Gin is a fairly unique spirit in the alcohol world. While most of its counterparts are distilled and then either aged or left un-aged before being softened with water (or not) and bottled as is (gaining flavor solely from distillation and maturation), gin gains flavor from additives introduced after the first distillation. The initial distilled spirit is colorless and nearly flavorless, like vodka, but it’s definitely not vodka when it comes out of the bottle. During a secondary distillation, gin is infused with herbs, barks, berries, and botanicals with juniper berries (often) leading the way. That’s the source of the vegetal, herbal flavor notes that gin is most famous for.
One of the most popular (and historic) styles of gin is London dry. While some gins get a little crazy with botanicals, fruits, and even artificial sweeteners, London dry gin keeps it… rather dry. A London dry gin (which doesn’t have to be made in London) is made with much less sugar than other varieties, thus creating the iconic taste drinkers know to expect. It’s herbaceous but not sweet and crisp but not overly fruity.
This is the gin of Bond and Churchill. The gin the queen drinks.
If you’re new to this spirit, you might not realize how complex it can be. Sure, most gins are fairly juniper-forward, but they also utilize a wide range of herbs and botanicals to give each expression a unique flavor profile. Making this a fascinating style to try blind. No flashy bottles or celeb-owned labels to ogle at means I’ll simply be using my senses of smell and taste to rate and rank each sip. It really is as simple as it seems, just like a nice G & T.
Our lineup today includes:
- Tanqueray London Dry Gin
- Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin
- Beefeater London Dry Gin
- Gordon’s London Dry Gin
- Sipsmith London Dry Gin
- Gilbey’s London Dry Gin
- Boodles London Dry Gin
- Broker’s London Dry Gin
Let’s get our London Dry Gin on!
Part 1: The Taste
There’s a light herbal flavor that starts this gin’s nose off nicely. This is followed by the classic spicy aroma of juniper and delves into an earthy, citrusy finish. The palate follows suit with notes of lemon zest, orange peel, juniper spice, cinnamon, coriander, and gentle, warming heat.
Floral, citrus zest, coriander, bold juniper … this gin’s nose is loaded with aromas. Drinking it only adds to the experience with notes of juniper, slight herbal, floral flavors that pair well with the orange peel and lemon zest flavors.
There’s also a great deal of spicy, warming heat that ties everything together nicely.
While there are clear notes of pine and juniper on the nose, this gin also has a pronounced and appealing citrus aroma. Sipping it reveals more of the lemon curd/ orange peel flavor that pairs well with juniper berries, cinnamon, and coriander. Overall, this is a multi-dimensional gin.
On the nose, I found a ton of citrus notes from lemon zest to lime to orange, as well as a nice kick of juniper and a slight herbal quality. The palate began with more lemon zest and wound its way into pine, coriander, cinnamon, and more juniper.
It’s a well-balanced, flavorful gin.
There’s a ton of pine on this gin’s nose and a nice kick of juniper as well. I can’t find any other herbs or botanicals though. The palate is more of the same with juniper taking center stage and overpowering everything else. There are lighter hints of cinnamon and coriander, but the juniper really leads the way.
This is a really harsh-smelling gin. There’s a real cleaning supplies/Pine-Sol scent that goes along with a heavy dose of juniper berries and not much else. The palate is a little more flavorful with more juniper, some citrus, maybe some seasonal spices like coriander, and more pine.
It’s definitely not a gin you’d ever want to make the mistake of drinking neat.
A lot is going on with this gin’s nose. The first aromas are spicy, earthy, herbal juniper berries and that’s to be expected. This is followed by notes of tangerine, lemon peels, licorice, and coriander. The palate is filled with hunts of juniper, angelica, spicy cinnamon, and gentle, warming citrus and spice at the finish.
Nosing this gin revealed heavy aromas of orange peel and lemon zest as well as a nice hint of pine needles and juniper. Its palate is very citrus-centric with a great deal of tangerine, lemon curd, and orange pulp flavor as well as more pine needles and juniper that wind into coriander and other spices.
From my notes: “A very complex gin, to say the least.”
Part 2: The Ranking
Now comes the part you’ve been waiting for: The rankings. Keep reading to see where your favorite gin landed.
8) Gilbey’s London Dry Gin — Taste 6
Average Price: $10
Gilbey’s might not have the name recognition of some of the brands on the list, but that doesn’t matter. It sells. This bargain gin is flavored with twelve distinct herbs and botanicals. On top of the obvious juniper, there are coriander, lemongrass, orange peel, kalamansi (a type of Filipino lime), angelica root, and others.
