And so our favourite day of the year has finally arrived: World Gin Day. Today, I’ll celebrate this juniper-infused tipple until the sun goes down (and long after!) – because we all know how childishly happy a pretty G&T makes me! I’ve rounded up my five most favourite South African craft gins from my cupboard – purely for your pleasure! But, there’s more…
I’m always keen to try a new gin, but the structured routine-creature within me only allows me to re-purchase my absolute favourites for my gin cupboard. So, I thought to share my top five favourite South African gins with you that currently occupies precious space in my cupboard, and give you a little run-down of how to enjoy them best. You don’t need to be a gin expert to enjoy these, and don’t worry – I’ll guide you through everything; from tonics to garnishes.
And, as an added bonus, at the end of the article I’ll quickly share my top five international favourite gins, too!
Disclaimer: Listed in no particular order.You’ll see from my selection below that I’m not a big fan of flavoured or “gimmicky” gins – I like the raw taste of gin, so I prefer brands that allow me to taste the infusion of unique botanicals without adding too much else. I would recommend mixing all gins with a good quality, classic Indian tonic. None of the pink nonsense, please.
Without any further ado, let’s beGIN!
1. Bloedlemoen Barrel Aged Gin
Introduction: The limited release Oak Matured Gin from award-winning Bloedlemoen was matured for 6 months in Hungarian oak barrels, with only 300 bottles produced. And I’ve had two!
Tastes like: A little spice, but very smooth.
Mix with: Classic Indian tonic. Can also be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
Garnish with: Citrus, such as lime or orange. Dried lemon or grapefruit rounds are amazing. Woody herbs, such as thyme or rosemary sprigs. Dried spices, such as cinnamon sticks, cloves or star anise. Fresh ginger slices are divine!
2. Wixworth Gin
Introduction: Crafted in small batches from hand-picked, hand-selected botanicals, including renosterbos. Made in the classic London Dry style.
Tastes like: Crisp and dry, with notes of juniper, spice and citrus
Mix with: Classic Indian Tonic
Garnish with: Lime rounds, or for the more adventurous, fresh basil and cucumber ribbons. Rosemary sprigs to accentuate the herbaceous character of the gin.
Introduction: This unique gin was created from the perfect blend of seven botanicals including the flora of the Western Cape.
Tastes like: Herbs and fynbos
Mix with: Classic Indian Tonic
Garnish with: Fresh apple rounds, a squidge of honey, a rosemary sprig or a squeeze of lemon.
Introduction: A gin with the classic gin notes, but adds a subtle dash of fynbos honey that enhances the flavours to create a unique gin that is a must-have for the gin enthusiast.
Tastes like: Honey, honey, honey! Pure gold.
Mix with: Classic Indian Tonic
Garnish with: Woody herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, lemon rounds, cinnamon sticks, star anise or even a few slices of fresh ginger.
5. Cruxland Gin
Introduction: Small batch of premium gin from grape spirits infused with the exotic taste of the Kalahari truffle and 8 signature botanicals.
Tastes like: Lemon, coriander and spice, with a strong juniper backbone. Deliciously earthy.
Mix with: Classic Indian Tonic. Can also be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
Garnish with: I almost want to say that this gin doesn’t need garnish, but if you want to make it look pretty, consider something like fresh blueberries and lime- which goes surprisingly well with this gin.
An honourary mention goes to Sugarbird Fynbos gin – our absolute favouritest gin in the world. Unfortunately, there’s none in our cupboard, because we drank it all! But you can read my blog on Sugarbird gin here.
Unlocking the bonus content
And here is a list of my most indulgent international brands of gin (again, in no particular order!). These international gins lend itself more toward fruity and floral G&T’s, where the South African craft gins listed above pay homage to our vast selection of unique botanicals, which doesn’t require many added extra’s.
Introduction: Keeps true to the original style of English Victorian gin first enjoyed in 19th Century England.
Tastes like: Hits of juniper and citrus, with a gorgeous underlying sweetness.
Mix with: Classic Indian tonic, or Fitch and Leedes Pink tonic
Garnish with: Fresh or dried citrus peel, or for a fruity infusion, berries and cucumber.
Introduction: Real London Dry for those that enjoy the real taste of gin
Tastes like: Classic juniper and citrus notes
Mix and garnish with: Pretty much anything your heart desires! This is my staple gin when I’m making pretty drinks or feel like experimenting with different combinations of botanicals.
Siblings, Beefeater Pink Gin and Beefeater 24, are also firm favourites of mine – so firm, in fact, that I have none left in the cupboard!
Introduction: From the birthplace of gin comes Malfy, pure Italian gin. Five botanicals cut with Italian Spring Water.
Tastes like: Deliciousness! Crisp and clean with the classic notes of citrus and juniper
Mix with: Juicy citrus. Malfy loves grapefruit in any form. Add a splash of orange or grapefruit juice along with a classic Indian tonic for a refreshing cooler.
Garnish with: Fresh citrus peel, grapefruit rounds, thyme or rosemary sprigs.
Introduction: With 22 hand-foraged local botanicals, this is the first and only Islay dry gin.
Tastes like: A lush herb garden with hits of apple, coriander and mint
Mix with: Classic Indian tonic, and a splash of apple juice
Garnish with: Loads of fresh mint or coriander sprigs. Fresh apple rounds and a stick of cinnamon.
Introduction: Handcrafted gin from England of exceptional quality inspired by the vivid beauty and mystery of Africa. This one is exclusively available in South Africa.
Tastes like: The most beautiful floral notes, delicate and fragrant, without losing the juniper backbone.
Mix with: Here you can bring in your flavoured tonics if you want, and make it as sweet or as floral as you want. I would prefer mixing it with a classic Indian tonic, a dash of triple sec and a splash of orange juice.
Garnish with: edible flowers, crown jewels – anything, because this one is a stunner! It works beautifully with mixed berries or citrus components.
PS: you might notice that my purple bottle is doubling up as a fairylight holder. I don’t have a full bottle of Whitley Neil at the moment…for obvious reasons!
And that’s a wrap, folks! Hopefully I’ve inspired you to try this underrated drink and no, there’s not a gin trend on our hands, because that would imply that gin is just a phase. Gin is here to stay and I’m such a proud supporter of the incredible brands we have in South Africa. The great think about a good gin is that it’s like a blank canvas – it’s up to you to add your own personal tastes, touches and garnishes! Cheers and I hope you have a GIN-tastic weekend!
This is my honest and truthful opinion and review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the brands mentioned in this post. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.