So, how many types of gin are there? Which gins work best in cocktails and if you’re going to drink gin neat, which type should you buy?
Drinkers today have a plethora of spirits to choose from; in the alcohol aisles, behind the bars and online. Whether you’re looking for a good gin to pour in the perfect gin and tonic or a versatile spirit for gin cocktails, you’re bound to be overwhelmed with the number and variety of gins on the market.
In this blog post we’ll share a guide to the types of gin available to buy and what makes each different to the last. We’ll lay bare the most popular styles of gin available today and take a quick look at some of the more unusual types of gins out there. If nothing else, this information is bound to impress your mates!
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The first thing to know about this one is that London Dry Gin doesn’t have to come from London! Whether a gin can be called London Dry is down to how it has been produced, rather than where.
This is a legally protected gin category, so London Dry Gin must follow the rules defined by rigid EU regulations. London Dry Gin must be made from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin. The gin distillate produced as a result of redistilling must not be lower than 70% ABV. Only water or alcohol can be added after distillation, and the minimum alcoholic strength of London Dry Gin is 37.5% ABV.
For a gin to be labelled London Dry Gin, it must be flavoured with juniper and this should be the ‘predominant’ flavour – so no flavoured gin can ever be categorised as a London Dry Gin. It can’t have any colouring or sweetener added.
This ‘classic’ style of gin became popular at the beginning of the 20th Century and has continued to be a failsafe bartenders’ choice thanks to its versatility.
Old Tom Gin popped up in 1813 and is thought to have evolved from the Dutch genever drink that was popular at the time. It preceded London Dry Gin.
Old Tom Gin is aged in barrels, which gives it a darker hue than the gin we drink today. It gets its name from the barrels in which it was aged, which were referred to as ‘Old Toms’.
Botanically intense and sweet, this style of gin comes from a time when the base spirit was not as pure and clean as it is today. Naturally sweet botanicals like liquorice root were added to create a smoother taste, though sugar was also used to temper the rough spirit.
Old Tom Gin was popular until continuous distillation was invented, as this process improved the quality of the base spirit and gin no longer needed to be sweetened to make it more palatable.
This style of gin went out of fashion in the 1960s but the surge in cocktail culture in recent years has resulted in a resurrection for Old Tom. Today, there are more than 50 Old Tom Gins made at distilleries around the world.
Cocktails made using Old Tom Gin include the Martinez and Tom Collins – check out our twist on these classic gin cocktails.
There’s no legal definition of Old Tom Gin, but a good rule of thumb is that if it says ‘sweetened’ on the label, you’re on the right track!
Fruit gin is infused with fresh or dried fruit and often sweetened. Traditionally, UK fruit gins used fruits that were available locally – usually berries like sloes, damsons and blackberries.
Orange and lemon gins hit the market in the early 20th century, followed by more exotic flavours like passionfruit and asparagus.
Fruit gins had fallen out of fashion by the 1960s and most were discontinued. At the beginning of the 21st century, fruit gins began to make a comeback and gin producers innovated with new flavours such as elderflower, rhubarb, cherry and pineapple. Natural flavours come from fruits or botanicals, or artificial flavours can be added.
Fruit gin is incredibly popular today, and these sweeter flavours made gin a more accessible spirit for people who didn’t appreciate the pronounced juniper taste of classic gins.
The most famous fruit gin is Sloe Gin, which should really be in its own category because it’s technically classified as a liqueur.
If you struggle with the piney, juniper-forward flavour of some gins, you might prefer this modern style of gin. Contemporary gin gets its predominant flavours from other botanicals and is often described as having a more approachable profile.
The invention of New Western Gin pushed the boundaries of gin’s definition – they’re ‘juniper-driven’ rather than juniper-forward. Crucially, these contemporary gins must still contain juniper berries to be classed as gin.
This type of gin gained popularity in recent years as craft distilling underwent a revival. Distillers and gin brands started experimenting with different flavour profiles and botanicals available locally.
The ‘New Western’, or sometimes ‘New Age’ label comes from the US, where these gins first started to emerge. Think of it as akin to ‘New World’ in the wine industry.
Woody flavours abound in aged gin. This gin style is matured in wooden barrels, which impact the end product. For example, gins aged in barrels that were previously used to age bourbon have a spicy sweetness. Sometimes, gin is matured in new barrels made from oak.
Alternatively, this type of gin can be aged with wood chips or staves. Gin producers have a wide variety to choose from: pine, pecan, mahogany etc.
Because of this ageing process, Aged Gin is darker in colour than London Dry. It falls into one of two categories: Yellow Gin is lightly influenced by the wood, while Sipping Gin is the more popular modern style of aged gin.
Inspired by the wildlife of Australia, this gin is made Down Under and uses local botanicals like lemon myrtle, bush tomato, finger limes, wattle seeds and other native plants. Bush gin has a bold and flavoursome character, often accompanied by leafy-citrus or spicy-menthol flavour profiles.
Popular in countries close to the Alps mountain range like Germany, Austria and Switzerland, this style of gin is characterised by strong pine and juniper notes, woody herbaceous flavours and floral highlights. Alpine gin was inspired by the traditional herbal spirits and liqueurs in the region.
Also known as jenever, this spirit originates from the Netherlands. Genever is named after the Dutch for juniper, jeneverbes. Genever’s base spirit is made from malt wine (moutwijn); which is produced from grains such as rye, malted barley or corn. The spirit is produced in a similar way to whiskey in that it is triple or quadruple distilled in pot stills.
Navy Strength gin is anything bottled at 100% old British proof – so anything between 57% and 58% ABV. Some distillers simply bottle their flagship gin at a higher strength to create a navy strength gin, by adding less water after distillation. Others use a modified botanical recipe to produce a different flavour profile.
If a bottle is labelled with ‘Distilled Gin’, it means flavours have been added after re-distillation. That’s the EU definition, anyway. The flavours can be natural or artificial, and additional colouring and sweeteners can also be added.
We hope this has given you a crash course in the different types of gin available on the market! If you’d like to try a London Dry Gin that is made in our distillery in the Yorkshire Dales, you can order a bottle now.
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