SpiritsHandpicked by IWSC

London Dry gin – 10 of the best to try

London Dry gin is the trademark style, with its classic juniper and citrus notes, and the gin boom means you can sample traditional-style gin from distilleries across the world. Here are some of our favourites.

Words by Stuart Peskett and IWSC experts

Juniper berries - London dry gin
Handpicked by IWSC
Berries from the juniper tree are used as a key botanical in London Dry gin

The gin resurgence shows no signs of slowing down, and at its heart has been London Dry gin – the style where it all began. It doesn’t have to be made in London – it can be made anywhere in the world.

To qualify as the genuine article, juniper must be the dominant aroma and flavour – the gin world may have headed off on various tangents, with a myriad of weird and wonderful flavours seen in recent years, but if you order a London Dry gin, you know that your drink will have that arresting, aromatic juniper character.

This is not the place for bizarre botanicals. Only a tiny amount of sugar can be added, making it as traditional as gin gets, and for many, it is the signature style.

Gin Lane
William Hogarth's famous Gin Lane artwork depicted Londoners' near-obsessive love affair with gin – such scenes are long gone, but the spirit is now firmly back in fashion

Think of the heavyweights of the gin world – Gordon’s, Beefeater, Tanqueray – they’re all London Dry gins, and they all deliver a generous hit of juniper. This depth of flavour makes them perfect for cocktails, too, where they have the clout to stand up to the other ingredients, whether it’s in an Aviation, Negroni, or James Bond’s famous Vesper Martini.

London was gin crazy in the 18th century, satirised in William Hogarth’s famous Gin Lane print, but excessive consumption led to gin’s decline – and no distilleries operating in the City area of the capital for 200 years. That all changed with the opening of City of London Distillery in 2012, and its Square Mile Gin impressed the IWSC judges, scoring 96/100pts and drawing praise for its notes of cinnamon and ginseng and its textbook dry finish.

As mentioned earlier, however, London Dry gin doesn’t have to be made in London, and other countries are delivering first-class examples of this classic spirit. Take Colombo No 7, for example – distilled in Sri Lanka, it delivers a citrus-slanted take. Or there’s Sweden’s Hernö Gin, which ramps up the aromatics with fresh pine and herbal notes.

Every week sees new gin distilleries popping up around the world, but despite the search for ever more creative recipes, the London Dry style will never go out of fashion. Here’s IWSC judge and gin expert Joel Harrison with his take on the category, and we’ve also picked out 10 of the finest award-winning London Dry gins to sample this spring – sometimes, the classic ways are the best.

Ten of the best London dry gins