Exploring the World of Gin: Four Distinct Types of Gin

by Kaia

Gin, often referred to as “Mother’s Ruin” in its early days, has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the 17th century. Today, it is a versatile and beloved spirit that has taken the world by storm. With its unique botanical flavors and rich history, gin has carved a special place in the hearts of connoisseurs and cocktail enthusiasts alike. In this article, we will delve deep into the world of gin, exploring the four main types of gin and their distinctive characteristics that make each one a delightful choice for different palates and cocktail creations.


The Origins of Gin

To truly understand the world of gin, it’s essential to start with its historical roots. Gin’s journey began in the Netherlands, where it was initially known as “jenever.” The term “gin” itself is believed to have evolved from the Dutch word “jenever,” which means “juniper,” one of the key botanicals used in gin production. In the early 17th century, Dutch chemist Franciscus Sylvius is often credited with inventing the precursor to gin by distilling spirits with juniper berries and other botanicals for medicinal purposes.


However, it wasn’t until the late 17th century when gin made its way to England, where it gained immense popularity. The English adapted the Dutch “jenever” into their own version of the spirit, leading to the birth of English gin. This period in history saw a proliferation of gin distilleries, and gin consumption skyrocketed. The infamous “Gin Craze” of the 18th century brought about numerous regulations and acts attempting to control the excessive consumption of gin.


London Dry Gin: The Classic Choice

One of the most iconic and well-known types of gin is London Dry Gin. Despite its name, it doesn’t necessarily have to be made in London, but it does adhere to a specific set of rules and regulations that define its characteristics. London Dry Gin is known for its crisp, clean, and juniper-forward flavor profile, making it the quintessential choice for classic cocktails like the Martini and the Gin and Tonic.


One of the defining features of London Dry Gin is its botanical recipe. While juniper must be the dominant flavor, London Dry Gin can include a variety of other botanicals, such as coriander, angelica root, citrus peel, and more. These botanicals are added during the distillation process or through vapor infusion, contributing to the gin’s complex flavor profile.

Another key characteristic of London Dry Gin is its distillation method. It must be distilled to a high proof and then diluted with water to achieve the desired alcohol content. No artificial flavors or sweeteners can be added after distillation, ensuring the purity of the spirit.

Notable examples of London Dry Gins include Beefeater, Tanqueray, and Bombay Sapphire. These gins have set the standard for the classic gin taste that many gin enthusiasts and cocktail aficionados have come to love.

Plymouth Gin: A Distinctive English Classic

Plymouth Gin is a unique and distinctive style of gin that has a long history dating back to the late 18th century. It takes its name from the historic coastal town of Plymouth in England, where it was first produced. Plymouth Gin holds the distinction of being one of the few gins with its own protected geographical indication (PGI), which means it must be produced in Plymouth to be called “Plymouth Gin.”

What sets Plymouth Gin apart from other gins is its slightly sweeter and less juniper-forward profile compared to London Dry Gin. This is achieved through a unique combination of botanicals, including juniper, coriander, cardamom, and sweet orange peel, among others. The water used in its production is drawn from Dartmoor, which imparts a soft and slightly mineral character to the spirit.

Plymouth Gin’s historical significance is undeniable. It was the gin of choice for the British Royal Navy, and its distinctive flavor was favored in classic cocktails like the Navy Strength Gin and Tonic. Today, Plymouth Gin continues to be celebrated for its historical importance and its role in creating cocktails with a more balanced and approachable gin profile.

Old Tom Gin: The Forgotten Classic

Old Tom Gin, often referred to as the “missing link” in the evolution of gin styles, occupies a unique place in gin history. It bridges the gap between the sweeter Old Dutch Genever and the drier London Dry Gin. This style of gin was particularly popular in the 18th century and played a significant role in the development of classic cocktails like the Tom Collins.

What distinguishes Old Tom Gin is its subtle sweetness, which is achieved by adding a small amount of sugar to the spirit during or after distillation. This touch of sweetness balances the juniper and botanical flavors, making it a versatile choice for cocktails. The name “Old Tom” is said to have originated from the practice of serving gin from a black cat-shaped plaque on the outside of some London gin houses during the 18th century. Customers would insert a coin into the cat’s mouth, and a shot of gin would be dispensed through a pipe into their waiting glass.

Old Tom Gin all but disappeared for a time but has experienced a revival in recent years, with craft distillers embracing its historical significance and unique flavor profile. Brands like Hayman’s and Ransom Old Tom Gin have brought this forgotten classic back into the limelight, allowing modern cocktail enthusiasts to explore its rich history.

New Western or Contemporary Gins

In recent years, the gin landscape has seen a revolution with the emergence of New Western or Contemporary style gins. These gins defy the traditional juniper-forward approach and prioritize showcasing a wide range of botanicals, often resulting in unique and unconventional flavor profiles. While they still contain juniper, it may not be the dominant flavor, allowing other botanicals to shine.

New Western Gins are often characterized by their experimental and innovative nature. Distillers use a wide array of botanicals, such as cucumber, rose petals, lavender, and even exotic spices like cardamom and saffron, to create complex and intriguing flavor profiles. The goal is to offer consumers a fresh and exciting gin experience that goes beyond the classic juniper-driven taste.

One of the most famous examples of New Western Gin is Hendrick’s Gin, known for its infusion of cucumber and rose petals, which impart a delightfully floral and refreshing character. Other brands, like Monkey 47 and The Botanist, have also made waves in the world of contemporary gin with their unique botanical combinations.

The rise of New Western Gins has expanded the possibilities of gin-based cocktails, encouraging bartenders and mixologists to experiment with flavors and create innovative concoctions that highlight the diverse botanicals used in these gins.

Gin Around the World

While London Dry Gin, Plymouth Gin, Old Tom Gin, and New Western Gins represent some of the most well-known styles of gin, it’s essential to recognize that gin production has spread far beyond the borders of England and the Netherlands. Gin is now produced in various countries around the world, each offering its own unique interpretation of the spirit.

For instance, Spain is famous for its Gin and Tonic culture, where gin is often served in large balloon glasses with a variety of garnishes, such as citrus peels, herbs, and spices. Spanish gins like Gin Mare and Nordés have gained international acclaim for their Mediterranean-inspired botanicals and distinctive flavors.

In the United States, craft distilleries have played a significant role in the gin renaissance, producing small-batch and artisanal gins that often feature locally sourced botanicals. American gins like Aviation Gin and Barr Hill Gin have gained popularity for their innovative approaches to gin production.

Australia is another country that has embraced gin with fervor, producing a wide range of gins that often showcase native botanicals like Tasmanian pepperberry and lemon myrtle. Four Pillars Gin and Archie Rose Distilling Co. are examples of Australian distilleries making their mark on the global gin scene.


In the world of spirits, gin stands out as a remarkably versatile and diverse category. From the classic juniper-forward London Dry Gin to the unique sweetness of Plymouth Gin, the historical charm of Old Tom Gin, and the innovation of New Western Gins, there is a gin for every palate and occasion.



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