Time to join the Ginvolution: Three gins to try this year
Once seen as an old-buffer’s beverage, gin is quickly becoming the most fashionable spirit to drink.
Figures from Mintel show gin sales in the UK reached £1 billion in 2015, a 25% increase since 2012 and gin is now the third biggest spirit after vodka and blended whisky.
The trend has been created, and then driven, primarily by super-premium brands such as Martin Miller’s who launched its London Dry in 1999, and Hendrick’s, a cucumber and rose scented gin, founded in Scotland in 1997.
Different bottles and serves helped distinguish these brands from the traditional Beefeater’s and Gordon’s of the gin world, while their price points set them beyond Bombay Sapphire.
Virtually all the big drinks brands have brought out new varieties of gin in the past few years, think Tanqueray No. 10 (relaunched by Diageo in an Art Deco bottle in 2014), or Beefeater 24, and there has also been an explosion in craft brands such as Monkey 47.
Created by the Dutch and perfected by the British, gin is a spirit with history and heritage.
Gin gets its name, and its distinctive flavour, from juniper berries (jenever in Dutch and genièvre in French). In 17th century Holland, gin was a popular medicinal drink, sold in pharmacies to treat multiple health problems, and drunk by soldiers for its nerve-calming properties, leading to the term ‘Dutch Courage’.
The first ‘gin craze’ occurred in the early 18th century, when the English abandoned French brandy for ‘patriotic’ reasons and embraced the drink of their monarch, William of Orange’s, homeland.
By 1743 the English were drinking an average of 10 litres of gin per person each year. It became known as ‘mother’s ruin’, as depicted in William Hogarth’s engraving, Gin Lane, and inferior quality gin (sometimes adulterated with turpentine) was blamed for high death rates among the poor.
Gin was resurrected in the Colonies during the 19th century as a way of making quinine, an anti-malarial, palatable. The quinine would be dissolved in carbonated water – the ancestor of today’s tonic water.
The latest ‘gin craze’ also involves tonic water – with super-premium gins inspiring a new wave of super-premium mixers – aka the little bottle of Fever Tree you’ll see in the best bars.
Made by distilling fermented cider apples, this gin has 11 botanicals, giving a sharp, yet fruity flavour. The Chase Estate in Herfordshire is also behind Tyrrell’s potato crisps. Founded in 2008, the distillery uses water from an aquifer to take the gin down to 48%.
With its notes of blueberries and blackberries, orange peel and coriander, this sweet and fruity gin is designed to be drunk over ice rather than with tonic. The flavour is achieved by steeping the Botanicals in the the grain spirit for 24 hours before distillation.
Bottled at 42.5% strength, this gin has dominant juniper notes and a rich, spicy mouth feel. Created as a response to bartenders who wanted a stronger proof for cocktails, Westbourne is distilled in England, then bottled (in Iceland or the UK) using Icelandic water.
- Kevin Metcalfe