Gin, the timeless spirit that is the cornerstone of a whole host of classic cocktails, has been on a tear in the new millennium. That’s a boon to lovers of the martini, negroni, Singapore Sling, and a whole slew of other elegant cocktails who saw flavored vodkas and blended drinks rule the roost during much of the last part of the twentieth century. Its rapid rise in popularity has coincided with the explosion of new brands across the planet that have been pushing the once-staid boundaries of gin.
The wide array of styles on the market today showcases distillers’ evolving mindsets regarding the botanicals and other ingredients used when crafting their bottles. That, coupled with the premiumization of the gin market, much like other spirit categories, means that drinkers have many different bottles to choose from these days. Gone are the times when just a few UK-based brands dominated the market.
Nowhere has this gin renaissance more highlighted than at the recent New York World Wine & Spirits Competition. Held annually for the last fourteen years, it has quickly become one of the most prestigious events on the global stage. Most of the event judges come from the New York area and are leaders in the wine and spirits industry.
Their four gin finalists and one overall winner touch on the world’s four corners, highlighting how globally popular the spirit has become. The bottles highlighted came from Japan, Italy, Tasmania, France, and the UK. Each one was awarded double gold, the highest honor the competition bestows. Any would be a worthwhile addition to any gin lover’s collection.
Best Gin Finalist: Ohoro Gin
Hailing from Niseko, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan, a spot renowned for its world-class skiing, this gin has an interesting backstory. The brainchild of Jiro Nagumo, the president and CEO of sake maker Hakkiasan Brewery, the two-year-old Niseko Distillery is a state-of-the-art facility. Using the pristine underground soft waters and natural botanicals abundant in the area, they gently imbue flavors reminiscent of the lush forest surrounding the distillery.
A classic London dry-gin style, Ohoro uses local botanicals like yachiyanagi (myrtle), Japanese hackberry, sweet gale, and Japanese mint to create a light, clean flavor that hints citrus. It is an ideal cocktail base for classics like the gin & tonic and martinis.
Best Gin Finalist: Callington Mill Distillery Poltergeist Citrus
This Tasmanian gin has been racking impressive global accolades over the last decade, including the platinum award two years in a row at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. This bold gin pushes the boundaries with its expansive citrus flavors that jump out of the glass. An unfiltered gin it gets its name from the “louching,” or ghosting, that occurs in liquid due to the botanical oils coming in touch with the water. The cloudy appearance happens because of the anise, juniper, licorice, and other oils.
Those oils blend seamlessly with the Tasmanian-grown lemon myrtle, macadamia nuts, and mountain pepper berries to create a unique bottle. A very aromatic gin, it is best enjoyed with a splash of tonic or soda or just on the rocks.
Best Flavored Gin Finalist: Me Gin Pink Pepper
The latest craze in the gin world is pink gin. An older British Royal Navy concoction that had faded into history, its rebirth started in Spain, where bars began serving hefty copas of gintónica loaded with fruits, spices, and other flavors in the early 21st century. As the trend spread, distillers began experimenting with incorporating fruity and floral flavors into their bottlings, resulting in pink-tinged spirits.
Me Gin Pink Pepper is from Audemus Spirits, a distiller located in the heart of the Cognac region of France. Made with hand-picked peppercorns and a handful of other succulent botanicals like honey, vanilla, cardamon, and Tonka bean; it is intensely aromatic and quite bold. This gin is designed to evolve over time, both in the bottle and in the glass.
Best Flavored Gin Finalist: DiBaldo Spirits Au79 Saffron Gin
Using saffron in a gin is a bold move. As one of the world’s most recognizable and expensive spices, it costs over $5,000 a pound and can quickly overpower anything. But in this gin, it adds a layer of complexity that one rarely finds in gin. Made by Baldo Baldinini, a distiller whose stated goal is to redefine the world of gin and aromatized wines, this gin spotlights his radical ideas.
Working with his massive aroma bank of flavors at his lab in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, he is turning heads with each new release he drops on the market. Au79 is made with Iranian saffron and a wide array of botanicals that DiBaldo keeps secret, adding to its mystique. It is an ideal gin for sipping.
Best Overall Gin: Tipplemill London Dry Gin
It’s only fitting that the top gin in the world would be produced in the heart of the British countryside. The country spread the Dutch spirit across the globe in the holds of its vast trading fleets and across its various colonies.
Designed to highlight the classic London-dry style still the top seller worldwide, Tipplemill is loaded with floral flavors upfront that hit a drinker the moment they crack a bottle. It’s made with locally harvested elderflowers, sweet fennel, and a whole array of other sustainably sourced ingredients. It takes twelve months to produce this craft gin, and its depth of flavor helped propel it to the top spot in the competition. It’s ideal in a martini or a gin and tonic.