Gin is a complex spirit with several variations and lots of potential for different flavors. One thing all gin have in common, though, is juniper. Regardless of the overall flavor profile, you’ll find juniper in everything, from cheap bottles all the way up to the best gin.
Like many other spirits, gin starts with grain. Flavors are added through natural botanicals, with some recipes containing just five or six, and some up to 40 (or even more!). Botanicals are steeped in the distilled alcohol, making it easy to control the amount of each botanical and the strength of its flavor.
Cheap gin is often made with a heavy juniper base and a handful of other botanicals that are manipulated to create different flavor profiles. It’s when you start adding more botanicals for a more complex flavor that things get more expensive.
Firstly, this is because the more botanicals you include, the more labor there is involved between planting and harvesting. But, the value also starts creeping up when more expensive botanicals are imported, or a distiller is dedicated to using only organic ingredients.
The good news is that gin isn’t aged the way whiskey or tequila is. It’ll never spend years and years in the barrels, so it’s not the rarity of any single gin itself that drives prices up – it’s all in the botanicals. This means that when you buy an expensive gin, you’re paying for the absolute best flavors.
A complex flavor profile isn’t always necessary though, especially if you happen to really love the taste of juniper. This is why cheap gin can be just as successful as the expensive stuff, it all comes down to what you’re looking for.
Best Gin Brands
1. Beefeater London Dry Gin
Beefeater London dry gin is a classic and has been since 1863. It’s a name that everyone knows and loves because it’s an extremely affordable gin that’s good and reliable. It began in 1876 when Beefeater’s founder purchased a small distillery and set out to create several different brands.
Beefeater was the most successful and in 1963, almost 100 years later, it accounted for three out of every four gin bottles imported into the United States. In 1995 a new Master Distiller was named and he came with decades of experience.
Today, he is known as the world’s most experienced gin distiller. He personally tests more than 200 juniper samples every year to make sure quality and uniqueness remain consistent.
Beefeater’s aroma is simple, with a lovely combination of classic juniper and citrus zest. The citrus extends onto the palate with hints of licorice and coriander. The gin has a medium finish with the perfect combination of lemon zest, juniper, and more coriander.
2. Suntory Roku Gin
This craft Roku gin is named for its six Japanese botanicals, including sakura flowers, sencha and gyokuro teas, yuzu peel, and sansho pepper. These ingredients are exquisite and uniquely Japanese.
They are all grown at different times throughout the year, so much care is put into harvesting each one as they mature. The result is a gin that gives you a taste of all four seasons in each sip.
The botanicals are all then distilled individually to capture the fullness of each flavor before being combined with the other eight ingredients: coriander, juniper, angelica seed and root, cardamom, cinnamon, lemon peel, and bitter orange. The result is an aroma of classic gin with a signature Japanese twist.
The palate offers notes of sharp citrus and herbal tea combined with hints of classic juniper.
3. Hendrick’s Gin
The Wall Street Journal called this the “best gin in the world.” Perhaps this is due to the fact that it’s a delicious, top-notch gin at a fantastic low price. Founder William Grant worked at a distillery as a bookkeeper, but paid close attention and secretly learned the art of distillation. After two decades, he moved on and opened his own distillery in Scotland with the help of his many children.
The distillery is still in the family today, with the original recipes still contributing to their production.
Hendricks Gin is made in small, 500-liter batches with an expertly crafted mix of botanicals including elderflower, juniper, yarrow, angelica root, chamomile, coriander, caraway, cubeb berry, orris root, and lemon.
The aroma is bold and tingly with rose petals dominating and other floral scents slipping in. The palate features a strong citrus flavor with cucumber, lemon, and orange peel to balance it out. The finish is smooth with a hint of coriander and cumin.
1. Barr Hill Tom Cat Reserve Gin
This Tom Cat Reserve Gin is matured for three or four months in new American oak casks and contains a unique splash of raw, organic Vermont honey to add extra sweetness to the flavor.
