange to parma violet flavours – this lemongrass and ginger iteration has a wonderful Oriental twist. It feels like it’d be better drunk on a verandah in South-East Asia than a living room in Sussex, but it’s probably as near as you’ll get to bringing a touch of the former to the latter.
A brilliant year-long gift, with a bottle of unusual, small-batch gin arriving in a box accompanied by a myriad selection of tonic waters, other mixers and nibbles. Yes, it’s pricey when you think of it as nearly £500 for they year, but what a treat – and they also have bi-monthly and quarterly subscription options that are a little easier on the wallet.
Berkeley Square has long sold itself as the ‘single malt’ of the gin world, and they’re certainly making a statement with a new recipe, a grandly-updated bottle design, stylish presentation box and – there’s no getting away from it – a rather hefty new price tag. Part of that price at least is explained by the infusing method: the ‘bouquet garni’ process, in which the botanicals are wrapped by hand in muslin before being added to the base spirit. The other part of that price is explained by the taste: it really is majestically smooth, so much so that our testers, both initially sceptical, nodded and smiled to each other in pleasure after a first sip revealed the taste.
Yorkshire distillery Masons have a fine line in gins with a little hint of something extra – their taster pack has half a dozen varieties – but this citrus. Quite rightly the dominant taste remains juniper, but the citrus zing and a hint of basil make this a lovely gin, particularly for cocktails. Best of all, Aldi have snapped up the rights and have put this out at a penny under twenty quid. A bargain.
A stronger, more muscular take on traditional sloe gin, and lots – lots! – of it.
If you’re after a bit more sparkle than you’d get with just a bottle of gin, M&S have this set that contains all you need to make a gin royale – including edible golden glitter for that extra Christmassy touch.
You’d think that selling alcohol with a potentially-lethal weapon might be frowned upon, but apparently not: a fine Tog knife plus a chopping board come with this set, apparently designed specifically for creating the perfect G&T. It comes with a bottle of Psychopomp’s Woden Gin.
Back in the 1980s, there were iconic adverts for Remington electric shavers featuring a man called Victor Kiam saying: ‘I tried a Remington microblade – I liked it so much, I bought the company!’ Earlier this year, Hollywood’s Ryan Reynolds – he of Deadpool fame – did the same thing with Aviation Gin: ‘Once I tried it, I knew I wanted to get involved with the company in a big way,’ he apparently said earlier this year. It’s a gin with a soft, floral note, perfect for creating subtle gin-based cocktails.
Salcombe is a real straight-down-the-middle London dry gin, but this rather lovely (if pricey) set adds something a little different. It’s been aged for 11 months in the American oak Fino cask from which the accompanying 12-year-old sherry was drawn.
Tour the distillery, enjoy a four-flight gin tasting – and then make your own gin at the distillery’s ‘Gin Laboratories’. Here, visitors can explore a wide range of botanicals, choosing some to design their own recipe and distil their very own personalised bottle of Liverpool Gin. The only thing left to do is decide what to call it…
The Rampur distillery in the foothills of the Himalayas produces this gin, named after the ancient city of Jaisalmer. It’s a classic London dry-style gin, with a strong juniper backbone complemented by citrus, liquorice, angelica and coriander, as well as cubeb and grains of paradise – most of which are used in another gin with an Indian name, Bombay Sapphire. Fine-tasting with a striking matt-black bottle.
A fun Christmas treat, filled with 5cl of Pinkster’s Pink Gin and a mini jar of delicious gin jam. The gin is great, the jam utterly bizarre should you spread it on your morning toast – but it works very well indeed on scones as part of a boozy afternoon tea.
The distillery in the centre of the City offers a neat tasting set, with five 5cl bottles of their gin including Old Tom gin, Christopher Wren, City of London Dry Gin, Sloe Gin and Square Mile. If you know which one you like, you’re obviously better off buying a whole bottle – if not, this is fun.