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Tag: London dry gin

New London Light – zero ABV with distinction

Inspired by the historical distinction of London Dry gin, Salcombe Distillery Company intends to set a benchmark for flavour in the alcohol-free sphere with the release of New London Light, its…

Inspired by the historical distinction of London Dry gin, Salcombe Distillery Company intends to set a benchmark for flavour in the alcohol-free sphere with the release of New London Light, its first non-alcoholic spirit. We spoke to co-founder and director Howard Davies to find out more about the bottling, the first in a series for the distillery…

The London Dry style rose to prominence in the 19th century as the gold standard for gin production. At a time when such spirits were produced “in rather dubious fashions of very varied quality,” says Davies, the designation guaranteed that the bottling hadn’t been doctored post-distillation. “London Dry was introduced to put some kind of assurance to the consumer about the quality of the gin they were consuming,” he says. The style set a standard for production that continues to this day.

While today’s alcohol-free producers certainly aren’t poisoning their customers, the fledgling category faces its own consistency challenges. Davies and the team sought to bring the London Dry ethos to the alcohol-free sector with the launch of their first 0% ABV bottling, New London Light. “In these early days of non-alcoholic spirits, there’s a mix of quality of product out there,” says Davies. Against this backdrop, New London Light intends to be “the benchmark of taste and flavour in the non-alcoholic spirits sector.”

Angus Lugsdin and Howard Davies, founders of Salcombe

The name ‘New London Light’ doesn’t only refer to the historic gin style. It’s also a nod to the coastal location of the distillery, which lies on the south-east coast of England in the town of Salcombe, Devon. “There’s a couple of other little ties,” says Davies. “Our distillery is by the sea, one of the only distilleries in the world you can reach by boat, and so our product names are often inspired by lighthouses.” 

There’s Start Point gin, named for a lighthouse on the coast of Devon, and Rosé Sainte Marie gin, named for a lighthouse in the Mediterranean. New London Light is a lighthouse, too – located on America’s east coast, in Long Island Sound. Incredibly, it was once a beacon for the crews of 19th century Salcombe Fruiters. Built in Salcombe and neighbouring Kingsbridge, these speedy Schooner sailing vessels were designed to transport perishable fruits, herbs and spices sourced from across the globe – including America – back to England’s ports.

Developed by master distiller Jason Nickels, New London Light is made using a two-step process. The first sees Macedonian juniper berries, ginger and habanero capsicum distilled to create a base spirit. “This initial distillation uses alcohol, but at a weaker strength than we would normally do it,” says Davies. Using alcohol at this stage of the process allows the team to capture a fuller flavour profile from the botanicals. “Often when you do a plain water distillation, the flavours don’t come through as much,” he adds.

This base liquid is then blended with a further 15 botanical extracts, including orange, sage, cardamom, cascarilla bark and lemongrass. Some of these flavours are captured in concentrates and oils, while others are achieved through more technical methods, such as vacuum distillation. The team experimented with endless distilling methods before settling on this two-pronged approach. “It’s very much a horses for courses approach, in that there’ll be specific distillation methods and extract methods that are going to be a better fit for specific botanicals or botanical types,” says Davies.

Serving suggestion

Creating a genuinely tasty non-alcoholic spirit requires a new way of approaching flavour. Davies explained: “The original distillate whilst containing alcohol has proportionally a very concentrated botanical flavour load, and is intended to be very diluted. Therefore when blended with the other botanical extracts and water the alcohol strength is diluted significantly such that it’s final strength is below 0.5% ABV which qualifies as non-alcoholic”. Using multiple methods is where the future of the category lies, reckons Davies. “I don’t think there’s ever going to be one method that you can use across all of the botanical flavours and ingredients,” he says. “The best non-alcoholic spirits coming through are going to [use] a variety of different methods, depending on the type of botanical or flavour you’re trying to achieve in your final liquid.”

So, how should you drink New London Light? There are a whole host of cocktail suggestions on Salcombe Distilling Co’s website, along with signature serve New London Light and Light. “It’s essentially New London Light with a low-calorie tonic,” says Davies. “It’s garnished with a slice of orange – to compliment the citrus flavours coming through – and a sage leaf, which brings an amazing warm, herbal note. It really picks up that botanical within the spirit, so you get this lovely two-tone effect of the garnish on the nose and then again on the palate.”

