For those who want to know what gin is made of and how gin is made, it’s essential to learn as much as you can about the individual ingredients that go into this mix to make it the outstanding drink it is today. Gin, which has a base in ethanol and botanicals, is a fantastic after-dinner drink and the favorite drink of many. Here you’ll learn what it comes from and how gin is made. Take a closer look at some of the leading methods of gin distillation used by gin companies. You can also look at how it is aged and packed to create that incredible flavor it is so well known for.
In the following article you will be able to find answers to many questions, such as:Video – How is Gin Made
Learning about the gin distillation process is very interesting. Most of the time, consumers don’t recognize what goes into the process of making gin and having that insight can provide you with information you need on choosing the right gin for your needs. Here, we’ll give you the information you need to have to know what ingredients are used in gin, how gin is made including with distillation, and give you tips on making buying decisions. Here’s everything you need to know about gin.
Many people know gin by the taste and smell of this unique spirit, but there’s a legal definition of what it is. In Europe and the United States, there are very specific laws that govern what gin is so that when a consumer picks up a bottle of it, they know precisely what they are buying. First, let’s provide some basic background.
If there are no juniper berries included in the gin, the product is only vodka. Juniper berries are not always the only ingredient, and sometimes are not even the most prominent flavor, but they are always present.
The production of gin involves the use of a dual distillation process in most cases. This process includes a base spirit or ethanol. Then, several botanicals are added to it, with the prominent one being juniper. You’ll see a wide range of flavors available in gin, but the underlying flavor present is juniper.
As you will see in a few minutes, the process of making gin involves taking the alcohol base and infusing these botanicals in it. The first process will be in the creation of ethanol. Then, re-distillation occurs in which the juniper berries and other flavorings are added to the ethanol. This heating process is a critical step in the creation of the fine, smooth taste, you know.
After the liquid is distilled and heated, it is then cooled off. This forms a concentration. From there, it will be mixed with water to the right consistency before being bottled.
EU Legal Definition of Gin
The EU Spirit Drink Regulation 110/2008 provides that information in Europe. It labels three specific types of gin recognized under the law. Gin itself is considered ethyl alcohol that contains various flavors. These flavors can be natural or artificial. The drink can be colored.
The second type of gin, under this ruling, is called distilled gin. This type of gin is distilled in one of two ways, with flavors added before or after the distillation. In London gin, the third type, all of the flavors must be included in the distillation process. It only incorporates natural flavors, as well. After the distillation process is complete, nothing can be added to it except for a minimal amount of sugar, ethyl alcohol, and water.
The EU law also notes that the prominent taste in all gin products must be juniper, which you will learn is the foundation of this particular spirit. There is also a common minimum strength of 37.5 percent ABV present.
United States Legal Definition of Gin
Gin is less defined in the U.S. than it is in other regions. Under U.S. law, gin is an alcoholic drink that’s distilled. It should have no less than a 40 percent ABV, which is the equivalent of 80 proof. The other component of this rule is that it should have the prominent taste of juniper within it.
There are also components of the law that state that gin is also only produced through the distillation or re-distillation process using aromatics or botanicals. Products that have been distilled twice can also be called distilled gin on the market.
These legal definitions of gin are guidelines for products made and sold in the countries and overseas. However, they are just the basics of what gin can offer in terms of flavor, texture, and uniqueness.
What Is the History of Gin?
The origin of gin is complex, with various versions out there. Where does gin come from originally?
While there may be numerous attempts at understanding where this history lies, we do know that the mixing of juniper along with alcohol dates back as far as 70 A.D. Around that time, Pedanius Dioscorides created a herbal medicine encyclopedia. Within it, he noted the combination of juniper berries that were steeped in wine. They were used as a type of cold remedy. Later, in 1055, monks in Solerno, Italy, also used a recipe that included wine infused with juniper berries.
Years later, in the 16th Century, the Dutch began producing an alcoholic spirit that was called genever. It included a type of malt wine base that had a large number of juniper berries in it. It was used as a type of medicinal liquid. It would be the first true creation of gin as it changed in the coming years.
The first time the word “gin” was used was in a book called “The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Publick Benefits” in 1714. The book noted that gin was a juniper berry liqueur. It’s easy to see how the word “genever” could be shortened to “gen,” which easily could become “gin.”
While gin comes from, originally, the 16th and 17th centuries, it has also changed many ways over the years. What we drink now is significantly different than older versions, most often due to the complexity of flavors and the various new flavors added to it over the years.
