Gin is one of the most popular and iconic spirits in the world today, consumed worldwide everywhere from dive bars to cocktail lounges, from England to Japan.
The long history of gin has taken it from being a medicinal tonic to becoming a loved and revered drink across the globe.
So where did gin come from?
The discovery of gin is attributed to Francisus Sylvius, a seventeenth century professor of Medicine at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He distilled juniper berries with spirits for medicinal purposes.
The name comes from the French name for the juniper berry, genièvre, this was adapted by the Dutch to genever and then shorted by the English to gin.
In the past, no sailor would be without his trusty gin, a medicinal tonic for the body and soul whilst far out at sea.
These days, it serves a similar purpose in helping people relax from a hard day at work and allowing them to escape into the beautifully diverse aromas and flavors that make up this classic spirit.
Whether enjoyed neat, with a mixer, or in a cocktail, gin is the choice of many iconic figures in popular culture. James Bond enjoys it “shaken, not stirred” and Snoop Dogg’s rhymes are littered with references to gin and juice.
With an increasingly diverse range of gins and distilleries on the market today, it can be difficult to make the right selection. Read on to find out all about The 14 Best Gins in 2021.
OUR TOP PICK
Charles Tanqueray founded his London distillery with his brother in 1830. Now Tanqueray is a name bound to the rich history of gin and a brand that remains as relevant today as they have ever been.
Their No. 10 was launched in 2000 and takes its name from the “Tiny Ten” copper pot still that is used in its distillation process.
The No. 10 is produced at the Cameronbridge Distillery near Edinburgh, Scotland. It is distilled with fresh whole citrus fruits including oranges, grapefruits and limes.
Juniper, coriander, angelica and licorice are added alongside chamomile flowers to create a vibrant and enticing profile.
A magnificent gin that, perhaps tellingly, is the only gin currently in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition Hall of Fame.
An aromatic delight, the nose is lively with strong juniper and a zesty grapefruit tang.
The flavor is led by the citrus that dances with spiced juniper and cardamom on the palette. The citrus zest remains, tingling the taste buds through the finish.
Hendrick’s launched in 1999 and has gone on to become a truly iconic gin across the globe for its premium finish and unique production method.
The method used at William Grant’s is combining the use of a traditional still pot method with that of a Carter-head still. This allows the blending of deeper flavors from the pot still with the lighter flavors of the Carter-head.
Rose and cucumber essence are added before dilution, which gives the gin a unique flavor and beautiful pink tinge.
Its botanicals include juniper, lemon, orange, Chamomile, and elderflower as well as the added rose and cucumber essence.
A complicated aromatic profile that has delicate floral notes from the rose and elderflower, with citrus fruits and pine notes creating a fresh and zesty aroma.
The citrus and floral notes remain prominent in the taste, delightfully contrasting with the traditional flavors of juniper, coriander, Angelica, and orris root.
For the finish, the juniper, rose and cucumber linger as the warmth of the spirit rises through the chest.
This comes from the mighty House of Suntory in Osaka, Japan who have been making gin since 1936.
Known for their premium whiskies, they have a long and storied history and are now regarded as some of the finest distillers in the world.
Roku, launched in 2017, is the House of Suntory’s premium craft gin. Their years of expertise and innovation have led to the creation of a gin that is gaining similar acclaim to that of their whiskey range.
Roku means “six” in Japanese, with each bottle containing six botanicals each sourced in Japan.
These unique botanical ingredients are Sakura flower, Sakura leaf, Yuzu peel, Sencha tea, Gyokuru tea and Sansho pepper.
They are then added to eight further traditional botanicals to create an authentic yet uniquely Japanese gin.
The aromatic profile is sweet and floral, with blossom, green tea, and pine leading.
The taste is truly unique due to the Japanese botanicals, with the delicate flowers and green tea joined by fresh juniper, pepper, and citrus. The finish is spicy yet smooth, with the citrus and floral notes remaining.
This is the flagship offering from the notorious wine and spirit merchants Berry Bros & Rudd. No. 3 London Dry Gin is produced at De Kuyper in the Netherlands, where it is distilled in traditional copper pot stills.
Its botanicals include juniper, cardamom seeds, Angelica root, coriander, grapefruit, and orange peels.
A multi-award-winning concoction, it is currently the only gin to be awarded ‘World's Best’ four times at the International Spirits Challenge.
The nose is fresh, crisp, and bright whilst the juniper grows in prominence. A delicately balanced flavor combines the juniper with gentle floral and citrus zing. Cardamom and coriander bring a warm spiciness to the palette.
The finish has an earthy dryness, in part due to the Angelica root.
Bombay Sapphire was introduced in 1986, and is widely regarded as helping to bring gin back into the mainstream.
The bottle is itself quite iconic and can be seen in bars and on the shelves of grocery and liquor stores worldwide.
It is based on an original recipe from 1761, building on the traditions of Bombay Original to create a gin with the addition of more citrus.
