As demand for craft gin continues to rise, Sam Wylie-Harris selects five labels to add to your radar.
Gin has become such a thing, there’s now a vibrant distilling community putting their own spin on what is effectively a juniper-flavoured vodka enhanced by a bunch of botanicals.
So much so, Waitrose has more than doubled its range of gins from local and regional suppliers since the beginning of the year, as demand for artisan spirits continues to soar.
“The rise of craft gin certainly shows no sign of slowing – it’s the most popular spirit we sell,” says Waitrose buyer, David Goddard. “People across the country are experimenting with making their own gin cocktails, which are becoming more exotic than ever. That’s why artisan gins, which are usually infused with unique flavours and aromas, really appeal to our customers.”
Below are two local gins new to their shelves, along with some more unusual gins from further afield…
1. Manchester Three Rivers Dry Gin (£37 for 70cl, available from selected Waitrose Manchester stores and various other stockists nationwide)
One of 13 new local gins Waitrose are launching in April, this distillery is the first of its kind to open in Manchester’s city centre. Balanced and smooth, the combination of 11 botanicals offers subtle perfume on the nose followed by a spicy sweetness with hints of vanilla, cinnamon and almond, with cardamom giving way to a long, spicy, black pepper finish.
2. City of London Dry Gin (£35 for 70cl, available from selected Waitrose London stores and www.CityofLondonDistillery.com)
London may be steeped in gin history, but this is the first working distillery to open in the City for more than 200 years. It launched into Waitrose in January and has already scooped a Double Gold award at the International Wines and Spirits Competition (IWSC). Flavoured with a fine balance of juniper, angelica, liquorice and coriander seeds, zesty citrus notes complete the finish.
3. ELG Premium Danish Gin No. 1 (£57 for 70cl, Amazon)
A premium Danish small batch gin, Graft Gin Club were the first to bring this spirit to our attention. The UK’s number one subscription club for gin lovers, ELG No. 1 was their March ‘Gin of the Month’. And no need to boast about the number of botanicals – it contains only three: Juniper, coriander seed and locally-grown carrot. Sounds simple enough, but meticulous attention is given to the distillation to create a complex gin that offers notes of black pepper, dried tangerine, lemongrass and coriander, with a lovely herbaceous finish.
4. Le Tribute Gin (£37.75 for 70cl, www.TheWhiskyExchange.com)
A Spanish gem from the talented team behind Gin Mare, Tribute gets top billing in the style stakes for its pale green, crimped glass tapered bottle with copper trimmings. Again, the recipe is key here with seven distillations, many of them citrus botanicals, making up the final blend. With an exquisite balance of flavours, it’s bright and citrusy with underlying florals, lemongrass and a subtle delicacy. To really make the gin shine, the distillers have created the equally good looking Le Tribute Tonic Water (£1.95 for 20cl), made with quinine from the Loja Province, Ecuador.
5. Roku Gin (£29.95 for 70cl, www.MasterofMalt.com)
Lauded for their whisky, House of Suntory bring us Roku, meaning ‘six’ in Japanese. Their master blender has combined six Japanese botanicals, each distilled in a variety of pot stills, to extract the best flavour. Characterized by yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) as the top note, hints of cherry blossom and green tea provide a floral, sweet aroma, and crisp sansho pepper brings spiciness to the finish. Serve with tonic and slivers of ginger to accentuate the yuzu.