Taste Test: Sloe Gin - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

When Britain’s common lands were divided into individual parcels around the 17th century per parliamentary decree, hedgerows were needed to mark boundaries. And so, blackthorn, a thorny flowering shrub, sprung up throughout England. The blackthorn brought with it an immense crop of sloe berries—a disastrously bitter, plum-looking fruit. Soon it was discovered that when sloes were soaked in gin and sugar, their tart and acidic qualities could be harnessed for good. Sloe gin (technically a liqueur) is an excellent bottle to have around for cocktails or solo sipping. Here are some bottles to try, from European and U.S.–based distillers. 

Fords Gin Sloe Gin

The new kid on the sloe gin block, this liqueur from the makers of Fords Gin debuted in early May 2022. It’s made using a high-proof version of Fords Gin from London-based Thames Distillers, in which sloe fruit from France and the UK are steeped for 12 weeks before sugar is added. The liqueur is then reduced to a still-robust 58 proof, keeping the gin’s character front and center. The plum, raisin, and cherry notes from the sloes are balanced by the citrus-and-juniper crispness from the gin, and the liqueur finishes with a bittersweet complexity that pushes sloe gin into intriguing new terrain. $34, reservebar.com 

Hayman’s Sloe Gin

Storied British gin distiller Hayman’s first launched a sloe gin in 2009. Wild-foraged English sloe berries rest in the gin for three to four months, before the blend is lightly sweetened with natural sugar, per a family recipe. Hayman’s is a standout for the incredible balance it strikes between tart and sweet, and warming yet bright. The spicy botanicals of the gin close out each sip, leaving the palate refreshed. $32.99, woodencork.com

Plymouth Sloe Gin

Plymouth produces one of the most quintessential sloe gins on the market. Based on a recipe from 1883, the Plymouth liqueur uses fresh sloe berries steeped in Plymouth gin, Dartmoor water, and sugar for approximately four months. It opens with a rush of sweet and tart flavors, before the dark, red-berry flavor of the sloe fruit delivers a punchy showing on the back end. This is a great traditional liqueur that also works well in cocktails. $40, blackwellswines.com

Pür Spirits Blackthorn

Kiki Braverman, founder of Pür Spirits, works alongside German distiller Franz Xaver Salzgeber to craft spirits that honor Bavarian traditions and recipes. Made with the traditional trio of gin, sugar, and sloe berries, Pür Spirits’ liqueur presents a more herbal nose than most. The bottle possesses plum-rich tannins in addition to a potent almond accent imparted by the stone fruit. $37, whiskyshopusa.com

Reisetbauer Sloeberry Blue Gin

Austrian distiller Hans Reisetbauer is renowned for his stellar eau de vie. And his devotion to fruit shines in the producer’s sloe gin. With Reisetbauer’s 27-botanical Blue Gin forming the foundation, organic Hungarian sloe berries are pressed and macerated in the spirit for six weeks. Bearing a wonderfully grassy aroma accented with mint and coriander, this sloe lets the concentrated, tannic flavor of the fruit shine, with backup from the zesty, peppery, and savory characteristics of the gin. $53.99, woodencork.com


Like other seasonal fruit, sloes are weather dependent, meaning changes in growing conditions can impact their final flavor. Some years, the harvest may be sweeter or tarter than others. London microdistillery Sipsmith was among the first to designate harvest vintages for their sloe gin. With Sipsmith’s London dry as the base, the gin’s juniper notes meld harmoniously with the moody currant flavor imparted by the fruit. $42.99, drizly.com

Spirit Works Barrel Reserve

Sebastopol, California’s Spirit Works Distillery uses a generations-old family recipe for their sloe gin, even importing organic sloe berries from Europe for production. Spirit Works takes their original liqueur a step further with the distillery’s Barrel Reserve. The first of its kind, the finished spirit is aged in new, charred American white oak barrels for several months. The barrel-aging mellows the liqueur into a velvety, well-rounded treat. It balances bright, citrus flavors alongside deeper notes of clove and cardamom. $75, mashandgrape.com

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