Tuesday, 18 November 2008 | Tags:

Originating in the early 17th century, gin is a popular spirit used in many fine cocktails. Its distinctive flavour comes from natural ingredients like juniper and coriander. We find out more about gin's smooth, sophisticated taste.

The Basics

  • Gin is often compared to vodka as they’re both clear distilled spirits

  • The main ingredient in gin is juniper. The more juniper, the stronger the flavour. Less juniper creates a lighter-tasting gin.

  • Gin’s distinctive flavour also comes from other natural botanicals including coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, cinnamon, grains of paradise, cubeb berries and nutmeg. Typically a fine gin contains six to ten botanicals.

  • There are four main categories of gin:

    • London Dry Gin is the main English style of gin. It’s dryness differentiates it from sweeter gins and often has a stronger juniper taste, but the amount varies by brand. Brands include Beefeater, Gordon’s, and Bombay Sapphire.

    • Dutch or Hollands is the Dutch style of gin, distilled from a malted grain mash similar to whiskey. It’s traditionally fruitier, lighter and sweeter tasting than London style. Brands include Bols Geneva and Van Gogh.

    • Plymouth Gin is relatively full-bodied (when compared to London Dry Gin), clear, slightly fruity, and very aromatic.

    • Old Tom Gin is the original, lightly sweetened gin.

  • Most gins have the standard 40% alcohol. Some premium brands have up to 47%, and also cost more.

  • If you’re not sure of the taste based on reading the label, find a well-stocked bar with a knowledgeable bartender and do your own taste test.

Other Considerations

  • One ounce of gin only has 55 calories, and zero carbs! Go ahead and enjoy a G&T if you’re watching your diet.


We asked some experienced bartenders and gin connoisseurs to help us in a careful taste test of these gins, straight-up:

  • Bols Geneva (Dutch): $19.60
  • Beefeater (Classic London Dry Gin): $21.95
  • Plymouth (English, with less juniper than London, but far dryer): $24.95
  • Tanqueray Ten (made with fresh, not dried botanicals): $39.95

Taste Test

  • The Bols Geneva was smooth, refined, and less harsh than the others.

  • The classic, best-selling Beefeater had a fresh, lingering taste, and was drier and stronger than the Bols Geneva.

  • The Plymouth was smooth and dry, with a light taste.

  • The Tanqueray Ten was on the sweet side, with hints of citrus.


Much depends on your personal preference since gins have their own unique tastes. If you don’t like the stronger taste of Beefeater or other dry gins, try the Bols Geneva, which is also a good value.



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