Dark Horse Gins

#GreatGinSale: Dark Horse Gins You Have To Try!

Welcome to Week 2 of the Great Gin Sale!

Having featured the latest exciting entry into our portfolio last week, Hernö Gin, this week, we take a look at some of the dark horse gins we think every gin lover should try. And yes, these are all gins that are available in the Great Gin Sale!

Barrel-aged gins, Navy Strength gins, gins with Japanese botanicals, gins with extra juniper… we consider these dark horse gins for a reason, as they will change the way you think about gins!

Remember, you can get all these dark horse gins from the Great Gin Sale at THIS LINK.


For the Juniper obsessed

Gin is juniper, and juniper is gin. But while most gins must have juniper, or it wouldn’t be much of a gin, some gins producers take their love for juniper to the next level. Never mind juniper forward, the true dark horses of the category are SUPER juniper-forward!

Here are two extremely juniper forward yet supremely balanced gins that you should check out:

Never Never Juniper Freak

Like Juniper? Like Gin? Like something that has won multiple awards and is some of the best tasting liquid out of Australia? Then this is the gin for you!

To showcase the great diverse flavour of juniper, Never Never used a unique 3-way process to make their gin. First, they steep juniper in spirit for 24 hours. They then add fresh juniper to the steep at the point of pot distillation (this method retains a lot of flavour), and lastly they have a hanging basket in the still.

They also use 8 other Australian botanicals to bring harmony to this amazing liquid. This yearly release uses Macedonian juniper, which is made into a pure distillate and then added to the triple juniper. This is then bottled at 58%, making it a truly outstanding navy strength gin!

Nose: Fragrant pine and earthy angelica with a touch of pepper berry spice.
Palate: juniper, juniper, juniper all the way.
Finish: Big with juniper oils coating the palate. Dries out to pepper berry nicely.



Hernö Juniper Cask Gin

The first gin in the world matured on juniper wood casks, made from the same distilled gin as Hernö Dry Gin, diluted to 47% ABV and gently matured for 30 days in juniper wood casks.

The maturity gives more intense juniper notes finished with a long harmonious hint of citrus peel.

Nose: Fresh woodiness and junipery pine with soft citrus blossoms.
Palate: A sublime thick texture with gentle dryness. A lot of green juniper upfront with herbal pepper, followed by a mild vanilla sweetness.
Finish: Aromatic citrus and floral notes of coriander before a long lingering finish of sappy juniper.


For the sippers

Most people would normally just drink gins with tonic or in a cocktail, but did you know that some gins, especially those that are barrel-aged, can be sipped neat or over ice, just like a dark spirit like whisky or cognac? Now these are REAL dark horse gins!

Here are some of our favourite sipping gins:

Le Gin De Christian Drouin Calvados Cask Finish

Christian Drouin is famous for making Calvados, but here, they’ve created an exquisite gin made with a base spirit distilled from over 30 different cider apple varieties, with botanicals inspired by the aromas of Calvados, and finished for several months in their own Calvados casks. The result is a beautiful spirit, a softer rounder gin with more complex notes of the apple. Recommended neat.

Nose: Crisp yet delicate, full of bright apple aromas with notes of pine and citrus.
Palate: Again, fruity crispness with luscious grapes, juniper, and woody cinnamon.
Finish: Crisp and clean, with lingering fruity notes.


Martin Miller’s 9 Moons Barrel Aged Gin

Martin Millers has been one of the best Super Premium gins since it hit the market over 15 years ago. Made in Iceland using water so pure that it doesn’t need filtration or demineralization.

This gin has spent 9 months aging in French Oak Casks, using a Solera system. The freezing climate of Iceland means it can be monitored closely to achieve the perfect balance between gin and oak. Great served on ice or with a splash of tonic.

Nose: Lemon peel integrated with juniper, then perfectly balanced vanilla shines through.
Palate: A light sweetness with a creamy sensation.
Finish: Long, with plenty of oak. 


Martin Miller’s 14 Moons Barrel Aged Gin

This gin has spent 14 months aging in Pedro Ximenes Sherry Butts. The freezing climate of Iceland means it can be monitored closely to achieve the perfect balance between gin and oak. Enjoy in a different style of gin and tonic!

Nose: The juniper and cucumber play second to the ripe fruits of forest.
Palate: Caramel sweetness of the PX, but lifted and subdued with the freshness of juniper.
Finish: Pleasant with grape and citrus fruits. 


Martin Miller’s 26 Moons Barrel Aged Gin

This gin has spent 26 months aging in Madeira Casks, using a Solera system. The freezing climate of Iceland means it can be monitored closely to achieve the perfect balance between gin and oak. This is very limited, only 480 individually numbered bottles were released.

Nose: Hints of cucumber freshness, juniper and under ripe berries alongside floral notes.
Palate: more berries, with dried hay and woody lemongrass.
Finish: Spiced and long dry finish.


For fruity flavours

Did you know that many gins use fruits as botanicals as well? In fact, many producers also try to bring forth these fruit notes as much as possible in their gins, which makes for even more refreshing gin and tonics! If you ask us, these fruit-forward gins are true dark horses because people tend to think of them as sweet, but they are actually really, really complex!

