2019 was yet another remarkable year for gin, which is predicted to overtake vodka as the UK’s biggest-selling spirit a mere ten years since Sipsmith, the instigators of the craft gin revolution, were granted the licence that opened the floodgates. And, with flavoured gin seeing 300% growth year on year (compared to gin’s modest 11%) – and WSTA playing catch-up with a new category definition – those floodgates are well and truly open. But amongst all that there was also innovation (in the ready-to-drink and low-alcohol markets), environmentalism (with Greensand Ridge leading from the front), fun to be had (who can forget #GinADayMay?!) and some really, really cracking gins. So, after much consideration, here are my favourites:
I first met the guys from Australia’s Never Never Distilling Company at Junipalooza 2019 where all their spirits stole my heart. A range for the truly juniper-obsessed, Triple Juniper Gin involves the botanicals being treated in three different ways: steeped for 24 hours, distilled in the pot and also placed in the still’s vapour basket. Being a bit of a Juniper Freak myself, it was this incredible navy strength version that I had to bring home with me. But don’t just take my word for it, it also just won Best Australian Navy Gin at the World Gin Awards 2020 (at which, admittedly, I was also a judge)!
Serve with quality tonic water and garnish with a wedge of pink grapefruit and a spear of rosemary.
50cl 58% ABV £40
I was, I will admit, torn when this arrived. I am a huge fan of the classic combo chocolate orange … but in a gin? Could even Sipsmith make it work? Of course they bloody could! With sweet orange blossom, dry juniper and deep, rich chocolatey notes, this gin is fantastic neat. Truly fantastic. And, better yet, it also makes a rounded, balanced & downright delicious G&T and an incredible Negroni too. I cannot get enough of it!
Read my full review here.
Serve with premium Indian Tonic water and a wheel of orange, or in a Negroni with a few drops of Cocoa Bitters.
50cl 40% ABV £25
Small Gin debuted at Imbibe Live this year to great acclaim and no wonder, this is a real game-changer. Low- and no-alcohol drinks are becoming big business but it’s a tricky category for gin-makers to enter as the spirit has to be a minimum of 37.5% ABV by law. Hayman’s have ingeniously tackled this, not by reducing the ABV, but by increasing the flavour. So much so that a tiny 5ml thimbleful of 43% Small Gin packs as much flavour as a full-strength gin and tonic but contains only 0.2 units of alcohol per serve. It’s super clever stuff and damn tasty too!
Read my review of (almost) all of the Hayman’s range here.
Serve in a low ABV G&T with a lemon or lime garnish (use 100ml low calorie tonic for a 30 calorie serve).
20cl 43% ABV £26
I’ve long been a fan of The Wrecking Coast Distillery, so when I heard they had collaborated with Chef Tom Brown to create a gin for his incredible (and my local) restaurant Cornerstone I was really excited! Distilled not with water but with freshly pressed apple juice from Cornwall’s Polgoon Vineyard, Cornerstone Gin also features locally foraged rowan berries and rosehip alongside juniper, coriander, citrus zest and Javan long pepper. A delicious juniper-forward gin with well-balanced citrus and spice, alongside more subtle fruity notes, it makes a cracking gin and tonic. And, better still, you no longer have to venture to deepest darkest East London to try it (although you still should, because Tom Brown’s food is equally amazing)!
Serve over ice with a premium tonic and a slice of fresh green apple or fresh ginger and lime.
70cl 45% ABV £37.95
I was super impressed with Estonia’s Mohn Poppy Gin when I visited Tallinn in March last year and couldn’t resist bringing a bottle back with me. Made with a base spirit distilled from winter rye, featuring native green and blue juniper and wild poppies handpicked on Mohn (now Muhu) island, this unfiltered gin is both flavoursome and complex. Dry juniper dominates the nose and palate, which is also supported by – and balanced with – spiced and herbal notes. It doesn’t appear to be available in the UK yet but do keep an eye out for it; it’s well worth trying and proving very popular in my household.