Corks may be popping on bottles of New London Light this Dry January, but when it comes to distilling sans-booze, the team’s only just getting started. New London Light is the first bottling in what’s set to become a full non-alcoholic range, with two more booze-free variants planned for release before the end of the year. While the finer details remain well and truly under wraps, the focus for Davies and the wider Salcombe Distilling Co. team is centred on “innovation of taste and of process”.

“It’s about breaking new ground in terms of innovative flavour combinations and coming further away from traditional alcoholic drink flavours,” he says. “In the alcoholic sector, drinks are based on ingredients that you can ferment to create alcohol. We don’t have those constraints in the non-alcoholic sector, and so it’s a great opportunity to use less-familiar ingredients. It’s also about innovation in terms of the techniques that we use to extract the best possible flavour from these botanicals and plants.”

New London Light tasting note

Nose: Bursting with fresh lime zest and orange sherbet. A whiff of cardamom and violet, underpinned by a piney juniper note. 

Palate: Delightfully aromatic. Warming ginger and chilli make way for floral, woody notes with a hint of bitter orange and clove. 

Finish: Smooth and slightly drying. A tangy peachiness turns herbaceous, with fragrant lemongrass, fresh coriander and a hint of menthol. 

Salcombe New London Light is available from Master of Malt

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Expand your London dry gin horizons

London dry gin is a popular style for good reason, but even within this category, there’s a huge range of different and delightful options. We’ve rounded up a few here….

London dry gin is a popular style for good reason, but even within this category, there’s a huge range of different and delightful options. We’ve rounded up a few here.

Despite the increasing popularity of flavoured variations, the gins people plump for the most remain the classics, namely London dry. However, there are many who will solely place orders for the usual names or head to the same shelf in the store as they always do. You might have given up on New Year’s resolutions by now, but there’s no reason you can’t still challenge yourself to be a bit more creative in your choices. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Now’s the time to explore the London dry gin world and find something new, something intriguing, something different – and we are only too pleased to help you with that.


Moonshot Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

If you want to explore different London dry gins, then one that’s made it to the final frontier is as good a place as any to start. Moonshot Gin was created by That Boutique-y Gin Company, who sent a botanical selection off into the stratosphere. Watch the above video if you don’t believe me. In that basket, you’ll see the likes of juniper, coriander, cubeb pepper, fresh lemon peel, chamomile flowers, cardamom, dried bitter orange peel, cinnamon, liquorice root, angelica and even moon rock from a lunar meteorite, all in actual space. At The Gin Masters 2019 (run by The Spirits Business) this beauty was awarded the title of Master in the London Dry category, so you can be sure this is no gimmick gin.

What does it taste like?:

Candied peels, starfruit, warming juniper, cassia, lemon sherbet, ginger beer, grapefruit, coriander seed and black pepper. 

Expand your London dry horizons

Ramsbury Gin

For those who’d prefer a gin that’s made with a focus on what we have a little closer to home, than Ramsbury Gin should hit the spot. The classic London dry gin was created to capture the local landscape in a bottle. The base spirit was made with Horatio wheat grown on estate grounds, while the botanicals used include juniper picked locally on Salisbury Plain and quince also exclusive to Ramsbury Estate.

What does it taste like?:

Floral tones and crisp quince fades into savoury juniper, with a refreshing finish and a touch of spice.

Expand your London dry horizons

Larios Ginebra Mediterránea

A double distilled gin that previously went by the name Larios Dry Gin, Larios Ginebra Mediterránea is the best selling gin in Spain. See what all the fuss about yourself with this beautifully mixable expression that was created using coriander, juniper and orange zest as its botanicals. 

What does it taste like?:

Aromatic and delicately sweet Mediterranean citrus, bright juniper and a flicker of spice.

Expand your London dry horizons

Portobello Road No. 171 Gin

At the award-winning Notting Hill bar, Portobello Star, you’ll find the fantastic Ginsitute, where you’ll learn all about the tasty spirit and even get to craft your own expression. As you can imagine, the lovely folk there know a thing or two about making gin themselves, so it’s hardly surprising their own gin, Portobello Road No. 171, is rather good. An old-style London Dry Gin, it contains traditional botanicals and spices, and is the perfect bottling for those who want something that harks back to the gins of yesteryear.

What does it taste like?:

Hot white pepper, plenty of juniper, well-integrated spice, soft lemongrass, red berries and fresh citrus.

