10 Best Craft Gin Brands

  • 01 of 06

    Explore the New World of Craft Gin

    The Classic Gin Martini is an Icon of the Bar
    The classic gin Martini is an icon of the bar and there are some fantastic craft gins that can transform the timeless cocktail into a modern wonder. ivanmateev / Getty Images

    There is a new world of gin and it is being led by some of the newest faces in the industry. Craft spirits have taken on a new meaning in the last two decades and gin is among those shining lights.

    If you seek out the brands of gin that are exciting long-time Martini and Gin & Tonic drinkers, you will hear a lot of new names. These are often small or lesser-known distilleries that are transforming our perception of gin.

    While some of these gins are pushing the original definition of gin, none that I have chosen are as daring as Hendrick's. Instead, some take the Aviation Gin approach and prefer a softer juniper profile. And yet, some opt for the complete opposite, producing pine-laden gins that consume and fascinate the senses. The two extremes can even come from the same distillery.

    The moral of the story is that gin is once again exciting! There is something for everyone and if you have avoided this category of liquor in the past, I encourage you to try again because it is a new world and there is a lot of fun to be had.

    Luxurious, Yet Affordable

    The beauty of gin is that you can get a luxury taste without spending a lot of money. Unlike whiskey and vodka, you would be hard pressed to spend over $50 for a great bottle of gin. Sure, there are a few high-priced brands out there, but they are the minority and that is a fact that any gin lover can appreciate.

    The gins that I have included in this collection are in the $40 range, which is on average just $10 more than some of the biggest names in the gin business. It's a perspective that I think we often miss, but it's a lovely reality for those who love to explore the today's diverse gin market.

  • 02 of 06

    Williams Chase Gin: There's a Gin for Every Taste

    Williams Chase Gin
    An elegant gin from the UK, Williams Chase is a gin that will make your cocktails ooze with style. Photo Courtesy: Williams Chase

    Innovation, style and a fantastic find for gin lovers of every style.

    It started with a very fine potato vodka and the Chase Distillery of Hereford, England has grown into a producer of fine gins as well. If you have discovered the beauty of Chase Vodka, then the next step in your adventure is to get a taste of Williams Chase Gin.

    The distillery is a newcomer to the liquor scene and began operations in 2008 as 'Brittain's First and Only Single-Estate Distillery.'  With the same base as their award-winning vodkas and carefully selected botanicals, a new line of gin was born and it now includes three very impressive spirits.

    Whether you enjoy traditional or modern gins, there is a gin here for every palate.

    Williams Elegant 48 Gin

    First of all, it's important to note that as of 2016, Williams Elegant 48 Gin is the new name for what was known as Williams Chase Elegant Gin. It is the same gin and the '48' refers to the 48 cider apple varieties in the estate's orchards as well as the 48 bubble plates in the column of the vodka still.

    While their potato-based vodka was a smash hit, spuds were not right for the expansion into gin. The team, led by William Chase, turned to another crop on the distillery's estate, the 200-year-old apple orchards (the same used to make Naked Chase Apple Vodka).

    This gin falls into that modern gin category though unlike Hendrick's and Aviation, it retains that juniper-forward taste. It simply backs it up with a fruity undertone that many drinkers will find refreshing.

    Give this bottle of Williams Chase a try in your favorite Martini recipe and discover a new way to enjoy an old favorite.

    • Botanicals include juniper, coriander, angelica, liquorice, orris, orange, lemon, hops, elderflower and Bramley apple.
    • 48% alcohol by volume (96 proof)
    • Retails for around $47/750ml bottle

    Williams Chase GB Extra Dry Gin

    The 'GB' stands for Great Brittain and this is an extra dry gin that is bold, warm and filled with wonderful flavors. This is as traditional a gin as Willams Chase produces and it can impress any gin lover's palate. The best way to introduce yourself to Williams GB Gin is with the simple Gin & Tonic.

    • Botanicals include juniper berries and buds, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, almond, coriander, cardamom, cloves, liquorice and lemon.
    • 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)
    • Retails for around $35/750ml bottle

    Williams Chase Seville Orange Gin

    If you have tasted Chase Marmalade Vodka or enjoy the newer style of gins, then the Seville Orange Gin is the one for you.

    Another potato-based gin, this bottling begins as any other gin with a selection of eight botanicals. It is then finished with an infusion of the same sour Seville oranges used in the Marmalade Vodka. In this case, the peels are used just as they are.

    Crisp, refreshing and a fun citrus take on gin, give this one a try in the simple Gimlet and add a splash of orange juice if you like.

