Looking for a special gin? We have found the best gin to buy for a gin lover to surprise them (spruce up on gin knowledge here to really impress). These gins are more unusual, from flavoured gins to small batch classic gins. Olivier Ward (Editor of Gin Foundry) introduces five lesser-known gins that will defy your preconceptions about the quintessential British Spirit (here are our favourite British gins).
Gin’s renaissance has now been underway for years and has brought with it a tidal wave of new gins that defy the spirit’s traditional roots. Over the past decade, entire gin subcategories have been brought back from the archives and imbued with a new lease on life. Who knew there would be such a thirst for barrel aged gins? Who would have bet on a Summer Cup revival? Chances are you have tasted a few different gins and with it, are starting to appreciate just how diverse gin is as a spirit.
The very best among this new breed of experimental gins are respectful of the spirit’s long-standing heritage and remain true to the one fundamental, immovable and only 'absolute' rule when it comes to gin - to be juniper focused. They innovate by taking gin’s resinous, piney core and taking it into new realms by adding in infusions, new distillation techniques and obscure yet wonderful botanicals. Here are some unusual gins that stand on the edge of what gin can be, while not venturing too far into the realm of that oh-so-murky world of 'flavoured' vodkas!
Dà Mhìle’s Organic Seaweed Farmhouse Botanical Gin to give it its full name, is made with a cut-down selection of botanicals used in their original offering and was specifically designed to complement seafood. After distillation, the gin is infused with fresh seaweed from the Newquay coast for three weeks, giving it a captivating green hue before being triple filtered and bottled at 42% ABV.
Both multi-faceted and intriguing, Dà Mhìle’s signature mentholic and rose notes remaining on the nose, but this time accompanied by coriander, dry juniper and a good measure of wet and salty aromas. When tasted neat, this is once again the case with notes of eucalyptus, spearmint and a lashing of seaweed as well. It’s worth noting just how smooth the gin is – it certainly doesn’t feel like a gin that is above 40%, let alone 42%. Either way, it’s easy to see how this would work with cheese, oysters and alongside a half dozen creamy scallops.
A strange hybrid of gin and beer flavours, the St Andrews based distillery uses Australian galaxy hops as a botanical which is cold compounded after distillation (giving the gin a slight yellow hue) to create their Hop Gin. Linking the two crafts of brewing and distilling together, it will come as little surprise to you that with both craft gin and craft movements in full force, this expression has proved to be a huge hit since its launch.
On the nose, the gin is very, very hoppy. It may seem unusual to describe a gin as having a zesty, beer-like head to it, but in many ways the citrusy hops just burst out on the nose. Juniper is subdued in the overall aroma but it’s warming undertones open up over time and especially when tasted. The gin has a certain oiliness to the mouthfeel too and at 46% ABV is certainly packed with flavour.
Saffron Gin is produced in Dijon, France by the distillers at Gabriel Boudier, the well-known French distillery with a roaring reputation for liqueurs trickling back to 1874. Launched in 2008, Saffron Gin is made from nine fresh botanicals that include juniper, coriander, lemon, orange peel, angelica seeds, iris, fennel and saffron.
On the nose, juniper and coriander, not saffron, are the first botanicals to stand out leaving the spice in question to emerge later. To taste, Saffron Gin is actually quite a classic gin that doesn't amaze or disappoint. The saffron as a botanical leaves its mark by lingering well after all the other botanicals have left and leaves you wanting more. The gin has a lovely buttery texture to it, and the subtle spice is not overwhelming at any point. Being bright orange may look like a gimmick, but the gin is better than appearance suggests!
Using a double-distilled 100% Agave Espadin Mezcal (find out more about mezcal here) as the base, this hybrid is an unusual combination of flavours. Nine botanicals are macerated for 24 hours in the agave base at which point the spirit is then distilled.
The result is a smoky gin, both resinous and ginny but completely bizarre and saturated in agave sweetness. It’s an odd ball for sure and one that has you wondering what to so with it. It’s not a gin for the gin & tonic aficionados, but for the more adventurous, it makes for a truly delicious gin Daisy - a classic gin cocktail made popular pre-prohibition. With tourism taking Daisy-loving cocktailers to Mexico, the Daisy recipe made its way down south. Daisy in Spanish translates to margarita. Take out the gin, add in tequila, and switch lemon for lime (a more readily available citrus in Mexico) and you have the Mexican version of a classic Daisy.
With Mezcal Pierde Almas Botanica, you make the story go full circle and create an original cocktail with a new kind of gin.
Launched in 2014 as the winning spirits from Diageo’s Show your Spirit competition, Jinzu is a gin with a mix of traditional and Japanese botanicals with a further infusion of Sake.
Named after the Japanese Jinzu River, the East-meets-West fusion begins with Japanese cherry blossom and yuzu citrus fruits counterbalancing juniper, coriander and angelica. All are identifiable in the overall flavour, in particular the zesty citrus and floral blossom on the nose.
What makes this gin unique however is the Sake, which is blended in post-distillation. Adding its faint sweetness and soft demeanor to an otherwise rounded London Dry style of gin, it allows the overall gin to be both exotic (blossom and fresh pear aroma) while remaining well grounded (piney, citrusy).
Olivier is the resident gin expert on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. If you want to learn more about gin and the category as a whole visit Gin Foundry.
More unusual special gins to try
Spiced negroni gin
Invented by Count Negroni in Florence in 1919, the negroni, the classic Italian aperitif, has seen an explosion in popularity over the past few years. Now, Four Pillars has created the perfect gin to take this classic cocktail to the next level. Made with blood orange, ginger, cinnamon, grains of paradise and pepper, the bold, fragrant Spiced Negroni Gin has been specially created with bartenders to cut through Campari and vermouth. £43.27/70cl, masterofmalt.com
Tarquin’s Cornish Navy Seadog Gin
This hefty spirit (57% ABV) picked up the top prize for gin at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2017. The high alcohol is balanced with notes of cracked pepper, citrus and violet. £45/70cl, amazon.co.uk
Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin
A well-balanced spiced gin, perfect for autumnal nights. The presence of cubeb peppers from Malaysia, Turkish cumin seeds, Venetian juniper, Moroccan coriander and Spanish orange peel make it warming and easy to drink. £23/70cl, waitrose.com
Ki No Bi Gin
Meaning ‘the beauty of the seasons’, this is the first Japanese gin to be created, blended and bottled at the Kyoto distillery in Japan. Made using a rice spirit base, the gin is infused with the usual juniper along with regional botanicals including yuzu, hinoki, sansho pepper and gyokuro green tea to create this elegant drink. The bottle’s stunning, too. £58, harveynichols.com