Fend off cold winter weather with a glass (or two) of this warm liqueur
When it's time to shake off the cold this winter, it's probably the only drink that would be socially acceptable to take on a winter walk.
So, what should the perfect sloe taste like? While a rich burst of fruit is important, so is the ability to taste the complexity of the gin underneath. A good sloe should balance sweet and bitter, avoiding a syrupy, jam-like hit of sugar, instead offering something warming and delicious. Depending on the gin, you might want some spice and some marzipan. But whether you want to sip it elegantly or mix it in a cocktail, here are the best sloe gins this year.
Ableforth's Bathtub Gin Sloe Gin, 33.8%
Plymouth Sloe Gin,% 26
If you're a homegrown sloe fan, the color and nose on the Plymouth may look familiar. Possibly one of the fruitiest on our list, this gin really delivers a strong burst of tilt at first, followed by a bit of slickness, followed by a long, smooth finish. For its strength, there's very little burn, making it great for sipping, slathering over your ice cream, or, as the bottle label suggests, pairing with cheese. For the bottle size this also feels like incredibly good value.
Monkey 47 Sloe Gin,% 29
While most Sloe gin is from our fair shores, this one as a whole comes from Germany. What do you get here that justifies such a price? A lot. It screams quality. Using 47 botanical stones, distilled in small batches once a year, the gin is infused over three months with wild-grown, hand-picked sloe berries from the Black Forrest. The result is almost chewy, red berry berry fruit followed by a fresh, cooling, menthol-like finish. You'll have to clear this afternoon, find the comfiest sofa chair you can afford, and continue to appreciate the different flavors that reveal themselves with each sip. No mixer required.
London craft distiller Sipsmith produces its sloe gin once a year, and lets you know which “vintage” you're drinking with a date stamp on the label. Why is this important? In the same way that wine varies from year to year depending on the growing conditions of the fruit, it also spoils the juice of the fruit and hence the need for sloe gins. Although the 2015 harvest batch has just been released, you can especially find the 2014 vintage on stockholders' shelves. The 2014 series has a pleasant cherry, chocolate notes, while the 2015 smells more plum with a hint of apple and a bit of orange. Perfect for sipping as is, but add lemon and tonic for a long serving
Mother's Ruin Sloe Gin, 25%
Made from wild hillsides harvested from the hedgerows of Essex and Cumbria and brewed cold lukewarm in Walthamstow, East London, Mother's Ruin is fascinating from the start. I mean, just look at this pottery bottle. This small-batch gin is all about intense fruit flavour, but without any hint of that, artificial, jam-like syrup that can take on a bit too much. And that's hard to do. Instead, it has a silky mouthfeel with just the slightest hints of cherry and chocolate. And just like chocolate, it's much more dangerous.
Williams Aged Sloe Mulberry Gin, 29%
Okay, we're cheating a bit here. Yep, there's a good dose of berry in this gin too. Thickening and warming, the process of aging the fruit in oak barrels for a year, means that the tip is smoother than an ice rink, withstanding some of its force. A heady blend of cherry, ripe blackcurrant and some subtle oak and oak leaf leads to a hint of almond, meaning the overall result resembles a bit of liquid trifle. Yummy.
Sloemotion Handmade Sloe Gin, 26%
There's a lot to love about Sloemotion. First the name. Beautiful. Second, the story behind the gin. Hailing from the Howardian Hills of North Yorkshire, Sloemotion is ultimately produced from wildflowers and hedgerows from reclaimed fields. Moreover, the spirit-infused fruit is used to make chutneys and chocolate truffles. We see a food matchup coming. The gin is particularly spicy, with cumin, coriander-like notes, elements of tea, and a long, dry finish. It really stands out, but our guess is that it may disappoint candy lovers in search of a sweet hit.
Hayman's Sloe Gin,% 26
If you're like us, you enjoy tasting the underlying gin character as much as the fruit itself, then this is the sloe gin for you. Family-run distillery Hayman's has been producing gin for over 150 years, so one of the big plus points is that the base gin is top-notch. And this really comes through in the aroma, which has strong almond notes, a little buttery. To sip, taste the gin first, followed by warm and spicy fruit, intensely melted notes and a natural sweetness. It's probably better than stirring the mixture—try adding it to sparkling wine or cutting it with a pinch of citrus.
Greenall's Sloe Gin, %26
6 o'clock Sloe Gin, %26
This ruby-coloured beauty uses hand-drawn, hedge-beveled faces close to the Bramley & Gage distillery in Gloucester, where it has been brewed for six months. That's a long time. In fact, it's more than twice the time of other brands on our list. This combined with the high ratio of fruit to gin means there's a hint of chocolate, almost chocolate-like richness, as well as plenty of warming spice notes and, rather than sweetness, an almost sour note. Ripe and studly, it's lovely on its own, but try it instead of whiskey sour (lemon, sugar syrup and egg whites). You won't regret it, we promise.
Pickering Sloe Gin,% 30
Small but perfectly formed, although the bottle is on the small side, this gin from Edinburgh's charming Summerhall Distillery represents good value. Why? A little stronger than best, it blends much better yet is pleasant enough to sip neatly, meaning a little goes a long way. Those familiar with Pickering's gin may know that it is made following a “secret” Bombay recipe from 1947 and is full of intense notes of cardamom, coriander and clove. Even though a one-off distillation was created for this release, those signature notes are very much there. However, you may find the sloe element much more subtle than the others listed here, with plum and marzipan being the most prominent. And that's not a bad thing, especially for mixing with a quality toner.
Beckett Sloe Gin,% 29
Thin, delicate, light – there are a hundred adjectives you could choose to describe this sloe from London's Kingston Distillers as one that won't give up much at first. This may depend on its components. Made using hand-picked cloves from Surrey's Box Hill, Beckett's also offers interesting mint contributions from Kingston upon Thames. Those wanting something heavy on spice or overly sweet won't find it here. Instead, the result is something altogether tighter,