    • Botanicals include jJuniper, orange peel, liquorice, elderflower and bitter almond.
    • 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)
    • Retails for around $50/750ml bottle

    More About Williams Chase Gin

    • Single-estate gin distilled in the UK with potato or apple base.
    • Produced by Chase Distillery Ltd., Hereford, England.
  • 03 of 06

    The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

    The Botanist Islay Dry Gin
    A captivating bottle of gin, The Botanist comes from the land of scotch on the Isle of Islay and features 22 foraged botanicals. Photo Courtesy: The Botanist

    A unique gin from the land of whisky that's made with foraged botanicals.

    There are so many aspects of The Botanist that make it a spectacular gin and one that every connoisseur should taste. Though it is a newer release, it is steeped in tradition and it has quickly received high praise in the artisanal gin scene.

    Forged in the Traditions of Scotch Whisky

    The Botanist's story begins with scotch. It is produced on the Isle of Islay at the Bruichladdich Distillery. The distillery first opened in 1881 and had a checkered history, weathering many of the industry's storms. It was revitalized in the early 2000's and today is known for creating very peaty whiskies including Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore.

    Gin is new to both the distillery and the island. It was renowned whisky distiller Jim McEwan who created the unique blend that is The Botanist and his extensive experience in crafting fine scotch played a large role in the equally impressive gin. 

    Special considerations needed to be made to distill gin alongside whisky and McEwan and his team made it happen. Among other things, an otherwise abandoned Lomond still at the distillery was transformed specifically for the process.

    Foraged From the Wilds of Islay

    The Botanist's botanical blend is extensive and this leads to one of the most complex gins you will taste. The list includes a total of 31 botanicals and two of Islay's resident botanists forage for 22 of those ingredients. It adds a unique, new meaning to locally-sourced liquor.

    The gin is crafted as slowly and meticulously as it takes to hand-pick its ingredients.

    • The nine core botanicals are infused in the initial distillate.
    • The foraged botanicals are added gently through the vapors via the still's lyne arm just before the condenser.
    • McEwan purposely slowed the distillation down to allow the flavors to fully harmonize with the grain spirit.

    Enjoy The Botanist

    The result of all of this careful planning is a spectacular gin. Few words can describe the experience properly as it is unlike any other. This one also doesn't have a distinct characteristic or dominant flavor.

    The Botanist is a perfectly balanced marriage of every botanical it uses. There is a refreshing hint of apple mint mixed with juniper in the beginning, then waves of citrus and spice. You will experience both coolness and warmth and, as the distillery's tasting notes say, "a starburst of flavours as they explode across the palate."

    There is nothing to dislike about The Botanist, in fact, you will easily fall in love with it! When it comes to cocktails, there is not a gin cocktail that it will not fit because the botanical profile is one of the most versatile on the market.

    The Botanist does make a pleasing Martini and one of the best Gin & Tonics you'll mix up. In keeping with the foraged spirit of the gin, you might even want to go out and pick wild berries and herbs for your drinks. 

    Overall, the Botanist is a gem of the gin world and it comes at a surprisingly great price.

    About The Botanist Islay Dry Gin

    • Hand-crafted gin distilled from new grain spirit with 31 botanicals.
    • Botanicals include a core of juniper, angelica root, cassia bark, cinnamon bark, coriander seeds, lemon peel, liquorice root, orange peel and orris root. With forage botanicals including apple mint, bog myrtle, chamomile, creeping thistle, downy birch, elder, gorse, hawthorn, heather, juniper, lady's bedstraw, lemon balm, meadowsweet, mugwort, red clover, spearmint, sweet cicely, tansy, water mint, white clover, wild thyme and wood sage.
    • Distilled by Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay in Scotland
    • Released in 2010
    • 46% alcohol by volume (92 proof)
    • Retails for around $35/750ml bottle
  • 04 of 06

    Bloom Gin: The Garden in a Glass

    Bloom Premium London Dry Gin
    Bloom Premium London Dry Gin. Mark Davis/Getty Images

    An unexpected, floral twist from one of the world's oldest gin distilleries.

    Bloom Gin has been described as a 'gateway gin,' a 'gin for women,' and an 'unexpected gin.' All of these only begin to describe the wonders held inside a bottle of this gin and no matter your personal gin preference, it's one you will want to try.

    The story of Bloom begins with one woman and a very old distillery. Joanne Moore is now the seventh Master Distiller at the famous G&J Greenall distillery and she is one of the few women to make it to such a high role in big liquor. Greenall has been producing great London dry gins since 1761 and has even helped other gin producers meet their goals (notably Bulldog Gin).

