The confusing world of gin – exploring, one Martini at a time

When you start to investigate the gins of the world it can get very confusing.

I’m planning a blind taste party and so I thought to get ready it would be a good idea to see what others think are the finest gin brands in the world.

Armed with that easy knowledge I should be able to track down half-a-dozen or so bottles of your non-standard gins and entertain my pals; or so I thought.

For a start, the bottles are as varied as the contents.

The range of  what we might call “quality” gins — real gin, not chemically flavoured alcohol — is huge and the variety of botanicals and distilling processes overwhelming for a neophyte.

So I’m on the case.

A good place to start is a website called Gintime, it’s commercially sponsored, but sets out a history of gin, an explanation of the ingredients and plenty of gin-based cocktail recipes.

Eight English gins - that's a start

I’m looking for suggestions. If you are an aficionado of the humble spirit and have a favourite, drop a note.

5 Responses to The confusing world of gin – exploring, one Martini at a time

  1. Rose says:

    Here are my faves, Martin:

    My everyday gin – Bombay Sapphire.

    For a change – Zuidam (Dutch), both the dry and the Genever.

    For a highly floral and visually satisfying martini – Magellan .

    Another floral martini gin – Citadelle.

    I prefer Hendricks as a G&T rather than in a martini.

    Have fun! We did a blind test of straight gins a while back, and Bombay was our pick.

    [Ah Rosie, I had no idea, when did you develop the gin-habit? When I come to visit I know what to bring duty free. M]

  2. rob says:

    Hey Martin:
    For a real test you should test ’em straight…or over 2-3 cubes ‘o ice…separates the weak from the herd straight away…
    Have to agree with Rose on Bombay Sapphire for an everyday…
    but will always drink Hendricks over ice with cucumber if I’m gettin’ fancy.

    Good luck with the test – take pics…

    [tx Rob, sort of felt that your suggestion would be the way to go, but that’s just round 1.
    For a true EM experience, there has to be Martinis and variations on the vermouth – Noilly Prat, Lillet and the good old Martini dry.
    Hendricks won’t be in the mix this time, I figure it’s too easy to pick out of a crowd and I really don’t think it would work in a Martini.
    The pick is 3-4 London gins (incl Bombay, Tanquery 10 and Gordons[?]); the Plymouth; a couple of Kiwis, including South and Lighthouse [a current favourite] and the Aussie Stonepine, which I haven’t tried.]

  3. rob says:

    Hey cool cats,
    start your sophistcated gin party the ‘right way’ with some “hep cat music”

    From the early 60s…The Jazz Crusaders


    featuring Wilton Felder, Wayne Henderson, Stix Hooper, and Joe Sample – these cats were ‘uber cool’.

    Dig the ciggie in the presenter’s hand…this show was smokin’.


  4. Olivier says:

    Hi Martin, A bit late now probably but I’d thought i’d share some suggestions.

    I wonder if you noticed the effect of the distillation techniques on the smell? Carterhead distillation (Bombay)gives a lovely top notes, very light and floral whilst the Bennet distillates (Millers, Tanq, Beefeater) are much earthier and have more depth.

    Hendrick’s uses both techniques (unique) but the smell of Roses and Cucumber masks the fact that it combines the two methods..

    It’s amazing when you start smelling them next to each other how Gordons smells so stong of citrus too!

    I’ve found that on blind tastings you’ll be usually be able to split the crowd more or less 50/50 with girls going for Gordons and boys Millers (as to which they prefer)

    My fave’s are:

    If you want a martini: Millers or Sip Smith (new London dry started a year ago)

    If you want a G&T: Hendrick’s all the way, no compromise.

    If you need a Gin as a mixer: Arm your self with Hendrick’s, Tanqueray 10 and Millers and choose according to cocktail mix to bring out the flavors.

    Keep up the good work!
    [EM: Cheers Olivier, interesting how gin brings out the best in us.]

  5. Bunnyhugs says:

    Sounds like fun.

    I did a similar thing a couple of years back on my blog:

    Basically tasted a bunch of English style gins, trying them straight, in Martinis, in G&Ts, and in random cocktails – generally some variant on a gin sour.

    Very illuminating exercise and really helped me get to grips with gin.

    Blackwoods was a bit of a dark horse. Worth a try if it’s still around in NZ.

    I’m not such a fan of Hendricks, or the Tanqueray 10.

    Right now I’m up in Shanghai again and have unexpectedly become a Gordons drinker. Beefeater used to be my regular choice here, but recently the 47% stuff seems to have been replaced by 40%.

    I like Tanqueray too, but in these parts it’s twice the price of Gordon’s or Beefeater so I drink less of it.

    Crucially, the Gordons floating around in China right now is 43%. The extra few percent make all the difference compared to the NZ version.

    Make sure your ice is cold though!

    [cheers Seamus, will do]

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