I began 2016 with a relatively well-stocked gin cabinet (compared to most) and no gin blog. And ended it with a, frankly, ludicrous amount of gin by anybody’s standards and a blog that is going from strength to strength and, more importantly, giving me (and hopefully you) a lot of pleasure. So thank you all for all your support in 2016.
I’ve written a lot of reviews of a lot of excellent, and some exceptional, gins in 2016. Some new and some not-so-new. But there are a lot of gins I haven’t written about. A lot of excellent gins that I owned before I began this blog and have never quite got around to sharing with you. So here are my top 10 gins of 2016. Not necessarily gins that were released in 2016, and not even necessarily gins I first found in 2016. But this is the first year of my blog so I reckon I can bend the rules a bit! So here they are: from a collection of over 60 gins, in no particular order, this is my top 10…
The nice folk at Xolato kindly sent me a sample bottle of X-Gin way back before I even started this blog. And I loved it! But I never got around to reviewing it. And how I wish I had because now everyone is talking about it and my bottle is very nearly empty! But anyway… Inspired by the ancient drink Xocolātl, beloved of the Aztecs, the botanicals of X-Gin include Colombian cocoa beans, hazelnuts, almonds and vanilla pods. The bottle even comes with a separate vial of cocoa nibs to sprinkle as a garnish and, incredibly, these really do bring out its rich chocolatey and sweet vanilla flavours. But this isn’t sugary and sickly at all. Oh no, this is the real deal! And, claiming to be an “aphrodisiac” gin, the bottle warrants a close inspection too!
Serve with tonic, raspberries and cocoa nibs.
50cl 47% ABV £38.50
I first came across this gin during a Twitter tasting and, yes, I loved it! So much so that, when I went to Junipalooza, I couldn’t resist tasting it again (despite having made a pact I would only try new gins). And then I couldn’t resist buying a bottle, or three actually, for me and my friends! Made using a crop of rhubarb originally grown in the kitchen garden of Buckingham Palace during the reign of Queen Victoria, this gin has a delicate pink colour and an incredible taste.
Serve with tonic or ginger ale and orange peel.
70cl 40% ABV £32.95
A gin I won and, as above, couldn’t resist tasting at Junipalooza even though I already had a bottle of it at home! I just had to introduce my companion to it – it’s that good. The first gin distilled in Glasgow, using angelica root, liquorice, coriander seed, cassia bark and peppercorns, Makar has a spicy and curried flavour. Add a chilli to garnish and it will warm the cockles of your soul.
Serve with tonic and chilli pepper.
70cl 43% ABV £35
Another gin I won, this time from 31Dover, and, to be honest, long ignored. I tried it once and, I’m ashamed to admit, forgot all about it. I rediscovered it recently (since my true gin-education) and wow! A classic London Dry-style gin featuring nine botanicals including bay leaf and cardamom, it’s the grapefruit that really shines through in this zesty gin.
Serve with tonic and pink grapefruit.
70cl 46% ABV £34.95
This one was a gift; my brother is pals with the estate owner (or something). Anyway… This delicate and aromatic gin is made using highland herbs from the estate’s Moray Garden and features gentle notes of lavender and mint. And the bottle is a real stunner too; it’s one of my children’s favourites!
Serve with tonic, mint lemon and lime.
70cl 43% ABV £33.75
Did you ever hear about #gintrauma?! Probably the most stressful thing ever to have happened in my gin-loving life. So, I went on a birthday trip to Bruges and treated myself to a birthday bottle of one of my favourite gins. I bought it, I carried it all the way home (those ceramic bottles are heavy) and then I opened it, admired it and put it away. A few days later, after the sort of day that drives mothers to ruin, I went to pour myself a G&T but nothing came out! Nope, not a single drop. The bottle was as dry as the proverbial desert. Thank goodness the nice folk in Bruges sent me a replacement bottle. Now it’s just my blooming parents I have to hide it from, as they like it as much as I do and this one is almost empty too! An intensely aromatic and distinctive gin, the predominant flavour in this one is aniseed.
Serve with tonic, lime peel and juniper berries.
50cl 40% ABV £28
A limited edition produced exclusively for Gin Festival, I couldn’t resist purchasing it (I’m a sucker for a limited edition). Made using locally grown Tregothnan tea (the only place in the UK where tea is grown commercially), fresh kaffir lime zest, ginger and bee pollen, this delicate gin is exceptionally well-balanced and turns a stunning pink colour with the addition of a few dried hibiscus petals.
Serve with tonic and dried hibiscus petals.
70cl 42% ABV £40
A smashing gin that I first came across in a gin subscription box. When I got chatting to the makers at The Spirit Show London, I was lucky enough to walk away with a full bottle so you can expect a review of this one soon. In the meantime, I can simply say that I love this gin! With spicy notes mid-palate and a slightly sweeter, more floral finish, this gin has soared into my top ten. And just look at that bottle!
Serve with tonic, orange peel and rosemary.
70cl 43% ABV £38.50
58 Gin is my local distillery (like East London Liquor, it is just a mile from my door) so I’ve always had a soft spot for it and my original blue bottle ran out very quickly. When I saw this Limited Edition on Twitter, I reserved a bottle for my husband to give me for Christmas immediately. And boy is it good. Only 58 bottles were produced in this batch 58 and each one is 58% ABV. It seems to have been such a success that Mark is now considering making a navy strength 58 Gin, and that is very good news indeed.
Serve with tonic and lemon.
50cl 58% ABV £58
I first tried this on my 10th wedding anniversary at Holborn Dining Rooms. Given that it cost about £20 for a G&T it was a bloody relief when it knocked my stockings off! I also met the makers, Zymurgorium, at Epicurean and can confirm that their whole range is just as good; the liqueurs are actually some of the best I’ve tried. A spicy gin with some sweet notes from the honey-vodka base, this has become a firm favourite.
Serve with tonic, cloves and orange peel.
50cl 40% ABV £30
So there you have it. My top 10 gins. For now at least. What do you make of them? And what would you put in your top 10?