Gin vs. Vodka: The Difference Between Gin and Vodka
Gin is not vodka. Vodka is not gin. Yet, the difference between gin and vodka are commonly misunderstood. One of the easiest to see differences is in what they are made from. Vodka is made from potatoes, which are distilled over time. It can also be made from distilled rye or wheat. Gin, on the other hand, is made with the process of distillation of grain or malt, and then it is mixed with juniper berries to create its unique flavor.
Also, another difference between gin and vodka is that the main ingredient in vodka is water and ethanol. However, a significant component of the ingredient list of any good quality gin is going to include juniper berries. Understanding these differences is essential. Gin is not just flavored vodka, though that is something many people believe.
Vodka is virtually just made of alcohol that is distilled to a 97 to 98 percent ABV. Gin goes through that same distillation process, but it is then flavored with juniper berries.
Types of gin
What type of gin do you drink? Many people don’t recognize there are different varieties and types of gin, though each one is significantly different from the rest. Take a look at the various types of gin. Notice how they differ based on everything from the ingredients to the taste and mouthfeel of the product. Some of them are also different from others because of the alcohol concentration present.
London Dry Gin
London Dry is perhaps the most common type of gin. London Dry gin gets its name from its beginnings in the city of London. There are a few key characteristics of this type of gin. First, it does not have much, if any, sugar added to it. It has a robust, pungent juniper taste to it – this is one of the instant clarifications as to what this gin is. Because they lack the sugar content of other products, London Dry gin is considered a very dry drink.
Additionally, London Dry gin is distilled to 70 percent ABV or higher. It does not contain any type of artificial colors or flavors within it, another key difference between other types of gins on the market today.
Plymouth Gin is another version, one that was also produced in England. What makes it different, though, is that any bottle using the term “Plymouth” must be made in Plymouth, England. This is a trademark.
The product itself is a bit sweeter than what you would expect from London Dry. It has a more earthy, wholesome taste to it. Many times, it is used as a base for a gin and tonic drink. The juniper berry flavor is still very much there, but it is a bit more soft and in the background.
Genever is another type of gin that has its beginnings in London. It is considered the original type of gin (take a look at the history of gin we mentioned earlier). From a flavor standpoint, it has a heavy malted flavor to it. It is a bit more savory, though than other forms of gin. This comes from the larger presence of botanicals in it.
Genever Gin often includes fennel or other botanicals to create a more rich flavor. It is made of either malted rye, barley, or corn, or a combination of these. The grain is mixed together and then mashed. It is then fermented to create the base. All of this gives it a very strong, earthy tone to it. For those who like Scotch, this gin is usually a good choice.
Old Tom Gin
Old Tom Gin is significantly different. It has a less intense and lighter flavor than Genever Gin. It is sweet, and it has a great deal of flavor to it. The flavor comes from the malts that are used to make it, though the sugar addition can also play a role in the flavoring of this gin.
This type of gin was once hard to find, and often quite expensive as a result. Over the last few years, Old Tom Gin has become more accessible. For those who love hard alcohol, gin is a good option, especially if you want a drink that has a heavier undertone present.
Sloe Gin has a distinct red hue to it, which helps it to stand out from others. It is made from drupes and sloe, also known as blackthorn. These are small fruits that fall into the plum family. The alcohol content of Sloe Gin is about 15 to 30 percent, and much have an ABV of 25 percent or higher.
The traditional method for making Sloe Gin is to soak the sloes in gin and then add sugar as necessary. Today, it is made more often than not using a flavoring.
For those who want a far more deep flavor, Barrel-Aged Gin can work well. Once the gin is made, it is then placed in a barrel and aged over time. This method gives it more of a classic, aged alcoholic spirit flavor to it.
Barrel-aging is not a new concept in the gin industry. It was used in the original productions of Genever, for example. For those who are looking for a way to dress up an old favorite gin drink, the depth of flavor from this version can give you the sensation you are looking for in a classic gin.
Navy Strength Gin
The Navy Strength Gin has a unique flavor profile to it. There are various brands that make this particular type of gin. Most will have a strong presence of botanicals in them. They are also likely to have a higher concentration of alcohol, even reaching 57 percent ABV, which is higher than most other forms of gin.
