Bid farewell to dry January in style with these botanical-rich, artisan small-batch gins.

You can’t move these days for another artisan gin popping up. Not that we – nor the rest of the gin-glugging population – is bemoaning the renaissance. Sales of the spirit known as ‘mother’s ruin’ surpassed £2bn between 2018 and 2019, and that’s thanks in large part to the proliferation of independent small-batch distillers creating botanical-rich varieties that have totally revolutionised our ideas about a good G&T. (We can’t be alone in hitherto having relied upon Gordon’s as our default setting, or Bombay Sapphire when we were feeling fancy.)

There are so many glorious varieties of craft gin to try and buy. Here we select a small handful of our favourites, all of which hail from these British Isles, as a starting point for exploration. We urge you, though, to continue your adventures in gin beyond this list. It is, after all, like drinking bottled essence of the botanicals native to each locality and, plus, you’ll be supporting independent business. What’s not to love?

Fishers Gin

31 Dover
£39.95


Herbaceous, spicy and full of rare botanicals, this aromatic gin comes from a small independent Suffolk-based distillery. Containing spignel, samphire and bog myrtle, the ingredients are foraged-for by resident expert botanist, James. Do try it in a dirty Martini.

Start Point Gin

Salcombe Distilling Co
£37.50


This multi-award winner hails from the beautiful coastal town of Salcombe in Devon. Zesty and made with a blend of 13 botanicals, it takes inspiration from the ‘fruiters’ who once imported exotic fruits from far-flung lands. It is fittingly, then, fragrant and fruity. A great portent of summer in a glass.

Oxford Botanic Garden Physic Gin

TOAD
£34.95


Anyone who has ever whiled away a leisurely hour strolling around Oxford’s glorious Botanic Garden – the oldest example in the country, having been founded in 1621 – knows that it is a sublime place, featuring some 6,000 plant species. The advent of local gin distillery TOAD, and in particular its Oxford Botanic Garden – Physic Gin, only adds to that pleasure. What could be nicer than having a post-meander nip of gin containing 25 botanicals harvested from that very garden? Expect notes of juniper, wormwood and citrus. Do also check out TOAD’s Ashmolean Dry Gin for jura lemon, rose, jasmine and spiced flavours.

Stratford Dry Gin

Shakespeare Distillery
£34


This Stratford-upon-Avon distillery, named after the town’s most famous son, produces three gins from, fittingly, Tudor garden botanicals. Distilled using the London dry method, (which is to say, using a single shot distillation method), this particular blend has a floral notes of rose, rosemary and lovage. There is also a rhubarb gin and mulberry gin liqueur on offer; drink lashings of the former as the weather turns warmer and little shots of the latter while still languishing in the colder months. For those seeking the full Shakespeare Distillery experience, the company offers gin cruises along the River Avon (think tastings while taking in all the Shakespearean sights), a gin school at which you can make your very own blend, and finally, cocktail masterclasses.

Hidden Curiosities Aromatic London Dry Gin

Hidden Curiosities
£36


We’d buy this for the bottle alone, which looks as though it belongs on a particularly beautiful mahogany apothecary shelf, or lurking in a ye olde shop on Diagon Alley. Happily, the contents is just as alluring. Hidden Curiosities makes its small-batch artisan gin in the Surrey Hills, and is the result of its owner Jenny’s extensive researches in to craft gin, both in Japan and the UK. They say: ‘The balance of aromatic spices from five different peppercorns and green cardamom, paired with strong citrus flavours from yuzu and pink grapefruit, and supported by a whole orchestra of highly delectable botanicals, formed a deeply complex and multifaceted artisan gin.’ We couldn’t agree more. The mark of a properly great gin? It’s delicious drunk neat over ice.

The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

The Botanist
£34


‘Welcome to Wild,’ invites The Botanist’s lovely website, which is a lush and slick affair. Do take a moment to watch the introductory video to the company’s founding ethos, which is predicated around the fact that it forages for all its fresh ingredients on the Scottish island of Islay. There are sublime looking cocktail recipes (we’ve never tried a Chamomile Collins before, but we know that’s all set to change having spied this recipe). There are profiles of each botanical’s properties and history. There is merchandise (think aprons and bags). And then there’s the star of the show: the gin itself, which features twenty-two botanicals, from lemon balm to the superbly named ‘Lady’s bedstraw’, Tansy to wood sage. This is a gin of dreams. Where else, after all, would you be able to buy an artisan bottle and get a helping of Proust on the side? ‘The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes,’ it quotes on its site. We think we’re in love.

Barra Atlantic Gin

The Isle of Barra Distillers Co
£37


With its white sand beaches and its turquoise waters, it makes perfect sense that any visitor to the Isle of Barra, the most southerly of the Outer Hebrides’ islands, might wish to bottle its beauty. The Isle of Barra Distillers Co has just done that, harvesting native botanicals to produce its gin. They say: ‘The Carrageen seaweed provides a bold, maritime flavour, with a huge, mentholic lean and a pinch of salty air. Juniper dominates proceedings, we’re pleased to report. It’s dry and rich, flanked by the Carragreen and strong enough to paint the air a rich, herbal green. A spice nip kicks in, but liquorice roots start to weigh the tongue down towards the end of the sip, adding a sweet viscosity that makes us think of salt water taffy. It makes for a great G&T, but Martini-heads should definitely make a move for a bottle.’

Little Bird Gin

Little Bird Gin Micro Distillery
£29.95


‘Food, laughter and cocktails’. That was the happy triumvirate that provided the perfect conditions for the Little Bird concept to be born. It all happened one night in Peckham Rye, as a group of friends gathered to drink and talk, and the talk turned, inevitably, to the subject their shared favourite tipple: gin. Musing on what an adventure it would be to produce their own, having set themselves assiduously to the task of trying a drop and a dram of everything already on the market, they decided that they could and they would. They explain: ‘Our minds were buzzing with ideas for blends and botanicals. Our gin would be distinctive and handcrafted in micro-batches in London, using just 10 botanicals. Furthermore we would be a London Dry style, meaning no artificial flavourings, colours or sweeteners are allowed before or after distillation– a little detail that we feel very strongly about – and vegan too!’ We love the blend of pink grapefruit, orange peel and ginger, and we doubly adore the retro bottle too.


Tapper’s Hydropathic Pudding

Tapper’s Gin
£32


Not only do we adore the design of this gorgeous bottle, which looks like it’s modelled on a medicine flagon of old, but we adore the concept, which comes courtesy of West Kirby’s Tapper’s Gin. A sweet drink infused with herbs and spices, it’s the gin alternative to a Pimm’s and should be served up with lemonade. It’s set to be our summer go-to.

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January 2020
By Nancy Alsop

Nancy Alsop

Editor

Nancy has worked as a journalist for fifteen years.

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