Our Christmas gin special includes some of our favourites available right now.
The proliferation of gins in recent years has removed the old conundrum (“Should we go for Gordon’s or Beefeater?”) with a new one (“Er, which of these 3,000 gins is worth a go?”). So we’ve picked out some of the best around right now, from ones with a Christmassy feel to others which, for one reason or another, make outstanding gifts.
If you’re after something different, our Christmas drinks gift guide is here — it also includes whiskies, rums and bubble, as well as one or two of the gins you’ll see below.
The plain, unadorned label let us run an interesting blind taste test on this Christmassy gin from the Manchester Gin Company’s distillers. What do you taste, we asked our guinea pig?
‘Oooh,’ came the answer. ‘That’s nice. Gin!’
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‘No, could you be more specific?’
‘Hmmm, yes. [sipping noise] Orange. [sip] Nutmeg. [sip] Cloves. [sip] And cinnamon?’
The first three were spot on, and a cinnamon stick is one of the garnish suggestions for this classy-looking bottle. It’s pricey at £35 for a 50cl bottle, though.
Not exactly Christmassy, but a marvellous surprise — this newcomer is an absolute belter of a gin. There’s a real kick of mango from the moment you uncork the bottle that delivers a huge burst of smell and flavour. The makers’ website lists a few cocktail ideas and this seems ideal for such shenanigans, but even a simple G&T tonic is lifted to something exotic.
Is this the best-looking gin bottle on the market today? There’s a lot of competition for that honour, but this unusual French gin — named 44°N, distilled by Comte de Grasse, (the name a reference to the distillery’s latitude) — is up with the best we’ve ever seen. The incredibly complex taste — with notes of grapefruit, samphire, jasmine, bitter orange and honey — doesn’t disappoint, but seems almost secondary: this is a bottle to give real visual wow factor to your drinks trolley.
‘Please can you send me the link? Will buy INSTANTLY’ was the immediate reaction from one of the Country Life staff on being told of the existence of this gin, via a Teams message, back when it launched in the Spring.
Shockingly, not everybody was quite as excited. Those people are wrong. How could you possibly not love a gin distilled with oranges, fresh orange peel, cocoa powder and real-life Jaffa Cakes?
Bathtub Gin has long been a favourite on the Country Life shelf — it really is cleverly balanced with juniper and citrus, but also more unusual notes such as cardomom and coriander. Plus, there’s that fabulous brown paper bag packaging, which shouldn’t matter but… well, it’s all part of the fun. And that prohibition-chic feel is even stronger when drunk from the tin mug with this gift set.
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.
There’s a fine line to be trodden when blending a flavoured gin. Too gin-like and you leave people wondering why they didn’t just get a ‘normal’ gin; too sweet or flavoured and it can seem sickly or gimmicky. Warner’s are among the best at walking the tightrope — and though their Christmas cake gin packs in the grin-inducing flavour, it never crosses the line. Not cheap, but hard to imagine a more fun mid-morning starter-for-10 tipple on Christmas Day.
Tanqueray’s standard gin is good, but their No. Ten is even better — and it comes in a gorgeous Art Deco-style bottle.
There’s no getting away from it: the frankly hilarious label on Cait Sith gin looks like an album cover for a 1980s heavy metal band. Throw in the rather funky name — which sounds like a character from one of the Star Wars prequels — and we were intrigued upon uncorking. We needn’t have been: this tipple from Colonsay is utterly superb, with subtle hints of orange and vanilla which really lift it above the norm. As you’d hope: the it’s pricey at £35 for a 50cl bottle.
It might sound as freaky as a cornflake sandwich, but trust us: this one is absolutely worth a try. Think grapes rather than wine and it all begins to make more sense; there’s almost a sloe gin vibe as the hint of Shiraz comes through into the gin flavours. It’ll also lend a wonderful rich colour to cocktails, and is very good mixed with bitter lemon.
Having dealt with the oddity of mixing gin with red wine, it now seems only right to move on to cigars — which brings us to this exotic combination. Dreamt up by Nick Hammond, author of Around the World in 80 Cigars, together with luxury brand Leggetts, it’s ‘designed to perfectly complement the shifts and nuances of a fine, handrolled cigar’, with eastern spices and a smooth, soft finish. Let’s not beat around the bush: this is a bold price tag for a 42.3% gin in a fairly plain bottle, but for those who might easily spend that much on a single cigar it’ll be an intriguing prospect.