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Musical theater fans may recall “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” from Gypsy, a number in which a trio of burlesque performers urge the title character to “do something special, anything that’s special” to distinguish her act.
The latest crop of gins seems to take a page from that libretto. There’s no shortage of great gins out there, and in order to be remembered, gin producers are leaning harder than ever into finding that “something special” to pull away from the pack.
That might mean flavoring the gin with fresh instead of dried juniper (Procera) or experimenting with resting the gin in small barrels made from juniper wood (Citadelle Juniper Decadence—no easy task, by the way: “Since the juniper is a modestly sized tree, its wood is not suitable for making long, curved staves, as it is too hard to bend,” the company explains. Instead, “special small casks were built with straight sides.”)
Others emphasize regional flavorings (see: kelp and other coastal botanicals for sea-inspired Hendrick’s Neptunia, or Irish honey in Ireland’s Silks) or the provenance of the raw ingredients used to distill the base gin (Northern California grapes, Mississippi Delta rice). And novelty gins come in an ever-expanding array of hues: pink, purple, blue. One newcomer, Scapegrace Black, uses butterfly pea to transform from murky gray to vibrant pink when tonic water or citrus is added, a fun party trick in a glass.
Has gin become too gimmicky? To be sure, it’s hard to stand out in a crowded marketplace. We can’t fault gin-makers for wanting to entertain us with a backstory or a bit of novelty. But it’s worth remember that since most gin is consumed in cocktails—not straight up—versatility may be the strongest selling point a gin can offer. A great Martini doesn’t require a gimmick: it just requires a great gin.
Uncle Val’s Zested Gin; $39, 96 points. Warm star anise, cinnamon bark and a teasing whiff of cocoa nibs perfumes this gin. The palate opens with a sweet, tingly mintiness that lifts off the palate, winding into a citrusy finish laced with lime peel astringency. —Kara Newman
Cotswold Old Tom Gin; $43, 92 Points. This historic, lightly-sweetened style would be right at home in a Martinez. Look for a citrusy aroma and appropriately sweet palate showing vanilla, coconut, and even a hint of brown sugar. The long, mouthwatering finish is tinged with clove and ginger zing. Botanicals include liquorice root, ginger, orange zest and cardamom. —K.N.
Hendricks Neptunia Gin; $40 92 Points. This sea-inspired gin is a limited release infused with “coastal botanicals,” such as sea kelp and coastal thyme. Look for mild juniper on nose and palate, winding into a complex, mouthwatering finish laced with subtle floral notes, grapefruit peel, eucalyptus, white pepper and a saline hint. —K.N.
Tommy Bahama Island Gin; $40, 92 Points. A fresh, vegetal take on gin. Spearmint, anise and a hint of celery entice the nose. The palate is similarly light and refreshing, showing fennel, celery seed, cucumber and coriander, finishing with zingy white pepper and lemon peel. Mix into G&Ts or any drink with fresh juices. —K.N.
Boatyard Double Gin; $32, 91 Points. Sweet gale – a shrub also known as bog myrtle – supplies this gin’s earthy, woodsy warmth. Lemon peel and grapefruit pith lead into dusty spices, cedar shavings and coriander, finishing dry and bracing. Best Buy. —Kara Newman
Silks Irish Dry Gin; $40, 91 Points. Bold, herbaceous aromas suggest eucalyptus, and fresh basil. The minty palate has a similar vegetal edge, leading into a tingly, faintly floral exhale. Botanicals include apple blossom, Irish honey and elderflower. —K.N.
Citadelle Gin Juniper Decadence; $35, 90 Points. From Maison Ferrand, this is an unusual twist: a gin (made with juniper, natch) aged in small barrels made with wood from juniper bushes. The end result is a faint honey tinge and a gentle wildflower and brown sugar flavors. The finish is long and bracing, with a fair amount of alcohol heat and plenty of juniper and citrus zing. —K.N.
Diplôme Dry Gin; $32, 90 Points. Look for a mild, lightly citrusy aroma and a brisk, drying palate. Most of the flavor is on the exhale: lemon pith, juniper, pine, black pepper. The base spirit is made from sugar beet. The producer says this gin is a 1945 recipe perfected during WWII in Dijon, France, where it “became the official gin for the American army stationed in Europe.” Best Buy. —K.N.
Hinterhaus Vapor Infused Gin; $37, 90 Points. This a bold gin, with plenty of fruit and funk. Hints of orange peel, maple and red fruit lead to a piquant exit sprinkled with pink and black pepper. Distilled from Northern California grapes and vapor infused with botanicals native to the Sierra Nevada. —K.N.
Navigator London Dry Gin; $30; 90 Points. Star anise aromas lead the nose. The first sips open gently with spearmint and a faint chocolaty note, leading into a bracing finish framed by grapefruit and lemon peel, plus white pepper sparks. Lengthen into G&Ts. Best Buy. —K.N.
Wonderbird Spirits Gin No. 61; $48, 90 Points. Made with a base of Mississippi Delta rice, this gin offers a bold licorice twang on nose and palate. The finish is subtly sweet, with star anise warmed by black pepper and clove heat. —K.N.
Last Updated: July 12, 2023