We’re going to take juniper as a given. It features in every single Gin, because without it, the product cannot legally be called a Gin. Some Gins feature it more predominantly than others, of course. Juniper berries are small, round and very bitter, but when distilled into Gin, they impart a piney flavour which complements other flavour profiles.
CitrusLet's start with citrus. Lemon, orange, bergamot. Peels; dried or fresh. Citrus plays a huge part in Gin, lifting flavours and cutting through herbs, spices and sweetness. Most Gin producers use an element of citrus in their recipes for this very reason.
Often, dried citrus peels are used in Gin production, and more than one type. Dried peels are easier to transport and less oily than their fresh counterparts, delivering a different style of Gin.
For those who love a citrus-led tipple, Malfy Gin is well worth seeking out. Made in Italy, the predominant flavour is lemons from the Amalfi Coast and Sicily.
The newly launched Lone Wolf Gin (from the brains behind the BrewDog brand), contains fresh lemon and grapefruit, with all peels removed by hand. A labour of love, and one which results in a zesty flavor.
Seed and rootsAlongside citrus, the most common botanicals in Gin are seeds and roots - coriander, cardamom, orris, angelica - all of which add earthy, spicy and peppery notes. A mixture of these, coupled with citrus and juniper, form the base of most Gins.
RosemaryRosemary is becoming used more often in Gin production. This fine herb has always been known for its use in cooking, but it works so well with spirits, too; as a garnish, as a cocktail (I can’t promise a rosemary Gin fizz will change your life, but you won’t be disappointed) and even as a botanical. The herb’s oily quality and strong scent make it the perfect ingredient in a Gin.
Spanish brand Gin Mare heroes rosemary alongside three different types of citrus, thyme and olives for a true taste of the Mediterranean.
LavenderFrom the herbal to the floral. Lavender isn’t widely used in Gin (yet), but there are a couple of recent releases which hero this delicate, floral flavour.
Mason’s makes a Lavender Edition of its Dry Yorkshire Gin and Pothecary Gin features French lavender alongside mulberries and lemon. Most distillers who use lavender are cautious; the aroma can be overwhelming, so small amounts are often added right at the end of the distillation process, to avoid dominating the other flavours.
Like lavender, chamomile isn’t overly common, but it does feature in one of the world’s biggest brands - Hendrick’s. Alongside cucumber and rose, chamomile features in its ingredients list which is designed to transport the imbiber to an English Country Garden.
Other British Gins which feature this delightfully sweet, almost honeyed botanical include Bloom Gin, which contains just two other botanicals (pomelo and honeysuckle), as well as Silent Pool (named after a mythical lake in Surrey), which features a whopping 24 botanicals for a perfectly balanced Gin with floral notes. Chamomile has a soothing, floral quality which adds sweetness and pairs perfectly with citrus.
Even with an extensive ingredients list, the guys at Silent Pool have got it right; creating a good Gin is all about balance and quantities. Whether you want something herbal, spicy, citrus or floral, there’s undoubtedly a number of Gins on the market which do the job, but it’s unlikely you’ll find one with a single, predominant flavour.
A good distiller will make all of these things work in harmony, with certain botanicals at the forefront on the nose, some dancing on the tongue, and finally those that linger on the palate.
What’s your favourite Gin botanical? Is there a particular flavour which tickles your fancy? Let us know if there’s anything we’ve missed in the comments.