Expand your London dry horizons

Greater Than Gin 

An ideal way to broaden your London dry gin horizons would be to try different expressions made around the world. Greater Than London Dry gin, for example, is a delightful citrus-forward gin that was made in Goa, India by the folks over at Nao Spirits, and features several local botanicals, including coriander seeds, fennel, chamomile, ginger and lemongrass.

What does it taste like?:

Big notes of juniper lead into a whole host of sweet and tangy citrus, a floral touch and fiery ginger rounds things up.

Expand your London dry horizons

Strane London Dry Gin – Merchant Strength

A very popular, beautifully spicy and sweet Swedish London dry gin from the Smögen Distillery, Strane London Dry Gin – Merchant Strength was created with a selection of botanicals including juniper, coriander seeds, basil, garden mint, lemon rind, sage, cinnamon bark, liquorice root and two secret botanicals. Ideal for those who love a bit of mystery. And tasty gin, of course.

What does it taste like?:

Bright juniper and coriander seeds combine among aromatic herbs and citrus warmth.

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Christopher Hayman, a life in gin

After 50 years in distilling, Christopher Hayman of Hayman’s Gin has just been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week…

After 50 years in distilling, Christopher Hayman of Hayman’s Gin has just been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week to talk past, present and future of gin.

The Hayman family are gin royalty. Christopher Hayman is a fourth generation distiller, great grandson of James Burrough (the founder of Beefeater Gin.) Hayman himself has been distilling since 1969 but it was only in 2004 that the name ‘Hayman’s’ appeared on a bottle of gin. Since then, the family business, both Hayman’s children, James and Miranda are involved, has gone from strength to strength. The firm moved to a new distillery in Balham in south London in 2018 and are rarely out of the gin news with its ‘call time on fake gin’ campaign and innovative products like Small Gin. To celebrate Hayman senior’s 50 years in the business, a 50% ABV Rare Cut London Dry Gin will be released shortly. Then on Friday, he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gin Guild. We caught up with him last week, before he knew about the honour, to discuss 50 years in gin. 

Christopher Hayman next to Marjorie, the still named after his late mother

Master of Malt: In what ways has gin changed since you began distilling in 1969?

Christopher Hayman: I think one of the major changes is that back in the seventies gin was very much a lifestyle drink. Whereas today, which I’m delighted about, people actually want to understand the provenance and the authenticity of the gin you’re making, they want to know where the spirit is from, what grains are used in the spirit, where the botanicals come from, and how you make it. When I first joined the trade there were only a handful of brands where today, thanks to the recent gin craze, we’ve had hundreds of brands! But I think the main thing is the actual interest in gin and the renaissance in gin and people’s deep interest in how gin is made. 

MoM: When did you start to notice a change, that people are suddenly a lot more interested than they were?

CH: I think probably in the last ten to 12 years. It’s different in different markets but in the UK it’s around that time when people started to show an interest. And I think also with bartenders, vodka had been very strong back in the 1990s and I think gin was sleepy but still there, a little bit forgotten. And people suddenly, particularly bartenders, suddenly thought ‘actually, gin is quite an interesting flavour and quality’ and started to use it. So for them, for some bartenders, it’s been a new ingredient you might say! 

MoM: And do you think the boom in gin is slowing down or coming to an end? I mean it’s been predicted for a while…

CH: That’s something I’ve been asked so many times! I’ve just been to the Bar Convent Berlin and lots of people were asking that… My own feeling is that we’ve had incredibly strong growth in the last few years, at some stage or another it’s going to calm down and the rate of growth will slow down. I mean it’s very much a vibrant and thriving category at the moment but I’m sure it will calm down. 

MoM: Why did you launch the ‘call time on fake gin’ campaign?

CH: As a family we’re very committed to classic gin. And I think at that time, it’s a while ago now, we were very concerned that it was losing a little bit of its identity. And as a family we take a long term view and we’re absolutely passionate that the gin category retains its sort of status, not only today but in 15, 20 years time. We were just very concerned that gin retains its respect as a category and people understand what gin is and don’t get confused by some modern gin products.

We are family: Christopher Hayman with his children, James and Miranda

MoM: Do you think the category might need more regulation or more stricter definitions?

CH: That’s a lovely question! Sadly, my own opinion is that it’s a pity that gin wasn’t properly regulated back after the Second World War. Whisky, Scotch whisky did so. I mean there are regulations in operation in the UK and the EU and different ones around the world. I would love to see stronger regulation as such. I mean it is tightening up, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not as strong as I would like it to be. 

