Did you know that gin used to be the most popular spirit in the US? Back in the earlier 1900s, gin was the drink of choice until vodka overtook its popularity in 1967.
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in gin, especially craft gin varieties.
If you're new to the world of gin, sorting through your options can feel overwhelming. Thanks to its long history, there are many different types of gin.
Are you trying to pick the right gin for your liquor cabinet? The best way to get started is by familiarizing yourself with the broad categories of gin flavors and types.
Read on to find out everything you need to know so you can make an informed choice when buying gin.
London Dry is one of the most widespread types of gin. As you might have gathered from its name, London Dry originated in England. Nowadays, however, it is produced all over the world.
Currently, Scotland has stolen the crown when it comes to the distillation of London Dry, producing roughly 70% of the UK's gin.
Because it is so widespread, London Dry is what comes to mind when most people think of gin. No matter where you are in the world, if you order a G&T or a martini, it most likely contains London Dry.
Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, and Beefeater are all examples of London Dry.
London Dry gin flavors are typically dominated by juniper. Juniper berry is a core ingredient in London Dry gin, and the term "gin" is derived from the French name for juniper, genévrier.
As its name suggests, London Dry is a dry gin, but this term doesn't mean quite the same thing as it does for things like wine. The primary meaning of a dry gin is one that doesn't have any artificial flavorings. Instead, all the flavorings come from the botanicals.
If a dry gin contains sweetness, this should come from a botanical ingredient, such as licorice.
Although London Dry is dominated by juniper, it also usually has some citrus, coriander, and angelica root to round out the flavor profile. The majority of distillers bottle their gin as high-proof. Thanks to this, London Dry is a versatile spirit for stirred and shaken cocktails.
Plymouth is another style of gin that dates far back. However, there is only one distillery that produces it. Plymouth Gin Distillery is the sole distillery on earth with the rights to produce Plymouth gin.
It is one of the oldest distilleries in the UK, and it's located in, you guessed it, Plymouth.
This distillery has had many different owners and survived the second world war.
Plymouth Gin became highly popular at the beginning of the 1900s, partly thanks to the fact that it was included in 23 of the gin recipes in the Savoy Cocktail book. This cemented it in the world of spirits.
Plymouth gin had a dryer flavor than London Gin and contains more citrus notes. It also tends to have a spicier finish, thanks to a special blend of seven botanicals. These include:
- Coriander seed
- Dried orange peels
- Angelica root
- Orris root
Overall, Plymouth gin has an earthy flavor profile and a slight salinity. It is also softer on the juniper than London Dry, rendering it more mellow.
It also has an almost oily texture, which works beautifully for making silky gin cocktails like negronis and martinis.
Another distinguishing factor in Plymouth gin is the water used in the distillation process. All Plymouth gin is made using pure water from a reservoir in Dartmoor. Experts say that this imbues Plymouth gin with an exceptionally fresh and clean flavor.
If you're looking for the true OG of gins, here it is. Genever is the original of all gin styles and dates right back to 16th-century Holland.
This precursor is richer than modern types of gin and has an earthy, malty, savory flavor profile. One of the reasons for this is it's distilled from malt wine spirits instead of grain spirits. This has a big impact on the dominant flavor of the gin.
Similar to how whisky is made, the grains are left to ferment for multiple days, after which they are turned into a mash. From here, distillers add different botanicals.
Unlike London Dry, juniper isn't the dominant flavor in Genever. Instead, it's more malty and often has flavor profiles rich in things like cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and caraway.
You usually won't usually taste citrus notes in genever gin. A lot of distillers either include so little it's not detectable, or omit it entirely.
Thanks to the spicy botanicals, Genever is one of the types of gins richest in flavor. Therefore, it pairs beautifully with cocktails that have rich ingredients, such as a gin Old Fashioned, or a sweet vermouth.
The bold flavor of malt wine means that Genever typically works well when mixed with something that's even richer in flavor.
If you're after a classic Genever, you can't go wrong with something like Boomsma Genever Oude Holland. This light golden gin is punctuated by fruity sweet notes of apricot and dried fruits, cut with grains and leather. The flavor profile also includes hints of licorice and toffee.
Old Tom was originally a sweetened type of gin. In the 18th century, it became the street name for gin and was used to refer to any kind of gin.
Legend has it that the name has its origin in the black cat plaques that used to adorn the exterior walls of pubs in 18th-century England. These plaques had a slot underneath the cat's paw, which connected to a lead pipe that went inside the building.
Customers would drop a coin into the slot in exchange for a measure of gin. You could think of it like a very old-fashioned version of a vending machine.
But don't take our word for it, because there is also another old origin tale that speaks of a black cat that fell into a vat of gin.
Besides being an equivocal term for gin in general, Old Tom also became street slang for homemade gin. Back in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, people often made their own gin at home.
It was typically low-quality, made in the bathtub, and used sweetening agents such as licorice. Thanks to this, sweetened gins are still sometimes referred to as "bathtub gin".
