Gin is a global phenomenon – crafted by many and consumed by many more! But what makes gin such an exceptional and versatile spirit? The key to gin is juniper, a small, berry-like botanical. In fact, a spirit can’t be called gin unless it has juniper in it. These berries have a distinct piney flavour with a touch of both fruitiness and pepperiness. Whilst not particularly rare, in fact it grows all over the world, juniper occurs in patches in England and throughout most of Scotland, but it is only really common in the Highlands.
While there often are other botanicals added to gin, to create distinctive flavours and to distinguish between brands, juniper is the essence of a true gin. Distilled gin is produced exclusively by redistilling ethanol of agricultural origin with an initial strength of 96% ABV (the azeotrope of water and ethanol). And of course it must have a predominantly juniper taste.
Gin Vs. Vodka
Vodka and gin are very different, and it comes down to the ingredients: vodka is made from distilled potatoes, rye or wheat. Gin, on the other hand, is made by distilling malt or grain and infusing it with juniper berries and other botanicals. Gin is a much more complex spirit than vodka, both in terms of how it’s made, what it’s made with, and the diversity of flavours it offers.
London Dry Gin
The classification of a London Dry is based on a specific set of criteria, starting with the fact that the gin must be distilled in a column still, to an initial alcoholic strength of at least 96%. The base spirit must be of agricultural origin.
Further, a distilled gin may be designated as “dry” if it does not add more than 0.1 grams of sweetening products per litre. The truly neutral base spirit is then redistilled “in the presence of Juniperus communis L. and other botanicals.
All of the spirit involved, whether part of the initial distillation or added after the fact, must have fewer than five grams per hectolitre of 100% alcohol. The London Gin specifications are a guarantee of quality that the spirit you’re drinking doesn’t have methanol in it. (This isn’t so much a problem in the modern day!) Further, the London Gin designation specifies that the resulting distillate after distilling the 96% ABV neutral alcohol with juniper must come off the still “at least 70% alcohol by volume.”
London Gin must not be coloured in any way shape or form. All botanical flavour in a London Dry Gin must be imparted through distillation, and not added afterwards. The Dry part refers to a regulation that it is not sweetened in excess of 0.1 grams of sweetening products per litre of the final product, expressed as invert sugar.