While London Dry gins get most of the attention, so-called New Western gins have grown quickly in recent years.
What exactly is a New Western gin? It’s not an official designation. Portland bar consultant and Aviation gin cofounder Ryan Magarian generally is credited with coining the term to describe any gin that plays up botanicals beyond juniper. While juniper still is required in gin, its trademark pine flavor often takes a backseat to citrus, star anise and other flavorings in New Western-style bottlings. Sometimes it’s barely discernible at all.
Interestingly, New Western is something of a misnomer these days. Originally, the phrase was intended to contrast gins made in North America against English counterparts.
But today, nontraditional gins hail from all over the world—including points that are not necessarily located west of England and its gin culture. Consider, for example, exciting new entrants from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India and Japan. The often-local botanicals spotlighted in these bottlings can add nuance to drinks. Imagine Australia’s Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin in a Gibson or the delicate lemongrass and spice of Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin in a Negroni.
Also of note: As gin has grown increasingly expressive and complex, there has been an uptick in gin producers releasing multiple bottlings, often focused around specific flavors. For example, Citadelle’s new Jardin d’Été leans on fresh seasonal melon. Elsewhere, Mexico’s Bruja de Agua has a quartet of expressions (Floral, Herbal, Spiced and Citrus); the latter, Citrica, is the first to be released in the U.S. and features a distinct lime peel note.
Add to the mix the gins that focus on terroir, ranging from sun-baked Arizona spices to seaweed-spiked “oceanic gin,” and it’s clear that bottle by bottle, New Western gin is expanding the definition of what the category can be.
Salcombe Gin Rosé Sainte Marie; $40, 95 points. The bottle is tinted blush pink, but the liquid inside is crystal clear. Grapefruit peel and juniper lead the nose. The brisk, citrusy palate offers lemon and grapefruit peel, plus fleeting berry sweetness midpalate, finishing with a floral exhale. Of note, this gin is inspired by rosé, but is not distilled from wine nor does it contain rosé wine. Martini-worthy.
Listoke 1777 Irish Gin; $39, 94 points. Comforting gingerbread-like aromas channel allspice, anise and a hint of molasses. The palate is a bit brighter, opening with lemon verbena and pine forest leading to hints of anise, sandalwood and shortbread cookie on the warming exhale.
Rétha Oceanic Gin; $45, 94 points. Crisp and slightly vegetal, this nuanced gin opens with bright fennel and citrus then rounds into mouthwatering white pepper, anise and coriander. It’s made with seaweed harvested on the beaches of Île de Ré, off the coast of France’s Cognac region.
Yu Gin; $32, 94 points. This citrusy gin, made with yuzu and Sichuan pepper, hails from France’s Cognac region. The mild aroma whispers lemon peel—the palate shouts it, layering on tart juiciness and a hint of mandarin orange sweetness. Ginger and white pepper heat lead into the astringent finish.
Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin; $39, 93 points. Nuanced coriander and pink peppercorn aromas are enticing. On the palate, delicate lemongrass, green tea and a hint of cumin wrap around an anise backbone. The earthy, woodsy finish tingles with black pepper and ginger. Made with 11 botanicals, seven of them local to India.
Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin; $35, 92 points. A cool, lightly mentholated whiff leads into a savory palate featuring rosemary, fleeting green olive, a hint of saline and a zippy juniper finish. Made as an antidote to citrusy gins, the producer says, this gin is made in the Yarra Valley from Australian olive leaf and olive oil. Producer recommends for Gibsons.
North Shore Gin No. 6; $30, 92 points. This craft gin was reformulated in 2020. It’s still spicy, citrusy and bright, though the proof has been nudged slightly higher. Each sip opens with brisk lemon and candied grapefruit peel plus a faint raspberry note, and lands on cubeb pepper and grains of paradise. Best Buy.
Spirit of Hven Gin; $43, 92 points. The mild lemon peel aroma hints at what’s to come. An astringent palate wraps brisk pine and a peppery punch around a core of lemon and grapefruit peel. Mix into Gin & Tonics.
By the Dutch Dry Gin; $49, 91 points. Sweet aromas suggest grapefruit peel and raspberry. The palate is fruity and floral, mingling berry and rose petal. Black pepper, cardamom and hot cinnamon merge into a gentle floral exhale.
Copper Republic African Dry Gin; $36, 91 points. Pink and white peppercorn lead the nose, plus a faint carnation hint. Those floral and spice notes are magnified on the palate: lavender and soapy violet evolve into a drying, brisk finish tinged with peppery prickle and grapefruit peel.