Porter’s Orchard

Ever wanted to have a fruit orchard in your glass? Well, with Porter’s Orchard Gin, now you can! This blanc de blanc champagne-inspired gin is made using a cold distillate of apple and pears, which gives the gin chardonnay grape notes. A soybean distillate is also used, giving it rich and buttery notes. Finally, a red apple extract is added to give colour to the gin. It’s like a fruit orchard in a bottle, one you can enjoy in a unique Gin and Tonic!

Nose: Lovely fruity nose with lots of grape aromas, despite there being no grapes in it!
Palate: Nutty and biscuity notes, balanced with sweet pears and smooth juniper.
Finish: Long and lingering buttery notes on a lovely fruity backdrop.


Le Tribute Gin

Produced by the folks that created Gin Mare, this gin is a tribute to the pioneers, processes and heritage behind spirits.

Seven distillations of 12 botanicals are used in this gin, which include juniper, lime, kumquat, lemon, pink grapefruit, green grapefruit, tangerine, cardamom, bitter and sweet oranges, lemons and lemongrass. Everything other than the lemongrass is distilled in wheat spirit.

This is the perfect introduction for gin beginners, and also one that will please seasoned gin loves. We’d go so far as to say this is one gin you absolutely must have at the bar, after all, look at that bottle!

For a G&T, we recommend East Imperial Burma Tonic and a Grapefruit garnish.

Nose: Vibrant and citrusy, with the lemongrass very apparent and a big hit of overall citrus.
Palate: Juniper is more apparent here but still not overpowering. There’s more grapefruit and lemongrass notes, and if you taste closely, you can pick out the individual components.
Finish: Long and smooth, with lovely lemongrass notes.


For those who love unique botanicals

Some gins have botanicals that are so unique that you actually wonder if they can actually work in a gin. These dark horse gins tend to be some of our favourites here are Wholly Spirits, because it means we get to do some, er, research to see how they work best in a cocktail or which tonic it goes best with. Here are a couple of good ones we highly recommend.

Masahiro Okinawa Gin

A bitter melon botanical in a gin? Yup, you got that right. But don’t let that ‘bitter’ word fool you, this is an amazingly floral gin, made in the Okinawa prefecture on Southern Island of Naha, at a distillery known for producing the local rice spirit, awamori.

This rice spirit is used as the base for this gin, which contains unique botanicals such as roselle, guava leaves, long pepper, and goya ; a local bitter melon.

Use this in a martini for something different. We also recommend East Imperial Burma Tonic with Roselle as a garnish.

Nose: Amazingly floral, some fresh green notes from the bitter melon.
Palate: The floral flavours are interplayed with tropical fruits and fresh juniper, and more green notes from the melon.
Finish: Leafy and green. 


Kyrö Helsingin

Is it possible to distill the ‘flavour’ of a city in a gin? Kyrö Distillery Company set out todo just that with the capital city of Finland, Helsinki, by working with bartenders from the city, who went foraging with the distillers for botanicals that would express Helsinki in a gin’ (No bartenders were lost in the forest during foraging).

They ended up with the stunning Helsingin, made from 100% Finnish wholegrain rye with foraged pineapple weed (wild chamomile) and polypody root.

Pineapple weed apparently grows all over Helsinki, in its parks, sidewalks and in the cracks of concrete), so it was the perfect choice as the signature botanical for this gin, which we recommend Enjoying with East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic with a slice of pink grapefruit as garnish.

Nose: Floral, slightly herbaceous with subtle juniper.
Palate: Slightly spicy, with more of the floral, herbal notes coming forth.
Finish: Amazingly long for a gin. 


For those who like it strong

Ever had a gin and tonic and wished that the gin would stand out a bit more, or tasted stronger? Well, then navy-strength gins are for you.

To qualify as a ‘navy-strength’, a gin has to be over 57% ABV. Yes, 57% ABV. Now that’s a strong gin. But there is more to navy-strength gins than just a higher alcohol content – many gin producers put a lot of effort into making sure the botanicals balance out that higher strength. Hence, many navy-strength gins are true underrated dark horse gins!

Navy Strength Hayman’s Of London – Royal Dock Gin

Hayman’s is a true blue English London gin that produces its signature dry gin according to a family recipe that is over 150 years old, and distills it in the heart of London.

This Navy strength gin is named after the Dock where the navy ships would be kept. It is big on flavour and alcohol. Big and bold, great in a robust Gin and Tonic with East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic or as a Gimlet. 

Nose: Aromatic with citrus and floral notes, namely orange blossom.
Palate: Smooth with an intensity of flavour thanks to the higher strength.
Finish: Long and protracted with pleasing juniper flavours. Superb gin. 


Fords Officer’s Reserve

Created by famous bartender Simon Ford, this is a gin made by bartenders for bartenders. After the success of the greatly versatile Fords Gin, fans were hankering for a navy strength version (usually above 57% ABV).

Fords Officer’s Reserve is a touch lower at 54.5% ABV, but what makes this gin unique and delicious is not only the higher ABV, but the three weeks of ageing in Amontillado sherry casks. This gives the gin a woody note that is then balanced out with a portion of unaged gin.

The results? A true dark horse gin with everything from the original Fords, but with a more intense structure and a bigger alcohol bite.

Nose: Citrus-led, with subtle spice, plum and caramel aromas.
Palate: Big punch of flavours including sweet honey and citrus segueing into lovely coriander, ginger and juniper.
Finish: Long, intense and with a more gingery citrus notes.