First, craft beer revolutionized the industry. Now the white spirit is having its turn. Hand-crafted and swimming with exotic botanicals imported from every corner of the globe, artisanal gin is contemporary with sophisticated flavour profiles.
Whether you a serious gin connoisseur or a dabbler with the odd G&T, “mother’s ruin” is experiencing somewhat of a sustained revival with its small-batch movement continuing to make strides within the industry. This new breed of spirit has shaken off the “old lady” image, capturing the curiosity of those with a discerning palette. Consumer demand for high-quality gins laden with botanicals that stimulate the senses and elevate the most ordinary of cocktails to new realms doesn’t seem to have peaked. We are intrigued by this sustained trend, but more importantly, we are thrilled. For if consumers are demanding better quality, we have faith that the small-batch gin industry shall continue to deliver the high quality it is capable of. What has been dubbed the “gin-naissance” by some, is unequivocally in full-swing. And, this my friends bodes well for us all.
Botanicals you say?
Why yes. Traditionally gin-smiths include four core botanicals: the quintessential juniper berry, a sprinkling of coriander seeds, some orris and a dash of angelica root. However, artisans are now daring to go punk and further augment the usual suspects with spices – such as saffron, peppercorns or star anise – in tandem with aromatic fruits or florals – for example: hibiscus, pink grapefruit, yuzu, matcha, mango, lemongrass, or even cocoa nibs. The sky is the limit. Layered over each other in different combinations, often together with the four core stars, these new kids on the botanical block are causing a welcome anarchy on the cocktail scene.
Around the world in 80 gins (and counting).
Boutique gin distilleries are popping up around the world quicker than you can say “Do you fancy a Negroni?”
In New York, Brooklyn Gin is a bright blend that boasts Persian limes and Albanian juniper in its flavour profile. On the west coast, San Francisco has the quintuple distilled, small-batch named Gin No. 209 which is described as having a “beautifully aromatic nose with a hint of spiciness”, with an unexpected pepperiness.
Sipsmith in London is one of the well-known original crafters on the UK scene. Taking great pride in their process, their juniper is imported from the northern regions of the Mediterranean. They acquire their orange and lemon peel from Spain. Pure dedication to their craft is evident. It is reported that one of the owners even grows around 150 botanical species in his garden in the Cotswolds. One of their popular offerings, London Cup, uses their own award-winning London Dry spirit along with additions of Earl Grey tea, lemon verbena and borage to create a drink that is described on their website as “a sublimely sippable punch”.
Tanqueray 10 pops up again and again on the list. Whether you would like to sip it or mix a martini, this one keeps making us happy. One of the best G&Ts I have ever had was mixed for me with this stuff at Teatro at the Towers Rotana hotel on Sheik Zayed Road. The bar man there combined black peppercorns with a slice of grapefruit to complement the full citrus presence. It changed my viewpoint on G&Ts entirely. But you needn’t mix it with anything in order to appreciate its sheer brilliance; this multiple award winner should be a staple in your gin collection.
In the southern hemisphere, the respected South African distilleries, KWV, world-renowned for their brandies, launched their own small-batch London dry gin, Cruxland, which is aged in small copper pot stills. Although slightly less complex than some it’s counterparts with only 9 botanicals, this distilled drinking alcohol gets an appealing twist with the addition of the rare Kalahari truffle. Being double-distilled, its smoothness is complemented by botanicals which include: rooibos, honey bush tea, coriander, aniseed, cardamom, almonds, and lemon; all coming together to give a nod to its homeland in the Cape – famous for its fynbos.
Nobody would expect a gin of true craftsmanship to come out of Germany; it is probably the last place one would think of, yet, Monkey 47 is a must try. Popping up again and again on sipping gin lists, its story started back when a British serviceman decided to stay on in Germany to help rebuild a town after the devastation of WWII. One of the first things he did was to adopt a monkey at the local zoo and then after missing home and decent gin, he went on work on making a gin with a difference. Monkey 47 was born and it includes 47 botanicals and is 47 proof; hence, the name. Dis wunderbar…Really. I cannot emphasize enough how much you need to get your paws on this one. Definitely a game-changer, and according to the website Gin Foundry is one to try.
If you’re new to the small-batch gin world, why not give the Scottish favourite, Hendricks Gin, a try. Infused with cucumber and rose-petals, it makes for a light and refreshing drink over ice; perfect for a summer weekend.
Then there is Daffy’s, made by a Scottish distiller and which captivates with tradition but enough of twist to keep us intrigued with something a little different. Of course, it houses the traditional botanicals such as orris root and angelica, yet the addition of Lebanese mint and Spanish lemon alongside coriander and cassia bark, is what gives this gin its moreish flavours.
Bathtub Gin is an indulgent gin. It has a certain creaminess that feels luxurious despite what you might expect from the name. Bathtub gin was essentially moonshine made back in the Prohibition Era in the US and was made in backyard bathtubs. Yet, this gin is nothing like its namesake. There is nothing cheap about it and it screams decadence. So, if you are looking to treat yourself, then this one is the way to go. Perfect for winter, its hints of cardamom and orange peel give a subtle spiced flavor profile that lingers on the palette.
So, now that you are inspired to go on a gin sipping adventure, where in Dubai is the place to go?
A superb starting point for all things gin related is the newly opened Hendricks Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel. This is one heck of a classy joint. This bar goes that one step further with their Gin & Tonic trolley which does its rounds of the room, offering up home-made gin infusions that are notable and will have you longing for more. The bar staff are exemplary and if you are not up to jumping straight to drinking gin neat, they will be able to suggest pairings and mixes that will expand your perception on what a great cocktail is.
Ginter at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Dubai Marina also houses a decent gin collection from around the globe. If you feeling overwhelmed with so many choices, then this may be the place to start at. A respectable 24 gins are housed here, and you can chat to the bar staff to decide which one is best for you. This is place offers a great introduction to the world of gins with their daily “Gin Flight ”. For 99 AED you will receive 3 gins that have been selected that day and are served alongside a variety of tonics. They stock 8 different types of tonic, so if you have a discerning palette this place is definitely a place to stop off at. And if you do, be sure to try the Blackwoods Vintage 2012 which boasts marigold, meadowsweet and pink marsh. Alternatively, if you are after something more aromatic, Beefeater 24, has lovely citrus notes that combine with liquorice and Japanese sencha tea to tantalize the taste buds.
Is it the ‘golden age’ of gin?
Hopefully. Many are starting to believe that the time has come to give whiskey a good run for its money. In the first half of the 18th century the craze for the spirit was at its height. Skip forward 200 years and with any luck the world-wide resurgence of the classic spirit is going to be just as passionate, but with less rioting and more class.