In the early 2000s, many new Gin brands popped up with innovative ideas, botanicals, and flavor profiles. In contrast to classic Gin types like London Dry Gin or Dry Gin, these new offerings were significantly less junipery and focussed on creative flavor combinations like rose & cucumber in Hendrick's Gin or Japanese flavors like Roku Gin.
For quite a while, we had no name for this new and upcoming category of Gin until the founders of Aviation Gin came up with the term "New Western Dry Gin". But why was it named like that? What does it mean? And are there alternative terms?
What does New Western mean?
The trend of tuned-down juniper taste in Gin started with big brands like Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick's, and Tanqueray No 10. They all proved that there's a substantial market for less juniper-driven Gin, which led to a burst of new and unconventional Gins.
When Aviation Gin hit the shelves, there was still no name for these new and innovative Gins. Thus, one of the founders came up with the term "New Western". It was meant as a riff on the popular term "New World" in the wine department, describing wines produced outside the traditional wine-growing areas.
So, New Western or New Western Dry simply implies that these products are different from classic offerings. Today, you can hear other terms like "Contemporary" or "New Age" more frequently because "Western" implies a geographical origin which can be misleading; -Think, for instance, of Roku Gin produced in Japan.
The Difference between London Dry and New Western Dry Gin
It's tricky to draw a line between other Gin types like London Dry and New Western Dry Gin. The reason is that the official guidelines are not defined uniformly.
A London Dry Gin, for example, has to follow strict rules to be allowed to use the term on its label, such as:
- Minimum of 37,5% ABV: The final spirit must have a minimum of 37,5% alcohol.
- Low in sugar: A London Dry must contain less than 0,1 grams of sugar per 1 liter of the final product.
- No color: A classic London Gin can never be colored.
For the full set of rules and regulations, check out our guide to London Dry Gin.
On the other hand, New Western Dry is defined by the characteristics and taste of the final product, and it can additionally be classified as either Gin, Distilled Gin, or London Dry Gin. So, there's a chance that a Gin can be both, New Western and London Dry at the same time.
The taste of a New Western Gin is often right on the edge of what can legally be considered a Gin. Some brands pushed the boundaries so far that people compare them to Vodka more than Gin. However, the success of these new-wave Gins proves them right either way.
Why is it so appealing?
Whether you call it New Western Dry, Contemporary, or New Age - these Gin all benefit from their approachable flavor profile, which has less bite than the classic and strongly junipery London Dry Gins. They're ideal for people new to the world of Gin and offer plenty of opportunities for riffs on classic Gin cocktails.
The less strict rules allow producers to develop new and exciting flavorings that often represent local herbs, plants, fruits, and spices. Asian and African-inspired Gins, in particular, are on the rise bringing their unique botanicals into the world of bartending and spirits.
Important New Western Dry Gins
The category is full of bottles from big and traditional brands. Hendrick's Gin is probably one of the best-known in the industry. Also, the products of Tanqueray Ten, Roku Gin, Aviation Gin, and Brockmans Gin are big names that dominate the category.
However, besides these big names, a huge variety of lesser-known brands produce these unique and exciting Gins. Some of them are among my personal Top 5 Gins, like Iron Balls or Bobby's Gin.
Cocktails made with New Western Dry Gin
The best way to appreciate the delicate flavors in these spirits is by drinking them neat. If you need ice, add a large, clear ice cube to prevent the Gin from diluting too quickly. Once you get an idea for the flavors in the respective Gin, you can craft creative riffs on classic cocktail recipes.
The strongly notable differences in taste lead to many new possibilities. However, keep the basic rules in mind. -Meaning, for instance, if you want to stir up a bone-dry Martini, an overly fruity Gin might not be the ideal option.
In other cases, fruity flavor profiles can also be highly beneficial. Brockman's, for example, is a strongly berry-forward Gin that works perfectly in a Bramble cocktail. Iron Balls, made from pineapple and coconut wine, is an excellent way to bring tropical flavors into classics like a Negroni. If the taste is still too traditional, try using it in our Coconut Negroni recipe.
The classic Gin and Tonic is another way to highlight the unique flavors in Contemporary Gin offerings. In most cases, I prefer to combine these Gins with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water. Its subtle and only slightly bitter taste with hints of herbal flavors is a perfect match for unconventional and fruity Gins.
The definition of New Western Dry Gin is relatively vague. But once you get the idea of how the taste differs from classic Dry and London Dry Gins, you also develop a better understanding of this new "Contemporary" category.
To me, first and foremost, it's an exciting sub-category that offers plenty of opportunities to create new craft cocktail recipes and bring local flavors from all over the world into classic drinks.
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