Unlike most other gins, it’s distilled using only a single botanical – juniper. It’s the addition of the honey during a second distillation that gives this gin its sweet, soft, lovely flavor profile. In addition to the notes of honey, you’ll taste a hint of vanilla and caramel as well.
The secret to making this gin as good as it can be is in the care and harvest of the honey, and this starts with the bees.
They take the utmost best care of the bees that they can and they harvest the honey carefully and deliberately to get the best yield. The result is a sweet, smooth, incredibly unique gin that customers can’t get enough of.
2. Sipsmoth VJOP London Dry Gin
This London Dry Gin is heavy on the juniper. This comes as a result of Sipsmith’s desire to create the ultimate gin for juniper lovers – which is exactly what they did.
Juniper is dominant, but there are nine other botanicals included: coriander, angelica root, licorice root, orris root, ground almond, cassia bark, cinnamon, orange peel, and lemon peel.
The botanicals are distilled in a copper pot still large enough to create 280 bottles of gin every day. It’s also the first copper pot still to be installed in London in almost 200 years.
Junipery pine and cedarwood dominate the nose on this one, with hints of zesty orange. The palate is heavy on juniper as well, with notes of dark chocolate and rich spice. The finish is long, dry, and well-balanced between juniper and the other flavors.
3. Plymouth Gin Original
This original Plymouth Gin is created with just seven classic botanicals, including juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root, cardamom, and orris root. These botanicals converge to create a flavor profile that’s heavy on the sweet, earthy citrus flavors with subtle notes of bitterness and menthol.
This classic spirit has won several awards, including an impressive double gold medal at the World Spirits Competition, among others. What’s also impressive is the history – Plymouth Distillery goes all the way back to 1793 when they first opened their doors after converting a monastery into a distillery. Although the company changed hands several times, it has never ceased operation.
1. Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin Distiller’s Cut 2019
Monkey 47 creates a new distiller’s cut gin every year that’s one-of-a-kind and limited edition. Fans of the brand look forward to the new drink every year, though some have stood out as favorites. 2019 was a particularly good bottle and many of them are still around.
The 2019 edition is a dry, elegant gin with soft, subtle resinous notes that offer a unique and unmatched complexity. It’s a mysterious yet thrilling experience on the palate, and the nose offers a strong, enticing, and unique aroma of nutmeg.
Monkey 47 gets its name from the founder’s well-researched and extensive list of 47 unique ingredients. This includes classics like angelica, cardamom cassia, coriander, and almond as well as some more unique and diverse ingredients like lavender, pimento, rosehip, sage, cranberries, and so much more.
2. Russell Henry Dark Gin
Russel Henry’s Dark Gin is a unique twist on their more traditional London Dry recipe which was awarded 96 points at the 2016 Ultimate Spirits Challenge along with an “extraordinary ultimate recommendation.”
The gin is aged in cognac and bourbon casks for an entire year, where it spends its time bringing out well-balanced flavors of light pine.
Also on the palate are notes of wood and pepper, with a similarly exotic and enticing aroma. Founder Tamar Kaye has been working as a distiller for many years, creating award-winning spirits under several labels since 1989.
3. HH Bespoke Gin
HH Bespoke Gin is a creation of Harlem Haberdashery, a bespoke clothing producer who created a spinoff brand of gin. It’s a special take on the traditional London dry style that adds in some less traditional American botanicals.
This includes lavender, rosehip, cranberry, and beach plum, with juniper still dominating. The brand is extremely new to the game, especially when compared with centuries-old distilleries.
Despite only launching in 2018, Harlem Haberdashery partnered with an experienced small-batch distillery and created a professional, high-quality collection of spirits that can be “enjoyed fashionably.”
Juniper is most notable on the nose, with hints of lavender and rosemary. The palate continues with coriander taking the spotlight and juniper appearing in the background. The finish is light and smooth.