This year’s latest crop of gin bottles wants to spirit you away. That might mean a seafaring journey (Fords Officers’ Reserve), a trip to Japan during cherry blossom season (Roku) or even a visit to Los Angeles restaurants, where the bewitching aromas of Indian and Mexican dishes entice (City Bright). These are six gins that are all about creating a transporting experience in the glass.
1: APPLEWOOD ($40)
From a pair of young Australian winemakers, this grape-based gin is flavored with botanicals sourced from South Australia (except for the juniper), including local ingredients like gumleaf and saltbrush. The end result is lively and earthy, melding bright juniper and lemon with a mushroom-like umami, then finishing with the faintest lavender breeze. A Martini is the ideal way to experience this nuanced gin.
2: CITY BRIGHT ($31)
Los Angeles craft distillery Greenbar uses a complex mix of 14 botanicals for a gin intended to “capture L.A.’s vibrant immigrant food scene, from the aromatic herbs of East and South Asia to the floral and earthy flavors of Mexico and the Middle East,” according to the distillery. Look for an exciting savory-spicy mix of lime, coriander, fennel, black pepper and cumin, with a pleasing minty sweetness on the exhale.
3: FORDS OFFICERS’ RESERVE ($27)
This is a limited-release overproof gin finished in amontillado sherry oak casks for three weeks and bottled at 54.5 percent ABV. Meant to evoke gins once reserved for the officers of the British Merchant Navy, which might have been stored in oak casks during sailing, Officers’ Reserve opens with bright citrus and juniper and winds into a long almond-accented fade, making for a dynamite Gimlet. Keep an eye out for future experimental bottlings down the road; tellingly, this is labeled as Journeys in Gin No. 01.
4: MCQUEEN AND THE VIOLET FOG ($38)
Think round-the-world plane ticket for this gin, with a final stop in Brazil. Distilled from a sugar cane base in the hills of Jundiaí, Brazil—“thousands of miles away from the U.K.-centric traditional gin world,” notes the producer—flavorings span 21 botanicals sourced from across the globe. That includes basil leaves from India, Portuguese rosemary, Mediterranean fennel seed, calamansi from the South Pacific, star anise native to Vietnam and açaí locally grown in Brazil. The end result is dry and citrusy, with a fleeting floral hint that suggests this will play well in a classic Aviation cocktail.
5: ROKU ($28)
Produced by Japanese whisky giant Suntory, this crisp, harmonious gin launched in the U.S. in October 2018. The name Roku translates to “six” in Japanese and refers to the six traditional botanicals used to make the gin: sakura flower (cherry blossom), sakura leaf, lemon-like yuzu peel, sanshō pepper and two types of green tea, which lend a pleasantly grassy effect. Enjoy with bubbles, as in a Gin & Tonic or Japanese-style highball.
6: SEERSUCKER SOUTHERN STYLE GRAPEFRUIT ($25)
Made in San Antonio, this grapefruit-flavored gin has distinctly Southern leanings, blended with grapefruit juice and flavored with clove honey, lavender and mint. The experience is a bit like a head start on a Greyhound cocktail made with a gin base instead of vodka, or a glass of spiked grapefruit juice. The liquid is cloudy and pale pink, with a pleasing sweet-tart flavor. Bottled at 35 percent ABV, it’s slightly less strong than a classic gin.