Gin is a flavoured spirit with its origin in the middle ages, primarily flavoured with juniper berries.
Based on the even older Jenever, a Dutch spirit brought to the UK by William of Orange, Gin has a huge number of variations and classifications, some of which are legal protected based on their location of origin and production methods.
Pot Distilled Gin
First a spirit is made from a fermented grain mash from barley and or other grains, and then it is re-distilled with the mix of botanicals which extracts the aromatics and gives the Gin it’s flavour.
If re-distilled again with botanicals, the resulting drink is known as a Double Gin. It is often aged in tanks or wooden casks, giving Pot Distilled Gin heavier malty flavours which can be reminiscent of whiskey.
Column Distilled Gin
Column distilling takes high proof spirit (over 95% ABV) from agricultural sources, and once produced is redistilled in a pot still with the botanicals to add flavour.
In many cases the botanicals are suspended in a ‘Gin Basket’ at the head of the still, so that the alcoholic vapours extract the flavours, rather than having them soaking in the distillate. This gives a lighter taste, resulting in London Dry Gin or Distilled Gin, depending on the finishing method.
These are made by simply flavouring the spirit with natural flavourings and essences without re-distilling, and is generally regarded as a cheaper and lower quality gin.
Popular Gin Brands
Gordon’s is the baseline well gin that will be found in the vast majority of UK bars. Its combination of Juniper berries, coriander seeds, angelica root, liquorice, orris root, orange and lemon peel takes 10 days to make from wheat to the finished bottle.
Bombay Saphire Gin
Bombay Saphire has 10 exotic botanicals [sic] listed as almond, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica coriander, cassia, cubeb and grains of paradise. It uses the above method using the gin basket to impart a lighter flavour to the gin and is sold in the UK at 40% ABV.
Pernod Ricard’s flagship Beefeater contains flavours from juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander seeds, liquorice, almonds, orris root seville oranges and lemon peel.
In the UK its sold at 40% but 47% is more common in the USA. They also offer a super premium version called Beefeater 24 which adds Chinese green tea and Japanese Sencha to the mix.
Plymouth Gin is sold at 41.2% and can only be produced in the town of Plymouth. It is sweeter than the London Dry style of gin thanks to an increased proportion of the root botanicals within the mix. A 57% navy strength is available, and overseas it is generally 47% ABV.
Produced by William Grant & Sons in Scotland, Hendrick’s uses Bulgarian Rose and Cucumber to add new flavours to the usual juniper infusion. Its black looking bottle is actually dark blue and reminiscent of an apothecary’s medicine bottle. Marketing for Hendrick’s has centred around its unusual flavour and it’s a staple of cocktail bars around the world today.