So you’ve got yourself a bottle of Gin. It’s brand new, un-opened, un-tasted and staring at you. But before you break the seal and crack it open, have you ever taken a moment to wonder how it came to be in your hand?
Your Gin is actually quite a complex spirit and has been through a long process to get to you.
Read on to find out more…
Any Gin starts life as a neutral, tasteless alcohol which is usually wheat based. Some are also made from barley or grapes, but whatever it’s made from it must begin neutral. This is to ensure the taste of the botanicals added to it, comes through at the end.
All Gin has primarily a juniper taste. Without juniper it’s not Gin, it’s Vodka. The juniper also creates a kind of aromatic canvas on which all other botanical flavours will sit.
Gin is great because you can add all sorts of different flavours to it. Each Gin is made to a specific recipe with a specific number and weight of botanicals, decided by the Gin producers.
Another great thing about Gin is that all the flavours are natural. This why they’re called ‘botanicals’. This is perfect if you’re vegetarian or vegan. It’s the alcohol of the earth! Flavours such as lemon peel, cucumber, apple, coriander, almonds, chamomile, liquorice, flowers, spices and fruits can all be added to produce a recipe of Gin. And that’s not even the whole list!
Make sure you think about the distiller at this point. All the botanicals are natural…meaning there can be variances in a single batch of any flavour. It’s the distiller’s job to taste a number of samples from each botanical crop to ensure consistency in flavour, so spare a thought for him. He makes sure your favourite bottle of Gin tastes the same every time you buy it.
There are two main ways of distilling Gin, and there are also a number of developing ways of making it which are rising up at this very moment. To keep things simple, lets look at the main two:
Steeping of the botanicals is the most traditional method. The base spirit is put into a pot still along with all the botanical flavours and juniper. These are steeped for as long as 48 hours, or some producers may remove them pretty quickly. It all depends on the recipe. Once satisfied the flavour is right, water is added to reduce the strength. There are laws on these things after all.
Vapour infusion of the botanicals is another traditional method of distillation, and a tad more scientific. For this the botanicals don’t come into contact with the base alcohol. They are placed in a basket into the still, and sit above the spirit. This is then boiled and the vapours rise up and infuse with the botanicals. The vapour then condenses into liquid and water is then added to reduce the strength.
This method is quite popular for Gin producers who are looking for a more gentle flavour. Gin brand Bombay Sapphire is one such producer who uses this method.
So the next time you hold a Gin bottle in your hand, or order a Gin & tonic at a bar, make sure you spare a thought for the process that’s gone into creating the drink you’re about to enjoy. See if you can identify the individual flavours that have been used, and spare a thought for the distiller who’s spent time ensuring the flavour is exactly how it should be.