The recipe is based on ten botanicals including juniper berries, citrus, angelica and orris root. It’s this citrus dominance that can ruffle the feathers of some gin ‘purists’, though this hasn't stopped the bottle becoming one of the most popular gins across the world.
On the nose, the aromatics are finely balanced, with a fresh and zesty lemon being at the forefront. The zesty citrus is present in the taste, alongside fresh pine, coriander, almonds, licorice, and a spicy note.
For the finish, the citrus blends with the warm spice of the cubeb peppers and West African grains of paradise.
Aviation American Gin was introduced in 2006 as the flagship product of House Spirits in Portland, Oregon.
The name comes from the classic Aviation cocktail of gin, maraschino liquor, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
The brand was owned for a time by the actor Ryan Reynolds, whose brilliant marketing campaigns put Aviation Gin firmly under the world’s gaze. This saw the company boom in popularity, with the actor selling to the drinks group Diageo in 2020.
It is referred to as an American dry gin as the taste profile is less dominated by juniper, as with most traditional gins.
Inspired by the traditional Dutch and American Rye grain base, this gin packs a profoundly spicy punch, with a deep warmth and zesty notes.
The botanicals used are cardamom, coriander, French lavender, anise seed, sarsaparilla, juniper, and two kinds of orange peel.
A spicy nose of orange peel, cardamom, coriander, and anise is joined by lavender and sarsaparilla on the nose.
The earthy tones of the rye create a full-bodied aroma that is heavy on the taste buds. The spicy flavor makes the mouth come alive as the lavender brings a delicate touch to the taste.
The floral and earth notes remain on the palette at the finish, whilst a spiciness remains on the lips.
Nikka is one of the most successful and highly regarded producers of whiskey in the world.
Distilled at the famous Yoichi Distillery, which is located in Hokkaido, Japan.
They use the Coffey still, which was designed by Aeneas Coffey in 1830 and brought to Japan during the 1960s.
An interesting selection of Japanese botanicals is used including Amanatsu, Hirami lemon, Yuzu, Kabosu and Japanese pepper. These are added to traditional gin botanicals to create a captivating twist on a classic spirit.
The nose is lit up by a powerful citrus aroma, with a zesty profile and heat from the Japanese pepper.
A brilliant medley of fresh and bitter citrus on the palette creates a special taste, with an earthy and spicy pepper that adds a zing to the occasion.
The citrus remains prominent through the finish, with a bitterness that is reminiscent of beer hops.
Launched in 2011, the Boranist Islay Dry Gin is produced at the notorious Bruichladdich Distillery, famed for its premium Islay whiskey.
Each bottle contains an astronomical thirty-one botanicals, twenty-two of which are native to the Southern Hebridean island itself.
This gives the gin a truly local and unique flavor profile, with a touching nod to the mystical isle of its creation.
The local ingredients include numerous regional flowers such as Lady’s Bedstraw, hawthorn, and creeping thistle flowers. These combined with the many leaves create a wonderfully earthy and floral aromatic experience.
A delicately complex nose that is alive with floral and woodland notes. The diverse local fauna that goes into the gin creates a vibrant and unique range of aromas, each drawing you in further.
The taste remains floral throughout, with the lemon citrus sitting comfortably on the palette. The finish subtly creeps towards a fresh minty note as the strength of the citrus fades.
Created by the folks at the Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo, Ireland, it takes its name from the renowned Gunpowder green tea.
Gunpowder green tea is from the Chinese province of Zejiang, and is made by rolling dried tea leaves into small, round pellets which resemble gunpowder.
The ingredients combine traditional gin botanicals and local Irish plants with three types of citrus; oriental grapefruit, makrut lime, and Meyer lemon.
These oriental citrus combine with the Chinese green tea to create a vibrant and unique gin that blends tradition with a far Eastern flavor profile.
Citrus combines with sage, juniper, and green tea on the nose for an interesting aromatic profile.
A deep and rich flavor on the palette, with powerful grapefruit citrus dominating and joined by the green tea and juniper.
The finish is smooth and warming, with sweet vanilla complimented by herbal spiciness. Too many cooks spoil the broth, but in this case, the diverse and varied botanical ingredients combine to create a fascinating spirit.
It is produced in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) region in Germany that has a unique origin story.
Monty Collins was an Indian-born British RAF (British Royal Air Force) commander who was stationed in the Black Forest after the Second World War.
He was inspired by his surroundings and his interest in Indian botanicals to create a special spirit. The monkey in the name comes from a monkey that Monty Collins sponsored during the rebuilding of Berlin Zoo.
The 47 comes from the astounding number of botanicals that are added to create this gin, which includes lingonberries, lavender, jasmine, juniper, cardamom, lemon, and lime.
As might be expected with the sheer volume of ingredients, the nose is complex and varied, with numerous aromas taking the stage. A floral and fruity profile with spice and heat that tingles the nostrils.
The taste too is deep, rich, and varied, with a spicy herbal presence throughout. The finish is as similarly complex, with herbal notes and a little pepper kick.
Plymouth in England is intricately tied to the long history of gin production in the UK.
