While the popularity of gin can be traced back to 17th and 18th century England, today the juniper-forward botanical spirit is a worldwide phenomenon. And some of the best gins can actually be found far outside of the U.K. (consider, the world’s best-selling gin is Ginebra San Miguel, which hails from the Philippines).
“Gin can reflect its origins much as wine does,” explains Marshall Minaya, the beverage director for Valerie, a gin haven in Midtown Manhattan. “Terroir is such an impactful presence for some gins. Like St. George using Douglas fir as a key botanical for their Terroir Gin from San Francisco or Suntory using six Japanese citrus botanicals in their Roku Gin.”
According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, the global volume for gin is expected to rise 24% in the next five years. And that’s because you can now find great gins not just in Europe, but also in Singapore, New Zealand, Brazil and Kenya (and, obviously, the U.S.). Minaya also counts Australia, Spain and Ireland as underappreciated gin countries.
With that in mind, we celebrate World Gin Day by highlighting 10 gins from 10 non-traditional gin countries (so, basically, sorry to England, and we’re going to forego the U.S.). If you’re not familiar, World Gin Day was founded in 2009 and is now overseen by Emma Stokes (aka “Gin Monkey,” a London-based drinks professional and author), with gin-related events held in over 30 countries during the second Saturday of June.
Stokes calls the day a “global celebration,” and the 10 juniper-forward spirits below reflect that worldly appreciation.
Australia: Four Pillars
“Four Pillars is an excellent, now globally distributed, distillery from Australia and their Olive Leaf Gin is the obvious choice for a martini,” says Minaya. “Distilled with three different olive oils and olive leaf it makes a delicate martini with a bold, viscous mouth feel.”
Spain: Gin Mare
“This is a great pull for your Gintonica,” says Minaya. “It’s distilled with coastal thyme, rosemary and olives, and it pairs beautifully with a proper pour of Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic.”
Kenya: Procera Gin
Founded in 2018, Procera is crafted from a sugar cane base and gets its distinctive flavor from Juniperus procera, a juniper variety indigenous to the highlands of Kenya. Surprisingly, most gin brands use dried juniper, but Procera uses fresh juniper as part of a dozen botanicals sourced from across the African continent.
New Zealand: Scapegrace
Scapegrace Black Gin is the world’s first naturally black, color-changing gin, with the black profile coming from the gin’s botanicals (Aronia berry, saffron, pineapple, butterfly pea, sweet potato, etc.). It changes colors when it encounters citrus at different pH levels and pairs nicely with tonic and a slice of apple. The recent success of Scapegrace has led to the announcement of a new distillery, located at the halfway point between the equator and South Pole, which will be New Zealand’s largest.
Brazil: Amázzoni Gin
The largest craft distillery in Latin America and Brazil’s very first craft gin, this award-winning spirits brand just launched Rio Negro, a more complex version of their original gin, distilled with juniper, coriander, lemon, tangerine, cocoa, Brazilian chestnut, pink peppercorn and laurel.
Ireland: Glendalough Wild Gin
Yes, you probably know Glendalough more as an award-winning Irish whiskey brand. But their Wild Botanical Gin — a year-round release that grew from a seasonal line of foraged botanical gins — is built by extracting flavors from the wild plants around the distillery
Japan: Roku Gin
As Minaya mentioned, this House of Suntory release is crafted from six traditional Japanese botanicals (sakura leaf, yuzu peel, sencha tea, etc.) and eight traditional gin botanicals. There’s a bit of pepper in the finish, but overall this is a smooth sipper that worked wonders in cocktails (we first tried this in a Roku ‘n Rolla, a mix of gin, grapefruit, fresh wasabi, tonic and sea salt).
Based in France and the work of two well-known vineyard owners, Sorgin was purposely designed to be a link between wine and spirits, with an emphasis on Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Their Yellow Gin, aged six months in oak barrels containing Sauvignon Blanc wines, won a best barrel-aged gin award at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Italy: Portofino Dry Gin
Crafted in a village on the Italian Riviera, Portofino Dry Gin — just launched in the U.S. earlier this year — features 21 botanicals, many handpicked in a botanical sanctuary on the hills of Portofino. It’s floral and full of Mediterranean flavors (rosemary, lavender, marjoram, sage, etc.).
Two gins that reflect popular local cuisines — chendol (a coconut-y dessert) and rojak (a sweet-and-spicy salad with heavy notes of ginger flower) — initially distilled from gula melaka and honey, respectively.
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