When it comes to spirits everyone knows that gin is a superior drink. Firstly it is crisp and clean, perfect for drinking on its own over ice, secondly it makes a cracking gin and tonic if you’re looking to take things up a notch, and thirdly all the best cocktails are made with gin (we think that’s a fact, yes?). This guy is a real hard worker when it comes to your drinks cabinet staples.
If this popular spirit could talk, what tales it could tell. It’s said that gin was invented as a medicinal liquor made by monks and alchemists across Europe back in the throes of history, but its heyday is undeniably the 1700s, a period when historians estimate that nearly a quarter of households in London were producing the stuff themselves to keep up with their thirst for it. With gin palaces a plenty popping up in the following years, us Britons got through huge quantities of this crisp spirit. There were even many (mostly vain) attempts by the government to stop the consumption of it thanks to an unruly portion of the population propping up bars up and down the lands and getting into all kinds of scrapes as a result of ‘one too many’. While the original remedial use may have fallen out of fashion, we do think some of these credentials can still be seen today by way of self-medication from loyal gin fans (us included), and it’s undeniable that this fragrant spirit is back in fashion.
Thanks to the resurgence in popularity of gin over recent years there are countless brands, both old and new, on the market to choose from. When looking for the best gin brands it can be hard to narrow things down thanks to a far-reaching market and many a maker, so we’ve tried to hone in on some real heroes in our tried and tested guide to the best gins to buy in the UK. Of course there are loads more superb gins on the market than just these ones, but it’s a great place to be-gin…
Conker Spirit Dorset Dry Gin
What: Holding the title of Dorset’s first gin distillery, Conker’s bright and refreshing bottle is made right here on home soil. Traditional seaside ingredients like samphire, elderberries and gorse flowers from the surrounding environments are combined with slightly more exotic ingredients such as Macedonian juniper for the perfect kind of gin that works as equally well neat as it does in a long, ice-cold gin and tonic.
How much: £35.45, 70cl
Isle of Harris Gin
What: This crisp, clean gin is produced on the Outer Hebrides, as its name suggests, and its flavour profile is made up of nine carefully chosen botanicals which include local, hand-harvested sugar kelp seaweed and bitter orange peel. The results are a drink with a long clean finish and gentle maritime notes from the seaweed. Bottled by hand and distilled in a small copper still, this award-winning spirit is truly something special, making it perfect for gifting. We love that the bottle is as beautiful as its contents too, meaning you can recycle it afterwards into a water vessel for your table or a vase for some flowers.
How much: £37.00, 70cl
What: Created to give drinkers a taste of the Mediterranean, this wonderfully fragrant gin is spiked with the flavours of thyme, olive and basil. Begun by a family who originally worked with wine, the carefully balanced notes are reminiscent of a good vintage – each nuance working in perfect harmony with each other. This gin has a real mark of difference when compared to others on the market, with a distinct savoury slant perfect for pairing with classic tonic and a sprig of rosemary as an aperitif.
How much: £34.69, 70cl
Bombay Sapphire Bramble Personalised Gin
What: If you’re looking for the best gin for a gift, this is perfect. Exclusive to Selfridges, this reasonably priced bottle of Bombay can be personalised with the recipient’s name or a short and sweet message. Real blackberries and raspberries have been infused through the brand’s vapor-distilled gin, matching the botanical and juniper notes with a fresh and fruity finish. This is perfect for shaking up into cocktails for a fun Friday night treat.
How much: £32.99, 70cl
Stockholms Bränneri Dry Gin
What: In true Scandi fashion this gin looks as good as it tastes. The effortlessly stylish pared-back bottle means this would make a cool gin gift for any friends or family you’re looking to impress with your niche drinks knowledge (“Oh this? It’s just a little Scandi brand I’ve been drinking for a while”). When it comes to flavour, you’ll be hit with the zesty notes of lemon peel as well as six other organic botanicals ranking from heather to elderflower for distinctive earthy tasting notes. For maximum appeal we like this one shaken up into a martini.
How much: £44.99, 50cl
What: Distilled in Chicago, Koval – meaning ‘black sheep’ in Yiddish – prides itself on its grain-to-bottle approach. From milling the locally-grown grain to distilling, barrelling, and bottling, this organic, kosher gin is carefully crafted, resulting in a crisp, dry gin that holds its own. Close your eyes and picture emerald grasses, golden citrus and wildflowers as you sip and you’ll see what we’re talking about.
Price: From £37.99 for a 70cl bottle
What: Combine your love of good drinks with doing good in this double duty gin. Each batch is made in small quantities using 19 different botanicals which are all sourced in the Amazon by local communities. Expect unusual nuances from ingredients such as açaí berries, merey fruit, uve de palma from palm trees and copuazu. This fruity gin will transport you to tropical shores, while the 10% of sales donated from each bottle go towards supporting two foundations who work on conservation projects in the Amazon.