MoM: Is it important to you to be making a London dry gin in London?

CH: Very much so. That’s where my great grandfather started and he was very much a pioneer of London dry gin and he developed a two-day process for making our London Dry Gin, which we still use today. And so to us London is the natural home of gin and that’s why we want our gin to be distilled in London. And I often say if my great grandfather walked into our distillery today he would be so pleased to see we were still using his two-day process and maybe if we gave him a sample of our gin he would say ‘hm, that’s my gin!’ 

MoM: Can you tell me just a little bit more about this two-day process? 

CH: We only use English wheat neutral spirit, so we put that into our copper stills. We only use ten botanicals as a family and we put in our recipe, and allow it to steep overnight which allows the alcohol to start extracting some of the flavours from the various botanicals. And then after a day we do a normal distillation. We have tried doing it on the one day just for an experiment but it doesn’t produce the quality or the fuller flavour that we’re looking for in our London Dry. 

MoM: And tell me about this new gin you’re doing, Hayman’s Rare Cut?

CH: Rare Cut was thought up by Miranda and James. They said ‘what can we do to celebrate dad’s 50 years in the gin trade?’ And then had a good think about it and so they came up with the idea. It was a little bit of a secret, they decided to produce a London dry, cutting it at 50% rather than at other strength, and don’t ask me how they came up with the name of ‘Rare Cut’ I’m not sure I’m meant to be rare but 50 years is a rarity these days! I was in Canada with James a couple of weeks ago, it was one of the first times I’d tasted Rare Cut and I had it with a Rare Cut Martini, it was so good I had to have a second! 

Hayman's Small Gin and Tonic

Small gin, big flavour

MoM: Who came up with the idea for Small Gin? I thought that was very clever.

CH: It came up through the team, quite honestly. I don’t think it was only one person. We’ve obviously been very aware of what’s going in the lower, no alcohol sector of the market and a number of people have tried to produce a no alcohol ‘spirits’. And this germ of an idea came and we developed it. So it’s had a very interesting response in the trade. Very positive. Two of three people have said to me it’s one of the most exciting innovations in the gin trade for many years it means that you can get the taste of a full gin and tonic with 80% less alcohol and only 15 calories in the gin serve. So it’s got a huge amount of interest and once people understand how it works and we’ve done many comparison tastings and very few people can tell the difference between a regular strength gin and tonic and a Hayman’s Small Gin and tonic. 

MoM: Then finally I just wanted to ask about the new distillery in Balham. Has it become something of a tourist attraction?

CH: I think the answer is yes. We’re getting about 250 visitors a week. We do tours just about every day of the week and it’s great when you see on Trip Advisor that for London we’re number 20 and up with the Big Bens and the Buckingham Palaces of this world. Not only do we have them but we have a lot of trade visitors as well, as you can imagine. So the distillery, besides distilling all our gins, is pretty busy with business of one sort of another. And to celebrate my 50 years in the trade we had a special dinner in the distillery last Thursday evening, I had about 20 people, family, people I’ve known during the 50 years in my trade and had some lovely thank you letters and so on, so there wasn’t a better place to celebrate your 50 years in the gin trade. 

Thank you Christopher, and congratulations on your Lifetime Achievement Award!

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New Arrival of the Week: Darnley’s Very Berry Gin

This week Darnley’s Gin launched a limited edition gin distilled with local ingredients from the hedgerows and even from the sea. We went to Scotland for a little taste. ….

This week Darnley’s Gin launched a limited edition gin distilled with local ingredients from the hedgerows and even from the sea. We went to Scotland for a little taste. . .

In January we visited Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife to try its first whisky release, and very nice it was too. The distillery’s founders, the Wemyss family, also produces Darnley’s Gin which appeared back in 2010. In craft gin terms, this is ancient history.

Head gin distiller Scott Gowans talked me through the range. I enjoyed the Original and the cumin-accented Spiced Gin, but the one that really blew my hair back was a limited edition product – the Very Berry Gin. It’s a London Dry Gin made with Scottish hedgerow fruit including rose hips, elderberries and sloes. I loved its fruity flavour and the saline note that comes from using sugar kelp as a botanical, and couldn’t wait until it was available to the general public. Well the wait is over. It’s here.

