The Hooch Life

Gin Defined: A Guide to Becoming a Gin Connoisseur

Gin bottles at Tippler NYC
Photo by Sheila Griffin

Judging by what craft distillers and bartenders are playing with these days, gin is in. Distillers are reaching for new heights, whether that’s the perfect London Dry style gin, the revival of an old Dutch recipe, or the creation of something new. (Read more about Old World vs. New World Gin.)

While London Dry style gin is the most commonly made style of gin throughout the world, the innovative New Western style gin is getting a lot of attention. In addition, there are several other styles of gin coming into vogue. Here’s our gin style guide for keeping them straight, as well as a few great bottles of hooch to try.

Dutch Gin – The original gin.
This style represents the first gins, or genievres, ever crafted in Holland in the 17th century. Dutch gins incorporate both infused neutral spirits (what we know to be gin today) and bready tasting malt wine. The percentage of malt wine used in the gin determines its designation within this category. Jonge style uses a maximum of 15% malt wine, while Oude style uses a minimum of 15% malt wine. Korinwijn, a rich and rare style of Dutch gin, uses more than 50% malt wine.
What to try: Glorious Gin, Breuckelen Distilling

London Dry Gin – The common gin.
This neutral spirit blended with botanicals, mainly juniper, is the most commonly distilled type of gin. The botanicals play a secondary role after the juniper in gins like Beefeater, Boodles, Gordon’s, and Tanqueray.
What to try: Bulldog Gin, Bulldog Gin Distillery

Navy Strength Gin – The hot gin.
Great Britain’s Royal Navy demanded high proof alcohol on the their ships because it wouldn’t ruin gunpowder if spilled. The traditional navy strength gin had 57% alcohol by volume.
What to try: Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin, New York Distilling Company

New Western Style Gin – The nouveau gin.
Distillers still have to use an abundance of juniper berries for their spirits to be considered gin, but they are balancing the juniper with exotic botanicals, creating spirits with flavor profiles vastly different than what we might expect gin to taste like.
What to try: Aviation Gin, House Spirits Distillery

Old Tom Gin – The hybrid gin.
Old Tom Gin is the love child of Dutch gin and New Western gin. These recipes, which include added sugar or orange flower water, emerged after the first creation of Dutch gin to hide impurities imparted through poor distillation practices. This style is nearly extinct, but some new distillers are attempting to bring it back — without the impurities of course.
What to try: Hayman’s Old Tom Gin

Plymouth Dry Gin – The local gin.
European law mandates that this style of gin must be made in Plymouth, England. It is distilled with a wheat-based neutral spirit that masks the juniper berries, making it taste earthier than other gins.
What to try: Plymouth English Gin (of course), Black Friars Distillery

Sloe Gin – The fruity gin.
When you flavor a neutral grain spirit with ripe blackthorn, or sloe, berries and add sugar you get this red liqueur.
What to try: Plymouth Sloe Gin

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The Hooch Life Guide to American Whiskey