The best of Great British gin
Food editor, and self-confessed gin lover, Emma Winterschladen hosted a blind tasting with the Wellbeing team to discover the best British gins – all in the name of botanical research, of course.
With its home on Islay, the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’, this gin hails from the Bruichladdich distillery (well-known for its whisky). The fact that 22 of the gin’s botanicals are hand-foraged from the island’s fertile, wild landscape gives a real sense of drinking in the great outdoors. The distillation process takes three times as long as normal gin and uses an ultra-low pressure ‘simmer’ still. The gin itself is almost floral in taste, with many of the team noting that it was one of the smoothest of all the gins. This makes a really refreshing gin and tonic when served with fresh mint.
This independent, artisan micro-distillery, in the heart of Sunderland, creates a wonderful small-batch gin with a big punch, using ingredients sourced from afar, as well as those grown in its own botanic herb garden. Its Northern Dry Gin is an especially fresh and fragrant spirit, with the warm spice of green cardamom and almost perfumed Persian lime really coming through, especially when served with ice and a slice of pink grapefruit, which we thought really enhanced the zesty citrus and eucalyptus undertones.
Hepple Gin, £35.95 (45)
The brainchild of TV forager Valentine Warner and gin connoisseur Nick Strangeway, this herbaceous gin hails from the hills of Northumberland. With five out of the 14 ingredients sourced from the Hepple Estate, including green juniper and Douglas fir, it’s truly a gin of the British landscape. What’s more, the company is involved in one of the most ambitious juniper propagation projects in the UK, working to promote native-grown junipers. Its herby, woody flavour was unlike the other gins and proved a favourite among the team.
Yorkshire and the Humber
This is named after the English soldier William Slingsby who, in the late 16th century, is reputed to have discovered the healing properties of the spring water from the Tewit Well, Harrogate. The restorative qualities that have been associated with the Yorkshire spa town ever since are the inspiration behind this gin. There are 24 botanicals, with 17 locally sourced by Taylors of Harrogate and the nearby Rudding Park kitchen garden. It comes in a beautiful bottle and was one of the lightest and most delicate gins we tried, with the jasmine and green tea undertones really coming through.
Located in the heart of the stunning Lake District in Cumbria, this distillery uses water from the famous River Derwent to create a clear, crisp gin. As well as all the classic gin botanicals, it also uses ingredients native to the Lakes, including bilberry, heather and meadowsweet. The distillery prides itself on its green credentials; from returning by-products of the distillation process to local farmers for use as animal feed and soil improvement, to biomass boilers and a significant investment in recycling. We found it to be a really refreshing gin, and although they say it’s best enjoyed straight from the fridge, neat over ice, for the majority of the team we enjoyed it best as a strong gin and tonic (ration of 1:1).
Using organically grown potatoes from its Herefordshire farm, William Chase distils its gin on site to ensure the highest-quality product, with the potatoes watched from field to bottle. The company uses distilling methods that haven’t changed since the 1900s, to create an award-winning, highly drinkable extra dry gin, which was the overwhelming favourite among the team – either neat or served with tonic, ginger and lemon.
East of England
Spitfire Heritage Gin, £40 (40%)
Inspired by the birth decade of the iconic Spitfire plane, this single-estate retro gin is not only a celebration of the freedom to drink gin but also the efforts of the young female pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) who delivered Spitfires to RAF bases during WWII. True to its vintage nature, it’s distilled from field to bottle in the heart of Cambridgeshire in hand-beaten copper stills. Two types of juniper are used, as well as bitter orange peel and almond, and the result is a deliciously aromatic gin that works served over crushed ice or with a quality tonic.
Sipsmith London Dry Gin, £29.45 (41.6%)
Pioneers of the gin revival, Sipsmith was London’s first legal copper distillery to open for nearly 200 years. It makes its spirits by hand in small batches using copper stills, Constance, Prudence an dPatience. Sipsmith’s London Dry Gin uses an eclectic mix of ten botanicals from around the world, including Macedonian juniper berries, Spanish liquorice root, Bulgarian coriander seeds and french angelica root – which are perhaps the most noteworthy flavours. This was popular among the team, with many noting it was a particularly refreshing and crisp gin and tonic, especially when we added lime peel.
Silent Pool, £39.99 (43%)
Nestled in the heart of the rural Surrey Hills on the Duke of Northumberland’s Albury Estate, Silent Pool distillers use water from the mythical spring-fed Silent Pool lake, along with 24 of the finest botanicals, to create a smooth, full-bodied gin. We enjoyed the floral aspect of this gin (from lavender and camomile) and the inclusion of local honey, which gives it a subtle sweetness not found in most of the other gins.