Sam Wylie-Harris goes on a juniper journey and takes a peek inside a new gin book.

Whether you're looking to expand your ginology or simply want to know which gin you should be drinking and why, new book Gin: The Ultimate Companion by Ian Buxton, is all about the glorious world of the stuff.

"Scarcely a day goes by without an established brand offering a fresh take on their established styles or, more likely, a new boutique distillery opening its doors - where gin is de rigueur and convention challenged with a degree of gleeful abandon that has probably never been seen in the drinks industry, " writes Buxton.

"Almost anything goes, and there seems to be no sign of things slowing down. In fact, gin seems to be taking over the world, with new small distilleries opening up at a furious pace and gin, very tasty gin, being produced where it had never previously featured."

With tasting notes and tips on the must-try latest brands and eternal classics, here, in Buxton's words, are four 'essential gins' to whet your whistle...

1. 58 Gin London Dry, £30 (70cl), 58 Gin

58 typifies how gin is changing and why it's the most exciting thing on the world spirits scene right now. Originally the brainchild of a genial Aussie, Mark Marmont, an avid cocktail lover who, after a year of trials, lots of distilling courses and, as he says himself, 'trial and error', launched 58 - making just 60-70 bottles of gin at a time in a tiny copper pot still in a railway arch in Hackney Downs, one of the trendier parts of London.

58 has now relocated to a new, larger home in Haggerston, London, also a seriously hip location. The current operation places great stress on their ethical operation and a mission 'to be the category leader in sustainable craft spirits.'

To that end, they work closely with a Kent farm to source ingredients, they offset their carbon footprint by planting juniper bushes, and use the waste botanicals for compost, in a 'full green' circle they term 'ethical distilling.' Naturally, the packaging is eco-friendly, using recycled glass bottles and refill pouches to minimise waste.

58 collected no less than eight awards at the 2020 International Wine & Spirit Competition, including UK Gin Producer of the Year.

2. Achroous Gin, £34.99 (70cl), Electric Spirit

Electric Spirit are at the cutting edge of a vibrant Scottish craft distilling scene, and product designer, photographer and distiller James Porteous has worked with juniper, coriander seed, orris root, liquorice root, angelica root, fennel seed and, most notably, Sichuan peppercorns to offer up this most distinctive spiced and complex gin, with attractive citrus and floral notes.

The Electric Spirit folks are no shrinking violets, otherwise why put their gin in a day-glo orange bottle and name it Achroous? That's not some strange Scottish war cry, by the way; it's derived from the Ancient Greek for 'colourless', which of course it is.

Achroous' medal collection: Double Gold from the San Francisco World Spirits Awards, a 96pt Gold from the IWSC and Gold from the Spirits Business Global Gin Masters.

3. Asian Parsnip Gin Batch Two, £39 (70cl), Jamesgin

James May is probably best known as the co-presenter of Top Gear and more recently The Grand Tour. Like his motoring shows, May's Asian Parsnip is a joint enterprise with two colleagues but the idea for the project came from May himself, on the basis that his mum had given him a taste for gin, he owned half a pub and reckoned himself to be 'highly qualified in drinking gin, [having] done so all over the globe.'

As the name suggests, this gin is a multi-cultural fusion of English and Asian influences with a botanicals mix including parsnips, coriander, lemon and lime peels for their citrus impact, Sichuan pink peppercorns, angelica root and juniper. The use of parsnips may be unusual, but they're a tasty vegetable with hints of a woody forest floor and an inspired addition to the botanical repertoire.

4. Becketts London Dry Gin, £33.60 (70cl), Beckettsgin

One of the loveliest things about loving gin at the moment is that you can enjoy your favourite tipple and a glow of virtue. Gins - well, some gins - have a social conscience.

In this case, charity begins at home: Becketts, which uses handpicked juniper berries from Box Hill in Surrey (the setting, you will recall, for a famous, if unhappy, picnic in Jane Austen's Emma), is working with the National Trust, Forest Research and Natural England to help save juniper from extinction in England. A worthy cause, you may feel, and one close to the heart of all true gin lovers. If it works, juniper will once again flourish on Juniper Top, Surrey.

The other distinctive note comes from the use of Kingston upon Thames mint as a botanical - sweet yet cooling, it harmonises with just four other ingredients in a deceptively simple formula that results in a mix of zesty citrus (lime and sweet orange peel) and earthy spice (orris and coriander). Mint is the recommended garnish, as perhaps it should be; it's grown at the distillery's home.

There are three styles: Type 1097, Sloe Gin and the bold 48% Spirited London Dry. Local juniper, local mint, local artwork on the label, your cash helps save English juniper and the brand even sponsors a gin quiz at their local gastropub. Splendid stuff.

Extracted from Gin: The Ultimate Companion, The Essential Guide to Gins, Flavours, Cocktails, Tonics and More by Ian Buxton, published by Birlinn Ltd, priced £14.99. Available now.