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The 2018 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Gin

Beginning in 2016, I began to seek out and review as many juniper based spirits as I could get my hands on. It would be true in fact, to state that in the past two years, I have been as likely to be found enjoying a nice gin cocktail as I would have been found to enjoying a nice sip of Rum or Whisky. I have learned two important things in my gin journey. The first is that gin is much more complicated than I first suspected with several divergent styles of gin being produced. The second important thing I have come to realize, is that of those styles, my preference leans towards traditional London Dry Gin with juniper at the heart of the spirit’s flavour profile.

Sentimental Bloom

That is not to say that I cannot appreciate a more floral style; but in my opinion, floral botanicals within the spirit’s construct should serve the purpose of enhancing and elevating the juniper rather than ambushing or hiding it. This means that I am sort of at odds with the current trend in North America where many of the new producers are seeking a gin with a broader botanical base, and with new flavours which serve to propel the spirit forward. The spirit which is being produced often doesn’t taste like my idea of gin at all.

As one producer even confided in me,

“I don’t really like gin, so I have made a gin that doesn’t taste like gin.”

That statement caught me off guard, but it certainly explained a lot regarding my gin experiences of the past few years.

My 2018 Rum Howler Awards for Gin are of course based upon my enjoyment, not the enjoyment of others. This means that my award winners are a celebration of the juniper berry above all other botanicals. That does not mean that floral spirits have been ignored, it just means that those floral spirits which have garnered awards, were first and foremost spirits of the cypress berry genus Juniperous.

Here are my Award Winners:

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The 2018 Rum Howler Award for Best Gin Value

and the winner is:

Broker’s London Dry Gin

Runner-up award to: Boodle’s British Gin

Honourable Mention: Empire London Dry Gin

On of th eproblems I had with the value category, is that I although I have sampled many new gins over the past two years, not very many of them could be regarded as being in the ‘Value Category.This meant that I had to open the competition to all gins I had samples in the last 4 years rather than just the past 2 as I normally do for my Rum Howler Awards.

Based upon pricing in my locale, I  selected the spirit which I felt gave the consumer the best bang for the buck. The winner of this category would be the best gin for a budget conscious individual. Interestingly, all three of the best value gins are of the London Dry variety.

The best of the lot was a perrenial favourite of mine, Brokers London Dry Gin. This is an outstanding spirit for quintessential gin cocktails like Gin and Tonic, gimlets and Dry Gin Martinis. Boodle’s is great as well and deserves the Runner’s Up Award, and Honourable Mention Goes to a great gin from the folks at the Highwood Distillery, Empire London Dry Gin. Although this is Highwood’s premium dry gin is it very affordably priced here in Alberta.

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Sentimental Lady

The 2018 Rum Howler Award for the Best Cocktail Gin

and the winner is:

Bloom London Dry Gin

Runner-up award to: Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin

Honorable Mention to: Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin

For this category, I was only concerned with what made the best cocktails. I did not consider price, and I did not consider the performance of any of the spirits as sippers. I constructed a Gin Martini, a Gin Gimlet, and a Gin and Tonic with each spirit I was considering and made a determination as to which juniper spirit was overall the most pleasing. 

This year I found a new favourite cocktail gin, Bloom London Dry Gin. I found myself attached to the light flavour of Bloom Gin. I was worried when I tasted the spirit in cocktails that the juniper would be lost within its floral construct; but rather than finding the raetam diminished, I found its piny spirit had been complemented by the botanicals within the Bloom.

Another favourite of mine was the Gilpen’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin which was this year’s Runner-up.

Honourable Mention goes out to Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin. It has a firm floral note of lavender running throughout, yet the juniper remain the focus of the spirit and the lavender embraces and uplifts the juniper rather than diminishing it.

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The 2018 Rum Howler Award for Best Sipping Gin

and the winner is:

Poli Marconi 46 Gin

Runner-up award to: Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin

Honorable Mention to: Bloom London Dry Gin

As indicated in my preamble, I enjoy gin cocktails as much as I enjoy sipping Rum or Whisky. This past year however, I found that when I turned to the Poli Marconi 46 Gin, I really enjoyed it as a sipper as well. The spirit uses the Muscat grape as one of its key botanicals and this gives the spirit a lovely floral muskiness which builds as you sip. (I also like how this extra flavour component added character to my chosen cocktails.)

The Runner-Up Award goes to goes to Berkeley Square London Dry Gin which is produced by G and J Greenall. The company likes to bill the spirit as the ‘single malt’ of the gin world based upon the production methods used which they trace back to the late 1700s. While it tastes nothing like a Single Malt Scotch, it certainly does appeal to me as a sipping spirit..

The Honourable Mention goes to Bloom London Dry Gin which is produced by G and J Greenall Master Distiller, Joanne Moore. The spirit is apparently marketed to appeal to a feminine audience; however, based upon my experiences the flavour of Bloom appeals equally to both genders.

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The 2018 Rum Howler Award for Best Overall Gin

and the winner is:

Bloom London Dry Gin

Runner-up Award to: Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin

Honorable Mention toGilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin

As you can see all of the contenders for 2018 Gin of the Year are London Dry Style gins. It might come as a surprise that two of these contenders are spirits which are described by their producer, G and J Greenall, as floral gins. While it might be true that Bloom, and Berleley Square each have a firm floral component, each unquestionably places the juniper at the very front of their botanical parades. I could have chosen either as my favourite gin of 2018, but I gave the nod to Bloom which I felt was the most complete gin spirit for both sipping and for cocktails.

Gilpin’s Westmorland Gin is without a doubt one of the finest traditional gins I have tasted. Everything about Gilpin’s is classic. The juniper leads out in front and does not relent. Classic citrus zest combined with coriander and sage give the gin a lively mouth-feel and wonderful lightly spiced finish. I think what ties everything together so beautifully is an ever-present light sweetness that allows all of these aggressive flavours to assert themselves without ever overwhelming the palate.

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The Winners:

The 2018 Rum Howler Award for Best Gin Value: Broker’s London Dry Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Award for Best Cocktail Gin: Bloom London Dry Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Award for Best Sipping Gin: Poli Marconi 46 Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Award for Best Overall Gin: Bloom London Dry Gin

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The Runner-ups:

The 2018 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Gin ValueBoodle’s British Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Cocktail Gin: Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Sipping Gin: Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Runners-up Award for Best Overall Gin: Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin

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The Honourable Mentions:

The 2018 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Gin Value: Empire London Dry Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Awards for Best Cocktail Gin: Berkeley Square: The London Dry Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Sipping Gin: Bloom London Dry Gin

The 2018 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Overall GinGilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin

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