Although Old Tom and bathtub gin used to often refer to low-quality types of gin, this isn't the case anymore.
A true Old Tom is now a high-quality gin. The botanicals are typically distilled. The sweetness in an Old Tom usually stems from high amounts of licorice. Nowadays, distillers don't add flavor to Old Tom after distillation.
Although Old Tom contains high amounts of licorice, you won't usually taste it in the gin. Overall, Old Tom has richer flavor profiles than Dry London. Thanks to this, it lends itself to things like pre-prohibition cocktails, as well as mixed drinks that call for bitters.
If you're looking for a top-quality Old Tom, we'd recommend something like Haymans of London Old Tom Gin. With a rich, rounded, versatile flavor, this Old Tom will pair perfectly with a variety of cocktail recipes.
Navy Strength Gin
Navy strength gin is any type of gin with an alcohol level of 57% and over.
Given that most gins clock in at around 41%, in comparison, Navy Strength is potent stuff.
According to history, Navy Strength types of gin originated from London Dry. Apparently, the British Royal Navy enjoyed London Dry so much that they specifically requested a higher-proof version for themselves.
Although it's no secret that sailors used to drink like, well, sailors—the navy actually had a very practical reason for wanting higher-proof alcohol. High-proof alcohol like Navy Strength took up less space and weighed less, both critical factors for navy ships that were away from land for extended periods of time.
Although the first Navy Strength gin was a London Dry, nowadays you can find various Navy Strength types of gin.
If you aren't taking to the sea for months on end, you might be wondering why you should buy gin that contains 57% alcohol and above.
One thing (besides the sky-high proof) that sets Navy Strength types of gin apart is their flavor profile. Botanicals tend to react differently with stronger alcohol, resulting in nuanced flavor profiles.
Navy Strength tends to be dryer, richer, and warmer. The increased dryness makes it ideal for martinis and Negronis.
If you're not a fan of gin cocktails, you can also sip a Navy Strength on the rocks just like you would a fine whiskey.
If you're wondering which Navy Strength gin to try, we'd recommend Joseph Magnus Vigilant. This 114-proof gin will imbue your gin cocktails with a strong backbone.
Crafted from corn distillate and steeped with smokey harissa, the dry, medium body showcases a 4-year-old juniper, as well as lemon, hops, figs, and fresh mint, with a crisp hibiscus finish.
The types of gin we've covered so far are all traditional gins with a long history behind them. Since these gins were born, new expressions have arisen all over the world.
The broad term used to describe these new gins is international style.
The international gin scene is an interesting, dynamic one. International types of gin aren't bound by the botanical restrictions of traditional expressions like London Dry. Instead, they tend to reflect their geographical origins and incorporate local botanicals and roots.
Although there are many big brands on the scene, international style gin tends to be dominated by craft distillers. The craft spirit market as a whole has taken off in a big way across the US, with craft gin poised to be a big player.
During 2020, craft gin comprised only 9% of the US craft market. However, forecasts predict that the category will enjoy a compounded yearly growth of 23% until 2025. This is huge compared to the 2% growth predicted for gin as a whole in the US over the same period.
The takeaway? Craft and international style gins are a hot new trend that any mixologist, spirits, or cocktail connoisseur will want to keep up with.
If you love sampling new, unique, and nuanced spirits, then international types of gin will be right up your alley. There's endless room for adventure and interesting cocktail pairings.
If you're trying a new international style gin for the first time, a great way to sample the flavor profile is in a classic martini. From here, you can up the ante by including it in more complex cocktails like a Negroni.
How to Choose Between the Different Types of Gin
If you're new to buying gin or mixing it in cocktails, here are a few suggestions for choosing between gin types.
London Dry is a timeless option that will work with just about all gin cocktails you want to try your hand at. This makes it a safe choice if you want to buy gin to make classic martinis, G&Ts, etc.
If you enjoy richer, stronger flavored cocktails like vermouth, Manhattans, or whiskey sour—a Genever gin could make for the perfect pairing.
If you're tempted to try Old Tom, we say go ahead, especially if you enjoy a hint of sweetness in your spirits.
And on the off-chance that you need something with a high proof to pack a punch in your cocktails, Navy Strength is a strong contender to try.
Finally, if you love experimenting and sampling different expressions and unique botanicals, international style gin is where it's at, particularly craft gins.
Looking To Sample Different Types of Gin?
Gin has a long and rich history, and many classic cocktails are built around this botanical-rich spirit. Here in the US, gin isn't as widely drunk as across the pond, but, it's not a spirit to ignore, especially now that the international style gin scene is gaining such momentum.
Whether you want to sample time-tested types of gin such as Old London, or experiment with new expressions, we have you covered.
Here at Liquorama, we stock an extensive range of various types of gin, as well as other spirits, mixers, bitters, wines, and much more.
Browse our gin selection today and enjoy delivery to your door.