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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Fiona Beckett

Pick of the crop: the best new gins for summer

The definition of summer? A gin and tonic with a slice of grapefruit and sprig of rosemary.
The definition of summer? Gin and tonic with a slice of grapefruit and sprig of rosemary. Photograph: Jenny Dettrick/Getty Images

It might seem superfluous to write about spring- and summer-inspired gin – after all, what else is gin and tonic if not spring-like and summery – let alone gin-based cocktails such as the white lady or the French 75. Then again, you know as well as I do that no distiller is going to miss the opportunity to craft another “expression”, as they call such things these days, let alone charge you more for it. In fact, I now get quite excited when I find a gin for under £30 – even own-label supermarket gins hover around the £17 mark.

The platinum jubilee is, of course, an ideal opportunity for producers to cash in. In the interests of balance, I tried quite a few of the new offerings, and – surprise! – it turns out they’re not necessarily an improvement on the originals. If you’re a fan of Silent Pool (which I am), for example, I’m not sure you’ll go for its Platinum Celebration Gin, which has a cloyingly peachy flavour – especially because it costs £45, rather than the usual £38. Given the beauty of the bottle, however, maybe this is one for collectors rather than drinkers. I do really like the new Whitley Neill gin in today’s pick, though.

Two contemporary, genuinely summery gins are the incredibly pretty Citadelle Jardin d’Été (the French, being practised distillers, are really rather good at gin) and Martin Miller’s latest release, Summerful, which is made with Icelandic water (massive eye-roll) and flavoured with rosemary and arctic thyme, which give it an appealingly herbal character; it’s beautifully smooth, too.

Then there are flavoured gins. Gah! Where do I start? Well, being a gin drinker, I’m clearly not the target audience. Mind you, I did find a couple to recommend: the Harmonist Rhubarb & Ginger gin in my pick, which, although sweet, does have a definite rhubarb flavour that, at this price, is almost certainly not natural, but it’s widely available at Spar. And Henley has a Rhubarb & Orange gin (£38 Virgin Wines, or £40 from the distillery, 42%) that is a more sophisticated, complex gin than its colour and packaging might suggest. Note also that these are both gins, rather than “gin liqueurs”, which tend to be more like a ready-mixed cocktail than a spirit, as well as being lower in alcohol.

And call me a killjoy, but I simply can’t bring myself to recommend Marks & Spencer’s Strawberry Gin Liqueur, unless you’ve been so overwhelmed by platinum jubilee fever that you don’t care what you drink, as long as there’s bunting on the bottle. Sorry, yer maj.

Five gins to put a spring in your step

Whitley Neill Original London Dry gin platinum 43%

Whitley Neill Original London Dry Gin Platinum £25 Morrisons, £26 Sainsbury’s, Tesco, City of London Distillery, 43%. Whitley Neil has gone full platinum jubilee with its branding, but this really classic gin will appeal to purists.

Spar The Harmonist Rhubarb and Ginger Gin 40% £25

The Harmonist Rhubarb & Ginger Gin £16.99-£19.99 Spar, depending on branch, 40%. Verging on a gin liqueur in style, but full strength, and with a decent rhubarb flavour. Add loads of ice and don’t overdo the tonic.

Martin Miller’s Summerful Gin 40%

Martin Miller’s Summerful Gin, £26.89 Amazon, £26.99 Master of Malt, 40%. Very smooth, quite herbal gin. Nice on its own or with a splash of light tonic.

Citadelle Gin de France Jardin d’été 41 copy

Citadelle Gin de France Jardin d’Été £35.25 The Whisky Exchange, 41.5%. Stunningly pretty bottle, gorgeously floral, fruity gin – worth the money.

Audemus BGL Bergamot gin liqueur 35%

Audemus BGL Bergamot Gin Liqueur £23.95 (50cl) The Whisky Exchange, £24.95 Master of Malt, 35%. Yes, it calls itself a liqueur rather than a gin, and it is quite sweet, but it also has a seductively smoky, citrussy flavour that comes from bergamot, lemon and distillates of two smoky teas. Better with soda than tonic IMO, with perhaps a sprig of fresh lemon verbena. A lovely aperitif.

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