Embracing the Seasonality of Craft Gin

As the market for craft gin expands, distillers are opting for seasonal gin choices that often go hand in hand with a focus on connecting gin to a place—for example, by using local, hand-harvested botanicals. Here, we share some tips on harvesting, storing, and balancing botanicals.

Hollie Stephens Jun 10, 2024 - 9 min read

Embracing the Seasonality of Craft Gin Primary Image

Photo: Matt Graves/

“Botanicals are inherently seasonal,” says Anthony Gladman, the London-based author of Gin: A Tasting Course and self-proclaimed gin evangelist. It follows, then, that gins made from those botanicals would be inherently seasonal, too, nicely suited for enjoying at certain times of the year.

As the market for craft gin expands and distillers seek ways to differentiate their own, many are going with botanical blends that evoke feelings connected to a particular season.

A notable example is the recent trend toward Mediterranean-style gins—such as Gin Mare, including olives, thyme, rosemary, lemon, and orange—featuring botanicals that grow abundantly in that climate. These gins typically work well in a refreshing gin and tonic garnished with orange peel or any cocktail that highlights bright citrus and herb notes.

“I think, generally speaking, floral gins lend themselves to spring,” says Danny Shapiro of Scofflaw, a Chicago-based bar that stocks a wide variety of gins. “The more citrus-driven gins, and even the fruit-infused gins … lend themselves more to summer.”


The seasonality of gin is part of the context that Shapiro and other bartenders consider when selecting spirits for their back bars. “We change up the menu once a season,” he says. “The menu usually reflects the time of year.”

Notably, seasonal choices often go hand in hand with a focus on connecting gin to a place—for example, by using local, hand-harvested botanicals shortly after they’re foraged.

Freshly Picked

Some botanicals, such as flowers and soft herbs, are best used when fresh. “The better distillers will also handle them a bit more carefully,” Gladman says, pointing to a vapor basket or vacuum distillation as options for the gentle treatment of delicate botanicals.

For example, the team behind the Melifera gin—made using immortelle flowers that grow in the sand dunes of the Île d’Oléron, off France’s west coast—acts quickly to infuse flavors at their freshest. “When we harvest them in June, our distiller comes with us,” says Cecile-Julie Amigorena, head of marketing and communications at Melifera. Once the flowers are picked, they are immediately immersed in alcohol, macerating them a few days before distillation.

Amigorena says the team worked hard at refining a botanical blend that would evoke the feeling of returning from the beach. “We really wanted people to open a bottle of Melifera and feel transported by the scent of a walk in the dunes,” she says. To accompany aromatic flowers, the team chose other botanicals that also grow on the island, such as maceron (sometimes known in English as alexanders).


Citrus additions are also best when fresh, and these often evoke summertime.

Citron, for example, thrives in the coastal climate of the Mediterranean, where it’s prized for its thick, fragrant rind. Nearer in appearance to a small, bumpy gourd than to a lemon, citron is a favorite of distillers such as Elena Penna and Luca Currado Vietti in Italy’s Piedmont region.

Their Elena Gin also includes chinotto. “A chinotto is basically like a small bitter orange,” says Rob Forman, director of spirits for Dalla Terra Winery Direct, an importer of Italian spirits. Citrus peel, maritime alpine juniper, and other botanicals—including almonds and alpine wild mint—give this gin a fresh, aromatic bouquet and an herbaceous finish. When it comes to using citrus peel, Forman says, freshness is key, and that means getting the peels infused as quickly as possible.

Properly Stored

In other cases, however, distillers can use botanicals that have been dried, frozen, or otherwise preserved without necessarily losing their character or seasonal appeal.

“Our sea buckthorn is an unusual harvest, as it only grows every second year at [our] site,” says Martin Murray, founder of Dunnet Bay Distillers on Scotland’s northern coast. The sea buckthorn berries are a signature botanical in Dunnet Bay’s Rock Rose gin. To mitigate the infrequent harvest, Murray says, they freeze the sea buckthorn. “This helps with the extraction, as the skins burst.”