    Moore's experience and Greenall's tradition are the perfect foundations for creating a brand new, very modern gin. Honestly, it probably took a woman to create the floral wonder that is Bloom.

    Bloom: An English Garden in a Glass

    Bloom is one of the many gins that have revolutionized this category in recent years. It is soft, floral and very delicate and features chamomile, honeysuckle and pomelo in it botanical list.

    However, Moore made a point not to break the tradition of gin, she merely enhanced what was already great about it. Unlike Hendrick's and some of the other 'new western gins,' Bloom celebrates juniper, it is just a bit softer but it is the first noticeable element when tasting. The chamomile and honeysuckle follow closely behind and the citrus and other botanicals round out the experience.

    The inspirations for Bloom are the country gardens and wildflower meadows that dot the British countryside. Keep this in mind when choosing cocktails and mix Bloom into soft drinks with light flavors that will highlight the unusual bouquet.

    While many of our favorite gin cocktails are a good beginning, drinkers worldwide rave about Bloom in a classic French 75.

    About Bloom Gin

    • Distilled from English wheat.
    • Botanicals include juniper, chamomile, honeysuckle and pomelo with cubeb, coriander and angelica.
    • Master Distiller Joanne Moore
    • Produced by G&J Greenall in Warrington, North West England
    • 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)
    • Retails for around $45/750ml bottle
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    St. George Spirits: 3 Impressive Bottles of American Gin

    St. George Spirits' Gin Portfolio
    St. George Spirits is a California distillery that is crafting amazing spirits. Among those are three bottles of gin and each has its own character. Photo Courtesy: St. George Spirits

    Discover the craftsmanship of great American gin.

    St. George Spirits began as a one-man operation in 1982 in Alameda, California and has grown considerably since. Over the last decade or so, St. George has been a leader in America's craft spirits industry and they produce a fascinating variety of distilled spirits.

    The St. George Spirits' portfolio includes gins, vodkas, whiskies, liqueurs, even an Agricole Rum and absinthe. It is diverse but every single bottle is of the highest quality and perfect examples of the small-batch revolution.

    Gin is our focus here and St. George Spirits produces three different gins, each with their own style, purpose and unique character. If you see it, I recommend picking up the 200ml triple pack that allows you to taste and compare all three.

    Terroir Gin: The Forest in a Glass

    St. George Terroir Gin is definitely for those who love a lot of pine in their gin. This one is intended to capture a 'forest in a glass,' specifically the California forests with the use of Douglas fir.

    A true locally-sourced spirit (explaining the terroir name), it also features California bay laurel and coastal sage among its 12 botanicals. Notably among the others are coriander seeds which are roasted in a seasoned wok at the distillery.

    Use this gin in your favorite holiday cocktails and allow its earthy pine to fill you with the seasonal spirit. It also makes a fantastic Tom Collins. For summer drinks, the brand recommends pairing it with fresh berries.

    • Botanicals include juniper berries, Douglas fir, California bay laurel, coastal sage, coriander seeds and seven other botanicals.

    Botanivore Gin: The 'Botanical Eater'

    Why does St. George Spirits nickname this gin the 'botanical eater'? Because it holds a total of 19 botanicals used in creating it and it is one of the longest botanical lists in today's small-batch gin market. 

    Botanivore is a flavor extravaganza and you will be hard pressed to find a similar gin on the market, especially one that is handcrafted like this. It is everything that fascinates us about gin rolled into a single glass: herbaceous, earthy and fresh, bright citrus, soft florals, noteworthy spices and so much more.

    Of the three gins, Botanivore is St. George Spirits' most versatile. This is a gin that you will want to stock in your liquor cabinet regularly and use in any of your favorite gin cocktails. Martinis, tonics, old-school or modern recipes, it works for all of them.

    • Botanicals include angelica root, bay laurel, bergamot peel, black peppercorn, caraway, cardamom, cilantro, cinnamon, citra hops, coriander, dill seed, fennel seed, ginger, juniper berries, lemon peel, lime peel, orris root, Seville orange peel, star anise.

    Dry Rye Gin: A Gin for Whiskey Lovers

    I have tasted a fair share of St. George Spirits offerings, sadly this is not one of them. However, the description of their Dry Rye Gin certainly whets the palate.

