It might seem strange for a gin geek to advocate operating a one in, one out gin shelf at home. More so when the suggestion is to stop at a maximum of five bottles!
Certainly, there are hundreds of gins that are worth getting to know and even more that are a joy to taste, but trust me on this one, if you curate, cut and focus the selection down to the bare minimum – Gin O’Clock becomes far more enjoyable.
By having less choice at any given point, you value what you have more, pay a lot more attention as to what and why you are getting in the first place and you’ll tune in to your preferences much faster.
Picking which gin to serve shouldn’t be an existential debate but when confronted with so many things, it’s all too easy to just opt for the same bottle or take forever to choose. The key thing to remember is that gin is there to be enjoyed! Just use it and keep in mind that the distiller's intention is to create a moment of escapism, not anguish. With less on your shelf it’s easier to stay in the moment and focus on what matters most – who you are sharing it with.
Reducing down and curating your gin selection to a well-considered range doesn’t mean compromising either. To find a hard working five that I guarantee covers every occasion, every guest, every cocktail and satisfies every single time, here a few principles to abide by along with a few suggestions for the kind of gins that suit the intention...
"Essentials" are the kind of gins that don’t break the bank and that you’d gladly splash in a G&T on a school night. Not run of the mill, but not crazy rare and exclusive. The no fuss kind. I’d recommend choosing two overall flavour profiles.
Pick one a classically styled gin for the times you need the piercing familiarity of juniper and its bracingly crisp satisfaction. For the other, choose a more approachable, contemporary offering for the times you prefer a lighter, softer style.
For me, the two that really call my name in both classic and contemporary “cabinet essential” camps are Plymouth Gin and Tanqueray No.Ten.
The former is reasonably priced, has a lifting citrus lead, before piny juniper and coriander seed fill the senses. Meanwhile T’10, as it’s known, offers a huge zingy grapefruit aroma, soft and floral chamomile and a smooth warming spice that endures.
Besides, Plymouth Dry Gin is simply one of the greatest gins in the category, which should need for more explanation. It just is! It helps that both bottles look fantastic too, a fact that when you only have 5 things on shelf seems to gain even more importance...
Of course, you could use your ‘essentials’ here, but if you are going to go beyond and make something specific, it pays to have the perfect partner to take your cocktail into another dimension.
In my house, the Negroni rules the roost while the Martini (or variants thereof) is a frequent weekend treat.
For the Negroni, big bold gins tend to work well and, in my opinion, Navy Strength Gins like Tarquin’s Seadog Gin transform the drink into a celebration of flavour that explodes out of the glass.
For the Martini, the textural quality of gin is vital to consider and craft offerings brimming with character like Greensand Ridge London Dry Gin have a rich mouthfeel and intricately layered botanicals that reveal themselves over time.
Greensand achieves its luxurious profile by cunningly using cobnuts and gorse flower, but the reason i think it really shines for a Martini workhorse is because it's as suited to a twist as it is an olive. Keeping that option open and being equally as good served either way is a rare trait.
Whatever your cocktail of choice is, consider what would make it excellent and arm yourself accordingly to upgrade your experience.
Last in your line up of five, it’s time to pick something that isn’t about flavour or price. It’s about something that triggers pleasure, memories or fulfilment way beyond the liquid itself. There’s plenty of special occasion gins, where the people who make it or where it’s made trigger something extra for you and that turns a bottle from being just another good gin into something that really transports you somewhere else and reserved uniquely for the times you are looking for a treat.
These are the kind of gins you place on your gift Wishlist and hint to loved ones in the hopes of the next time they are thinking of gifts they place this gin in the basket.
I tend to look into gins that show a strong sense of place, ot that remind me of occasions gone by and have me planning for more. For many it’s about a connection with the maker and their ethos, while others reserve this spot for the limited editions and seasonal offerings. Whatever you choose, pick something that you like the taste of, but that you love beyond the glass.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about family and the changing of generations. A gin that I’ve always connected with is Bobby’s Schiedam Gin, an East meets West flavour combination of Indonesian spice and traditional Genever ingredients. It was a project that began as the founder Sebaastian’s journey to recreate his Grandfather’s (Bobby) long lost recipe.
In recreating the gin, he restructured it for a modern audience and it's delicious in a G&T today. It’s a passion and a pursuit for flavour that spans generations and something that on a personal level, resonates with me. In that way, while I like Bobby's as a gin, I love what it symbolises and the everglow it provides me is less about the booze inside but derived more from how it reminds me of my connections with my Grandfather's distilling (the polar opposite of Bobby's, his was rocket fuel best left in the archives) and how one day, how I hope my daughter will smile at the lunacy of my obsession with this spirit.
So there you go - five gins, two for everyday use, two for when you want a cocktail and one when you seek pure escapism. All 5 deliver quality, all 5 cover all your possible needs.
It’s time to reduce, rethink and stock up on a gin selection that’s fit for purpose!