Imbibe Ice Awards 2008 - Gin


Despite having style, heritage and flavour in abundance, gin has only recently started to tap into the luxury sector, so this was one of the smallest categories in the ICE awards.

But while the number of gins was small, the variety of styles was impressive, ranging from more traditional juniper-heavy numbers to new microdistillery spirits boasting unusual botanicals and even, in some cases, natural colouring.

Not everyone, however, was taken by the more radical re-inventions, which sometimes saw juniper playing a barely-discernible role in the flavour profile. While this might win over a few non-gin drinkers to the category – an aim which the panel applauded – it also exposed the paradox that, at present, a higher price point in gin sometimes meant less botanicals for your buck, rather than more. For this panel, a good juniper hit in the old style, combined with freshness and complexity, was key.

When it came to packaging, meanwhile, gin scored some of the highest marks in the ICE competition, with Tanqueray No.Ten attracting particular praise.

Overall it was agreed that super-premium gin still had huge potential for growth, helped by the fact that even the most expensive bottles currently remain at a price point that makes trading up possible for most customers.

The Judges

Paul Mathew – owner and manager, The Hid, Liam Davey – group head bartender, Match Bar Group, Tobias Blazquez-Garciá – bars and beverages manager, Pinchito Tapas & Pinxto People, Alice Lascelles – spirits and bars editor, Imbibe, Charles Vexenat – bartender, Lonsdale, Matthew Widowson – bar manager, Bluebird

ICE winner

No. 209

A microdistillery gin from San Francisco made using a hand-fashioned Alambic still, which its creators say helps to achieve bright, rather than bitter, botanicals.

No. 209 was a big winner on both fronts, impressing the judges with a subtle, complex palate which combined aromatic juniper, cardamom, bergamot and rosemary notes with a floral, zesty freshness and a smooth finish – surprising given its hefty 46% abv. The packaging was also praised for marrying a stylish, unstuffy appearance with nods to gin’s rich heritage. New on the UK market, this is definitely one to watch.

Hi-Spirits, 020 8943 9526

ICE runners-up

2ND Miller’s Westbourne Strength

A smooth but complex blend of herbal and floral notes with a hint of white pepper, coupled with an imaginative, very premium looking bottle giving nods to other luxury categories such as perfume.

Reformed Spirits Company, 020 7352 8697

3RD Junipero

The hands-down winner on taste, praised for its excellent balance and complex, dry juniper/pine notes. The packaging was a little old-school for some, but others felt it hit the right note with serious gin fans.

Coe Vintners, 020 8551 4966

4TH Tanqueray No. Ten

The iconic bottle was awarded almost full marks by every judge for its elegant, luxurious design. The fulsome, highly perfumed aromas and floral, grapefruit palate of the spirit were also popular.

Diageo, 020 7927 5200

5TH Crown Jewel

This super-premium expression of Beefeater was marked highly for its powerful but well-controlled marriage of zesty citrus and juniper notes and a subtle saltiness. A real gin-lover’s gin.

Pernod Ricard, 020 8538 4484

Best by taste

1 Junípero
2 No. 209
3 Crown Jewel
4 Miller’s Westbourne Strength
5 Tanqueray No. Ten

Best by design

1 Tanqueray No. Ten
2 No. 209
3 Miller’s Westbourne Strength
4 Junípero
5 Blackwood’s 60

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine - January / February 2008

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