Let’s Talk Botanicals
With so many flavours and so much choice, our list of favourite gins is growing every day. But do you know how gins taste the way they do? It’s a pretty intricate process involving a carefully blended mix of botanicals.
Any gin begins as a neutral spirit. The flavours come from the botanicals added. Craft distillers can spend years mixing and matching the hundreds of botanicals available to them to find the perfect flavour.
Traditional Gin Distilling
A distilled gin goes through two production stages. The first stage is when the spirit is made. The second stage is when the spirit is flavoured through redistillation with the chosen botanicals.
The main botanical found in gin is juniper. It can’t be called gin without it. It’s juniper that gives gin its pine flavour along with a fruity edge. It has to be the predominant flavour, and it is probably the reason why we all love gin so much.
Modern Gin Flavours
But now, in the 21st century, modern distillers are doing magical things with botanicals, and we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to different gin flavours. And it’s all down to these beautiful natural botanicals (of course there are 'flavoured' gins too which tends to refer to gins whereby the colourings, flavourings have been added after the gin has come out of the still)
What are botanicals?
Think herbs, spices, roots, barks, fruits, and other natural ingredients known for their flavour or aroma.
When creating the right flavour profile for a gin, you have to find the right balance of botanicals. You have to consider how they will complement each other as well as how they taste (palate) and how they smell (the nose).
Using dried botanicals rather than fresh ones can drastically change the flavour, as can where the botanical is grown or stored.
And remember, the distillers have to get the exact match each time. It is not an easy process!
We thought we would introduce you to some of the botanicals used in gin and also highlight some of our amazing, clever and magical distillers who use these botanicals in their own brands. Then, if you want to try something new, you know where to find what you’re looking for.
As found in Cheshire Botanicals Nantwich Gin, pink peppercorn has a pine quality which means it works perfectly with juniper. It also has a fruitiness to it with its light berry sweetness. And yet there is also spice without it being too hot. All in all, it’s a pretty unique flavour and is growing in popularity.
Honey is the main ingredient in mead, so it’s no surprise that you can find it in gin as well. It retains its sweetness after it has been distilled and can be a dominating flavour. It works well with floral botanicals, which No 186 has done with their Berries and Honey gin. The honey is combined with hibiscus, vanilla, elderflower, and raspberries, making it a lovely smooth and sweet gin.
The second most used botanical after juniper, coriander seed has quite a complex flavour once distilled. It’s citrusy and nutty at the same time and has a sweetness and tartness to it. You will find coriander seed in many of the gins we sell, but we’ll mention Gotland Gin here. It’s a gin that features 10 botanicals, including coriander.
Rosemary is an amazing smelling herb that’s fresh and almost savoury in flavour. This botanical has the power to dominate a gin, so distillers use it carefully and sparingly. Even so, it still has a big impact on gin and can add a long finish and an increased sweetness.
The Pembrokeshire Gin Co. produce an award-winning Rosemary & Citrus gin with hand foraged Welsh rosemary.
Both fresh and dried orange peel are popular options for gin. It’s often bitter oranges used like the ones used in marmalade rather than ones we eat fresh. Some distillers also use orange blossom, although it’s not as common. Forged in Wakefield balance the orange flavours in their spiced gin with allspice, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Get Gin Tasting
We have only just scratched the surface when it comes to gin botanicals. With hundreds available to use, we could probably write a book. But, we hope it has piqued your interest in noticing the flavour combinations next time you enjoy a gin.
It also explains why collecting gin is becoming a popular pastime. With so many flavours to choose from, you need to have various bottles to hand.
That’s where Sip and Share come in. We taste the gin, we talk about the gin, and we sell the gin.
Over on Facebook, Kate can often be found drinking with and chatting to distillers who explain why they chose certain flavours and how they created them. Then, you can grab a discounted bottle and try for yourself.
To be part of our gin discovery and find out more about our Sip and Share membership, like our Facebook page.