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The Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge

During the month of August, I will be constructing a list ranking the best gins I have tasted with respect to how they perform in the quintessential summer cocktail, the Gin and Tonic. I am not going to pretend this is some sort of definitive list. I just haven’t sampled enough different gins for this list to be definitive. But over the past five years I have reviewed about 25 Gins (see my published reviews here) and have additionally written out brief tasting notes for about 15 more based upon samples I received at various spirits festivals and industry events I have attended in Canada.

From that list of about 40 different gins, I selected the ones which I felt were particularly well suited for Gin and Tonic Cocktails. Then I reached out to the local distributors and set about acquiring the samples I would need for my tasting exercises. I also reached out to Jordan Silbert, the founder of Q Drinks, who provided me with enough samples of his great Tonic Water, Q Tonic for me to thoroughly examine each selected gin. I chose Q Tonic, because at this point it is my go-to Tonic Water whenever I make a Gin and Tonic.

Q Tonic (according to the label on the bottle), is produced from triple purified water, organic agave (sweetener), handpicked quinine, lemon juice extract, and natural bitters. Note that this list of ingredients excludes high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and artificial flavorings. According to the serving information provided to me, every 125 ml of Q Tonic contains about 5 mg of sodium (less than half the salt contained in Schweppes Tonic) and about 6 grams of sugar (again only half as much). The reduced sugar and sodium levels means that (for me anyway) Q-Tonic is a great mixing tonic. It has a clean, dry, refreshing taste which makes it an ideal choice for my purposes.

To score each Gin, I am only concerned with how it tastes in a Gin and Tonic Cocktail. I have established a standard G&T Cocktail which I will use for every spirit in the competition (see recipe here), but I may tweak this standard cocktail as well to account for the variations in flavour for each gin. My G&T Score for each gin will be based upon the best Gin and Tonic cocktail I constructed for each spirit with Q Tonic as its base.

This will be a score out of 100 and that score will be calculated as follows:

01 – 25   A Cocktail with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26 – 49   A rating here means that you feel ill, but you will recover in time.
50 – 59   You are safe to drink this; but you shouldn’t.
60 – 69   A substandard cocktail which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70 – 74   Now we have a decent cocktail. You may begin to serve this to friends.
75 – 79   This cocktail will be well appreciated and admired by those same friends.
80 – 85   This cocktail is a cocktail of the same quality we would expect to find in fine restaurants and bars.
86 – 89   This cocktail borders upon greatness.
90 – 94   Paradigms shift and your cocktail world is rocked!
95 – 99    Sublime Nectar of the Gods!

Throughout the month of August I will be publishing the results of the performance of each gin in no particular order. Every day or so I shall grab one of my Gin Samples from my review shelf and build a few Gin and Tonic Cocktails (it’s a tough job but someone has to do it). I will sample the cocktails and assign the spirit a G&T Cocktail Score based upon the above criteria. If warranted, I will also publish a revised or new review for that particular spirit. Below is my Gin and Tonic Score rankings which will evolve and adjust over the next three weeks.


1)  1830 Sahara Dry Gin                                               (G&T score = 91.5)
2Dictador Ortodoxy Gin                                          (G&T score = 91)
3)  The Botanist Isla Dry Gin                                     (G&T score = 90.5)
4)  Beefeater 24 Gin                                                   (G&T score = 89.5)
5)  Citadelle Gin                                                          (G&T score = 89)
6)  Ungava Gin                                                            (G&T score = 88.5)
7)  Broker’s Gin                                                           (G&T score = 88)
8)  Bombay Sapphire Gin                                            (G&T score = 87)
9)  Tanqueray Gin                                                       (G&T score = 86.5)
10)  No. 3 London Dry Gin                                        (G&T score = 86)
11)  Polo Club American Dry Gin                                (G&T score = 85)
12)  London No. 1 Blue Gin                                         (G&T score = 84)
13)  Caorunn Gin                                                         (G&T score = 83.5)
14)  Hayman’s Old Tom Gin                                        (G&T score = 82)
15)  Beefeater Gin                                                       (G&T score = 80.5)
16)  Magellan Iris Flavoured Gin                                (G&T score = 79)
17)  Hendrick’s Gin                                                      (G&T score = 74)



 Note: As each score is published, I shall place it on the list above. As the list grows, I shall adjust the rankings of each gin accordingly. Only when all of the featured Gins are have been examined (one at a time) will I declare which Gin I feel is the Rum Howler 2014, Best Gin for Gin and Tonics. I plan to have fun this August, I hope you do too!



6 Responses to “The Rum Howler 2014 Gin and Tonic Challenge”

  1. David Wallace said

    Update: I just tried the Q and found it a lot like when I order a “Gin and Sonic” (soda+tonic) at my favorite bar. By that I mean that the tonic flavor is very restrained. I think I prefer Schweppes so far. Good luck in your leave of absence

  2. Stephen said

    Great job with the G&T challenge. As this is really the only cocktail I drink with Gin, I’m very interested in your findings. I’m using Tanqueray no 10 and No 3 London dry gin for my G&T’s which I think are great tasting. I also only drink Schweppes tonic water though as I can’t find anything else in my area. Keep it up, and thanks again.

    • Hi Stephen

      The new higher end Tonic Waters are really hard to find in my locale as well. I have found some in specialty liquor stores, but it is hit and miss as to whether they have them in stock. Hopefully they will be more readily available in the future.


  3. Personally I’m hoping Plymouth gets a nod! I love that stuff. Doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the prettiest bottles on the shelf either…

  4. Can’t wait to see the score of Bombay and Hendrick, my favorite gins for the G&T cocktail.

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