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by Robert Giles


Gin can be a bit of a mystery. London Dry? Navy Strength? And just what the heck is a botanical? Well, fear not – I have delved into the lore of gin and found the answers to these questions and more!


This may be the most well-known style of gin. The term “London Dry” does not mean that this is distilled in the home of Big Ben. London Dry means that this gin is unsweetened and dry, featuring a heavy dose of juniper (a citrusy/black peppery berry) along with other botanicals like coriander. These are usually combined with a bittering agent like quinine. Some common examples of this style would be Beefeater, Bombay and Tanqueray.


Navy Strength is a holdover from when the British Navy specified that any spirit on their ships be flammable. This was to protect the ships' gunpowder supply from getting wet with non-flammable liquid, thus ruining it. In the spirits world, flammability translates to high Proof, and Navy Strenth is strong with a capital “S”. Gin artisans do try very hard to ensure that the natural flavors of the gin and its botanicals shine through, but be careful with it! I recommend using this style for mixed drinks when you want the gin to really stand out. Plymouth Navy Strength and Hayman's Royal Dock are examples of this style.


Old Tom is another style that you're likely to encounter. In contrast to the previous two styles, Old Tom is allowed to have sweeteners and flavoring agents added after the distilling. Sometimes these gins will even be barrel aged. In general, Old Tom is a sweeter and maltier style of gin.


The last two styles tend to go hand in hand. Dry gin is simply a gin that has no sweetener added to it and is less juniper heavy than London Dry gin. Botanical gin features a variety of botanicals—herbs, seeds, berries, and roots to add intriguing and exotic flavors. You’ll often see coriander, citrus peel, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg in botanical mixes, putting focus on a unique flavor or a sense of place in the finished gin. The Botanist, Citadelle, Waymar, and Roku are prime examples of this category.

Like other spirits, gin is an acquired taste. Trying a Gimlet, French 75, or a Gin and Tonic can be a great way to break out of a rut and try something new. If you make the attempt, you may just find your next favorite spirit. Cheers!