Old Tom Gin, Sloe Gin, Plymouth Gin—how well do you know your gin? Up your gin knowledge here and check out some of the exciting craft gins on the market today.
Here are some familiar names…
London Dry Gin
As its name suggests, this gin is very dry, with a prominent juniper flavour. Unlike what the name suggests, London Dry Gin can be made anywhere. Tanquery makes a good London dry.
A little sweeter than London Dry, and made only in Plymouth.
Seamen long ago loved their gin out at sea, but had reason to believe that crooked suppliers were watering down their spirit. To test that it was the good stuff, gunpowder should still be able to ignite and fire off even when doused in good gin. No kidding. Hence the name. Navy strength comes in at 57.7 per cent ABV.
Despite the long association with England, gin actually originated from Holland. British soldiers saw the Dutch drinking genever before going into battle during the 30 Years War—hence the phrase ‘Dutch courage’—and brought the drink home where it eventually evolved into gin as we know it. Genever is richer in texture, and more malty and savoury in flavour.
Old Tom Gin
Sweeter, more rounded, and less botanical, Old Tom Gin was the go-to for cocktails way back when. But Prohibition got in the way, and it was almost forgotten by the time the alcohol started flowing again. It’s making a comeback now with the advent of craft gins. Old Tom has sugar added to it after distillation.
Infused with sloe berries, this sweet, fragrant purple-hued gin is more like a liqueur, better for sipping as a digestif after an indulgent meal. Not to be used as a substitute for gin.
…And A Handful of Craft Gins
The only craft gin from the Isle of Islay, Scotland, this gin from the House of Bruichladdich created by master distiller, Jim McEwan, makes use of nine core botanicals like angelica root, liquorice root powder, lemon peel and coriander seeds, as well as 22 other botanicals foraged from the wild. Among them are hawthorn, chamomile, mugwort, heather, and exotics like bog myrtle, tansy, and gorse, plus a ‘symbolic amount’ of juniper, now rare in Islay. At 46 per cent ABV, the Botanist is a complex gin with a rich mellow palate, and fresh citrus notes developing into “a deep rich and spicy flavour”.
Hailing from the Black Forest in Germany, this dry gin holds 47 ingredients such as acacia flowers, bramble leaves, lingonberries, spruce shoots and cranberries, all from the Black Forest. It even has six types of peppers in the mix and juniper berries from Tuscany and Croatia. Another smooth, complex gin, it offers notes of citrus, berries and pine, with a long, heavy finish.
A flag bearer for Asia, Paper Lantern’s Sichuan Pepper Gin is the region’s first craft gin, which was also made possible through crowd funding. Created by a Singapore-based company, the gin is distilled in Chiang Mai, using only local and Asian ingredients like ginger, galangal and lemongrass, Szechuan pepper, makhwaen from the Lana hills in Mae Rim, and a touch of Thai honey. Try this delicate and aromatic gin as Paper Lantern Gin Smash, a combination of lemon juice, sugar syrup, and a shot of gin with a garnish of Thai basil.
Australia’s celebrated Four Pillars gin from the Yarra Valley combines 10 ‘trademark botanicals’ into the mix including local Tasmanian pepperberry and lemon myrtle, a range of Asian spices like star anise, as well as juniper, angelica root and lavender and whole oranges. The gin offers notes of citrus, spice and a hint of juniper and lavender, rich on the palate and dry on the finish.
This is excerpted from Wine & Dine’s November 2016 issue: ‘Drink’, Blithe Spirit