Ever wondered what the difference is between Gin & Genever? Or thought to yourself, “What the hell is Old Tom Gin?” Well, I’m here to help! Here are my ultimate Cliff Notes on the five most popular styles of gin you’ll find out in the wild.
Genever – The original gin, or more accurately, the spirit modern-day gin was born from. Less dry and spicy, with a lighter botanical profile than London Dry. Also not as clean or sharp as London Dry. Usually distilled from grain, specifically malt, so it has a more robust, cereal-like foundation. Often combined with neutral grain spirit to balance and infused with herbs and spices, including juniper. Kind of like a gin, but not quite. You can find all kinds of Genevers, some unaged, some aged for months, up to several years.
London Dry – This is your traditional, modern-day standard for gin. 98% of the time, when people think gin, they’re thinking of a London Dry style gin. London Drys are juniper forward, piney, usually slightly spicy, very dry, and often have anise or licorice notes. They’re clean and sharp on the pallet and can have quite overwhelming flavor profiles. This is what makes gin such a great cocktail ingredient, as their punctuated flavor profiles can hold up to other bold flavors.
Old Tom A hybrid between Genever and a London Dry and my favorite style! Will often be distilled from a grain base in lieu of neutral spirit, like Genever, to give it that maltiness, but given a robust botanical profile more like that of a London Dry. Very often either A. barrel aged and/or B. post-sweetened.
American- / Western-style – Both of these terms are kind of a catch-all for any gin that’s not necessarily juniper-forward. The Beverage Alcohol Manual (a federally distributed document and every distiller’s bible) simply states that a gin is any spirit predominately flavored with juniper, so as you can tell, this give distillers enormous creative freedom when creating a gin. These terms can describe floral gins, citrus gins, spicy gins, infused gins, or any gin that uses a lighter hand when it comes to juniper berries.
Sloe Gin – A gin or gin liqueur that’s usually lower in ABV and characterized by the flavor of sloe berries. Most often the product of a post-distillation maceration of sloe berries and some sort of post-sweetening to tame the tartness of the sloe berry. Lovely warmed up a fire!