Very Berry Gin

Very Berry Gin – note gleaming copper in the background

The range is named after Mary Queen of Scot’s first husband, Lord Darnley. She first met him in February 1565 at Wemyss Castle in Fife and was clearly quite impressed. A chronicle of the occasion wrote: “Her Majesty took well with him, and said that he was the lustiest and best proportioned long man that she had seen.” Blimey! By July of that year, they were married.

Unfortunately, despite his general dishiness, Darnley was also a violent drunkard. His behaviour, which included murdering Mary’s private secretary David Rizzio, quickly made him unpopular at court. Darnley was himself eventually murdered in 1567, some think at instigation of Mary.

His portrait sits in the gin distillery at Kingsbarns. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area not least for the theatrical gin tasting room. It seems like an ordinary room but at the touch of a button, a light comes on behind a wall-sized window to reveal the gleaming copper gin stills. Very James Bond.

Gowans uses both traditional distillation and vapour infusion to get those wonderful flavours into Very Berry Gin. When I tried it back in January, I immediately thought it would be great in a Negroni, but it’s also a natural candidate for a Bramble. Here’s a recipe which will get the most out of this very Scottish gin:

50ml Darnley’s Very Berry Gin
25ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
10ml crème de mure

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup with ice in a shaker, double-strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice. Drizzle crème de mure on the top and garnish with a lemon slice and a bramble, and raise a toast to one of Scotland’s top scoundrels.

Darnley's Very Berry Pack Shot crop

It’s very very berry

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British gin exports double in value

Is the gin boom over? Not by a long way, according to figures just released by HMRC. We take a closer look at this great British export success story. It’s…

Is the gin boom over? Not by a long way, according to figures just released by HMRC. We take a closer look at this great British export success story.

It’s not often you get good news from HMRC, but something that landed today made us smile. British gin is booming. Export sales in 2018 reached a record £612 million, meaning that they have doubled in value since 2010, and increased by 15% on 2017.

The EU is the biggest market for British gin worth nearly £290 million and up 14% on 2017. Next comes the USA, worth £191 million and up £13 million since 2017. Other places that can’t get enough of that good old British gin include Australia (£24 million, up 100%), South Africa (£14.5 million up 222%) and Switzerland (£6.6 million, an increase of 38%). With the EU such an important market, one hopes that some sensible arrangement can be reached post-Brexit. Miles Beale from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSTA) commented:

“Europe represents a huge market for British gin, therefore it essential that the UK does not leave the EU without securing a deal which allows frictionless trade. It is hugely important that Government also secures free trade deals with the rest of the world and we are encouraged by mutual recognition agreements already signed with countries like Australia and Switzerland. However more must be done, and quickly, so that we maintain our position as the world’s largest spirits exporter and further boost the UK economy and provide more jobs.”

Meanwhile back at home, we’re no slackers when it comes to drinking gin. In 2018, the British got through 66 million bottles of gin, up 41% on the previous year. That’s a lot of Martinis. Put together, the domestic and export markets for gin are more than £2.5 billion.

Here at Master of Malt, gin sales in 2018 were up 50.5% by volume on 2017. Much of this growth comes from fun, sweeter products like flavoured and pink gins. Our 2018 top ten bestselling gins included: Peaky Blinder Spiced Dry Gin, Aber Falls Orange Marmalade Gin, Whitley Neill Blood Orange Gin, and Malfy Gin Con Arancia. According to the WSTA, the flavoured gin category is now valued at £165 million up 751% (no that’s not a typo) on 2017. Some people might sneer at flavoured gin, but clearly the public disagrees.

Haymans Gin

Where some of that British gin is made, the stills at Hayman’s in South London

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10 of the best London dry gins

Forget flavoured: London dry gin is the style that’s stood the test of time and remains one of the most popular worldwide. We thought it was about time we celebrated…

Forget flavoured: London dry gin is the style that’s stood the test of time and remains one of the most popular worldwide. We thought it was about time we celebrated the classic, juniper-forward style…

We live in an era of rampant gin production and consumption – and everyone has a favourite. Maybe you enjoy the timeless taste of Old Tom, or you’re the experimental kind who craves cask-aged editions. There are plenty who favour flavoured gin, and others who love gin liqueurs or savour sloe gin.

It can be difficult to narrow down and determine the best from the rest in a market flooded with new-fangled options. But in the midst of the constantly changing world of gin, why not take a moment to celebrate London dry gin*, the timeless, defined style that offers a wealth of expressions we can all enjoy. To save you the time of finding the bottle that’s right for you, we’ve made a list of 10 of the best London dry gins around. Enjoy!

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