How much: £44.99, 70cl
Silent Pool Gin
What: With a name as alluring as ‘Silent Pool’, we barely feel the need to expound on the notes found in this deep, full-bodied gin – but indulge us. Handcrafted in the Surrey Hills using 24 botanicals and cool, clear spring-water, Silent Pool is full of flavour, from citrus to lavender, chamomile and sweet honey. Enjoy in a classic G&T, but swap out the lemon for a twist of orange peel.
How much: From £32.20 for 70cl
What: Pink, organic, vegan and beautifully-packaged, this Cornish gin needs no help from us, but we love it so we’re going to gush about it anyway. The act of pouring this delicate amber liquid from its brown, narrow-mouthed glass vessel is almost as satisfying as tasting it, thanks to Tinkture’s cleverly-designed glug-free bottles. Then there’s the taste. Delicate notes of juniper and coriander come together to create a warmth that’s light enough to stand on its own, but deep enough to slice through tonic (which turns it a pale shade of pink). And, once you’ve bought one bottle, you can top it up with the refill packs, which reduces waste, replenishes your gin levels and saves money – bonus!
Price: £45 for a 50cl bottle; £35 for a refill pouch
What: Sometimes classics are classics for a reason. Hendricks might have the look of a heritage British brand, given their extensive marketing suggestion so, but this popular pour was actually onlyu launched in 1999. Made in Scotland, this bold and bright gin has big aromas right from the off. There’s citrus and vanilla as well as rose petals and cucumber in the tasting notes, and while this makes a wonderful cocktail, we like it best paired simply with a good quality tonic and a generous slice of cucumber to intensify the flavours already found in the spirit.
How much: £29.99, 70cl
What: Sipsmith has become a bit of a household name of late, but as each batch is still lovingly hand-crafted by the brand’s dedicated distillers, we don’t care that everyone seems to be drinking it. This original London Dry Gin is bold, aromatic and versatile, so whether you’re mixing a Martini or a classic G&T, you’ll find it slips down rather easily. If you prefer your gin flavoured, you should definitely check out Sipsmith’s range. Zingy citrus flavours come in the form of Lemon Drizzle, which is made with sun-dried lemon peels and lemon verbena, and Orange & Cacao, which is ideal for Christmas.
Price: From £28 for 70cl
What: Founded by four friends, this independent English gin distillery’s aim was simple: to create a gin so smooth and sensual, you’d want to drink it neat over ice. It’s worth trying at least once, even if you’re not normally a fan of neat gin, as you should be able to detect the natural oils and aromas that come from the Bulgarian coriander, Valencian orange and Tuscan juniper berries. Packaged in a dark bottle, possibly to reflect the top notes of ginger and orange (or just because it’s temptingly moody), it’s a gin all enthusiasts should sample as soon as possible.
Price: From £26.70 for a 70cl bottle
Buss No.509 White Rain Gin
What: It’s not often you find a Belgian gin on the market, so we were intrigued by this iteration by Serge Buss. Bursting out of the bottle you’ll initially be hit by the classic juniper and coriander botanicals, before smooth vanilla and cardamom melt into delightfully refreshing citrus notes. There are also hints of marjoram and verbena in the mix, and because of the overall complexity in its tasting notes, this gin is perfect for a simple G&T or for drinking neat over ice with a wedge of orange.
How much: £54.95, 70cl
Edinburgh Gin Gooseberry & Elderflower Gin
What: Purists look away now, we’re here to suggest that sometimes a good flavoured gin can be really something quite delicious. Edinburgh Gin is well-known on the market already and is a company that is constantly pushing its brand to create new and interesting twists on a classic gin. One of the results of this innovation is this gooseberry and elderflower gin which is sweet and floral, perfect for an entry level bottle if you find the straight stuff a bit strong still.
How much: £28.00, 70cl
What: Martin Miller was both a traditionalist and something of a maverick, so it’s no surprise that his eponymous gin is a perfect mix of the two. Made using the methods and techniques of the old school distillers, but with botanicals from a variety of different provinces, Martin Miller’s gin is fresh, citrusy and very drinkable. Since its launch in 1999, Martin Miller’s Gin has won loads of awards for excellence, but as we’re big fans of that saying about the proof of the pudding, we recommend you try it for yourself.
Price: From £24.49 for 70cl
What: Produced and bottled in North Wales, this gin uses Welsh-inspired botanicals to give it a unique flavour. Aber Falls’ Small Batch Welsh Gin is inspired by ancient flavours dating back to Druid times, while its Mountain Fresh Dry Gin is made using Welsh mountain water, traditional juniper and citrus. Aber Falls also distils two flavoured gins – Orange Marmalade, and Rhubarb & Ginger – which have proved immensely popular with sweet-toothed gin enthusiasts. Enjoy neat or mixed with tonic.