Hand-harvesting seasonal botanicals must be done with care—and before someone (or something) else gets to them. “Our other challenge is that the birds love them,” Murray says, “so we have [to] make sure we don’t leave it too late.”

Meanwhile, at East London Liquor, the distillery partners with Kew Royal Botanic Gardens to produce its Kew Gin with Douglas fir and lavender in the botanical blend. The head botanist at Kew Gardens hand-harvests the botanicals, and the distillery can use them throughout the year.

“[They are] delivered to our distillery at regular intervals, where we then dry the botanicals and keep them in airlocked storage so that we have plenty to hand throughout autumn and winter,” says marketing director Isabelle Gormezano Marks. She describes the Kew Gin as more savory-forward than others in the range.

“You’d think it would be really piney,” Gladman says of the Kew Gin, considering its use of Douglas fir. However, he says, the character is lighter than one might expect, with a citrus note and subtle earthiness. “I’m seeing more gins make use of that,” he says.

Selling the Seasons

For distilleries with multiple gins in their portfolios, linking new releases to the time of year can be a compelling way to keep things fresh for existing customers while potentially attracting new ones.


For example, at Hendrick’s Gin in Scotland, master distiller Lesley Gracie pioneered the experimental “Cabinet of Curiosities” releases. Hendrick’s Grand Cabaret, for example, pays homage to eau de vie with its fresh stone-fruit notes, while Flora Adora celebrates pollinators by bringing floral and herbal character to the fore.

Vance Henderson, Hendrick’s U.S. national ambassador, says it’s becoming especially important for brands to stand out now, with a higher volume of spirits on the market. “We’re in a time where endless exploration is encouraged,” he says.

With so many options out there, Gladman says, “every gin needs a strong story to sell now.” If your gin is going to compete for space on shelves and bars, that story requires thought and intention. While there may be few barriers on the distilling side for creating new gins, taking a new product to market can be challenging, and adding extra SKUs for seasonal releases may not be a decision in easy reach of every brand.

“That’s going to take a lot of marketing, a lot of money,” Gladman says. “That’s just going to be outside the reach for a lot of smaller distilleries unless they have good direct sales.”

Yet locally focused releases can be an appealing option for some distilleries, in certain settings, and small batches can help keep local customers engaged.


Martin Ulloa, head distiller at Vara Winery & Distillery in Albuquerque, points to the fact that local breweries have a lot of success with limited seasonal releases. “I think the community here has already been accustomed to a seasonal offering,” he says. Vara’s own High Desert Gin—made with New Mexican sage—is their only gin right now, but Ulloa says a limited local release of a special seasonal gin could work in the future, especially if it could incorporate local botanicals.

Keeping the Balance

Over Ulloa’s distilling career, he’s found that citrus and rose are among the botanicals that are best used as freshly as possible. And when choosing a botanical to lead a profile, he says, balance is key. For balancing the ripe summery notes of citrus-forward gins, he favors traditional roots and seeds such as nutmeg, anise, and cardamon.

At Scofflaw in Chicago, Shapiro urges a measured approach when trying to differentiate.

“It’s a very crowded market and category,” he says. While unusual botanicals and blends can be enticing, seasonal releases that stray too far from a tried-and-tested bouquet can be a hard sell, unlikely to be selected for the bar.

For example, Shapiro says, “if someone just makes a gin that tastes like Banana Laffy Taffy for no reason, and we don’t have a use for it, … it seems artificial and strange.”

Likewise, Forman the importer says that botanicals coming from too far out in left field can be an acquired taste and a tougher sell. “Sometimes that’s cool, if the product is really well-made,” he says. “But at the same time, it’s kind of like, ‘Am I even drinking gin?’”

Hollie Stephens is an award-winning journalist based in New Mexico and originally from the United Kingdom. Her work has been published in Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®, Brewer and Distiller International Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, and many other publications.