Gin, a spirit that originated in the Netherlands as Genever. It has a deep-rooted history in the United Kingdom and has become an essential part of British culture over the centuries. From the classic London Dry style to the emergence of craft distilleries, British gin has evolved and diversified, catering to the ever-changing palates of gin enthusiasts worldwide. Let us explore a few top varieties of British gin:
London Dry Gin: A Timeless Classic of British Distillation
The most famous and widely recognized type of gin in Britain is the London Dry Gin. Although it is not necessarily produced in London, but it must adhere to strict production regulations. It is characterized by its dryness and the absence of added sugar and artificial flavours. Instead, plant-based ingredients are added during the distillation process, which gives it a pure and traditional flavour. Some of the common botanicals used include juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, and citrus peels.
London Dry Gin rose to prominence in the 18th century when the government allowed unlicensed gin production. This led to a gin craze, but as regulations tightened, its quality improved, and London Dry Gin became a symbol of British excellence. Classic brands like Beefeater, Tanqueray, and Gordon's exemplify this timeless style.
Plymouth Gin: A Distinctive Heritage from the Historic Naval City
Plymouth Gin is a geographically protected gin which means it can only be produced in the historic naval city of Plymouth, England. With a more balanced and earthy flavour compared to London Dry, Plymouth Gin has been produced at the Black Friars Distillery since 1793. It boasts a unique blend of seven botanicals, including orris root, cardamom, and sweet orange, which create a smooth and aromatic profile.
The distillery has a historical connection to the British Navy – wherein gin rations were required for its sailors, further solidifying its place in British gin history. Plymouth Gin's protected status ensures that this distinctive and flavourful variety remains a piece of Britain's heritage.
Old Tom Gin: A Sweet Journey into Gin's Glorious Past
Old Tom Gin holds a significant place in gin's history which bridges the gap between the original Genever-style gin and the modern London Dry Gin. During the 18th century, gin production experienced a transformation, and Old Tom Gin emerged as a sweeter alternative to the harsher and often inferior quality gin available during that period. It contains slightly more sugar and sometimes has flavours like licorice, making it milder and more approachable.
The name "Old Tom" comes from wooden plaques that is shaped like a black cat (an "Old Tom") mounted on the walls outside pubs, where patrons could insert a coin in the cat's mouth, and a shot of gin would be poured into a glass through a tube. This gin style experienced a revival in the modern craft gin movement, appealing to those seeking a unique and historically relevant drinking experience.
Sloe Gin: The Ruby Elixir of British Hedgerows
Sloe Gin is a delightful and fruity liqueur made by instilling gin with sloe berries which are small and dark fruits related to plums. The berries add a rich, sweet-tart flavour and a deep ruby colour to the gin.
Sloe Gin has a long history, with roots dating back to the 18th century when it was first created as a medicinal tonic. Today, it is a popular choice for cocktails and can be enjoyed on its own. Some distilleries produce their own versions of Sloe Gin, infusing high-quality gin with hand-picked sloe berries, which gives in a smooth and deliciously indulgent spirit that captures the essence of British hedgerows.
Craft Distillery Gins: Reviving Tradition, Redefining Innovation in British Spirits
In recent years, there has been a surge in craft distilleries across the United Kingdom, each putting its unique spin on gin production. These artisanal gin makers experiment with unconventional botanicals, local ingredients, and innovative distillation techniques to create distinctive and premium spirits. The craft gin movement has been instrumental in bringing back forgotten gin styles, such as Old Tom, and elevating classic styles with contemporary twists.
Craft distilleries are often family-owned, small-batch operations driven by passion and a commitment to producing high-quality gins that stand out in an increasingly competitive market. Some notable craft gin brands include Sipsmith, The Botanist, and Silent Pool Distillers. Every gin has a vast creative potential within the world of gin.
Navy Strength Gin: Sailing the High Seas of Bold and Flavourful Spirits
Navy Strength Gin is not a specific style but refers to a high-proof gin traditionally associated with the British Royal Navy. It is said that the gin must have a minimum alcohol content of 57% ABV to withstand gunpowder tests and still ignite in the event of spilled gin coming into contact with gunpowder.
This bold and robust spirit gained popularity during the 18th and 19th centuries and it was favoured by sailors for its strength and intense flavours. In recent times, craft distillers have revived this historical style, producing Navy Strength Gins with a wide range of plant ingredients and unique flavour which are perfect for cocktails that require a powerful gin foundation.
Cotswolds Dry Gin: Capturing the Essence of English Countryside in a Bottle
Located in the picturesque Cotswolds region of England, the Cotswolds Distillery has gained recognition for its exceptional Cotswolds Dry Gin. This gin exemplifies the craft distillery movement's spirit as it focuses on using locally sourced ingredients and artisanal methods. Ingredients like lavender, bay leaf, and fresh citrus are individually macerated and then distilled in a copper pot still. The final result is a rich and aromatic gin. The use of Cotswolds lavender gives the gin a unique floral note which stands out from traditional London Dry gins.
Rhubarb Gin: A Tangy Twist on Tradition, Infusing Zest into the Gin World
Rhubarb Gin has emerged as a deliciously fruity and tangy variant of British gin. It infuses classic gin with the vibrant flavours of rhubarb to create a delightful balance between sweet and tart. Rhubarb Gin is versatile and perfect for sipping neat, mixing into cocktails, or even pairing with desserts. This contemporary gin style has gained popularity in recent years as craft distillers experiment with unique plants ingredients combinations, appealing to gin lovers looking for new and exciting flavours.
Pink Gin: Embracing the Rosy Revolution of Flavour and Fun
Pink Gin is a contemporary gin style that has gained immense popularity for its delightful blush colour. Contrary to popular belief, the pink hue is not achieved through added colourings; instead, it comes from the natural infusion of fruits like strawberries, raspberries, or pink grapefruit.
A Spirited Conclusion
In the ever-evolving world of British gin, these varieties are just a glimpse of the vast diversity and creativity within the industry. As craft distilleries continue to flourish and experiment with new botanicals and production techniques, the future of British gin promises even more exciting discoveries and flavours to savour. Whether you prefer the traditional elegance of London Dry or the innovative twists of craft distillery gins, there is a gin variety waiting to be explored and enjoyed. Cheers to the spirit of British gin and the legacy of its fascinating history!