What is Gin made from?
Gin is an alcoholic beverage obtained by distillation from a base of grain (wheat or barley). In a further procedure, botanicals along with water are added until the desired flavors are met. To be called a Gin, the Spirit must have a predominant flavor of Juniper berries. Juniper is a type of aromatic “fruit” that grows along the branches of juniper trees.
The current legal definition of Gin
Moreover, Gin produced exclusively by original distillation or by redistillation gets termed as “distilled”.
How is Gin made?
Any Gin starts its life as a neutral (often grain-based) Spirit. It’s essentially pure ethanol, and then flavors are added through a process called re-distillation.
What are the methods of Gin distillation?
There are many different methods of distillation, each of which can be used to create different flavors of Gin. The two most common forms for extracting flavors from botanicals are:
• Steep Method of Gin Distillation
• Vapor Infusion Method of Gin Distillation
• Combination of the two above
• Vacuum Distillation Method
The steep method of Gin distillation or: Can Gin be made from Vodka?
Then, the botanicals are steeped for as long as 48 hours. Some producers will, however, distill the liquid almost immediately. Once completed, water is added to reduce the distillate to bottling strength.
This method is still used by Beefeater’s Gin, for example. Unique to their production is steeping lemon peels and Seville oranges, whole juniper berries, and other natural botanicals for 24 hours before distillation.
What is the difference between Gin and Vodka?
Well, the ingredients and distilling processes are different. You can make Vodka from more or less anything - wheat, rice, corn, barley, rye, sorghum, grapes… the list goes on.
Whether it’s made from grains or potatoes, once it’s all been mashed up, it’s the enzymes that get to work and create the fermentation and sugars needed for it to become Vodka.
Multiple distillations, filtration, and search for the purest water to use in Vodka’ contribute to the neutral character of the “little water.” Usually, Vodka has an alcohol content of 40-55% and is less flavorful than other Spirits - which is why some don’t care for it, and for others, it’s their go-to cocktail buddy.
The vapor infusion method of Gin distillation
In this process, the botanicals never come into direct contact with the neutral base Spirit. Instead, they’re placed into baskets in the still, above the base Spirit, which evaporates and rises up and infuses with the botanicals when boiled. The infused vapor then condenses into a liquid. Finally, water is added to reduce the alcohol to its bottled strength.
This method is said to give a more gentle flavor to the Spirit, and is used by producers such as Sibling Gin, and the iconic Bombay Sapphire, which favored this production method to create a lighter style of Spirit.
The above two methods can also be combined
While some botanicals are steeped, others will be placed at the top of the still to infuse the vapors. One famous example of this is Hendrick’s Gin, which uses two separate stills (one for steeping botanicals for 24 hours before boiling, and one for vapor infusion of different botanicals) and then combines the distillates for the final blend, along with the addition of its well-recognized cucumber and rose petal essence.
How did gunpowder determine the strength of Gin?
What are new Gin production methods?
In recent years, there’s been a rise in more unusual production methods. As producers try to develop new styles and flavors of Gin, to push the category and find a niche, the need for trying new ways of extracting flavors, and using more unusual botanicals, has grown.
Vacuum distillation method
One such way is the vacuum distillation method, favored by producers of Sacred Gin, Cambridge Dry Gin and Victory Gin.
As the name suggests, vacuum distillation is when the redistillation of botanicals takes place in a vacuum. The vacuum - and here’s the techy science bit - creates a lower boiling point for the ethanol, which in a pot still would be somewhere around 85 - 95 degrees centigrade. The lower temperature means that the botanicals are essentially cooked less than they would be in a normal still, resulting in a more fresh flavored Gin at the end of it all.
What styles of Gin are there?
There is a number of different Gin styles and classifications
• London Dry Gin: Made only by pure grain Spirit and natural botanicals
• Genever: Made with malt wine
• Navy Strength: The spirit has at least 57% ABV.
• Plymouth Gin
• Old Tom Gin: Sweet flavor
• Homemade infused or flavored Gin: Sweet due to infused fruit and added sugar.
• Aged Gins (which are matured in oak barrels, many of which have previously contained Bourbon, Scotch, or even Vermouth).
The one thing that all these different styles of Gin have in common is the dominant juniper flavor!
Every Gin has its unique recipe
It’s not just how the botanical flavors make their way into a Gin that affects its flavor. Every Gin is made to a specific recipe, with a specific number and weight of botanicals.
While the flavor of one batch made by steeping and boiling will be different from the one made using the vapor infusion method, even using the same method, and the same botanicals can have different results.
How is Gin made step by step:
The distiller plays a key role
It’s the job of a distiller to ensure that the botanicals used in a Gin are treated in a way which results in the same flavored end product, despite, for example, using different crops of berries, seeds and herbs over the course of a brand’s lifetime.
Variances in a single batch of juniper berries will occur naturally, so it’s up to the distiller to taste a number of samples from each botanical crop in order to ensure consistency in flavor.
So the next time you’re drinking a Gin (and hopefully that’s now, reading this), think about all the individual botanicals which have made it into your glass, think about the method used to create it, and think about - and thank - the distiller who undoubtedly spent months trying batch after batch, to get that recipe spot on.
Here’s to you, Gin Distillers the world over. Cheers!