Gin is quintessentially English, but some gins are more English than others. So for St George’s Day we’ve gathered the 9 most English gins.
In no particular order these are 9 gins that have something to say about England and its history. So read on, drink up, and enjoy.
With an official title of The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary it’s no wonder that they’re more commonly known as Beefeaters. Guards of the Tower of London and Protector’s of the Crown Jewels, there aren’t many more colourful and iconic symbols of English history.
Beefeater Gin has more than earned its association with these guardians of London as they kept London-based gin manufacturing alive when every other major distiller left the city. Beefeater have been making great gin in London for more than 150 years and don’t look like they plan to leave anytime soon.
Beefeater London Dry is an uncontested classic. While it may not be the most fashionable gin, its clean palate, juniper forward with a strong citrus element and a refreshing peppery finish, is just a drinkable as it’s ever been.
Blackcurrant as a flavouring in English cooking goes back to ancient roots but it really took off in popularity during World War 2. Many fruits that were rich in vitamin C, such as oranges or lemons, became difficult to obtain in the UK but blackcurrant could be grown at home and was incredibly rich in vitamin C. At one point blackcurrant syrup was even given away free by the government to all children aged 2 or under. Ribena and many other blackcurrant juices trace their origins and popularity back to this time and now 95% of all the blackcurrant grown in the UK is turned into Ribena.
Part of that 5% though ends up in Addingham Blackcurrant Gin Liqueur. Based in the tiny village of Addingham in Yorkshire, all of the fruits used in their various gin liqueurs are either farmed locally or foraged from the hedgerows that are such a feature of this beautiful part of England.
The deeply fruity flavour of the blackcurrants if offset by the warm peppery flavour of cloves and juniper, to produce a liqueur that’s startlingly refreshing in summer or perfect as a winter warmer. Try it topped up with a dash of prosecco instead of the usual tonic.
The traditionalists at Broker’s London Dry Gin might not be known for their weird and wonderful flavours but they certainly have a sense of humour about their old-fashioned style, how else do you explain the bowler hat?
Originally created by London hatmakers Thomas and William Bowler, their eponymous hat was created to protect the heads of gamekeepers, as the traditional top hat was liable to get knocked off by tree branches when riding a horse. Possibly the most enduring symbol of the stereotypical Englishman, the fashion for wearing bowler hats might have died out in the 80’s but thanks to the likes of John Cleese, Charlie Chaplin, John Steed and Mr Benn, the image of the city gent, bowler on bonce and brolly in hand will forever come to mind when thinking of an Englishman.
Broker’s Gin is all about this bygone era of Englishness. Made in a 200-year-old distillery to an equally old recipe that has definitely stood the test of time. Broker’s is surprisingly smooth, with a good balance of spicy juniper and ripe citrus fruit. A little further on, the very English aromas of oak and parsley take over until it finishes with a warm fade.
As an island nation, trade, ports and naval history have been as big a part of English heritage as the countryside and cricket. And all those qualities of England are embodied in Half Hitch Gin.
Firstly, it’s made in Camden Lock one of the many locks along the Regent’s Canal, one of the busiest waterways in England and, in times past, a thriving hub of trade and commerce. Gin used to be made here and Half Hitch have resurrected that tradition more than 50 years after the last Camden Distillery shut its doors.
Nowadays, of course, Camden Lock remains important to the English psyche as nearby Camden Lock Market, home to poets, punks and fashionistas, is London's beating heart of creativity and artistic expression.
Lastly, and not to be overlooked, it includes tea as a botanical. And is there anything more English than a cup of tea?
The tea flavour is subtle, with citrus, sweet orange and nutmeg being more prominent notes. There are also hints of woody spice, touches of bitter lemon and a slight grassiness.
Speaking of tea, Mason’s Gin - Yorkshire Tea Edition might not have any kind of historical import,, but it certainly tastes like tea. This is one of the most delicious gins we’ve ever come across (it even topped our best gins of 2015 list) and the tea botanicals play a big part in that.
