London Dry Gin bottle with juniper berries

What is London Dry Gin?

By Timo Torner / Last updated on January 1, 2023

London Dry Gin is the most common variety of Gin. But why is it called London Dry, and how is it different from other Gins? We clarify this and much more in this article.

When looking at labels of Gin bottles on the shelves of liquor stores, you often find the addendum London Dry Gin. Some popular examples are Sipsmith, Tanqueray, Gordons, and Beefeater London Dry Gin. Others are simply labeled Dry Gin, and some have none at all. So what exactly should this tell you?

First of all, it has nothing to do with London. In short, the terms "London Dry Gin", "Dry Gin", and "London Gin" indicate that the respective Gin meets specific criteria.

What is London Dry Gin?

London Dry Gin is a distilled spirit infused with botanicals, mainly juniper. It has to meet all criteria of a London Gin, which includes being unsweetened. Thus, the addition of Dry.

The European (EU) Law essentially distinguishes three types of Gin: Gin, Distilled Gin, and London Gin. The term Dry may be used if no additional sweeteners go into a product and the amount of sugar in the final product is less than 0,1 grams per 1 liter.

The set of botanicals in London Gin depends on the specific brand and can vary. Other typical botanicals are lemon peel, orange peel, orris root, angelica, licorice roots, cassia, and cinnamon bark.

Requirements to be categorized as London Gin

According to the updated definition of the European Law from 2019, a London Gin is a distilled Gin that complies with the following:

  1. Only use high-quality alcohol: In numbers, this means that the ethyl alcohol to produce London Gin can contain a maximum amount of methanol of 5 grams per 1 hectolitre of 100 % vol. alcohol.
  2. Over 70% ABV after distillation: This is not bottling strength, but the ABV right after distillation. Typically, producers mix the distillate with water to achieve the final ABV.
  3. Additional ethyl alcohol is allowed: Mixing the distillate with further ethyl alcohol is possible, but only if that meets all other criteria.
  4. No color: A true London Gin can never be colored. So you don't see any color-changing London or London Dry Gins.
  5. Low in sugar: The Gin can not contain more than 0,1 grams of sugar per 1 liter of the final product.
  6. No additional ingredients: Besides ethyl alcohol, water, and sweetening products, no flavorings or additives are allowed.
  7. Minimum of 37,5% ABV: The final product has to contain at least 37,5% alcohol.
  8. "Dry" may be used on the label: Gins that meet all criteria to be a London Gin may use the addition Dry.  
Illustration of London Dry Gin requirements

The difference between London Dry and other Gin

Besides Gin, Distilled Gin, and London Gin, there are more types of Gin, yet they are not legally protected or specified. For example, New Western Dry Gin, Plymouth Gin, Bathtub Gin, or Old Tom Gin. 

These types either comply with the definition of Gin or Distilled Gin but not with the strong regulations of London Gin. So, let's have a look at how these two types are defined:

Gin:

  1. Gin is a spirit produced by flavoring ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with juniper berries.
  2. The minimum alcohol content of Gin is 37.5% vol.
  3. Flavoring agents, extracts, or both can be used in the production of Gin, but the juniper flavor must still dominate.
  4. The term Gin may be supplemented by the label dry if the sugar content is below 0.1 g per liter.

Distilled Gin:

  1. Produced exclusively or partly by distillation of ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with an initial alcoholic strength by volume of no less than 96% with the addition of juniper berries and other natural botanicals.
  2. The minimum alcohol content of Distilled Gin is 37.5% vol.
  3. Gin produced with the addition of essences or flavorings to ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin is not considered distilled Gin.
  4. The term Distilled Gin may be extended with the term "dry" if the sugar content is less than 0.1 g per liter of Distilled Gin.

In a nutshell, this means that London Gin is much more strictly regulated, thus, usually has the traditional juniper-heavy flavor profile. It is neither colored nor sweetened, and subsequent addition of flavors or tastes is also not allowed.

How does London Dry Gin taste?

London Dry Gin is more traditional and contains less sugar than other Gin types. It is known to be juniper-forward, herbaceous, dry, crisp, and not overly fruity.

Not every Gin in the category tastes the same, but most share a similar flavor profile, somewhat reminiscent of pine. 

Origin

Even though the city of London is not directly connected to the production, it plays a crucial role in the history of Gin and is the namesake of London Dry Gin.

Gin was first distilled in London in 1638 when King Charles founded the Worshipful Company of Distillers. At the time, its members had a monopoly on Gin production.

However, the tradition of London Gin is a legacy of a Dutchman - King William III, also known as William of Orange. When he ascended to the throne of England and Ireland on January 22, 1689, he introduced his subjects to the traditional Dutch drink.

What is London Dry Gin made of?

This particular type of Gin is based on an agricultural base spirit that is flavored and aromatized with juniper and other selected botanicals. Besides botanicals and the base alcohol, only water may be added.

How to drink it

London Gins are great in classic Gin cocktail recipes like a Negroni, Dry Martini, and Gin Sour. Those who like to drink strong alcohol can also enjoy the spirit pure or on the rocks.

Yet, the number one most popular way to imbibe a London Dry Gin is in a Gin and Tonic. Mixed with the right tonic water, this simple and classic drink showcases the wonderful botanical flavors in a Gin. 

The ideal ratio of a Gin to tonic may vary depending on your tastebuds. We recommend trying your Gin neat first, then add ice and try again. Finally, add tonic water in equal measurements and then slowly increase the tonic ratio until you are happy with the result.

Popular London Dry Gin brands

Most of the old and traditional Gin brands produce London Dry Gin. The most popular ones and bestsellers are:

  • Gordon's
  • Beefeater
  • Tanqueray
  • Hayman's
  • Bombay Sapphire
  • Seagram's

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