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[Flickr: cbcastro]

For a spirit that seems to inspire such a diverse set of reactions in drinkers, including no shortage of outspoken loathing, gin has certainly been faring well in recent years. As I write in the September/October issue of Imbibe, while gin sales have been modestly progressing since the 1990s, the explosive growth in the number of brands on the market demonstrates a great enthusiasm for the spirit among distillers, especially those just getting into the game.

That's not surprising. Unlike spirits such as brandy or whiskey, gin requires no aging, so the time between still and store shelf can be as short as a matter of days--an important factor for start-up distilleries needing a quick source of income. And while the nuances between different vodkas can be difficult if not impossible for the casual consumer to detect, gin is the proverbial blank slate upon which a distiller can create a distinctive identity.

The gin marketplace has been so dynamic in the past 15 years, it's hard to get a handle on the different styles that have developed.

Classic London dry gins such as Tanqueray and Beefeater, and the uniquely styled Plymouth, have always bore the gin standard, but over the past decade-plus, there has been an advent of other unique spirits. This list includes the citrusy No. 209 Gin, the spicy DH Krahn Gin and the floral Hendricks Gin, along with bold-flavored, envelope-pushing gins such as Leopold American Small Batch Gin from Colorado and Ethereal Gin from Massachusetts, neither of which have anything in the gin market that is even comparable in style and flavor.

That's not to say that all of the innovative gins are good--oh, hell no. For every gin such as Voyager Gin or Martin Miller's Gin that has become a permanent fixture in my liquor cabinet (and in my martini), there are a number of other recent arrivals that I find suitable only as bathroom cleansers.

But we're not here to drag lackluster gins down--we're here to celebrate the gins that simply taste good and that work well in a number of drinks. What are some of your favorite gins?

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

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