When is a gin not a gin? When it doesn’t taste of juniper. Theses piney berries must be present in gin, but when other botanicals thoroughly overwhelm them, you’ve really just got a flavoured vodka in your glass. Or, if the gin is particularly sweet, a liqueur.
I say this having tasted through a few gins this week that are new (or newish) in time for spring. It’s been freezing cold of course, but I have still enjoyed making a 6pm G&T before the sun goes completely down – a sure sign spring is on its way.
The gins that did not make the grade were, in general, unbalanced. Either juniper was not to the fore, or they were much too sweet. Or – and this seems an unfortunate trend at the moment – they were way too floral. I’m all for a delicate whiff of rosewater or violets, but when a gin starts to smell like a flowery air-freshener, something has gone seriously wrong.
So those I have chosen to recommend here are either more classic gins or, if flavoured, still let enough “ginniness” through. They all work well with plain tonic too, tried and tested. For a somewhat sweeter mixer, if you like that sort of thing, an elderflower tonic has the right character for spring.
They are all, however, pretty pricey, so consider them gins to buy for a treat, or for a Mother’s Day present perhaps (it’s coming up fast now on March 19). For a spring-time gin in a different price bracket, Marks & Spencer has a decent Rhubarb Gin at £20 for 70cl (37.5%), available to buy in stores only, made by the Hertfordshire distiller Warner Edwards.
(43%, 57skye.com, £40.99 for 70cl, £13.99 for 20cl, £5.99 for 5cl; Amazon, £40.95 for 70cl; masterofmalt.com, £44.95 for 70cl)
With its bold juniper and fresh citrus this will please lovers of classic London Dry; there’s subtle pepperiness and a saline dab from kelp seaweed. Awarded a gold at the Global Gin Masters already, it’s made at an exciting new distillery on Skye.
(40%, johnlewis.com, £38 for 70cl; isleofwightdistillery.com, £39.90)
The newest gin in the Mermaid range majors on tangy grapefruit, though there are cascade hops, Isle of Wight bergamot, lemon zest and rosemary in the mix of botanicals. It’s not too sweet, still “ginny” enough and makes a refreshing G&T.
(42.5% yorkgin.com, £42 for 70cl)
This limited edition flavoured gin has been released both to mark York Gin’s firth birthday and to last through Yorkshire rhubarb season. Made with local rhubarb, it’s very juicy and a little too sweet on its own for me, but add plain tonic and it really shines – the slight bitterness of the quinine balancing out the natural sugar syrup.
(44% scillyspirit.com, £44.80 for 70cl; John Lewis and Master of Malt, £45.95)
Quite a peppery gin with piney juniper, a herbal hint and a very fresh note, in part from kaffir lime. Launched in 2019 by the newly opened Scilly Spirit distillery on St Mary’s, it has won several international awards. The unusual shape of the aquamarine-coloured bottle was inspired by the Bishop Rock lighthouse – it’s a beauty.
(43.3% Master of Malt, £32.95 for 70cl; bathtubgin.com, £36.95)
Rose and cardamom make a fine pairing in Bathtub’s brand new release: they’ve been used very carefully so that the flavours are delicate, not cloying, and the juniper is still present. Expect fragrant light rosewater balanced with warm cardamom, with orange peel giving a citrus lift. Makes an aromatic, exotic martini.
More from Susy Atkins: The wine world’s best ‘keepers’: styles to buy now and drink later
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