Classic Dry GinsMGC Dry Gin 42% alc., Yarra Valley, Vic, $70 On its own, this was one of the best gins in the tasting: a properly dry, superbly well-balanced and delicate aromatic mélange of subtle juniper, grapefruit and rosemary. "A really 'ginny' gin," said Luke. "A very good 'New World' style." But, oddly, we found it didn't work with tonic - it was swamped - and it made a rather plain Martini. Perhaps with different mixers it would be better.
3 / 0
Classic Dry GinsThe West Winds The Cutlass 50% alc., Margaret River, WA, $75 The extra alcoholic strength, and the inclusion of the dark, dense flavours of bush tomato as one of the botanicals, make this an intensely powerful, distinctive gin. It makes a fabulously hearty G&T - "It'll fix you of malaria, or whatever else ails you," said Luke - and a rich, meaty Martini that's crying out for a large glass, a green olive and a sympathetic ear.
4 / 0
Classic Dry GinsCopperwave Gin 45% alc., Hunter Valley, NSW, $68 for 500ml This is a super-bold, strong and uncompromising gin. Whether on its own, diluted, with tonic or as a Martini, the dominant flavours are rich, dark and resinous: juniper, violet and myrtle. It's not really a "classic" dry gin, but I really liked it: it's the kind of spirit you'd reach for if you wanted to mix a drink to really make you feel you were alive.
5 / 0
Classic Dry GinsBass and Flinders Gin 10 40% alc., Mornington Peninsula, Vic, $59 for 500ml The distillery describes this infusion of juniper, coriander, cardamom and grains of paradise as "wild and spicy", but we thought it was pleasantly subtle and restrained as a standalone spirit. It made a rather odd, soda-poppy drink mixed with tonic, but came into its own in a dry Martini, revealing punchy, very "ginny" flavours of juniper and citrus.
6 / 0
Classic Dry GinsFour Pillars Rare Dry Gin 41.8% alc., Yarra Valley, Vic, $70 Interesting gin, this. It has won gold medals in competitions but, on its own, we weren't all that impressed: there's a whole heap of bold flavours hiding in here, and it's quite round and sweet in the mouth, but it's a bit indistinct and muddy. We felt it really comes into its own as a big, bold G&T or Martini.
7 / 0
Classic Dry GinsDobson's Gin 40% alc., New England, NSW, $63 for 750ml This is a deliciously complex, intriguing and well-made gin with an alluring herbal and nutty moreish quality when tasted on its own. Adding tonic brings out a deep, distinctive flavour of wet fermented herbs - a squeeze of lemon made one of the best G&Ts of the day. This gin also provided the base for a classy, refreshing dry Martini. A standout spirit.
8 / 0
Classic Dry GinsThe West Winds The Sabre 40% alc., Margaret River, WA, $55 Good to see a high-profile, much-hyped brand performing well, and living up to its reputation. "This is a really refreshing gin," said Luke, loving its zesty, citrusy purity. It makes a punchy and bold G&T, and a very delicious, bright, transparent, Martini. "A good Martini should be like a negligée," said Luke. "It should be tantalising, shimmering. This has that quality."
9 / 0
Classic Dry GinsMcHenry Classic Dry Gin 40% alc., Port Arthur, Tas, $55 This was far and away the prettiest, most harmonious and enchanting gin we tasted. No one botanical dominated the flavour profile, and the overall impression was one of soft aromatic attraction: "Like walking into an old-fashioned candy store," said Luke. It didn't work so well as a Martini (it didn't have the backbone necessary for this strong, sturdy drink), but it made an amazingly refined G&T.
10 / 0
Flavoured and agedBass & Flinders Monsoon Gin 40% alc., Mornington Peninsula, Vic, $59 for 500ml The dominant botanicals in this unusual gin are ginger, lemongrass and coriander - not exactly conventional. On its own, it's pungent and fiery and, while it doesn't really stack up as a Martini, it makes a totally delicious and utterly refreshing G&T that tastes like a grown-up alcoholic ginger beer. Unusual but yummy.
