Having shared a few things you should know about Gin, I thought perhaps I should write about some of the gins I think you should try. I originally thought it would be difficult to narrow down the list to just 10, but bearing in mind the fact that I want to offer a selection of gins that are quite different from each other it has proved more difficult than I imagined. Trying to find a selection of new and old gins that all have something unique and remarkable about them, and that don’t sit too close together has been a challenge to say the least.
Below you will find a good range of products, which are (in my opinion), well made and interesting to drink. Many of the ‘new’ gins I have tried (and I’ve tried quite a few) are perfectly fine products, but haven’t made the list because they either don’t bring anything different to the category, or they stray too far away from what I consider to be the key characteristic of gin, and that of course is being juniper led. I’ve ruled out the ones with over-powering botanicals (no coconut gins here thank you very much) and have crossed off the fairly standard ones that just taste like another average gin. The result is a list that should cover all of your drinking needs!
Last month I wrote about how difficult it can be for small brands to compete in a crowded spirit marketplace, especially when they often compete against larger companies with big budgets. Well when I bumped into Alex Stein at Imbibe Live last week, it reminded me that there’s another way for a brand to become successful, and that’s to buck the trend and put quality above cost in their list of priorities. You see Alex is the mastermind behind Monkey 47 Gin, a brand that is fast becoming a firm favourite with bartenders in the UK and across Europe. The more you learn about Monkey 47 though, the more you realise that no compromises have been made in the name of cost savings, which is pretty rare when it comes to spirits.
Having spent a couple of days in the company of Alex and his master distiller Christoph Keller, I’ve seen how they have set out to create the best gin they possibly could, regardless of cost, and the result is a high-end gin that’s worth paying for. All too often when it comes to ‘super premium’ spirits, I’ve felt that you’re paying for a fancy bottle and a lot of expensive marketing, but in the case of Monkey 47 I think you might just be getting value for money.
There’s a lot of colourful, descriptive and evocative language used when describing spirits, and while the imagery called to mind can make a spirit sound inviting, the descriptions themselves can sometimes be a bit over-the-top. Generally the language used to describe a spirits aroma, flavour and mouth-feel isn’t quite as elaborate as with wine tasting (can you really smell the fresh dew on a dandelion petal in the morning sunlight?) but to someone who’s new to smelling and tasting spirits, it can still be intimidating.
To a lot of people bourbon smells like whiskey, gin smells a bit piney and vodka smells like alcohol, so when they read that they should be smelling dried apricot, pencil shavings and vanilla fudge, they wonder if they're doing something wrong. So I thought I’d take a look at the language we use to describe the effect alcohol has on our senses and the way we approach identifying the characteristics of different spirits. Take this as a beginners guide to the language of tasting spirits, if you will.