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Ten great British gins to try

Decanter recommends a selection of 10 top gins from around the UK

Gin has a very long history in England, but arguably the gin scene in the British Isles has never been as exciting as it is today.

The ‘ginaissance’ that has seen the popularity of the spirit rocket in recent years led to 80 new gin distilleries opening in 2019, bringing the total to 441, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Even our late Queen got in on the act, launching her Buckingham Palace Gin in 2020.

The demand is certainly there – Britain exported £672 million worth of British gin last year, taking total sales at home and abroad to over £3.2 billion.

We’ve picked out 10 gins that give a real flavour of where in the British Isles they are made, usually through the specific mix of botanicals.

Tour the British Isles in 10 gins:

Arbikie Kirsty’s Gin

Kirsty’s Gin is named after Arbikie’s master distiller Kirsty Black, who carefully chose local botanicals to represent the distinct landscape and surroundings. The kelp, carline thistle and blaeberries (bilberries) embody the elements of ocean, rock and land that surround the Arbikie Estate’s Scottish east coast farmlands. Farmers since 1660, the estate grows, distils and bottles on site, in a true field-to-bottle operation. Fresh and crisp, with black pepper, seaside notes – almost an iodine tang – and a subtle, wild florality. Alc 43%

Bara Brith Gin

A celebration of the traditional Welsh tea loaf bara brith, this unusual gin from the Snowdonia Spirit Co brings a whole new meaning to sense of place! The key botanicals of dried fruit, candied peel, black tea and spices produce a richly flavoured, warming gin with distinctive sweet fruit cake, citrus and spice aromas. Garnish with a twist of orange peel, and enjoy by the fire on a cold winter’s day. Be sure to admire the image on the reverse of the label through the bottle, a wild Welsh landscape painted by Alan Rankle. Alc 40% 

Steeltown Welsh Dry Gin

A tribute to the industrial roots of Wales and specifically workers in the coal and steel industries, this contemporary gin was created by the Spirit of Wales distillery with the everyday Welsh person, and the community in mind. It’s infused with 13 botanicals, with juniper, cassia bark and orris root dominating. Lemon citrus notes and a hint of menthol keep it clean and fresh, with cardamom, liquorice root and fennel seed adding depth. Visit the Newport distillery and taste the Steeltown Welsh Vodka too, and Dragon’s Breath Spiced Welsh Rum. Alc 43%

Callooh Callay Coastal Gin

The name conjures up images of walks along windswept beaches, and indeed this Norfolk-produced gin is made with local botanicals top of the list, including rock samphire from the local Stiffkey marshes, and dulse seaweed. Also in the mix are coriander, angelica root and lavender – and a dose of sea-salted liquid. Created by Gyre & Gimble, there’s a brisk marine freshness to the gin, balancing the punchy ABV and making it a delicious choice for a gin and tonic – or try it combined with the distillery’s Sea-Salted Vodka, in a classic martini. Alc 45%

Jin Môr Gin

This Welsh ‘gin of the sea’ enhances classic botanicals with a pinch of the famous Halen Môn sea salt from the Isle of Anglesey. The owners of Halen Môn ran an oyster farm, fish and game wholesaling business and an aquarium before hitting on the idea of making sea salt. The gin is distilled in Snowdonia using water from the mountains, for a true taste of coastal North Wales. The lick of salinity perfectly balances the earthy juniper berry flavours. Alc 43%

Shortcross Gin

Ireland’s most awarded gin, Shortcross is distilled on the 200ha Rademon estate in Co Down that dates back to the 6th century. It’s made by husband-and-wife team Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong, who married in 2011 and launched their first bottles of gin just three years later after travelling the world to learn the craft of gin making. The first gin to be distilled in Northern Ireland, Shortcross is named for the village local to the estate, Crossgar, which translates from Gaelic as Short Cross. The label carries a picture of the Shortcross Penny. Inspired by the gardens and surrounding forests, the botanical mix includes wild clover, apples, elderflowers and elderberries, while fresh water drawn from the estate well is used in the blending. Try it with elderflower tonic and a twist of orange peel. Alc 46%

The Lakes Gin

This elegantly packaged, award-winning gin is inspired by the beautiful Lake District National Park, in England’s northwest, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A classic London Dry style, the recipe features only a few botanicals, gently steeped overnight in British wheat spirit and pure water from the Lakes, like loose-leaf tea, to encourage the essential oils to release more slowly and protect their delicate nature. The result is a classic English gin with vibrant notes of juniper, cracked black pepper and orange peel. It’s incredibly smooth and harmonious to taste. Recommended garnish: pink grapefruit. Alc 46%

Tarquin’s Handcrafted Cornish Dry Gin

The botanicals used for this contemporary take on a London dry gin include some foraged locally on the wild Cornish coast. Inspired by the Atlantic Ocean and clifftops of North Cornwall, the recipe draws on coriander, orange, lemon and grapefruit, as well as fragrant handpicked violets, orris root, green cardamom seeds, angelica, bitter almond, cinnamon and liquorice root (and, of course, juniper). The gin is handcrafted in small batches, with every bottle filled, labelled, waxed and stamped by hand. Tarquin’s recommend serving with Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic, a slice of red grapefruit and a sprig of thyme. Alc 42%

Wimbledon Garden Gin

After focusing on real ales, beer and wine, the Wimbledon Brewery in southwest London has turned its hand to gin, and its creation has already scooped two gold medals in international competitions. It’s distilled using botanicals that can be found on the local Wimbledon Common (yes, of Wombles fame), gorse and heather, plus honey from local bees, liquorice and cascade hops. It has a rich and distinctive flavour – let it express itself through a classic G&T serve, ice and a slice of lemon. Alc 43%

Wrecking Coast Clotted Cream Gin

Produced in north Cornwall using local ingredients where possible, including fresh Cornish clotted cream, Cornish natural spring water and Cornish sloe berries. Clotted cream and gin don’t sound like obvious bedfellows, but an innovative two-step distillation process has been used to add mouthfeel, texture and softness to a classic London Dry gin style. The clotted cream is cold distilled under vacuum, bringing across the oils and essences of the cream, and then blended with a 12-botanical gin that has been made separately. Garnish with strawberries and you have your own, grown-up version of the traditional West Country cream tea! Alc 44%

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