Price: From £23.95 for a 70cl bottle
Feckin Irish Gin
What: This one sounds a little gimmicky, but there’s much more to this gin than its risqué name. Marketed as ‘a bunch of lemons bouncing on a bed of juniper’, this gin packs an initial sherbety punch before transitioning into a delicate, buttercreamy flavour that is as good neat as it is with tonic. And, let’s face it, that name’s going to make you chuckle every time you get the bottle out. If you like the brand, the Feckin Drinks Company makes whiskey and vodka too.
Price: From £28.90 for 70cl
What: Crafted in Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast between the sea and the salt marshes, Fishers Gin infuses a medley of local herbs and coastal botanicals before packaging it up in a pretty bottle you’ll definitely want to keep hold of. Crafted by a real life botanist who takes his inspiration from the recipes of medieval herbalists, this gin manages to capture the wild and forgotten flavours of the British Isles in a drink that is dangerously sip-able. If Cathy and Heathcliff drank gin, we reckon it would be this one.
Price: From £39.95 for 70cl
What: Inspired by the 19th-century Salcombe ‘fruiters’ who brought exotic fruit to Devon from the West Indies and Azores, this award-winning gin promises notes of red grapefruit, lemon and lime in addition to the classic juniper palate, which also shows fiery spice. Pair it with a premium tonic and a slice of grapefruit, add it to a refreshing cocktail or enjoy it neat over ice.
Where: Salcombe Gin
Price: £40 for 70cl
What: Inspired by the exotic blend of people that once frequented Marylebone’s Pleasure Gardens, Mary-Le-Bone London Dry Gin attempts to evoke bygone delights with every sip. These guys source their ingredients from all over the world, so you can look forward to the flavours of sweet orange peel from Turkey, liquorice root from Spain and cassia bark from Indonesia in every mouthful.
Price: From £42.75 for a 70cl bottle
Ableforth’s Bathtub Gin
What: There’s something about the brown paper, strong and wax-wrapped bottle that makes this gin so tempting that it’s easy to buy a bottle without even stopping to consider. This is no bad thing though, as Ableforth’s Bathtub Gin is delicious. Made using the traditional method of cold compounding in a large copper bath, this award-winning gin is just what the Victorian doctor ordered for dark evenings and chilly weather.
Price: From £29.99 for a 70cl bottle
What: Independently produced on the Wirral Peninsula, this handcrafted small-batch gin is made using only natural botanicals sourced as locally as possible. Distinctive, full-bodied and full of flavour, Tappers gins are wonderfully versatile when it comes to serving, whether you add to it or not. If supporting small family-run distilleries is important to you, you’ll love the fact that each bottle is individually filled, labelled, wax sealed and numbered by hand.
Price: From £39.95 for a 70cl bottle of its ‘Falling Leaves’ gin
Mackintosh Scottish Gin
What: Founded by a Scottish gin-loving couple, Mackintosh is now a multi-award-winning distillery thanks to its carefully-balanced and very drinkable gin. It uses a total of nine botanicals sourced from all over the world, but its (not so) secret ingredient is fresh grapefruit, which is purchased locally on the morning of each distillation. The water used is collected from Backwater Reservoir in North West Angus, making it pure and refreshing. A must-try for gin aficionados.
Price: From £38.95 for a 70cl bottle
Topaz Blue Premium Gin
What: Sometimes you’ve just got to give it to the supermarkets, they know what they’re doing when it comes to affordable, easily drinkable booze. Aldi are renowned for their cut-price bottles and one of the best gins on the market is this award-winning number that comes in at just £13.99. For this impressively low spend you’ll get a hand-crafted gin made with wild botanicals and fruits for a spicy, full bodied finish.
How much: £13.99, 70cl
What: Twenty-two hand-foraged botanicals join together with berries, barks and citrus in this Isle of Islay gin. A slow simmer distillation then magically fuses them to create a fresh-tasting gin with hidden depths of flavour. Bottled in simple, clear glass, this gin needs no fancy packaging to sell it – the flavours speak loudly enough for themselves.
Where to buy it: 31Dover.com
Price: From £31.20 for a 70cl bottle
Beckett's London Dry Gin Type 1097
What: As with many of the best gins on the market we love that simplicity is King with Beckett’s recipe. Here you’ll clearly taste that signature juniper flavour which comes from handpicked berries harvested on London’s very own Box Hill. With a great grassy beginning there’s a creamy middle which ends with a citrus hit. Well balanced with a crisp, smooth taste, we love this doubled up with a little elderflower tonic for a refreshing drink at the end of the day.
How much: £30.46, 70cl
Fancy a gin-inspired Christmas countdown? Check out our guide to the best gin advent calendars