The name for this gin comes from the use of the drink by the British Royal Navy. It’s been refined many times over since then, but still has a strong alcoholic presence and a deep flavor with various types of botanicals present.
It is also possible to find a Contemporary Gin available. This term is one that refers to gins that have another prominent flavor in them that is something outside of traditional juniper. In order to be a true gin, it has to contain Juniper. However, these gins tend to have other flavors that overpower the juniper flavor, creating a new variety of versions of the drink.
There are many types of Contemporary Gins. Some will have an herbal base to them. Others are very strongly spiced, giving them a strong flavor. You may also find some to have a floral base, citrus base, or other notes of flavor. Over the years, a variety of new types of flavors have developed and can easily be lumped into this area.
The ingredients in gin are what makes it unique from other spirits. As noted, there are many differences between gin and vodka, and no product can be labeled gin if it does not include juniper berries. Now, take a look at what’s in gin.
Virtually all of the smooth flavor that comes from gin is derived from the juniper berries within it. These berries are the foundation of the gin flavor, with other ingredients helping to round out the flavor. Juniper berries have a very pungent, specific scent and taste to them. It’s not like anything else you will find. The taste much like the piney tree that they grow on. There’s a bit of a citrus undertone present as well.
Juniper berries are not berries, though. Rather, they are small, round fruit. They are much like a pine cone that’s grown on the juniper tree. The berries have a blue to purple color to them. Once picked, they are then crushed or chopped before being added to the distillation process. The finest qualities will have grounded juniper berries in them.
When gin manufacturers produce gin, they have to be very specific about where they locate the juniper berries, as well as the type and amount that they use. All varieties will have different formulations that impact the overall taste of the product.
Common gin botanicals
What makes one variety of gin different from the next is the botanicals found in some versions. There are many gin botanicals that could be included. Here’s a look at some of them:
One of the most common types of botanicals added to gin is angelica root. Its roots and seeds are used to create an earthy, wholesale gin flavor. It adds a bit of sweetness to the gin and creates a strong scent as well. It can work well for many drinks when you want a down-to-earth profile.
This particular botanical is not uncommonly used, especially when the goal is to create a bit of spice and nutty flavor. Sometimes called Chinese parsley, coriander creates a strong, full-bodied flavor in the gin.
Orris root is not as well known, but it adds just a bit of sweetness to gin. It can also create an earthy, stronger flavor. It’s a bit rare since the iris flower must be dried out for five years before the actual product can be used in gin.
Lemon is a botanical that is often used in gin. Though it may not seem a common option, it adds a lot of unique flavor and tang to any gin it is added to. You will see that this helps to create a vibrant, bright flavor in the gin. It’s quite unique, but any type of citrus will give you that burst of flavor you may be looking for in your drink.
Like lemon, the citrus flavoring here is what helps to create this specific taste. Orange works well with juniper berries, creating a strong, but less pungent taste. In many varieties, the gin will be steeped with orange peels to allow the essential oils from the peels to blend with the gin.
For a spice-like flavor, consider cardamom. It is stronger, the type of scent and spice that is used in plenty of fall foods. Cardamom has a strong taste, somewhat like ginger. It can add a bit of sweetness to any gin, though. It also helps to mellow out the juniper berry taste, creating a smoother version of the drink.
Another option is somewhat unusual in terms of what is expected. However, licorice can be added to gin to create a fantastic flavor. It’s sweet and tart at the same time, creating a strong undertone to the juniper berries. It is an acquired flavor, one that not every gin lover will find appealing to them.
Cassia bark or Chinese cinnamon is another option for a full flavor. This particular type of cinnamon is made by drying it out and then grinding it. It creates a strong flavor profile, one that is spicy and very satisfying when you want a full-bodied taste to your gin.
An interesting and very enjoyable option is the addition of black pepper to gin. It has a strong bite to it, creating a unique flavor profile for those who expect sweetness. It sometimes has lemongrass blended with it, which can create a fantastic flavor profile.
For a lighter flavor with a bit of sweetness, consider the choice of cucumber. It doesn’t create a strong flavor, but the cucumber helps to cut the juniper berry flavor significantly, creating a more rounded flavor to it.
How do you distill gin?
There are several ways to distill gin. Each method contains its own specific flavor profile once complete, as well as its own unique alcohol concentrate. Whether you are picking from the major gin manufacturers or trying to make your own, the method of distillation is important.
