After a cold whisky winter in Joburg, gin is flowing once again and the ‘ginaissance’ is taking over, one mouthwatering cocktail at a time. Thanks to the sheer amount of gin brands available right now (we seriously aren’t complaining here), the choice can be overwhelming. So, we’ve rounded up five great gin brands to help you journey into the most quintessential spirit – whether you’re an old-school London Dry fan or like new-school botanicals or something that’s just plain weird.
Hayman’s London Dry Gin
Just brilliant, isn’t it? You don’t need us to tell you that. This is a classic stepping-stone gin for those looking to branch out beyond the basics Fresh, bright and classically balanced, it contains crisp citrus with subtle notes of exotic spice and the remarkable depth and complexity traditionally associated with the London Dry Gin style. To best enjoy, classically pair it with tonic water and a twist of lemon peel for a true English G&T. Obviously. Or, enjoy its crisp complexity in a fortifying classic martini. It’s also the perfect food pairing for gravlax or smoked salmon, as the crisp citrus notes cut wonderfully through the oily fish. Try this gin out in the early part of your gin odyssey.
R330 from your local bottle store
Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin
Known for its apothecary-style blue glass bottle, this is an incredibly fun gin that hails from a tiny town in Ireland that lists Charlie McGettigan as the sole ‘notable resident’ on its Wikipedia page. If you can’t trust the Irish when it comes to drinking, well … you really shouldn’t be drinking! Infused with gunpowder tea (a slow-dried green tea), the result is a gin bursting with fresh spiciness that doesn’t forgo the balance for punch. Palate-wise it’s complex with savoury, herbal and dried green notes – the combination of juniper, citrus, spice and star anise make for a distinctive and exciting product. Try it in a G&T garnished with red grapefruit or in a Red Snapper cocktail.
Around R399 from your local bottle store
For a different spin on gin, South Africa-distilled Autograph Gin (so named as it’s a brand that master craftsmen would be proud to attach their signature to) brings a taste of unique Cape flora with a distinctive scent of juniper berries combined with refreshing citrus flavours. Base notes of angelica root, overtones of fragrant coriander and hints of delicious artemisia afra give this African Dry Gin unique strength and unparalleled depth and warmth – not to mention a flavour that will wow even avowed gin-haters. The perfect serve is double shot neat on the rocks. Or, for the somewhat less adventurous, with a dash or two of tonic, garnished with the zest of soft citrus.
R499 from www.yuppiechef.com and your local bottle store
Distillery Road Gin
This beloved bottle that takes inspiration from Distillery Road, Stellenbosch blends the contemporary taste with the London Dry method. It gives the classic juniper and citrus palette of gin a revamp with top notes of lime and coriander on the nose, distinct warmth from the use of cracked pepper on the palate and a warm, rounded mouthfeel created by ginger. The subtler notes contain perfumed notes of fynbos such as confetti bush and lemon pelargonium and give this gin a distinctive flavour that truly stands out from the pack. Make your own G&T using this versatile, easy-drinking gin using Indian tonic water and a lemon wheel and freshly sliced ginger as garnish.
Around R249 from your local bottle store
Aviation American Gin
This Portland, Oregon based gin owned by Ryan Reynolds (who constantly raves about this versatile liquor) has a New World take on the spirit. While London’s gin of choice is juniper-forward, this American Dry Gin has a taste profile that’s less strongly juniper flavoured and balances it with six other botanicals – cardamom, lavender, arsaparilla, coriander, anise seed and dried orange peel – for a fresh and spicy combo. If celebrity endorsements mean something to you, this gin served up in a beautiful bottle reminiscent of the Great Gatsby era is just for you! It’s refreshing in a G&T garnished with lemon or lavender, or in a Negroni or Tom Collins cocktail.
R549 from www.yuppiechef.com and your local bottle store