Serve with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic and a dried lemon twist.
70cl 45% ABV
Inspired by their Grandma’s Bara Brith (aka Welsh tea loaf) recipe – and featuring tea-soaked fruit, citrus, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon – this is one of the most transportive gins I’ve come across! The nose alone took me right back to baking alongside my mother as a small girl and even inspired me to make my very own Bara Brith too. To taste, sweet citrus gives way to warming spices and a dry, slightly tannic, finish with a hint of fruit. Complex, delicious and nicely rounded, Bara Brith Gin is a firm favourite!
Serve with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water and an orange slice or, alternatively, try it with Clementine and Cinnamon Tonic Water or ginger ale.
50cl 43% ABV £29.95
Biggar by name, Biggar by nature … I’d been keen to try this one ever since it won the London Dry Gin category in The Gin Guide Awards 2018 and it did not disappoint! Third-party distilled at Scotland’s Strathearn Distillery Biggar Gin features locally-sourced botanicals including rosehip, rowanberry and nettles, alongside traditional botanicals such as juniper and orange. On the nose there’s lots of citrus and just a touch of sweetness. With a lovely mouthfeel, spice and pepper balance the sweeter notes followed by fresh, sharp citrus on the finish. Big and bold, Biggar Gin more than lives up to its name and makes a cracking Negroni!
Serve with a little fresh orange peel and a premium tonic water or try it in a Negroni.
70cl 43% ABV £36
With so many new gins coming to market it pays to have contacts everywhere and this gin reached me (somewhat surprisingly) via my cricket journalist husband! Created by Michael Vaughan, one of England’s greatest cricket captains, and produced at In the Welsh Wind Distillery, Declaration Gin features English liquorice root, Australian ginger and Indian Darjeeling tea; representing the three countries Vaughan says he had the best time playing in. With lifted spices and a hint of citrus on the nose I was immediately drawn in. On the palate warming ginger opens into dry juniper before a long finish dominated by the tannic quality of tea. Spicy, smooth and very sippable this delicious gin has well and truly bowled me over!
Serve with a light tonic and an orange and cardamom garnish.
70cl 40% ABV £44.99
You may already know Fisher’s Gin – they’ve certainly been around a while – but last year saw them introduce a new larger bottle for the same small(ish) price and Ginvent also offered me my first opportunity to get to know the contents really well. The lovely lifted nose releases notes of juniper and lemon with just a subtle whiff of the sea. To taste, bright citrus and dry juniper give way to aniseed and a minty menthol zing before the dry finish featuring fennel and a little salty brininess. Smooth and complex, this is a cracking gin with a coastal touch.
Serve with Indian or Mediterranean tonic water and a grapefruit or lemon garnish.
70cl 44% ABV £39.95
London’s Bimber Distillery was established in 2015 but it took until earlier this summer for Bimber to release their second gin inspired by Master Distiller, and co-founder, Darius Plazewski’s love of tea. Da Hong Pao is a semi-fermented, heavily-oxidised oolong tea that is said to be one of the world’s most expensive and rare teas. Handpicked from wild tea plants that grow on the cliffs of Wuyi Mountain in China, Bimber brew and drain the tea leaves before infusing them in their London Dry Gin for one week to “ensure maximum flavour extraction”. The Da Hong Pao leaves lend the gin a rich golden colour and an extraordinarily complex nature which has to be tasted to be believed. It was, without a doubt, worth the long wait!
Read about my trip to the Bimber Distillery here.
Serve neat or with tonic or ginger ale.
50cl 51.8% ABV £38.75
So there we have it, my favourite gins of 2019. Although honourable mentions should also go to Hart & Dart, Hayman’s Spiced Sloe Gin, Manly Spirits Australian Dry Gin, Molotov Gin and Warner’s x Gin Foundry Farmed and Foraged which didn’t quite make the cut! What do you reckon? What would you have included?