The rise of craft gin in the UK, and the number of new distilleries making it over the last five years or so, cannot go unnoticed. More and more people have discovered the world of gin because of this recent boom. Locally foraged ingredients, passionate distillers and small-batch products are just a few of the elements that have attracted drinkers.
So whether your tonic is a simple G&T or something more complicated, there is now a gin for all tastes. Below we have 10 of the many great products available, showing the diversity of the UK craft gin scene. But first…
What Is Gin?
Gin is a neutral grain spirit infused with botanicals during a secondary distillation. The spirit is usually made from wheat, but any starchy base can be used. The botanicals can be infused in one of two ways, or as a combination of both.
Robust ingredients such as citrus peel, juniper berries and woody spices (things like cinnamon and cassia bark) are directly added to the neutral spirit prior to distillation. They impart their oils and flavours directly into the spirit, which is then evaporated and condensed to become gin.
Alternatively, more delicate and subtle botanicals, such as leafy herbs or flowers, can be suspended in a basket above the spirit. The evaporating spirit then passes through the basket and is infused with their flavour compounds during the process. So if you’re getting a hint of rosemary, that’s how.
Top 10 UK Craft Gins
This award-winning gin from County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland is housed within an old boatshed on the shores of Loch Erne. This true farm-to-bottle distillery only uses organic wheat grown in the local area. If you like a big juniper hit in your gin, then this could be for you. They expose their spirit to juniper berries twice during distillation – once directly in the still and again in a special vessel that the spirit passes through before condensation.
One of the UK’s first carbon neutral gin distilleries, this Yorkshire gin is all about sustainability. All the wheat used to produce their spirit is grown in Yorkshire with a number of ingredients and botanicals used within their products coming from right on the doorstep – this includes local honey, lavender and herbs. More exotic botanicals are ethically sourced and have minimum air miles where possible, with some even grown in a poly-tunnel at the distillery.
This certified organic and family-owned spirits distillery is located in Speyside, the heart of Scotch whisky country. So named as you can see eight counties from the top of nearby Ben Rinnes, Eight Lands is unlike many of its local contemporaries – there is no single malt in sight. Full concentration has gone towards gin and vodka. Their highly aromatic gin features numerous botanicals, including wild sorrel and cowberry foraged from the local estate.
Designed as a true celebration of juniper, this distillery near Morpeth in Northumberland is to be celebrated. Inspired by one of England’s last remaining wild juniper habitats in the nearby Northumbrian National Park, Hepple was one of first to use the supercritical flavour extraction method. This takes five times longer than distilling gin conventionally, but permeates the cells of botanicals deeper so as to extract higher concentration levels of aromatic compounds.
Isle of Harris
A Scottish gin that is made way up on the Isle of Harris in the northern Hebrides. The distillery was built as much for the local community as making spirits, with the goal of bringing employment and people back to the remote island. The gin is delicious and full of fresh maritime flavours. It includes sea kelp that is hand-picked by a diver from a local sea loch. The stunning bottle design is also worthy of a mention and has made many competitors improve their packaging.
This fabulous gin is distilled on the banks of the River Test in Hampshire, one of the UK’s only chalk bed rivers. The water is incredibly soft from being filtered through the chalk and runs directly to the distillery via an aquifer. Founded and operated by a husband and wife team, who both have full time day jobs and make gin in their spare time, the gin includes local botanicals including meadowsweet that is handpicked from the field behind where they live.
This gin was one of the true forerunners to the craft gin movement in the UK and started life in a kitchen in Highgate, north London over a decade ago. The couple behind the distillery, which has now relocated to a new visitor experience in Highgate High Street, championed the vacuum distillation method and has expanded to produce a selection of liqueurs, vermouths and other spirits. Their Christmas Pudding gin is perfect for the upcoming festive period.
When the founders of Sipsmith applied for planning permission for a distillery in Chiswick, west London in 2008, they were the first to do so in the capital for over a century. Another true frontrunner of the current wave, they captured the public’s imagination and have been catapulted into the mass market. Now owned by one of the big drinks companies, the brand is living the dream and grounded by a delicious range of products and clever eye-catching marketing.
Another husband and wife team, who started making gin for themselves to drink at home. However, it quickly evolved after friends told them it was good enough to sell. The small distillery is located on the edge of Dartmoor and named after a small white flower that grows in thatched cottage roofs and is said to ward off lightning, magic and witchcraft. Thunderflower’s range of contemporary gins are made in 150 bottle batches with each signed by the distiller for verification.
A Northamptonshire-based distillery that was one of the first to produce a rhubarb gin. In doing so, these pioneers essentially aided the creation of a new gin category and many have followed in their footsteps. Now, everyone has a rhubarb or rhubarb and ginger gin or gin liqueur. Originally the rhubarb was taken from the Victorian kitchen garden at nearby Althorp House, home to the Spencer family and final resting place of their most famous member, Princess Diana.