Previously, a spirit product called only be called Plymouth Gin if it was distilled in Plymouth itself, although regulation changes in the European Union mean that this is no longer the case.
This gin is produced at the Plymouth Distillery in Plymouth, England, so it retains a sense of tradition and authenticity that some Plymouth gins made elsewhere don’t have.
The distillery used to produce rum for the British Royal Navy due to its proximity to the Royal William Victualling Yard.
They have been operating since the early nineteenth century, though it is in recent years that the company has ascended the heights of the industry.
A lively nose dominated by juniper and angelica root, with spice from cardamom and coriander. A gracefully balanced palette of earthy pine, sweet orange, and zesty lemon citrus is peppered with spice.
The citrus remains through the finish as the earthy notes linger and a warming sensation flows throughout.
Gordon’s gin was founded by Alexander Gordon in 1769 and has grown to become one of the most recognized gin brands in the world.
The original green bottled gin can be seen everywhere in stores and bars, it's arguably one of the most iconic bottles today. Their bottles even feature the royal coat of arms by appointment of her Majesty the Queen.
Gordon’s gin is triple distilled at Cameron bridge in Scotland, and their recipes have been kept secret for over two hundred years.
The botanicals used in Gordon’s London Dry include juniper, coriander, Angelica root, and licorice.
The aromas are heavy on the nose, with strong juniper and pine joining with pepper and coriander-infused spice. A strong alcohol presence is lightly lifted by subtle citrus.
On the palette, the juniper and coriander are prominent with a touch of lemon zest. The finish is quite complex, as the juniper is tinged with spice from angelica, giving a balanced yet bold finish.
Seagram’s is one of the most well-known American gin companies, they have been producing gin for the American market since 1939.
The gin is produced in Lawrenceburg, Indiana at a distillery that was built way back in 1847.
The gin has an interesting list of botanical ingredients including juniper berries, sweet and bitter orange peel, Sri Lankan cardamom, Vietnamese cassia, Spanish orange peel, Czech coriander, and angelica.
The nose features earthy pine, juniper, and sweet orange citrus that grows in presence. The orange and juniper are dominant on the palette, as a warming heat comes through the flavors.
The finish is warm and spicy, with the orange remaining and lingering in the mouth alongside a tinge of pure alcohol.
Beefeater is named after the Tower of London ceremonial guards, with their feature on its bottle a signature part of the branding.
The recipe dates back to 1863 and to date it maintains a stellar reputation that's been backed up with numerous award wins over the years.
The original recipe contains nine botanicals: juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander seeds, licorice, almonds, orris root, Seville oranges, and lemon peel.
Beefeater is produced by the James Burrough company, one of only nine distilleries still operating in London.
This classic gin has a bold juniper and pine nose with a dash of zesty citrus. The juniper is dominant on the palette, whilst a subtle lemon zest cuts through.
Then a licorice warmth, bitter citrus note, and coriander spice develop. These are accompanied by tingles of pine and lemon zest on the finish.
Best Gins - Frequently Asked Questions
How Is Gin Made?
Gin is made by distilling neutral grain alcohol (usually wheat or barley) with juniper berries and additional botanical ingredients. The botanicals are infused into the raw spirit to release their diverse flavors into the spirit.
There are numerous botanicals used in the production of gin, with a wide range of floral, fruity, and spicy elements added to create each distinct flavor profile.
What Do The Nose, Palette, And Finish Mean?
Often when discussing alcoholic beverages, much like food, a profile is built up of the taste, aromas, and drinking experience.
The nose is related to the aromatic profile of the gin, the palette refers to the tastes and flavors, whilst the finish refers to the lasting impression after swallowing the drink.
What's The Best Way To Drink Gin?
Like any spirit, there are numerous ways in which to enjoy a fine glass of gin on a summer's eve. Some like to sip it neat, others add a dash of citrus fruit, and many have enjoyed gin as part of a boozy cocktail.
Gin & Tonic
Perhaps the most well-known way to drink gin is mixed with tonic water, as was first done by British colonists in India during the 1700s.
Gin & tonic remains incredibly popular today, with drinkers enjoying either a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber mixed in.
There are too many gin cocktails to mention here, though it is a staple part of many famous drinks through the ages.
Some of the most popular cocktails include Tom Collins, Long Island iced tea, Negroni, and of course the iconic martini.
Gin & Juice
Made famous by Snoop Dogg on his acclaimed ‘Doggystyle’ album, gin is delightful when mixed with fruit juice.
For those with a sweet tooth, try orange, mango, pineapple or apple juice. For those who prefer a bitter twist, try grapefruit or cranberry.
Gin connoisseurs may well prefer to sip the gin slowly, as it gives the drinker a chance to experience the full array of flavors and aromas without interference from any mixer or added fruit.
What Are The Most Common Botanicals Used In Gin?
Most gins will include four base botanicals: juniper berries, coriander seeds, a root, and a citrus peel. Although these are the predominant botanicals, the sheer variation used in the production of gin is mind-boggling.
Many producers will seek to include local botanicals to give their product a local twist on the established foundation recipe.