Our expert taste test has revealed a Sainsbury’s gin that costs just £16 as the best gin for less than £20.
We blind taste-tested 11 supermarket premium own-label and big-branded gins priced at less than £20 (70cl). Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Blackfriars Gin, £16, was the only gin in our best-for-less tasting that was deemed good enough to be awarded a Which? Best Buy.
But we also tested eight pricier branded bottles (£20 – £26) including Bombay Sapphire and Martin Miller’s gin and found two gins in this category that excelled and we’ve named Best Buys. Read our full best gin report to reveal them.
Best gin for less
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Blackfriars Gin was awarded the only Best Buy in its category after receiving the highest score in our taste test – an impressive 83%.
The Sainsbury’s gin was the clear favourite of our expert panel, which was made up of four of the UK’s most reputable gin experts.
It was praised for its exuberant aroma and freshness and dubbed a gin that elevates the tonic mixed with it thanks to its complexity and balance.
What if you can’t get to a Sainsbury’s?
Tanqueray Dry gin (£18) was runner up to Sainsbury’s and the only branded bottle in our sub-£20 gin tasting to make the top five. It scored 75% and our panel described it as ‘fantastically zesty’.
Closely behind in third, fourth and fifth place were three more supermarket options; Asda’s Special Triple Distilled Premium Gin (£16, 75%), Lidl’s Hortus Original London Gin (£16, 74%) and M&S London Gin (£15, 71%).
Unfortunately not all own-label bottles impressed though. At the bottom of the table was the cheapest gin we tasted: Aldi’s Topaz Blue Gin (£14). It scored just 51% and our experts agreed that it was too bland to stand out against the tonic.
Well-known brands Gordon’s Special London Dry Gin (£16, 66%) and Beefeater London Dry Gin (£16, 63%) had middle-of-the-road scores.
Best gins for more
For our expert tasting, we split the gins into two categories. The first focused on premium supermarket label gins and mainstream brands costing up to £20. The second looked at widely available branded gins costing around £20 to £26.
The gins we tasted in the slightly pricier category included:
- Bloom Premium London Dry Gin, £25
- Bombay Sapphire Distilled London Dry Gin, £21
- Bulldog London Dry Gin, £22
- Martin Miller’s Dry Gin, £26
- Opihr Oriental Spiced London Dry Gin, £23
- Plymouth Gin, £25
- Sipsmith London Dry Gin, £25
- Whitley Neill London Dry Gin, £26
Scores from the two categories aren’t directly comparable, as they feature gins in different price bands. Price is important, as the selection of botanicals and quantities being made can mean very different costs for some recipes.
Our guide to the best gin reveals what came top.
Five steps to the perfect gin and tonic
Once you’ve selected the best gin, there are five steps to creating the perfect gin and tonic:
1. Use the right glass
A Tom Collins (aka highball) glass has all the attributes to create a great gin and tonic. Its height means you can pack it full of ice to keep your drink cold, while the narrow opening is easy to garnish.
Steer clear of a balloon glass – its top-heavy design means you are likely to cradle the bowl in your hands leaving you with cold hands and a warm drink.
2. Pick the right tonic
We asked our expert panel to blind taste two popular premium Indian tonics: Fentimans and Fever-Tree. They roundly agreed that Fever-Tree was better – it was smoother, better rounded, more complex and more effervescent.
However, Schweppes was used for our testing and the panel agree it’s a fine choice for everyday use.
3. Mix to the correct ratio
The optimum ratio is one part gin to three parts tonic. Use a miniature can for your mixer and it’s made easier for you – simply pour out the entire 150ml can over a standard double measure of gin (50ml).
4. The more ice the better
Bigger pieces of ice and more of them will melt more slowly and keep your drink cold and undiluted for longer. Always store your mixer in the fridge and our panel of gin experts even suggested storing your gin in the freezer.
5. Garnish correctly
If you’re going for the traditional lemon accompaniment always put a slice under the ice at the bottom of the glass or a peel on the top. Don’t squeeze it in.
Choose lime over lemon if you’re using a slimline mixer as its extra sharpness works well with the sweeter tonic.
And if you’re feeling fancy, try a little grapefruit. It’s an under-utilised citrus alternative that can add a real edge to your G&T. You don’t just have to go for a slice – some peel floating atop or run along the rim of the glass beforehand will give your drink a fragrant finish.
How we tested our gin
Every gin was tasted blind, first neat and then made into a gin and tonic; then scored on nose and aroma, taste and finish.
Scores were weighted as follows: palate 50%, nose/aroma 25%, finish 25%
Our gin-tasting experts
- Ian Wisniewski, spirits writer and consultant
- Neil Ridley Drinks, writer, presenter and consultant
- David T. Smith, writer, gin specialist and spirits judge
- Ian Buxton, drinks consultant, commentator and author
Prices correct as of October 2018.