As supporters of independent craft distillers and their incredible creativity and delicious spirits, we tend to steer away from the mass-produced gins that are household names. Still, many bartenders will tell you that when it comes to gin, those household names - particularly Beefeater and Tanqueray - are still the benchmark when it comes to gauging the quality and gin-liness of the multitude of craft gin options hitting the market.
So we were a bit taken aback to find that the store brands of budget retailers are beating the big brands in blind taste tests.
The consumer group Which? had its drinks team shield their eyes and open their mouths to rank 12 standard gins with 20% of the score attributed to a neat taste and the other 80% to a G&T - 1 part gin to 3 parts tonic - tasting with a slice of lemon as garnish.
Gordon’s, the household name that makes up over 50% of UK gin sales, ranked a mere 9th out of 12 with Beefeater finishing in the 5 slot and Greenall’s at 4. The rest of the top 10 were supermarket brand gins from the likes of Lidl, Aldi and Waitrose. Morrison’s came out on top with their own-branded London Dry. Here's how the top 10 on Which?'s ginvestigation shaped up along with their retail price for a 70cl bottle:
1. Morrisons London Dry Gin (80%) £10.49
2. Lidl Castelgy London Dry Gin (78%) £9.99
3. Waitrose London Dry Gin (78%) £12
4. Greenall’s London Dry Gin (77%) £15
5. Beefeater Dry Gin (76%) £16
6. Asda London Dry Gin (75%) £11
7. Sainsbury’s London Dry Gin (74%) £11.50
8. Aldi Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin (74%) £9.99
9. Gordon’s Special Dry London Gin (74%) £16
10. The Cooperative London Dry Gin (73%) £11.99
Many of these gins are well under 1/3 of the price of an average bottle of craft spirits. As the supermarket brands are beating the well-established benchmark of Beefeater, is it really worth spending the money to enjoy craft gins?
Call us biased, but we certainly think so. The standard lines of high street brands have been trounced in international awards shows by the hundreds of craft gin brands emerging around the world. They may still be reference points for bartenders, but when it comes to true enjoyment of your favourite spirit, more bartenders are opting for artisanal gins that carry different flavour profiles for different cocktails whilst simultaneously serving them neat as sipping gins with a bit of ice.