For some reason, gin exists. After years of struggle to appreciate the spirit ourselves, we’ve found five gins we’re confident anyone can enjoy. Which is saying something.
Taste-buds evolve in unexpected ways.
I remember my first experience of coffee. Not the sweet froth of a Flat White. No – real, black coffee. It left me grimacing like my dog, that time he bit into a lemon. But as I grew up, like most people, I found a way past its harshness and started to appreciate its different forms and flavours. Some even had somewhereness to them: striking flavours from particular beans, growers, regions and brewing methods.
I think of somewhereness as a quality that allows a product or experience to reflect the place or person it’s derived from. I’m drawn to it because, where it exists, it conveys an authentic story of provenance. And right now, gin provides some of the best examples of this, thanks to a boom in small-batch producers.
Getting Into Gin
Gin, however, is still a profoundly unpleasant life experience for me and many others – a genuine Marco Materazzi of a drink. Not only do I dislike juniper (the defining ingredient in all gin); I also find quinine (a key ingredient in tonic) more offensive than the look of Donald Trump in mushroom form – my least happy human-vegetable visual. Quinine is both bitter and a malaria treatment. Delicious.
But one of the ideas behind The Great Everything is to look beyond the things we find easy to love and, instead, try to appreciate different things relative to the different experiences they each aim to offer. So I decided small-batch gins deserved an investigation. Gin’s vast range of possible botanicals opens up more flavour possibilities than any other spirit out there. Plus, today’s excellent Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic and Double Dutch mixers also take the edge off harsher gins, leaving them more accessible to new gin drinkers. I was also drawn to gin’s relatively clean impact on the body and felt buoyed by my recent forays into gin-based cocktails, which I’d devised for various events.
All of which explains how I recently found myself in London, at the 2016 Gin Festival, forcing myself through several hundred craft gins on a simple mission: to find five innovative gins I felt anybody could enjoy. Even people who hate juniper. And quinine.
5 Gins for Gin Haters1. Pink Pepper (France)
This is a totally awesome experience for flavour nerds, from a totally schizophrenic gin that could only come from France. It’s also a premium product – the most expensive on this list (around £45/$60 a bottle at the time of writing). Imagine crunching a peppercorn in your mouth and then, out of that peppercorn, emerges a croissant. That’s the fascinating flavour journey Pink Pepper will take you on in the space of three seconds. It’s really interesting stuff and very difficult to dislike. Nobody hates patisserie.
Pink Pepper Gin has been designed to be an entirely unique, intense and aromatic gin – one which will age and evolve. When young or chilled – fresher, spicy notes of pink pepper, juniper and cardamom are prominent. Over time, it warms up – allowing notes of vanilla, tonka and honey to come to the forefront. Full-bodied and intensely aromatic, perfect for sipping or in cocktails.
2. Brockmans (UK)
This is a smart one for guys to keep in their home bar, if any stay-in dates are on the cards. The very subtle pink colour will appeal (if the popularity of pink champagne among many women is anything to go by) and, above all, the light lingering aftertaste of forest fruits is crisp and delicious. Brockmans is a rare gin in that it combines both creativity and complexity of flavour with complete approachability for a gin beginner.
This is a gin that dares to be different: an intensely smooth gin that tastes great over ice. The unique botanical recipe includes Bulgarian coriander which is very aromatic and gingery orange flavour, with blueberries and blackberries.
3. Silent Pool (UK)
There’s a brilliant, floral-nectar combo to Silent Pool gin’s aroma, and a very deft touch of honey. Once you get to your third sip, it turns spicier and more herbal than you might expect but there’s still a white flower sweetness beneath it all, some zesty citrus and a definite coriander hit on both the nose and the palate. This is one of the most interesting (and attractive) flavour combinations I’ve ever tasted in any spirit, thanks to its whopping 24 botanicals – it’s floral, tight and honey-rich all at once. Feisty, but available – like Rachel Zane in my favourite junk show, Suits.
Silent Pool Gin is produced on the Albury Estate in the Surrey Hills, right next to the Silent Pool, a beautiful, mysterious spring-fed lake. The gin itself features 24 botanicals, including kaffir lime, chamomile, local honey and lavender, among others, resulting in a subtly sweet though intricately-balanced tipple.
4. Gin Mare (Spain)
I was lucky to spend every summer of my childhood around the French Mediterranean. And just as the flavours of a Bandol wine take me right back there, so too does Gin Mare. This is genuine luxury for the tongue. Although hailing from Spain (one of the world’s largest gin markets), its unique character comes from a truly pan-Mediterranean botanical base, focused around the herbs and fruits of the region (but really, it’s the herbs that count). This is an opulent, silky concoction I find fascinating and smooth. It’s also a great example of an accessible savoury gin, where the first three in this list lean towards a slightly fruitier/sweeter profile.
Mare is a Mediterranean gin flavoured with four principal botanicals: basil, thyme, rosemary and, most unusual of all, the Arbequina olive. Alongside juniper, cardamom and citrus, these different botanicals create a strangely arresting gin: you’ll know when you’ve had a Mare.
5. Whitley Neill (UK)
What the Lion King would smell like if it were a spirit. Intense, warm and full of African flavours including baobab, orris root and cassia bark. Whitley Neill has an initial spicy warmth that turns into a citrus smack and a floral tickle. On the back of all that, there’s a warming, earthy finish. I like this a lot, but it’s the perfume that makes it special.
From the Baobab tree logo to the wooden cork stopper, this gin is right at home in the Savanna. The African influence is clear in the flavour too, with the taste of the Baobab fruit and Cape gooseberries (both local to South Africa) shining through. The Baobab fruit gives an initial tang to the gin and the gooseberries leave a wonderful lasting taste. Inspired by Africa, made in England.
If you’re tempted to try any of these, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on them. Similarly, if you place an order on Amazon through this website, we can help out with optimal gin/tonic/mixer combinations for each one – just drop us an email.