This gin is robust, earthy and powerful. The tea adds a richness which works in harmony with the other, more typical gin, flavours. Whilst it could easily overpower juniper, citrus and spice it instead lifts them, transforming them and revealing new character to these familiar flavours.
Gin and tea are both fantastic English specialities and they’re even better together!
At the time of writing, Plymouth Gin is one of only 3 gins in the entire world with PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication) meaning that it can only be made in Plymouth. That’s surely got to count for something as no other gin on this list has to be made in England by law.
Established in 1793, Plymouth Gin is one of the oldest surviving English gin brands. In fact, it’s the oldest distillery in England to have continually operated out of one building, Blackfriar’s Distillery.
Plymouth, the city, also has to be one of the most historically important English cities. A major Naval hub and enormous port, Plymouth is inextricably linked to the time of the British Empire; when ships stationed there formed the backbone of the globe’s mightiest naval power and goods from across the entire empire came into the docklands.
Plymouth Gin has a great depth of flavour with deep earthy notes and a wonderfully fresh juniper and lemony bite. It has a slight sweetness with extraordinary concentration and complexity. No single botanical dominates the overall flavour. The finish is long and dry.
England is home to the “rhubarb triangle” in West Yorkshire between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield. This 30 square mile area formerly produced 90% of all the world's rhubarb in forcing sheds, a growing technique that uses only candlelight and produces sweeter and more tender rhubarb. More so than apples, blackcurrants or even strawberries, rhubarb should be considered the most English of fruits.
The rhubarb in Warner Edwards Victoria's Rhubarb Gin isn’t grown in Yorkshire but in Lincolnshire, from a crop that was originally grown in the kitchen gardens of Buckingham Palace, during the reign of Queen Victoria. So it’s got a royal connection as well.
Victoria's Rhubarb Gin is smooth and earthy with a big hearty rhubarb punch. There is phenomenal sweet and sour balance with the rhubarb’s natural acidity combining with the fruity sweetness to create a real palate cleanser. A gin that's almost too easy to drink.
Thomas Dakin Gin is named for an Englishman whose name you probably don’t know, but you definitely should, as he was probably the saviour of gin.
Towards the end of the first gin craze, government intervention was finally starting to work and gin production was slowing down. Prohibitive tax and licencing laws made it difficult for most distilleries to profitably produce gin and thousands of gin businesses folded in a decade or so.
Thomas Dakin bucked the trend though, working to rescue gin from its reputation as a cheap and low spirit and restore a sense of quality and craft to the drink. In many ways he was like the craft distillers of today, rescuing gin from its own bad reputation.
Dakin founded what would eventually become Greenall’s gin distillery and it’s they who have produced this exquisite gin in his honour.
The distinctive botanical in Thomas Dakin is red cole (horseradish) inspired by recipes from the period for orange and horseradish cordials. The red cole is a dominant note, that gives the gin a uniquely savoury flavour, but that note is supported by a symphony of other aromas that weave together to produce a fabulous drink.
Brighton Gin was developed by 5 friends with 2 shared interests; gin and Brighton. They’ve produced a sterling spirit that’s highly evocative of their home town. The cap is inspired by the famous pavilion, the colours used are the same as the railings on the promenade and even the label is styled to look like a fairground ticket.
It’s not necessarily the Brighton of today but the Brighton of the early 20th century, a time when holidays were just becoming a real thing for the British working class and English seaside towns were the place to be seen. Scarbrough, Skegness, Blackpool, Morecambe, Bournemouth and Brighton, king of them all, promised entertainments ranging from Music Hall to Opera. Every good time girl would have been down the ballroom, gin and tonic (or more likely a pink gin) in hand, ready to dance the night away.
While the bottle does a lot of work evoking a specific time in English history, the gin inside is thoroughly modern and delicious. Clear and bright in the glass, Brighton gin has subtle notes of juniper at the fore, with sweet-scented, fresh citrus and just a touch of spice. A gentle and approachable gin with persistent hints of orange.
Did we miss anything? If you know of a really obviously English gin that’s not on our list, let us know on our Facebook page.
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