This isn’t a great gin. It’s overly flavored and harsh. It might work well as a bargain mixer. It came as no surprise that it was by far the cheapest gin I tasted.
7) Boodles London Dry Gin — Taste 5
Average Price: $28
Boodles is named for the Boodle’s Gentlemen’s Club in St. James, London, and touts that it was the favorite gin of Winston Churchill (one of the club’s members). Its current recipe dates to 1845 and is made with a wheat-based spirit that’s flavored with juniper and various other botanicals including rosemary, sage, and nutmeg.
Clearly, this is a gin for the juniper lovers of the alcohol world since that’s the dominant flavor. There’s no alcohol harshness, just not much substance past the initial kick of juniper. I expected more from a big name like Boodles — this was fairly disappointing.
6) Beefeater London Dry Gin — Taste 3
Average Price: $20
Even though this gin’s name conjures up images of burly men eating large meat sandwiches, it’s actually named for The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London. These traditionally-adorned guards ceremonially guard the Tower of London. The gin — made with nine botanicals, including juniper, lemon peel, and Seville orange — pays homage to them.
This gin, while not overly extravagant in the flavor department, does have a mix of juniper, spices, and a load of citrus zest. But nothing really stood out and it ended up more of a muddled mess of flavors.
5) Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin — Taste 4
Average Price: $22
There are few names in the gin world bigger than Bombay Sapphire. First introduced in 1986, this award-winning gin is made with eight “essential” ingredients: licorice, cassia bark, coriander, angelica root, lemon peel, orris, and of course juniper berries.
This gin has a ton of flavor, mostly in the citrus department. But there’s also an herbal quality along with a nice bit of juniper and winter seasonal baking spices. It didn’t surprise me to find that this was Bombay Sapphire — it’s well known for its citrus flavor.
4) Sipsmith London Dry Gin — Taste 8
Average Price: $30
A relative newcomer in the gin world, Sipsmith has gained quite a following since it launched in 2009. Made using traditional ingredients like juniper, coriander, and angelica root, this copper pot still-distilled gin has won numerous awards in the years since it joined the market.
This citrus-forward gin is warming, flavorful, and would be the perfect base for your favorite gin-based cocktail. It’s definitely a gin I’ll return to for a second taste. Sipsmith is a reasonably new brand and this gin is a nice mix of classic and contemporary flavors.
3) Tanqueray London Dry Gin — Taste 7
Average Price: $20
This gin is known just as much for its household name as its simple, clean ingredients. While some gins can get a little busy with their additional flavors, Tanqueray London Dry Gin is simply infused with juniper, angelica root, coriander, and licorice. This results in a dry, earthy, herbal, award-winning gin that was created to be mixed with.
This is a juniper lover’s dream gin. It’s floral, earthy, and filled with spicy juniper aroma and flavor. This is the last of the big-name gins on this list and I’m surprised it didn’t fair better. Still, it has a classic enough gin flavor to land in the top three.
2) Gordon’s London Dry Gin — Taste 1
Average Price: $18
This award-winning gin is the classic bargain London dry gin on the market. This juniper, coriander, and spice-forward gin are well-suited as the base for a gin gimlet, martini, or a classic, always refreshing gin and tonic.
The best part? Regardless of the awards it racks up, it’s always fairly inexpensive.
I couldn’t believe that Gordon’s, one of the biggest bargains on this list, beat out some of the more well-respected brands. But it absolutely did with its warming, subtly spicy, citrus, and juniper-forward flavor profile. It’s the kind of versatile gin that fits all of your mixing needs.
1) Broker’s London Dry Gin — Taste 2
Average Price: $20
This award-winning gin prides itself on its no-frills flavor. Distilled at a 200-year-old English distillery, it starts as a four-time distilled pure grain spirit in which juniper and other botanicals are steeped for a full day before distilling once more. It was given the title of the “world’s best gin” at the 2010 Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
Based on name recognition, it’s surprising some of the legendary brands didn’t take the top spot. But there’s a reason Broker’s has been racking up awards. It’s a great gin and this blind taste test proved that price doesn’t always guarantee quality. This is a bold, floral, juniper, spicy gin that can stand up as the base of all of your favorite gin-centric cocktails.