The world of gin
A new article in collaboration between altavolo3 and Stir The Flow.
Nature has the extraordinary capacity of surprising us even in the smallest things. Able to live in arid areas in summer and cold areas in winter, bluish berries protected by bushes with needle shaped leaves tell us the story of one of the most known distillates in the world, Gin.
Gin from which the name derives from the plant used to make this spirituous beverage, juniper. About the birth of the distillate there are many theories. The first one says it was brought to light for the first time by a Dutchman: a professor of medicine at Leiden University called Franciscus de la Böe, known as Doctor Sylvius, in the seventeenth century. More recent studies seem to highlight its origin as Mediterranean instead of northern European. Around 1100 in fact, Salerno boasted the most famous and advanced school of medicine in the world, in possession of the knowledge of both the fundamental tool for distillation, the alembic, and the “curative virtues” of juniper, richly present in the Campania region.
The Dutchman Franciscu de la Boe (Dr. Sylvius)
Salerno School of Medicine
Even though the Salerno school was the first one to distill a brandy made of juniper, it should also be said that, at that time, such a potion could be used by doctors for curative purposes instead of recreational ones. Shortly after, the French “Count De Morret”, son of Henry IV, macerated berries together with other aromatic herbs, in rye alcohol in order to distill everything and create an excellent beverage. Back to Italy, Alessio Piemontese, an Italian writer of the seventeenth century of aristocratic origin, in 1555 published “De Secreti”, a volume of medicinal and technological recipes which had a vast and lasting success, among the text was present Juniper with the explicit recipe of the liquor. In short, between medicine and alcoholic beverages, Gin started to move towards success and all over the world.
THE RULES OF GIN
Gin is a distillate of cereals and/or potatoes as well as grapes, apple cider, sugar beet, sugar cane etc., flavored with juniper berries (which are the predominant base) and aromatic spices, that is the “botanicals” that will complete our brandy of strong, often pungent and colorless character, a “white spirits”. Knowing this, let’s go and discover the classification of gins so that we can create a guideline on our bottle as well as our line of study.
The customer will be guided on a professional and satisfying path!
LONDON DRY GIN
It is the result of the distillation of a macerate with traditional stills or in steam current (basket head stills) of ethyl alcohol in the presence of juniper. The distillate obtained cannot exceed, at the end of the distillation cycle, 70% vol. The grams per hectolitre of methyl alcohol must not exceed 5 grams per hectolitre. But by using alcohol already rectified in column for infusion this is never a problem. In the law there is no mention about the presence of other mandatory plants and therefore there is no disciplinary that requires the presence of specific botanical species. Therefore it is wrong the belief that in gin there must be at least seven obligatory plants. This false belief was originated by the fact most of London Dry wines had few aromatic plants. The alcohol by volume of the final product to be sold must be at least 37.5%vol and usually the maximum alcohol by volume is 57%vol. According to law it is not possible to add other aromatic substances whereas it is legal to use pure alcohol to dilute the aromatic alcohol or water in order to reach the desired alcohol by volume. Many price gins use both possibilities, whereas premium gins use only the second one. L.D.G. can also be blended (even blends of different alembics and different periods, but of the same producer).
This term is found on new generation products also called “New Western Dry Gin” which later became “Contemporary Dry Gin” or “New Wave” or even “New American Dry Gin”. These have elaborated products, coming out from the classic aromatic plants of gin, which usually are iris, coriander, cardamom, angelica, cassia, and citrus peels. These products often consist of a large number of botanicals, some unusual. It is essentially a London Dry Gin to which other aromatics can be added at the end of the distillation process. This has given life to the modern market of gin, otherwise blocked by a technical limitation which prevented the use of flowers, vegetables or delicate aromatizers and that today can be added by macerating them in gin or in the form of spirits obtained with rotavapor and vacuum stills The lower quantity of product needed to aromatize and personalize gins makes possible the use of these tools, whose capacity is usually, as already mentioned, very low. This process gave life to very scented and colored gins: from the green of basil, to the pink of raspberries or rhubarb, impossible to obtain with the London production process. With distillation in fact it is impossible to extract the colors of the natural substances used, as the molecules responsible for the colors are too heavy to evaporate. The minimum alcohol content is 37.5% vol.
This is the infamous bathtub gin or bathtub gin, as it was called in the days of Prohibition. It was and is obtained by flavoring pure alcohol usually with spirits produced by third parties. The process is a simple assembling, a compound from which the name derives, which is obtained by cold processing. There is no distillation because the alcoholates of the single spices and herbs are simply mixed together. There is nothing forbidding to add macerates, aromatic plants, flowers or fruits to the recipe, this is the reason why compounds often have color and slight veiling. The disciplinary also includes Dutch Jenever, German Steinhager and Granjenever of French and Belgian school, as well as other specialties from Ardennes, which are similar to gin, as they are distillates flavored with juniper, but they are very different, at an aromatic level, from gin.
It is the gin produced since 1793 in the town of the same name in the south west of England. Until 2016 it was one of the three gins, together with Mahon Xoriguer and Vilnius gin, to have the IGT denomination. With the coming into force of the European Regulation 110 in 2008 the gin is produced with the London Dry technique and in its botanical composition it counts 7 botanicals (from which maybe the belief, also considering the historicity of the recipe), where fresh and citrus notes are predominant because of cardamom, orange and lemon peels.
It is the “Victorian” gin, the first version, the historical one, which according to tradition has a delicate sweet taste. In the past it was similar, as a production style, to a London Dry in which the botanical profile was sweetened by the presence of licorice and fennel seeds, whereas today it can be sweetened, some of them even with 4% of sugar, a subsequent practice that makes it leave this classification.
It is not a gin but a liqueur. It was offered by English families as a welcome liqueur or used as a digestive and corroborant. It was and it is obtained by starting from a classic London Dry to which were added a good quantity of wild plums, with a strong acidity, and sugar. Every family had its “secret recipes” about the quantity of fruits, sugar to be added and maybe some other secret spices. Today it is produced by many distilleries which have brought back to the top this practically forgotten classic.
TRADITIONAL STYLE GIN
It is a classic gin, where the aroma of juniper is predominant. In particular in the last period were born gins which declared the exclusive use of juniper berries as a flavoring, referring to the very first tradition of diuretics of the half of the eighteenth century, or demonstrative quantities of these berries in proportion with the other ingredients. Obviously they are only obtained with a hot alembic still.
BRITISH LONDON DRY
Whereas “London Dry” is a production style and not a GI. Britons coined this definition to differentiate themselves from London Dry around the world, emphasizing their school of production.
GIN MEZCAL BY PIERDE ALMAS
Made in Oaxaca, Mexico, where the base distillate is a double-distilled mezcal with as many as 8 botanicals macerated for 24 hours and then distilled a third time all together in a perfect London Dry Gin style. Juniper, coriander seeds, star anise and fennel, orange peel, Cassia bark, Angelica and Iris root and finally nutmeg. Bottled at 45% vol.
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