With each year that passes in the modern craft gin revolution, the variety and quality of gins being released keeps rising. This year has seen some truly great and innovative launches as gin distillers test the spirit’s limits. The focus on sustainable production has also been dialled up in 2021, so we’ve highlighted some producers excelling in this department.
Bombay Sapphire – Premier Cru Murcian Lemon
This new release from Bombay Sapphire was widely lauded after its launch in the autumn. Distilled with hand-harvested fino lemons from Murcia, Spain, the gin is alive with citrus flavours and beautifully smooth. It is a triumph for Bombay Sapphire’s master distiller Dr Anne Brock and master of botanicals Ivano Tonutti. Due to how the fruits for the gin are sourced, the gin is likely to taste slightly different with each harvest, which could set an interesting precedent.
Holyrood Distillery – Height of Arrows
In creating its Height of Arrows gin, Edinburgh’s Holyrood Distillery wanted to bring the principles of whisky making to gin. It contains only three botanicals, juniper, sea salt and beeswax, with the latter two chosen to help enhance the natural flavour of the grain spirit and the juniper. The resulting gin is clean and smooth with well-balanced flavours. It’s a testament to what can be achieved when you strip things back and let your raw ingredients do the talking.
Citadelle Gin – Jardin d’Été
Inspired by its garden at the Château de Bonbonnet, this new spirit from Citadelle features a whopping 22 botanicals: fruit notes from cantaloupe, whole lemons, orange and yuzu; floral notes from angelica, iris and violet; and spice from cardamom, cumin, star anise and Sichuan pepper. Its name translates as “summer garden”, and it certainly lives up to this billing, with a lively yet nuanced citrus-forward palate. As one of the older gin producers in the modern craft wave – Maison Ferrand launched the brand in 1996 – Citadelle keeps proving that age is no barrier to innovation.
Portobello Road – Celebrated Butter Gin
This is not just a clever name: Portobello Road created the Celebrated Butter Gin by redistilling its flagship gin with real unsalted butter. While not imparting much in the way of flavour compounds, the butter gives the gin a creamy viscosity that lends it brilliantly to ice-cold, Martini-style drinks. The gin is inspired by an experience of a bar recounted in Charles Dickens’ short story collection Sketches of Boz. It delighted our tasters, who commended its clean flavour and creamy texture.
Audemus Spirits – Umami Gin
While we have come across savoury flavours in gin before, the new Umami Gin from French distiller Audemus Spirits has taken this flavour profile to a new level. It is made using hand-picked, vacuum-distilled Italian capers and an infusion of parmesan cheese. These are combined with bergamot and juniper distillates before the whole lot is aged in ex-Cognac barrels. This kind of recipe development is not for the faint-hearted, but the mavericks who attempt such things are helping to push gin in thrilling new directions.
Warner’s – London Dry Gin
We know what you’re thinking: yes, this one has been around for a while. However, in April, Warner’s launched a new recipe for its London Dry Gin along with some striking new bottle branding. For any distillery, reformulating a staple of your range is a bit of a gamble, but for Warner’s it paid off. The new recipe gives floral, fruit and spice notes on the nose with a creamy, nutty palate and a clean, fresh finish. As the distillery continues to experiment – including with growing more of its own botanicals – expect more exciting things.
Sipsmith – Strawberry Smash Gin
Sipsmith partnered with the Wimbledon tennis tournament to make this gin, the second in its Sipping Series collection. It was distilled with strawberries that were grown for the 2020 championship, repurposing around half a tonne of fruit that would have gone to waste after the tournament was cancelled. The Sipping Series has since seen another launch: Sipsresso Coffee Gin.
Foxhole Spirits – Hyke Very Special Gin
England’s Foxhole Spirits was founded with sustainable production at its core, and the Hyke Very Special Gin – released five years after its inaugural Hyke Gin – proves how far it has come as a producer. It is made with a base spirit distilled from pressed English wine grapes, which would otherwise be discarded. This is then blended with a neutral grain spirit and redistilled with 19 botanicals including juniper, grapefruit and lapsang souchong.
Procera – Red Dot Gin
Kenyan gin distillery Procera made a splash when it launched with its Blue Dot gin in 2019. It followed that in 2021 with the limited-edition Red Dot Gin. Whereas Blue Dot was created as the ideal Martini gin, its bolder, spicier cousin Red Dot was designed to make the perfect Negroni. Procera Gin’s botanical bill is designed to showcase African ingredients, from limes to pink peppercorns, and it was the first gin to use African juniper (juniper procera). We’d recommend keeping an eye on what this innovative producer does next.
Silent Pool – Green Man Woodland Gin
While this new release from Surrey distiller Silent Pool was a delicious gin, packed full of herbaceous and verdant pine notes, perhaps the most innovative thing about the Green Man Woodland Gin was its packaging. It was the first gin to come in a paper bottle, designed by eco-packaging specialist Frugalpac. Its carbon footprint is six times lower than that of an equivalent glass or plastic bottle, and the paperboard is made for 94 per cent recycled materials. While distillers are paying a lot of attention to making more sustainable liquid, Silent Pool has offered a timely reminder that this is only part of the picture.
Melifera – Gin Atlantic
Hailing from the island of Oléron, off the west coast of France, Melifera uses the poetically named immortelle flower as its starring botanical. It manages to capture the sweet scents of its island home while still retaining great ‘gin’ character. As a business, Melifera is intently focused on minimising its environmental impact and giving back where possible: the distillery is Ecocert-certified; it grows its own vines of immortelle in the north of Oléron; it donates part of its income to the island’s Black Bee Conservatory, to fund genetic tests into the rare insect; and it supports dune stabilisation projects on the island.
A final word on… No and low-alcohol spirits
While these are not strictly gins, it would be remiss of us not to mention the booming market for no- and low-alcohol spirit alternatives. After releases from Warner’s and Salcombe Distilling Company in 2020, this year saw 0% ABV releases from Tanqueray and Gordon’s, a 20% ABV ‘light’ spirit from Beefeater, Sipsmith’s Free Glider, and two new alcohol-free spirits from Salcombe Distilling. As more people look for low-ABV or alcohol-free alternatives, we’re hoping for more innovative releases in this category.