    This gin is distilled entirely from rye and that gives it a genever-like feel. It's rich and malty with some of those signature rye spices that make rye whiskey special. Only six botanicals make it into this gin, so it is considerably mild in that aspect. Yet, with the rye base, it sounds as if that is perfectly fine and you have to trust the judgment of these distillers!

    Available in limited edition releases, St. George also releases Dry Rye Reposado Gin periodically. This gin is aged in French and American oak wine barrels and can be hard to find. Contact the distillery if you're interested in this one.

    As you might expect, St. George Dry Rye Gin can be used in a variety of cocktails. The distillery recommends a Negroni or Martinez and also notes that it can be a rye whiskey substitute in classic cocktails. I will add to that list and recommend trying it in some of those fun genever cocktails.

    About St. George Spirits Gin

    • Handcrafted, small batch gins.
    • Distilled by St. George Spirits of Alameda, California
    • 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof) - Dry Rye Reposado is 49.5%
    • Retail for around $35/750ml bottle
  • 06 of 06

    Leopold Bros. American Small Batch Gin

    Leopold's American Small Batch and Navy Strength Gin
    A fine pairing of gin, the American Small Batch and Navy Strength gins from Leopold Bros. are a gin connoisseur's dream. Photo Courtesy: Leopold Bros.

    Soft or bold, Leopold Bros. has a gin for your style.

    Leopold Bros. started as a brewery yet they have captured the attention of the world with their distilled spirits. Their Denver, Colorado distillery is home to a variety of crafted spirits including gins, whiskies, vodka, liqueurs, and aperitifs with an amaro and absinthe thrown in for good measure.

    There are many aspects of Leopold Bros. that helps them stand out. In true handcrafted spirit, every part of the process is done on site. Though it is a diverse portfolio, each bottle is crafted to the highest quality and you will note that many include a hand-written batch number.

    Good Gin Takes Time

    Leopold Bros. produces two styles of gin and they are completely unique from one another. This is a hallmark of a great small distillery because they have the time and patience to redevelop formulae rather than tweak a proven success.

    What these two gins do have in common is the dedication to quality. It begins with a base spirit that is an unusual blend of distillate from wheat, potato and barley.

    The botanicals are also carefully selected and distilled into the spirit individually. This process is called fractional distilling and it is a time-consuming method that most gin producers do not use. However, it allows Leopold Bros. precise control over each botanical's flavor before they are combined.

    Leopold's American Small Batch Gin

    The foundation of Leopold Bros. gin, their American Small Batch was an instant hit on its 2001 release. The timing was perfect as craft distilling was just gaining notice and discerning drinkers began looking to the 'little guy' to quench their thirst.

    This is a gin that everyone can enjoy. It has a softer juniper profile and subtle hints of bright citrus due to the combination of pummelo and orange. It is also a small batch gin in which you can taste the distiller's craft because of the perfect flavor balance.

    Use the Small Batch Gin in your favorite gin cocktail, particularly any of the gin martinis. It deserves the highest quality of drinks and is best paired with softer flavors that allow the gin to shine.

    Remember, it is not a robust London dry gin, so it can get lost with heavy flavors. Save those drinks for Leopold Bros. Navy Strength.

    • Botanicals include juniper, coriander, pummelo, orris root, Valencia orange and more.
    • First released in 2001
    • 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)
    • Retails for around $45/750ml bottle

    Leopold's Navy Strength American Gin

    Navy strength is used to describe high-proof gin, those that sailors of the British Royal Navy found would not make their gunpowder worthless after a spill. The higher alcohol content also creates a spirit with intense flavor. This is true in whiskey and rum and Leopold's Navy Strength follows suit.

    Bottled at 114 proof, this gin is not for the weak of heart or palate. You really need to love gin to appreciate Leopold's Navy Strength as it is juniper-heavy (twice the normal intensity) and very bold overall.

    The distillery did not simply bottle a higher-proof version of their successful Small Batch Gin, they started from scratch. The extra juniper and a switch to bergamot for the citrus notes created a wholly new gin that is very fascinating.

    Unlike their other gin, Leopold's Navy Strength is not going to be for everyone and it was meant to be mixed. There is no need to worry about losing this gin in a drink because you will always know it's there. For that reason, most drinkers have found that it's best in tall drinks that use less gin and the Gin & Tonic is a perfect example.

    • Botanicals include juniper, coriander, bergamot, cardamom and more.
    • First released in 2012
    • 57% alcohol by volume (114 proof)
    • Retails for around $40/750ml bottle

    About Leopold Bros. Gin

    • Distilled from wheat, potato and barley.
    • Distilled by Leopold Bros. of Denver, Colorado