Gin is a distilled alcoholic spirit. It is flavored primarily with juniper berries and other ingredients, such as lemon peel, angelica root, coriander, cardamom, anise, orange peel, etc. In fact, the word gin is believed to come from genever, juniper word for Dutch. Gin is popular as the base spirit for many popular mixed drinks such as the Martini, the Singapore Sling, and of course, Gin and Tonic.
Almost every day a new variation of gin hits the market. This spirit keeps its position as one of the most beloved and versatile alcohol drinks. So, it’s high time to understand how gin is produced, what it consists of, and what are the ways of gin making.
All hail Gin!
As we mentioned before, the dominant flavor in gin is juniper and there aren’t regulations and laws on the quantity of juniper in the spirit, everything depends on the makers. Other prevailing botanicals include lemon peel, angelica root, coriander, cardamom, anise, and orange peel. Except for the common ingredients, almost every gin producer has other ingredients that are usually kept secret.
Here is the interesting thing about making gin, even if there are two gins with exactly identical ingredients, their flavor profile and taste will be different because of the origin of the botanicals and the method of distillation. That’s why many makers collect ingredients from all over the world to deliver an incredible and one-of-a-kind taste.
What is gin made from?
Gin is produced pretty much like vodka, but don't think that gin is just flavored vodka, nope, gin is something more complex and comprehensive. Gin making starts with distilling the neutral grain spirit several times to reach the pure liquid of at least 96% ABV. Sometimes a grape spirit can be used as well, but mostly the makers go with the grain one. For example, the fellows at Brighton Gin use certified 100% organic pure wheat spirit which they re-distill with juniper, lime peel, orange, coriander seed, and milk thistle. During the distillation process the gluten is removed so that Brighton gin is certified as 100% vegan and suitable for those who don’t consume gluten.
Generally, there are four types gin distillation:
Pot distilled gin.
This is the earliest type of gin producrion. A fermented mash, usually it is a grain mash (or, as it also called “malt wine”), although potato and grain base spirits can be used as well, is distilled in a pot still. Then it is redistilled with botanicals. The base spirit is added into the pot and the ABV level is reduced with water before adding the selected botanicals. It is essential to diminish the ABV before the botanicals are added to the base spirit because the pure spirit of 96% ABV hardens the skins of the botanicals and it gets complicated to receive the oils, which bring the gin its unique taste and aromas.
Cotswolds Gin is made in a copper pot still. “This process creates the richest possible flavors and mouthfeel due to the high proportion of essential oils and botanical extract” — emphasize the makers. They run the stills slowly, discarding the hands and tails (unpleasant beginning and end of the run) to reach the pure and delicate taste. The distillate is left to rest for 5 days and after that, demineralized water is added to reduce the strength of the final product. This process, known as ‘single-shot distillation’, creates a superior gin.
Tarsier Gin is distilled over five hours in two traditional copper alembic pot stills. The distillate is then blended with pure water to reduce the ABV, and rested for at least three weeks to allow the complexity of the flavors to develop.
Column distilled gin.
This is the most widespread way of producing gin. London dry gin is usually distilled using this method. It rose in popularity after the invention of the Coffey still (also called continuous still) and it is a two-column still that produces a base spirit of a strength of 96% ABV. This spirit is next redistilled with juniper berries and other ingredients, suspended in a so-called “gin basket”. This basked is put in a pot still so that the heat from the vapor rises and the flavors are extracted.
Compound distillation is a relatively cheap and easy way of gin making. The extracts are added to the grain spirit without redistilling it. That can be either artificial flavourings or essential oils, which were previously extracted from botanicals. These extracts are added into water and then blended with the base spirit. Although, many producers avoid this method as the pronounced flavors may taste unnatural and vanish very fast. The resulting spirit cannot be labeled as Distilled Gin or London Dry according to the EU regulations.
Vacuum distilled gin.
This is a brand new way of gin production that came from the pharmaceutical industry. It is also known as cold distillation. The distillation process takes place in a vacuum. The main profit of this method is that the makers can lower the boiling point of the base spirit from 78 °C up to 30 °C. Why is it important? Because some of the botanicals are quite heat-sensitive, they can lose their flavors when they are heated. The vacuum distillation helps to keep all the aromas, creating an intensely flavored gin. Half Hitch Gin is made using three intensive production methods which include copper pot distillation, vacuum distillation, and hand-crafted tinctures.
As you can see, there are several ways of producing gin. The process of gin making is a trial and error method. The makers are mixing the ingredients, trying to catch the perfect balance of taste and flavour and using various ways of distillation. That is why this spirit is so versatile and complex. Undoubtedly, juniper is the forward player in this story, but other botanicals are important as well. You'll feel different levels of juniper hints depending on the botanicals they are mixed with. Discover our collection of gins and choose your new favorite!