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In Focus: What is gin?

By Anna Spooner on 12/10/16 10:30 AM

Where did it come from?

Whilst the UK might be seen as the epicenter of the gin world (and what a wonderful world that is!), the spirit actually originates from Holland. And, interestingly, it’s where the term ‘dutch courage’ comes from too.

Yes, but what is gin?

Delicious? Well, of course. A card game played by old ladies? Also true. But honestly – does anyone really know what gin is or how to make it?

The boring science bit…

Gin is, in principle, a re-distilled spirit with naturally neutral flavour which has juniper and other optional botanicals added. Not the most romantic description for one of life’s sweetest nectars.

Essentially, Gin is the gymnast of the spirit world – the most flexible little vixen of them all. The only rule when flavouring gin is that juniper must be ‘predominant’, and without this ‘rule of juniper’ you’re really talking about flavoured Vodka. Other than this rule, anything goes!

This Beth-Tweddle-style flexibility means that Gins come in a huge range of styles and flavours. For example, Bombay Sapphire features nine botanicals on top of the obligatory juniper, with lemon peel being one of its distinctive notes giving super-fresh G&Ts complemented perfectly with a lemon slice. The increasingly popular Hendricks Gin served with a sliver of cucumber features, unsurprisingly, cucumber as well as more floral notes such as Bulgarian rose petals – fancy! And some gins really mix things up with the likes of Gin Mare which features a whopping 26 botanicals including olive and basil!

Know thy Gin….

Here is a hit list of some of the top gin styles to watch out for and try…

1 – London Dry Gin

No doubt you have seen this on the label of some of your supermarket favourites; but all is not what it seems! This does not mean it comes from London. London Dry Gin is actually a description of how the gin is made. They must be distilled to at least 70% ABV (alcohol by volume) and cannot include added sugar or artificial flavours.

E.g. Gordon’s Dry Gin

 2 – Plymouth Gin

This is a geographically protected gin. No guesses where it has to be made… It tends to be a little sweeter and fruiter than the London Dry style and is increasingly popular in the UK.

E.g. Plymouth Gin

 3 – Bathtub Gin

Bathtub gin is the spice-merchant. Traditionally it would involve cold-compounded (infusing to you and I) spices into the base spirit and its name comes from the prohibition era when alcohol was illegal and Americans distilled spirits in their bathtubs to make hooch. Sounds messy.

E.g. Professor Cornelius Ampleforth Bathtub Gin

4 – Old Tom

Sweeter than what most are used to, this old-school style is having somewhat of a renaissance. It’s not as sweet as the original Dutch style ‘Genever’ and is very popular as a base for some of the sweeter cocktail styles.

E.g. Haymans Old Tom Gin

5 – Genever

The original king-of-the-Gins from Holland. Genever is traditionally made from the distillation of malt and wine and makes the sweetest of all the Gin styles found today.

E.g. Bols Genever Gin


Bottoms up!