As a big fan of Gin and a big fan of Europe, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting some of the best bars to taste some of the best gins Europe has to offer. And while you might think that the UK Gins are bound to be the best, you might be surprised at what our fantastic continent has to offer. Here we’ll explore the best gins in Europe and maybe I’ll be able to find your new favourite tipple.
How do you spot a good gin?
First of all, you’re probably wondering, how are the best gins determined? Well, sadly, it’s quite difficult to come up with an objective opinion. But, according to experts, there are a few things you should look out for when purchasing; according to Luxury Insider: buying a bottle of the “original gin”, Genever, as a base to determine your palate; avoiding ‘luxury’ or ‘premium’ gin as these are common marketing buzzwords; visiting a bar and checking out a number of gins in small proportions as they are likely to stock a good range.
Luxury Insider also provides a solid guide on how to taste a new gin. In summary, you should:
- Choose the correct glass, such as one that curves inwards.
- Check out the colour of the gin first as botanicals will impart colour and aroma.
- Add an equal part of water to the gin to bring out the flavour and deaden the impact of the alcohol.
- Swirl the gin.
- Take in the aroma and try to guess the ingredients.
- Taste the gin… obviously!
What are the best types of gin?
Let’s take a look at the different kind of gins out there:
- London Dry Gin
- International Style Gin (New Western)
- Old Tom Gin
- Sloe Gin
- Genever Gin
London Dry Gin is the most common gin out there and is created with juniper berries, normally. New Western Gin (or International Style) is somewhat like London Dry Gin but uses different berries which produce different flavours. Old Tom Gin is, again, like the above, but sweeter. Sloe Gin is arguably the sweetest gin and is flavoured with the blackthorn fruit. Genever is the classic gin and is usually sweet and aromatic.
Beginners often find Beefeater, Gordon’s or Hendrick’s to be the most palatable gin. Otherwise, if you’re feeling adventurous a Sipmith’s Sloe gin can thrust you straight into the world of ‘Mother’s ruin’ — a common nickname for Gin.
Best UK Gins
So, being British, I may as well start off with my favourite UK gin. And for me, it’s the classic Hendrick’s. Regarded as the “Best Gin in the World” in 2003 (alright, quite some years ago…) by the Wall Street Journal, and received very well by the San Fransisco World Spirits Competition and the Beverage Tasting Insitute, this Scottish hand-crafted gin is perfect for the classic gin and tonic.
What I find particularly appealing about Hendrick’s is the cost: at around £25 a bottle, it’s a little more expensive than Beefeater (cheap, cheerful, but nothing special), Gordon’s (regarded as a very poor gin by serious drinkers) and Bombay (again, like Beefeater, but revered slightly more), but certainly worth the extra tenner. This is probably because, according to vinepair, Hendrick’s is capped at 500 litres per day production, uses two different stills (one from 1860), and went through a recipe revolution between 1988 to 1999. It is regarded as the gin that kicked off the reincarnation of gin in the early 2000s.
Best Italian Gins
I’ve visited a few places in Italy, namely Milan, Turin and Rome, and the number one gin I found over there was Malfy. It’s a bit like the British Gordon’s in terms of popularity, but a lot more refreshing. It’s a decent sipping gin if you’re not a particular fan of gin and tonics, but, will also go well with a G and T, so it’s essentially the best of both worlds.
The main feedback is that it’s lemony and comes with a strong hint of juniper, which puts it in line with many of the Dry London gins on the market. It’s not recommended for those who don’t like citrus-based drinks, but that’s not many gin drinkers out there.
Otherwise, other honourable mentions are Gin Pilz Dry Gin, Dol Gin and Vollombrosa gin.
Best German Gins
Monkey 47 is the most popular gin in Germany, and for good reasons. Not cheap, at around €50 – 55 a bottle, it’s ideal for gin connoisseurs looking for their next step up. I had the pleasure of trying this gin both in Berlin and in Vienna (I know, not Germany, but it’s close enough) both neat and as part of a G and T and I wasn’t disappointed. Seriously, I don’t normally drink gin neat, but this was a treat — possibly due to the fact its distilled with spring water and uses 47 different botanicals. A taste sensation.
I also had the pleasure of trying Berliner Brandstifter, which is produced with botanicals grown on the outskirts of Berlin. I didn’t like this one as much as Monkey 47 due to the fact it is a more floral gin, but I still enjoyed it as part of a Gin and Tonic. Otherwise, there are a few other gins out there that are worth trying according to my German friends, such as Friedrichs Dry and Gin Sul, both around the €40 mark.
Best Spanish Gins
Spain is not the first place you’d think of when it comes to quality gin, but let me tell you, they are crazy for the botanical spirit right now. Known as a gin tonic in Spain (it’s smoother), there are a few solid up-and-coming brands with one of the most popular being the Gin de Mahón which is ideal for the classic highball cocktail. Other than that, I don’t really have much experience with Spanish gins, but there’s plenty to check out!