Was there ever a time of greater national need? Here's our guide to the best artisan gins in Somerset, Dorset and Bristol. Rack 'em up and let's get drinking!
Inspired by the flavours and botanicals of iconic French absinthe, Ros Nelmes ‘the G&T Queen’ makes her Fordington Gin, down in Dorchester, Dorset. The gin’s won Silver in the World Gin Awards.
Flavour: Inspired by the flavours and botanicals of iconic French absinthe, expect delicate hints of aniseed and lemon balm, the London Dry Gin also comes in a lovely summer rose flavour.
Enjoy it with: A slosh of Fever Tree tonic and a wedge of lemon, lime or cucumber – or with strawberries and black pepper or a grapefruit wedge and basil.
Northmoor Classic (44%) and Navy Strength Gin (57%) won Gold Medals in the San Francisco World Spirit Competition 2020, one of only 24 gins from around the world to achieve double gold, and one of seven in the UK – and it’s distilled at the Exmoor Distillery in Dulverton, Somerset. PS. Owners John and Nicola Smith met in a cocktail bar – most appropriate.
Flavour: ‘light on the lips..,full-bodied with a punchy three-dimensional taste, leaving a deliciously smooth flavour’
Enjoy it with: chill and savour a sip neat, before adding tonic, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit….
The owners of foodie pub The Candlelight Inn, in Bishopswood in the Blackdown Hills, Somerset are obsessed with gin (they stock over 50). So much so, they’ve to create their own artisan gin, using locally foraged botanicals, and named after their Irish Setter Beau.
Flavour: luscious in body and well balanced – with just a hint of complexity – just like their dog.
Enjoy it with: your favourite mixer, ice and a slice.
Named after the viper they came across when they were clearing the plot to grow botanicals, Viper Gin is distilled in a copper still in small batches in Cerne Abbas in Dorset.
Flavour: the London Dry Gin is ‘delicate to the palette with subtle and complex profiles’.
Enjoy it with: fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and creme de mure to create a classic Bramble cocktail.
This brilliantly named Bristol gin distillery produces around 30 different craft gins a year. As well as their all-year round ‘Woden’ gin, they produce limited runs of 750 bottles as the seasons change, as well as bespoke gins, Parisien-style absinthe, Danish aqvavit and a coffee digestif.
Flavour: Their limited edition summer gin ‘Hathor’ has a ‘ big hit of pomegranate, bright floral notes of Scottish heather flower and a subtle spice note from fig leaves’.
Enjoy it with: Fever Tree Aromatic tonic and a slice of lemon or with pomegranate juice and soda for a refreshing summer spritz.
Ever been to the Canary Gin Bar in Bath’s Queen Street? Bet you didn’t know The Bath Distillery was beavering away distilling the stuff down in the cellars. And Miss Austen’s favourite tipple too, perchance?
Flavour: ‘modern, smooth, refreshing with exotic citrus and warm spice notes’.
Enjoy it with: kaffir Lime Leaf and premium tonic.
This North Petherton gin’s made from Somerset apples. Local sugar beet is used to make a vodka which is then re-distilled to create the gin, which has garnered Taste of the West’s Gold and Silver Awards 2019. The Passionfruit Gin Liqueur sounds interesting.
Flavour: promises to be ‘a taste of the Somerset countryside’, with juniper, citrus zests, apple, anise and macadamia.
Enjoy it with: a slice of apple, pear, pink grapefruit or nectarine.
Bath Botanicals No 1 Gin
They use handpicked lime flowers from around Bath to create the fragrant lime flavour of their London dry gin, which you can see being distilled in their distillery and herbal apothecary in Widcombe, Bath. They make fruit gins too.
Flavour: a ‘full-bodied botanical gin’.
Enjoy it with: ice and a slice, of lime.
You can buy online.
Two sisters in Frome in Somerset use recipes and trad methods passed down by family members over the last 20 years to create their range of gins and other spirits at Friary Drinks and Still Sisters. The botanicals in their signature London Dry Gin include locally grown organic watercress, which creates a light, peppery taste. New for 2020: Pink Pomegranate gin and Grapefruit Gin.
Flavour: Try their gin blended with a rhubarb infusion and a ginger wine produced in a privately run vineyard, or raspberry and mint.
Enjoy it with: ice, with choice of mixer or some prosecco.
Bristol Dry Gin
Every gin is exhaustively taste-tested (hic) by the Bristol Spirits Collective, a small group of bartenders and the like, who’ve dedicated themselves to producing a gin for the people: good quality, full-flavoured, affordable. Three gins: Bristol Dry Gin (40%), Docker’s Strength (55%) and Turbo Island Edition (75%, gulp).
Flavour: ‘ fresh citrus notes, backed up with light spices. Elderflower, lime leaf and cassia bark.’
Enjoy it with: regular tonic water and a wedge of lime.
6 O’Clock Gin
Named after the owners’ family tradition of drinking gin at 6, this gin evolved out of the fruit liqueurs that Edward Bramley Kain and Penelope Gage made in their Devon farmhouse kitchen over 30 years ago. Now based just outside Bristol, the latest addition to the range is Jekka’s Edition, in collaboration with ‘queen of the herbs’ Jekka McVicar.
Flavour: 6 o’clock gin is a smooth juniper with hints of coriander, orange peel and elderflower. Nice.
Enjoy it with: lots of ice, a big slosh of fresh tonic and some twisted lemon peel.
Love to know what you think about these gins – or if you can recommend any we’ve missed out.