Gin – Learn about the most unusual of spirits

I chose Gin to be my first feature from a 6 part spirit discovery guide as it is a most unusual of spirit. The only governing rule is that it must taste predominantly of Juniper (more on juniper below) and it is also created for mixing whether in a cocktail or in a classic G&T it is the only spirit consumed more so mixed than by itself. In fact there are more classic cocktails that call for gin than any other spirit.

Gin as a spirit differs greatly from one bottle to the next as it can be made in any combination of ways as long as the predominant taste is juniper.

How Gin is made.

There are a few different categories of gin and production differs between all of them.

Gin like vodka can be made from pretty much anything fermentable, though most brand use grains e.g. corn, rye, barley and wheat. These grain or other fermentable base have to be turned into a mash before being fermented.

This is where yeast converts the sugar present in the mash into alcohol.

This is where the alcohol is separated from the rest of the liquid. As we are talking about gin this can be done in a few different ways. Firstly the fermented mash is distilled into a neutral spirit (no flavor, essentially a vodka).

From this point forward gin can take on many different flavor characteristics depending on the choice of botanical used (Nuts, citrus peels, dried fruits, floral, herbs and spices) and the type of infusion these botanicals take.

The most common production of gin is to  steep the chosen botanicals in the neutral spirit then re-distilling either with or without the botanicals in a pot still. This is called the one shot method.

There is also a two shot method where the botanicals are infused the same way as above though is in a much greater concentration with a smaller quanity of neatural spirt. this is then blended with the original neutral spirit to create the desired flavor for the gin.

Lastly there is vapor infusion – this can be conducted in a column or pot still. The botanicals are housed in a cage or botanical basket in the neck of the still and are infused into the alcoholic vapor as it passes through the cage / basket. This creates a lighter style of gin most notable from the makers of Bombay Sapphire and Hendricks. (Hendricks use half pot still and half vapor infusion that is then blended together in specific ratio. They then add essence of rose and cucumber post distillation).

Different types of Gin.

As you can see above there is no limit to what type of characteristics a gin can have and as such there are several different styles.

London Dry Gin:
This is by far the largest category of gin. The only requirements being that the gin is predominately juniper flavored like all gins, only the smallest amount of sugar can be added hence the “dry”, no artificial ingredients, no flavors or colours added after distillation and must be distilled to at least 140 proof or 70%ABV. Then can only be watered down to minimum 37.5% ABV for bottling. Lastly London dry gin can be made anywhere in the world though got its name from the advancement of the quality of gin from the invention of the Coffey still in 1832. Gins prior to this were made poorly and from inferior methods leading to sweeter elements being used to mask the hash alcohol flavor. With the Coffey still came a purer, more neutral and more consistent spit that did not require sweetening and became know as “Dry gin” and at this time London centre of all things gin and was coming out of “The Gin Craze” hence the name “London dry gin”

This is the original form of gin that was brought back from Holland to London. Genever  is made by distilling malt wine instead of grain and then re-distilling with botanicals. A very juniper, malty flavored gin – can be used to replace whiskey in classic cocktails for a delightful twist. Try Bolls Genever.

Compound or bathtub Gin:
Made by infusing a base alcohol with  spices and juniper berries often in bathtubs of homes as England has placed large taxes on imported spirits though had given permission for anyone to make their own gin without need for a license. Hence lots and lots of poor quality gin being made.

Old Tom:
Was the solution to the harsh flavors and poor quality of alcohol at the time and was made sweeter and spicier to make gin more palatable.

Plymouth Gin:
Takes everything that a London dry gin is and add the requirement that this gin can only be produced in Plymouth, England. Currently only one company has the rights to make Plymouth style gin and coincidentally that company is called Plymouth.

New Wave:
This term accounts for gins created by craft distilleries that are pushing boundaries as to what constitutes the definition of a Gin. Often they are not juniper focused (though still must use juniper as a predominate botanical to be called a gin) though are more focused on other botanicals or don’t meet the requirement for London dry gin. Hendrick for example doesn’t not meet the requirements for a London dry Gin and its flavor is focused on cucumber and rose petals. A local Australian new wave gin is Ink Gin that again does not meet requirements of a London dry gin as they infuse butterfly pea flowers after distillation to give a striking colour and provide a smooth crisp taste that gives the major botanicals time to linger in the mouth.


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