The Types of Gin
Working out the main types of gins is a bit like trying to work out every botanical in your favourite gin. There’s juniper, but after a few more guesses, it becomes a bit more tricky.
A quick search reveals little consistency around this question. Some authorities identify five varieties of gin. However, North America recognises just three gin types (genever, gin and London dry gin), while the European Union recognises four types (juniper-flavoured spirit drinks, gin, distilled gin and London dry gin).
At Garden Street, we believe in inclusivity, which is why we endorse six unique varieties of gin. Read on to discover the distinct characteristics and qualities of these diverse gins.
The Types of Gin
1. London Dry Gin
London Dry Gin is what most people recognise as gin. As the name suggests, London dry gins were first made in England and are typically dry, heavily juniper flavored, light bodied and aromatic. As contradictory as it sounds, you can indeed find plenty of sweet London Dry Gins.
To get the flowery, botanical flavor, this type of gin is infused with various aromatic ingredients and then distilled, giving each brand its own unique taste. Unlike other regional alcohols like champagne, London dry gin doesn’t have to be made in London. In fact, most London dry gins aren’t. Common London dry gin brands include Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, and Beefeater. This classic gin type is great for martinis, gin and tonics, and Aviation cocktails among others.
2. Plymouth Gin
Plymouth gin is a niche gin infused with more roots for an overall earthier, less dry taste than London Dry Gin. It must be made in Plymouth, England and today, there’s just one lone, historic distillery that still produces it. Plymouth Gin also retains its Navy Strength grade alcohol content; it packs a decent, albeit complex, punch.
The juniper in Plymouth Gin is more understated than other gin types, and its other six botanicals balance with the soft Dartmoor water to create a more citrus forward and spicy flavour that works well as a novel replacement to any drink you’d pour with a London Dry Gin. It’s available at bars around Australia so give it a try next time you order a gin cocktail.
3. Genever or Dutch gin
London dry gin may dominate the market at present but genever is the original form of gin. A unique trait of genever is the base of malt grains used to make it (unlike most gins that are made with a combination of unmalted cereal grains). This malting process gives genever a darker color and develops a robust, malty flavour very different in taste to the other types of gins and comparable to a light-bodied, botanical whiskey.
A key point of difference with genever compared to dry types is that it does not primarily taste of juniper. Perhaps for this very reason, genever is seeing a revival of late, especially by master gin mixologists who use it creatively in cocktails. Genever has a distinct taste that can be enjoyed straight or on the rocks.
4. Old Tom Gin
The story goes that Old Tom was the name given to a particularly tasty and sweetened bathtub gin in the 18th century. It’s often thought of as a cross between a London dry gin and genever, sweeter than the former and more gin-like than the latter.
Old Tom is appropriately named as it’s the preferred gin by most bartenders in the ever-popular Tom Collins and Martinez cocktails, but it works stunningly with any cocktail that features bitter flavours. It can be hard to find but most major bars should stock it.
5. Sloe Gin
Sloe gin is a historic flavoured gin liqueur with neither legal nor geographic protection. Sloe gin uses sloe, or blackthorn, berries, along with sugar, and is considered to be more of a fruit cordial or liqueur than a true gin because of its high sugar content. This is aided by the fact that cheaper sloe gins are sometimes not made with gin at all, but with vodka.
Sloe gin is technically a gin-based liqueur, but due to historical prevalence, the European Union allowed the colloquial name 'sloe gin' to remain. As such, it is the only gin-based liqueur that can legally be called gin.
6. New Forms of Gin
In certain parts of the world, you may find a new type of gin called New American or International Style Gin. This refers to modern styles of gin that use the same distilling process but are infused with flavours other than juniper berries. One of the most common is Hendrick’s, which is flavoured with cucumber and rose.
Garden Street members are treated to monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly gin boxes, which contain a featured craft gin. We strive to promote gins of all creeds so we’ll aim to include a fine assortment of all gin types.
Sign up for a Garden Street gin membership today. Or read our other gin-based articles, such as why it’s not cool to call gin a flavoured vodka, or a bit about the history of gin.