It used to be that gin drinkers were often limited to three or so choices at the bar: Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, and Beefeater. It was like a gift from heaven if they carried Plymouth.
Happily, the gin landscape is a lot richer these days.
Like beer in the 90s and 2000s, American made spirits are undergoing a craft renaissance. Many states have eased licensing fees and red tape, making it (relatively) easier for small producers to get in the distilling game. This has led to a lot of experimentation with gin. Unlike whiskey or brandy, gin doesn’t require aging. It’s flavor profile comes from the “botanicals”–plants, herbs, spices, etc.–the producer adds during the distillation process. A craft distiller like St. George in Alameda, CA has an entire line of gins, each with a different botanical recipe.
These new gins are called “New Western” or “International” style. But that doesn’t mean they taste at all similar. Hendricks gin might be the most well known in this style, but it’s light, cucumber flavor differs wildly from St. George’s Rye gin for example, which tastes nothing like Aviation gin from Portland. The list goes on and on. David Wondrich, always a good source for booze education, has written a guide to the different styles of gin, old and new. But of course the best education is buying something unfamiliar and trying it out yourself.