Gin is enjoying a recent renaissance, fuelled in part by the growing interest in craft distillers, and local products. A favourite of young distilleries, it can be produced quickly while they wait the required three-year minimum for their whiskies to age. It’s a versatile spirit that mixes easily, bringing out the best in other ingredients.
With more than 150 different gin brands currently available in Alberta, it’s no surprise that restaurants and bars are choosing to focus on this aromatic white spirit, and getting creative with it.
We’re delighted to see the renaissance of gin as a main-player again in the spirits market; the blend of botanicals makes such an enormous difference to the texture, sweetness and taste. Here are 12 gins definitely worth trying!
Big Rig Wildrose Gin
New kids on the block, Big Rig of Nisku is the only craft distillery in greater Edmonton, and came out of the gate showing strong. You can’t miss the striking bottle – a replica of Leduc #1 drilling rig, with its black wax “dripping oil” seal. Starring Rocky Mountain juniper and foothills wild rosehips, the gin opens with a pretty and floral orange peel nose, but is rounded with big, bold flavours on the palate. One for martinis, but also great with tonic. CSPC +778369 750 mL $57
Eau Claire Distillery Parlour Gin
Follow the “cowboy trail” to Turner Valley’s old movie theatre to find Eau Claire Distillery. Their second release, London-dry style Parlour Gin, is made from barley – the same as single-malt whisky. Using mostly traditional gin botanicals, you’ll be greeted by scents of sweet citrus and forest, but watch for Saskatoon berries and mint in this silky smooth-textured spirit. Ideal for cocktails, but happily sipped on its own. CSPC +768932 750 mL $50
Gilpin’s Extra Dry Gin
Gilpin’s is a limited edition gin for gin purists. English through and through, it’s made from water from the Lake District that has spent years falling as rain (and it rains a lot in the Lake District!) filtering through limestone and willowpeat. Complex aromas of juniper and citrus follow with underlying notes of something deeper and earthier – sage and borage as it turns out, used for the first time in a London Dry Gin. Distilled five-times, this is a perfect martini gin – ultra-smooth, and elegant. CSPC +776250 700 mL $59
Originally only a gift for family and friends, Gin Mare is made just outside Barcelona. It’s unusual and pushes gin boundaries, but is very much a Mediterranean spirit with savoury flavours of Spanish Arbequina olives, thyme from Turkey, rosemary from Greece, and Italian basil all macerated for 24-48 hours (the orange peel macerates for a year!) and blended after individual distillations. Perfect for cocktails, the cap is a 50 mL measure with a thumbscrew, so you can practise flair bartending too! CSPC +247841 700 mL $43
Ironworks is a micro-distillery in Lunenburg on Nova Scotia’s south shore, producing small batches of this classic London Dry Gin. In addition to traditional gin botanicals, they’re using local juniper wherever possible, foraged rose hips from the bushes in front of the Adams & Knickle fisheries, as well as less common Balsam Fir buds. It’s a delicate and feminine gin with a lightly perfumed nose, and it’s soft – no hard edges here. Great for a martini, particularly with green olives to add earthiness. CSPC +779394 750 mL $46
Martin Miller London Dry Gin
Martin Miller gins are made in England with the best ingredients they can find from all over the world: Florentine iris, French angelica, Chinese cassia bark, and pure water from Iceland. The botanicals are steeped overnight in spirit and hot water, distilled, and then blended with a separate distillation of Seville orange, lemon and lime peels to produce a subtle gin with a soft finish and no burn. Focus hard, and you might pick up the clean flavour of cucumber. Go British and enjoy a G & T. CSPC +737685 750 mL $44
Park Distillery Alpine Dry Gin
After a three-year process from concept to product, Park is producing Banff’s first legal spirits. Alpine Dry Gin is only just released, and the newest gin of our picks. Here in the mountains, they hand-mill, hand-mash, and hand-distill grain from high-altitude family farms in the foothills, and then blend it with glacial water. Alpine has a strong and slightly sweet juniper nose with a citrus lift, and scents of the forest, which follow through to the palate. A fresh tasting gin, it’s ideal for cocktails. CSPC +781550 750 mL $50
Okanagan Spirits Gin
Okanagan Spirits is Western Canada’s oldest craft distillery, producing a terroir-specific gin at their family distillery in Vernon. Their goal is to be 100 per cent “field-to-flask,” using only B.C. grain and botanicals from within 50 km of the distillery – many of which come from the Master Distiller’s garden. Okanagan gin is highly aromatic, first with spruce, orange and rose petals, following with coriander, orris, violets, and rhubarb, in supporting roles. Sip neat on ice or with a touch of tonic. CSPC +181859 750 mL $43
This bright, naturally yellow gin boasts six rare botanicals from the Ungava tundra, indigenous to northern Quebec. Wild rose hips, cloudberry, Labrador tea, crowberry, Nordic juniper, and Arctic Blend, are handpicked during the Arctic’s shortlived summer and infused into gin for the taste and colour to develop. The bottle features Inuktitut script of the Inuit language. For “adventurous amateurs and connoisseurs alike,” drink over ice or get creative. CSPC +753183 750 mL $35
Unruly by name – unruly by nature, Wayward Distillation House is the first distillery in Canada to use honey for its spirits. Based in Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, this artisanal craft distillery sources unpasteurized honey from the wild clover fields of northern B.C., which is then blended with glacier water and yeast to become mead, distilled into a spirit, then infused with organic, local botanicals of cedar, citrus, lavender, sarsaparilla, and vibrant coriander. Use in a martini or negroni. CSPC +67595 750 mL $63
This year, newly rebranded Victoria Distillers has a new distillery on the waterfront in Sidney, B.C., with beautiful new bottles to boot. They call their cocktail spirits “liquid bar tools,” and the new bottles are adorned with little cocktail icons on side, so there’s no mistaking the intention for this gin. Still hand made in small batches and hand batch numbered, Victoria Gin is light and delicate, with gentle aromas of citrus, juniper and spice – soft, elegant and feminine. CSPC +645085 750 mL $46
Victoria Oaken Gin
These two Victoria Distillers gins are like a family – Mr. and Mrs. Gin. Oaken Gin is the counterpart to Victoria Gin, warming and rounded with a touch of vanilla, and caramel – not only in colour but a hint on the palate too. This more masculine, full-flavoured gin rests in primarily new French and American oak for a few months to achieve its buttery texture and golden colour. Perfect with a little vermouth. CSPC +765054 750 mL $53