Some of the gins featured below were kindly gifted. Article contains affiliate links.
What a year 2020 was. And what resilience, generosity and determination distillers have demonstrated; adapting events to online experiences, turning their hand to sanitiser production and continuing to not only make our favourite spirit, but create new ones too! Unsurprisingly, most of last year’s releases were line extensions rather than new brands, but my goodness, there were some crackers in there. So, without further ado, here are my top ten of 2020.
A simply outstanding gin, Changing Seasons is the third release in Four Pillars’ Distiller Series which sees them collaborating with fellow IWSC Gin Producers of the Year; Japan’s Kyoto Distillery. Featuring Japanese botanicals such as bamboo leaf, green yuzu and gyokuro green tea – alongside Australian native varieties including lemon myrtle and desert lime – Changing Seasons offers a bright citrus nose, an incredibly complex palate and a remarkable mouthfeel. Not only is it one of my top gins of 2020, I’ve a feeling this might just be one of my favourite gins of all time.
Serve with tonic and honeydew melon, or in a Dry Martini.
Colonsay’s Navy Strength Tonn Mor depicts the mythical Alva, a Brownie with supernatural powers, rising above the huge wave (or Tonn Mor) after which the gin is named. And those crashing waves couldn’t be more appropriate for this incredible gin which hits you like a (controlled) flavour explosion. A proper, punchy juniper-forward gin with mouthwatering astringency – which simultaneously strips your tongue dry and yet also leaves you wanting more – Tonn Mor offers amazing clarity and definition.
Serve with premium tonic and a twist of orange zest or slice of green chilli, or try it in a gimlet.
50cl 57% ABV £50 [Gifted]
Launched in February 2020, the ever-generous Gin Monkey kindly shared this bottle of Ólafsson Iceland Gin with me. Created in honour of 18th century explorer Eggert Ólafsson, this stunning gin features native arctic thyme, birch and mountain moss alongside a traditional juniper and citrus base. A classic gin with bright citrus and herbal notes this is smooth and balanced and downright delicious. Not currently available in the UK, hopefully it will be hitting our shores soon.
Serve with premium tonic and a wedge of lime, or neat on the rocks.
70cl 42% ABV
Featuring cubeb pepper, grains of paradise and lapsang souchong tea – alongside sea buckthorn, lime, gorse and linden flower – and coming in at a whopping 60% ABV, Gŵyr’s Nerth Y Ddraig – or Dragon Strength – is certainly a force to be reckoned with. The nose is both herbaceous and smoky but also surprisingly subtle. The palate, on the other hand, opens with toasted spice but is quickly overwhelmed with smoke. With dry herbaceous notes and zesty citrus, the smoke suddenly clears again leaving almost mentholic notes on the long but clean, citrussy finish. Clever, unusual and remarkably smooth, I’ve never tasted anything quite like it.
Sip neat over ice or serve in a Gimlet, Negroni or Southside.
Read my full review here.
70cl 60% ABV £45 [Gifted]
Having long been a fan of Thunderflower Gin, I was delighted to try their new Navy Strength this year, featuring lemongrass, liquorice, green cardamom and cassia. FireShip 58 more than lives up to its attractive and inviting nose and is incredibly full-bodied with spicy, cinnamon notes alongside a slight sweetness and delicious softness. Having claimed one of only eleven Masters Awards at The Gin Masters just a month after launching, this is one seriously impressive spirit.
Serve with premium tonic water and a slice of citrus or dehydrated orange, or try it in a Negroni.
70cl 58% ABV £49 [Gifted]
With a full and inviting nose, Carabus promises juniper and citrus, and the liquid truly delivers. A well-balanced and rounded gin with peaks of piney juniper and spiced notes from cardamom, cubeb and cassia, there’s also a sharpness which you’d think was from citrus except for the fact that, unusually, this London Dry contains no citrus at all! Featuring 15 woodland botanicals – including hawthorn and rowan berries, nettles, wood sorrel and hazelenuts – Carabus Gin was created in collaboration with Nick Baker, local naturalist and wildlife presenter, to celebrate and help protect Dartmoor’s rare Blue Ground Beetle (Carabus intricatus). A bold and delicious gin, it’s well worth seeking out this limited edition while you can.
Serve with a premium tonic water and go easy on the citrus garnish.
70cl 42% ABV £38 [Gifted]
Created using Juniperus procera (the only species to be found in the the southern hemisphere) at Kenya’s first distillery, Procera Red Dot is a sensational spicy and savoury gin designed for cocktails which require a bold profile. Featuring five African peppers alongside other botanicals such as locust bean, oyster shell, seaweed, tea, mace, myrrh, honey and citrus, this earthy gin really stands out from the crowd in more ways than one.
Serve in a Negroni with a few pinches of botanical salt (included with each bottle), or with tonic.
Inspired by the Norfolk coastline, Bullards’ Coastal Gin features locally foraged sea purslane, marsh samphire, sea aster and Douglas fir. The briny nose is immediately evocative of the sea and is complemented by lifted lime with juniper and spice in the background. Neat, the abundance of botanical oils results in a pleasing mouthfeel. Aniseed opens up to saline on the long finish, but a drop of water releases the delicious dry, piney flavours of juniper and Douglas fir. Complex and savoury with a subtle touch of sweetness, this really is something special.
Serve with tonic, a handful of blackberries and some fresh lime peel, or try it in a Coastal Margatini.
50ml Bullards Coastal Gin
25ml orange liqueur
25ml lime juice
10ml honey or sugar syrup
Shake with ice, serve in a salt rimmed glass and savour every sip.
70cl 40% ABV £40 [Gifted]
Estonia’s Junimperium range is, without a doubt, one for the juniper fanatics: the aroma of juniper assaults your senses before you even open the bottle, as the stunning contents are sealed with a sensational juniper wood stopper! Based on their award-winning Blended Dry Gin, this new Navy Strength boasts three types of juniper from around the world alongside local juniper berries. Lemon peel is added to the botanical line-up of coriander, cubeb and thyme and the ABV is increased to 59.26%; a nod to the gin’s coastal birthplace which is located at latitude 59°26’! With incredible intensity and depth of flavour, this is another outstanding gin.
Serve with Fever-Tree Indian tonic, a thin lemon wedge and 6-7 juniper berries, or try it in a Martini.
70cl 59.26% ABV £52.95 [Gifted] (Purchase from Master of Malt)
A year in the making,137 Gin’s Navy Royal is the first in their new superior range which comes packaged in 50cl bottles with an eye-catching gold wax seal closure. With a botanical recipe close to that of their Berkshire Dry Gin – featuring juniper, orange peel, white pepper, grains of paradise and cassia – it is the labour-intensive production method – including 24-hour maceration and multi-distillation – that differentiates the superior range from their original. A bold but smooth gin, despite its 58% ABV, piney juniper is pleasingly prominent with warming spices and a little white-pepper tingle towards the long earthy finish.
Serve with Indian tonic, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters and garnish with lemon and lime wedges, or try it in a Negroni or Royal Dubonnet with 5ml of Heering Cherry Liqueur.
50cl 58% ABV £47 [Gifted]
So there we have it, my favourite gins of 2020! Although honourable mentions should also go to Switzerland’s Edelwhite Gin, Hernö Pink BTL Gin, Northwest Passage Expedition Gin, Tappers Brightside, Masons Orange & Lime Leaf Gin and Ginout which didn’t quite make the cut. And also to Victory Bitter which is definitely my favourite non-gin of the year! So, how many have you tried? Which would make your top ten and what else would you add from your own collection?