It is a distilled alcoholic drink, deriving its main flavor from juniper berries. One of the most extensive categories of spirits, it has various styles, origins and flavor profiles, all surrounding juniper as the common component. Besides juniper, gin is flavored with herbal/botanical, floral, spice or fruit-flavor, or even a combination. Mix it with tonic water to revive your spirit and drive away body aches or use it as a base spirit to create drinks like sloe gin, a gin-based liquor. The drink gets its name from the old English word ‘genever’, associated with the Dutch term ‘jenever’ and the French word ‘genièvre’. However, the ultimate pronunciation derives from the Latin of juniper, juniperus.
If you visit a gin distillery, the most common ingredient to attract your attention will be juniper. Distillers make use of the berries from the tree in the mash, creating the note of pine found in it. Some distillers mix it with other spices to produce more sophisticated and complicated flavors, but juniper is the main protagonist of the film, bringing all other ingredients together.
Every distiller has his own way of flavoring his creation by using spices or botanicals, depending on what he or she is trying to achieve. Some of the most frequently used botanicals are orange and its peel, coriander seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, almonds and ginger. Other botanicals include angelica root and Java pepper. The citrus undertones balance out the savory notes to form a crisp and refreshing drink, worth taking a sip at the end of the day.
A good mash is basically cooked grains (barley, rye, corn or wheat) that are going to be used as the base of the gin. Rye is most commonly used for gin spirits for its ability to create a blank canvas for all the great flavors that infuse into the mash later.
This is the stage where the distiller adds yeast to the mash to metabolize sugar and produce great quality alcohol. Taking things to the next phase, the professionals adjust the temperature of fermentation to make sure that the procedure occurs in the desired manner. It is not yet time to go to the next step as this method takes place for one to two weeks.
There are two types of distillation, namely, pot and column distillation. Here is an idea about each one of them.
Pot Distillation - The earliest mode of distillation is the pot distillation of malt wine (a fermented grain mash) from barley or other grains. It is then redistilled with flavoring botanicals to bring out the aromatic compounds. A double gin is produced by redistilling the first gin once more with more botanicals. Since the distiller uses pot stills, the content of alcohol of the distillate is comparatively low, about 76% ABV (alcohol by volume) for a double gin and 68% ABV for a single distilled gin. This kind of gin is usually aged in wooden casks or tanks, and has a heavier malty flavor, rendering similarities to whiskey. Holland gin or oude (old) style of Geneva gin and grain wine or Korenwijn belong to this class.
Column Distillation - With the invention of the Coffey still (a still with two columns), there came column distillation of gin. In this case, the distiller first distills high-proof neutral spirits (extremely concentrated high amount of ethanol, which has been purified through repeated distillation) from a wash or fermented mash with the use of a refluxing still like a column still. The highly concentrated spirit is redistilled with juniper berries and other botanicals in a pot still. Usually, the botanicals are present in a "gin basket", hanging from within the head of the still. This method lets the hot alcoholic vapours to extricate the flavoring aspects from the botanical mass. The final product is more lightly flavored than the pot still method and forms a London dry gin or distilled gin as per the spirit’s finishing.
Compound Gin - Distillers flavor neutral spirits with natural botanical ingredients and essential oils left to mix with neutral spirit, but before that the extracts are mixed with water, which is then added to the spirit without redistilling it.
Now comes the fun part.
When the spirit is distilled, we enter the flavoring zone. To tell you the truth, gin is nothing but vodka with flavor. Now you understand why the flavoring comes?
After the distillation, professionals let the vodka soak overnight in a collection of expertly selected botanicals. The distillers use the right proportions to make sure that the flavors do not clash with each other. When the distiller is happy with the final aroma, he prepares the drink for bottling.
That’s it! Making gin may sound like a tedious task, but the distillers are passionate about the final product as if it is their own baby. Visit a distillery and experience the process up front.
London Dry Gin - This style is basically a process which has no relation to any geographical area or any particular flavouring. London Dry Gin can be made anywhere following the correct process.
Taste Profile - Juniper with hints of citrus
Popular Examples - Bombay Sapphire, Bulldog, Beefeater.
Plymouth Gin- This can only be produced in Plymouth, England. It is slightly less dry than other styles. Only 1 distillery - PLYMOUTH GIN - produces this type of gin.
Taste Profile - It is very similar to London Dry, but a bit sweeter and earthier due to higher concentration of root botanicals.
Old Tom Gin - This gin recipe became quite popular in 18th century England. Old Tom Gin is said to have completed the missing link between the London Dry and the whisky like Genever Gin.
Taste Profile - a bit less on juniper but has a mouth coating sweetness
Popular Examples - Ransom
Genever/Holland/Dutch Gin - As the name suggests this style comes from the Netherlands and is made with at least 15% malt giving it resemblance of Whisky. Genever Gin is protected under the EU with 11 Appellations which are exclusive to Belgium.
Taste Profile - Robust flavours of savoury botanicals like Citrus peel, fennel & malt.
Popular Examples - Bols Genever Gin, Old Duff.
Flavoured Gin - This type of gin is usually flavoured with one other prominent flavour other than Juniper Berry. Most popular being Sloe Gin which is made from Sloe Berries. Other flavourings like Grapefruit, Seville Orange, Honey are also made.
Taste Profile - Based on the flavour used.
Popular Examples - Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla, Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Sloe Gin.