Steeping is the most common method for distilling gin. It has been used for centuries as a way to create a quality product. Steeping is the most common method still used, especially for distillers who are looking to create their own brand and product. The steeping process involves heating up ethanol in a pot still, which is a drum-like distillation apparatus. This still works to collect the alcohol and to condense it overtime. During the heating period, any botanicals added to the gin will be placed right into the alcohol. Most of the time, it is then steeped for 24 to 48 hours to reach the concentration of flavor desired. From there, water is added to the mixture to reach the right concentration.
There are many types of gin that are steeped. You will find that Fords, Tower Hill, and Pinkster are a few of the brands that are known for their steeping process. Others include Cold River and Brockmans.
Vapor Infused Gins
Another method for distillation is vapor infusion. This process relies significantly on the process of using vapor to blend botanicals with the base spirit. The process begins by heating the ethanol until a vapor occurs. Then, all botanicals are placed into a metal basket that has perforations on it, just about the pot still. As the liquid warms, the botanicals release their essential oils. This blends them with the vapor to create a unique scent and flavor.
Vapor infused gins are common in those that have a floral undertone as well as in most types of lighter gins. One of the most common gins to use this method is Bombay. It was one of the first to use this vapor infusion method.
Another option, which is rather newer in its use, is called vacuum distillation. It is more complex in terms of how it works, and that can make it a bit more difficult to replicate unless you have significant experience in doing so. It’s being used by brands like Oxley, for example.
In this method, which is also called cold distillation, there is a much lower boiling point desired for the alcohol distillation and infusion with the botanicals. With this method, the pressure from a vacuum helps to bring down the temperature from 78 degrees Celsius to about 25 to 40 degrees Celsius. The botanicals stay more intact during this method. They do not brew as long as they would in steeping, either. As a result, the flavor is fuller and more significant than in other forms of gin.
Other Types of Gin Distillation
There are some newer methods being used, including variations of the above types of distillation methods. Some are using methods that separate the botanicals and boil them separately, for example. In this process, the ethanol and the botanicals are then mixed, after the distillation process. One example of a brand that uses this method is Lone Wolf Distillery.
Most of the time, it is not necessary to age gin. It is less common to age gin now than it used to be. However, it is an option for creating a more earthy, deeply flavored gin. In this process, the gin is created and distilled and then is placed into oak caskets. These caskets generally have contained other liquors in them in the past, including options like Vermouth and Scotch. This helps to bring those flavors into the gin itself.
The aging process means the gin remains in the barrels for several months. This is a heavy taste and one that tends to be very pungent. There are a few unique blends of gin that incorporate aging. This includes the Beefeater Burrough’sReserve version as well as the Bluecoat Barrel Finished Gins. These are ideal for serious gin drinkers.
Gin Bottling and Branding
Gin bottling and branding is very important for its ability to sell. The bottle needs to be unique and to provide key information about the flavor, distillation process, and the quality of the product. When shopping for gin, then don’t be surprised to find a wide range of bottle shapes, colors, and marketing on them to encourage you to pick them up and learn more about the gin maker. It’s worth doing so.
The type of bottle used is really up to the manufacturer, but many create beautifully designed bottles that help to capture the attention of the drinker. The finer the bottle, the more likely the final product inside is going to be of fine quality. You may notice that some bottles have an embossed stamp on the glass, which is another sign of quality.
Every gin distillery has its own style, and each bottle helps to distinguish one brand from the next. When choosing a bottle for your own product, it’s well worth investing in something specific that fits your story.
Can you make your own gin? The answer to that is yes, to a degree. For example, it’s possible to purchase vodka and then add juniper berries to it and infuse them to create a unique flavor.
You can also purchase a basic type of gin that you like and then infuse it with other types of botanicals you are interested in. Simply place the botanicals of your choice into the bottle and allow them to steep for a week or longer.
Consider using citrus peels, spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice, or flavors like chamomile and lavender, (not necessarily together) to create your own type of gin.
Once you infuse the botanicals with the gin, you just need to filter the bottle out to remove the whole components. Be sure to try various versions to find something that is right for your needs.
Now that we’ve understood the art of creating gin, let’s put all the pieces together. We’ve watched quite a few videos on how to make gin, and this one would be our top recommendation:
Finding the Right Gin for You
There’s no doubt that gin is a unique, customized product and one filled with incredible flavor profiles. Although many people don’t seek it out enough, not understanding what makes it special, it is well worth taking a closer look at it.