11 / 0
Flavoured and agedKis Old Tom Gin 41.3% alc., Kangaroo Island, SA, $90 Again, the judges were split: I thought this sweetened, barrel-aged gin was a bit unsubtle, vanilla-soused, barley-sugary and bland, but Luke was intrigued by it, he could see how it could be applied in all sorts of cocktails that call for oaky spirits other than whisky.
12 / 0
Flavoured and agedMcHenry Old English Sloe Gin 30% alc., Port Arthur, Tas $30 for 200ml, $70 for 700ml This is the most unusual and challenging gin we tasted. Made by macerating sloe berries (foraged from wild Tasmanian hedgerows) in McHenry gin for a year, it is both weirdly feral - "Smells of underripe banana, marzipan and menthol," said Luke - and at the same time strangely attractive, imbued with sweet red-fruit richness.
13 / 0
Flavoured and agedGinnifer Golden Gin 49% alc., Albany, WA, $90 This strong, golden, barrel-aged gin reminded us of a raw young Calvados or rum: it's very oaky, full of vanilla and cassia bark aromas. We felt it might appeal to spirit drinkers looking for something unusual - and could also appeal to cocktail-makers looking for unconventional ingredients.
14 / 0
Flavoured and agedFour Pillars Barrel Aged Gin 43.8% alc., Yarra Valley, Vic, $95 To say that this gin, which was matured in old French oak barriques, "split the judges" is putting it mildly. Luke thought its bold vanilla and cumquat flavours could work really well in cocktails such as the Penicillin (with lemon juice, honey and ginger) or the Martinez (a vermouth-drenched precursor to the Martini), but I thought the resiny oaky flavours were coarse and gaggy, like bad retsina.
15 / 0
Flavoured and agedKis Mulberry Gin 26% alc., Kangaroo Island, SA, $80 The temptation, when you macerate berries in spirit, is to sweeten the resulting liqueur so that the taste on the tongue matches the lusciousness expected from the deep, ripe purple colour of the liquid. That temptation has, thankfully, been resisted here. It smells like blackberry nip, but it's bright and tangy and not too sweet. (Available in February; order ahead online.)
16 / 0
Australian botanicalsStone Pine Dry Gin 40% alc., Bathurst, NSW $37 for 355ml, $65 for 700ml This is as far from the classic London Dry Gin style as it's possible to get - but it's delicious. Indigenous citrus is the dominant flavour character - finger lime and lemon myrtle - and while it turns out this doesn't work so well in a Martini, it is stunning in a G&T: fresh and lifted and delicious, with sweet, clear flavours, especially with a twist of kaffir lime and coriander.
17 / 0
Australian botanicalsKis 'O' Gin 43.5% alc., Kangaroo Island, SA, $75 If you want a unique Australian gin experience, this is it. The "O" in the name refers to Kangaroo Island's coastal daisybush used as one of the botanicals. On its own it is remarkable: softly herbal, focused, almost salty, salivary - "It made me feel I was by the sea," said Luke. I thought it also made an exceptional G&T, and a complex, oily Martini.
18 / 0
Australian botanicalsTamborine Mountain Lilly Pilly Gin 40% alc., North Tamborine, Qld, $51.50 for 500ml We were wary of the daggy label and kitsch pink colour, but this turned out to be a sophisticated, spicy gin. It's refreshingly not-too-sweet, and emphasises the tangy flavour of the lilly pilly berries. I wasn't too fond of it when mixed with tonic, but for Luke it brought back a "sensory memory of drinking pink lemonade as a kid".
19 / 0
Australian botanicalsBotanic Australis Gin 40% alc., Atherton Tablelands, Qld, $70 The name and the marketing spiel make a big deal of the "14 Australian native botanicals" and, while it is very powerful and unmistakably "Aussie", the overriding impression is of a cacophony of aromas. It leaps out of the glass and makes a full-flavoured, if unsubtle and slightly coarse, G&T and Martini.