Ever wondered how the spirit now adored by the masses is made?
Its recent popularity has led to increase in its consumption and diversity in production too. Whether you’re a lover of a good ol’ London Dry or you like to spice things up with a flavoured Pink or Blood Orange gin, the ample variety of this tipple is endless.
We all love it and we all worship it by consuming it, but what is it that goes into making it? If you’d like to get a bit of insight on what processes and ingredients go into making varieties of this spirit then keep on reading.
What is Gin – A bit of background
In its simplest form, it is a clear alcoholic spirit distilled from grain or malt and flavoured with juniper berries. It is one of the broadest categories of spirits, all of various origins, styles, and flavour profiles, that revolve around juniper as a common ingredient. Basically if it doesn’t have juniper in it, it is not considered Gin.
The spirit itself must use a neutral base spirit originally distilled to over 96% ABV, so that it can then be re-distilled to at least 70% ABV. It can then be diluted to a minimum strength of 37.5% in the EU (40% in the US) after re-distillation.
No artificial ingredients are allowed and no additional flavour or colour can be added after re-distillation (although this is not a rule followed religiously, as seen from modern distilling phenomena).
Gin is any neutral base spirit (ie Vodka), that then has a number of “botanicals” added one of those must be, which one? Juniper.
What are botanicals you may ask? They are various roots, seeds, spices, herbs and fruits that a gin distiller will use in following their own precise recipe and combine with their base spirit to create their unique brand of Gin.
There are various botanicals that can be used (some use haggis too), but the most commonly known ones are:
- Juniper Berries
- Coriander Seeds
- Angelica Root
- Lemon Peel
- Orange Peel
- Grapefruit Peel
- Orris Root
Different processes in distilling
So there are a few different processes in distilling Gin, which give you three types: Compound Gin, Pot Distilled Gin and Column Distilled Gin.
Compound Gin (non-distilled)
This is the process of mixing a neutral base spirit with botanicals and allowing their infusion without heating (re-distillation). This is also known as “Bath Tub” Gin, taken its name from an era when gin was made in bathtubs due to a ban of alcohol.
Although one of the oldest methods to produce “distilled Gin” it is still devised by distillers today as it’s known to lock in the flavours of the botanicals in the best way possible.
The base spirit and the chosen botanicals are combined in a large copper pot and heated from the bottom of the pot. The resulting vapour is then collected and condensed back to liquid form of about 60% ABV. The condensed alcohol is then diluted to the desired final ABV Gin after distillation using distilled water.
This is a more modern version of Pot Distillation mainly due to the “Coffey Still” which is used instead of the “Copper Pot” mentioned earlier. The neutral base spirit is heated from all sides of the Still allowing evaporation to happen sooner. This process also results in a higher alcohol content of the liquid, amounting up to 95% ABV.
The quicker evaporation process allows this method to produce a larger amount of Gin, better suited for bigger distiller brands.
So to answer the overarching question, Gin is made up of a primarily neutral spirit containing juniper which can be distilled or not. Flavour can vary depending on its distillation process and combination of botanicals.
There you have it, (what is hopefully) a comprehensive breakdown. Feel free to show off to your friends while acquiring the title of “gin connoisseur”.