The Top 10 Gins of 2020
Spring is just around the corner, and that means it will soon be time to break out the limes and crack open the tonic for a classic G&T or two. Or, should you live somewhere where the groundhog has not smiled on you, perhaps it’s still martini season. Either way, you’ll want a solid gin for your tipple, and to that end we present our list of the top 10 gins, based on spirits we’ve reviewed in the last calendar year. And if you need more to choose from, our top 10 gins of 2019 are all still solid picks, too!
1. Hepple Gin – Our favorite gin of the year was Hepple, the culmination of a “complete rethinking” of the way gin is made. Our review has all the scientific details, but the finished product is compelling, an intensely evergreen gin that folds in complex notes of citrus, red berries, licorice, and more. It’s best on its own but I’ve found myriad ways to mix with it, too. 90 proof. $40 -CN [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
2. 135 East Hyogo Dry Gin – Kaikyo Distillery is best known for its whiskey, but this exotic gin, newly available in the U.S., is a definite winner as well. Made with unusual Japanese botanicals such as yuzu, sansho pepper, and sencha tea, each botanical is distilled separately with the spirit, then blended together in the end before bottling. All the flavors of a London Dry are here, but spun through a trip to the east, where notes of green tea and sweet yuzu are unmistakable. Pick it up. 84 proof. $30 -CN [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
3. Coit Spirits Caravan Tea Gin – The classic flavors of gin pair beautifully with tea leaves, and this offering from Coit Spirits – which produces three different tea-infused gins – is its top expression. It’s made with Lapsang Souchong tea that is dried over pine needles, which gives the gin a smoky note, though it’s a mild touch atop an otherwise fairly traditional experience. Love the hint of lavender on the finish. $35 -CN [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
4. Baltimore Spirits Shot Tower Gin – The former Baltimore Whiskey Co. became Baltimore Spirits Co. a few years back. Why? Because there’s a lot more to their lineup than just brown spirits, and Shot Tower gin is definitely one of their top offerings. It’s crisp and complex, and the unique mix of botanicals – including curacao orange peels, jasmine, and green tea – imparts flavors and aromas you aren’t likely to find in many other gins. Tailor-made for craft cocktailing. 100 proof. $33. -DB [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
5. Tarnished Truth Fourth Handle Gin – Fourth Handle Gin, from Virginia Beach craft producers Tarnished Truth, was a surprising discovery earlier this year with an interesting backstory you can read about in our review. Billed as an American style gin (actually “Coastal American,” which is a new one to me), this gin has just enough in common with classic London dries to offer the best of both worlds. With a juniper-forward aroma and a creamy palate offering unique notes of rose and lavender, as well as the customary citrus and spice, it’s a gin for the gin drinker that wants it all. 88 proof. $35 -DB
6. Stray Dog Wild Gin – For those not able to travel to Greece, Stray Dog Wild Gin brings Greece to you, the first of the country’s handful of gins to be available here. It’s made in the remote Aridea Mountains of northern Greece where Master Distiller Dimitris Melissanidis was tasked with capturing the aromas of Greece’s pine forests on a summer day, and one nose of the gin and you know he succeeded. It’s as if you’d picked some pine needles off the floor and crushed them under your nose. Add juniper, lemon, sage, and other mountain herbs (all botanicals are sourced locally), and it’s a winning mix. 87 proof. $41 -MG
7. Scottish Kings Gin – No kings were harmed in the making of this gin, which sticks pretty tightly with London Dry expectations. Some notes of roses and elderflower offer an unexpected surprise later in the game, with a fairly savory punchiness on the finish. If you like your gin on the earthier side, give this expression a go. 92 proof. $50 -CN
8. Rock Rose Gin Original Edition – Another Scottish gin, this ceramic-clad bottling is full of juniper, lemony citrus, and some licorice, fading toward a slightly minty, earthy finish. It mixes wonderfully with tonic and makes a mean martini. Or opt to make it meaner by stepping up to the Navy Strength edition. 83 proof. $48 -CN [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
9. Gin Lane 1751 London Dry Royal Strength Gin – “Royal Strength” isn’t too daunting at just 94 proof, and this otherwise London Dry style offering provides a fairly traditional punch of herbs, orange peel, and some light-handed anise notes. The price is the best feature: At just 25 bucks it’s half the cost of some of the other gins on this list. 94 proof. $25 -CN [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
10. Skeptic GinQuila Reposado – What’s reposado gin? It’s gin aged in reposado tequila barrels, designed with a spin on paloma-style cocktails in mind. Botanicals include the infusion of tropical fruits and chili peppers, before the tequila barrel aging commences. The result is a drying, spicy, and unusual gin that plays endlessly with expectations of what gin should taste like. In a good way. 80 proof. $30 -CN
Digests contributed by Christopher Null, Drew Beard, and Mike Gerrard.
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