Britain’s best juniper-rich and robust gins

Britain’s best juniper-rich and robust gins

by Great British Chefs 17 October 2016

Bold, warming and with the iconic juniper berry being thrust into the spotlight, these classic gins often have centuries of experience to fall back on or are reinvigorating the style with modern distillation methods. Here are five of the best.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

With the hundreds of gins available in the shops today, it can be hard to work out where to start. As a rule, the spirit falls into three categories: fresh and floral, citrusy and herbaceous and juniper-rich and robust. Here, we take a look at the third category, discovering the taste profiles and botanical make-up of the finest juniper-rich and robust gins made in the UK.

Gin in any form must contain juniper as a botanical, but while many modern distilleries are playing around with other flavours and placing less emphasis on the berry, traditional-style gins are all about delivering that classic gin taste. Rich, heavy and with an unmistakable juniper flavour, these gins have stood the test of time and are favoured for their depth and ability to shine through in cocktails of all varieties. They work especially well in a G&T, provided you use a tonic such as Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic which can stand its ground against the bold flavours.

As the oldest distillery in the UK, it’s no surprise that Plymouth Gin is heavy with classic, juniper-rich flavours – the same still has been used to make the spirit for over 160 years. However, it is significantly different to the more common London Dry gins made today, and is a style of gin in its own right (along with Old Tom, a variety of gin popular during Victorian times).

Plymouth is less dry than most gins, favouring smoother, more rounded flavours over sharper, crisper notes, which is thanks to the addition of earthy botanicals such as orris root and angelica. While lighter, citrus flavours like lemon, coriander and orange peel are present, they quickly give way to deeper, stronger flavours with a smooth, lingering hum of juniper constantly present.


Another historic brand that’s been in production since the 1830s is Tanqueray, often cited as one of the best examples of London Dry gin in existence. The recipe has never been revealed, but it’s believed that only four botanicals are used to flavour the spirit – juniper, coriander, angelica and liquorice. This would explain why it’s such a popular choice with people who enjoy a traditional style of gin, bursting with juniper and not much else.

For a juniper-rich gin that’s a little more modern, Sipsmith (of which you’ll have no doubt heard of) is the distillery often credited with kick-starting the entire craft gin scene in 2009. This is for two reasons; they were the first distillery to start up in London for over 180 years, and they managed to get the law changed to allow small-batch distillers to sell their product, paving the way for dozens of other gin producers.

Sipsmith’s London Dry is quite a traditional gin, but the quality of the ingredients and attention to detail during the distillation process is what sets it apart. The Macedonian juniper is ever-present, but liquorice, orris root and angelica add plenty of depth while cassia, cinnamon and coriander give it a pleasing finish that brings everything together. The distiller believes Fever-Tree is the best tonic to use when making a G&T.

Just the tonic

For juniper-rich and robust gins, you need a tonic water that can stand its ground against the strong flavours. Fever-Tree Aromatic Tonic contains angostura bark and pimento berries, which give it a beautiful blushed pink colour, while vanilla and cardamom add a smooth spice and subtle sweetness which complements the bold juniper notes in the gin perfectly.

The perfect gin and tonic

As the only family of original gin makers still distilling today, Hayman’s has a long and complex history, but since 2008 its London Dry Gin has been made in a small bespoke distillery in Essex to a family recipe. The ten botanicals are steeped in alcohol for twenty-four hours before it is distilled, while the balance of citrus flavours, earthiness and spice are balanced to create a depth of flavour behind the dominant juniper taste.

One of the most modern distilleries creating a classic, juniper-rich gin is Warner Edwards, which only started producing in 2012 but has already become a favourite with bartenders and connoisseurs alike. Housed in a converted barn in Northamptonshire, the distillery was founded by two friends who met at agricultural college and, after mulling over business plans involving essential oils and vodka, decided to settle on small-batch gin.

Warner Edwards is famed for its incredibly smooth taste, with plenty of juniper flavours balanced out by a good amount of orange and cardamom. Black pepper and elderflower are also included to add some interesting background notes, but it’s the way the different botanicals come together to create a rounded flavour that makes the gin such a popular choice.