Have you ever wondered how your favorite Gin gets its flavor? Two very important components of this process are the various types of stills to choose from and the method used for adding flavor components. I will be following up with an article on the very different types of still used. For now, there are two basics methods to add flavor, one good the other not so good. Adding flavor compounds or essences to pure ethyl alcohol produces compounded gin. Cheap and not that great, compounded gins are not allowed to put “distilled gin “ on the label. That nasty lemon flavored gin from your youth was probably a compounded gin. No need to get into this any further
Redistilling neutral spirits with juniper and other botanicals makes a true distilled Gin. Every producer of gin has their own recipe, and therefore its own flavor profile. Botanicals are natural herbs, spices, peels, seeds or even rose petals. Each botanical brings different notes to the flavor profile.
Juniper legally is the only required botanical, Juniper adds some pine notes and lavender and a touch of heather.
Coriander is the second most commonly used ingredient and is used in a most of the premium gin brands. Spice pepper and some floral notes predominate,depending on the source. Indian coriander has the most citric notes. Grains of Paradise also lends peppery and a chocolate note.
Angelica root lends a musty earthy note, but in a good way. It balances the floral notes with its dry woody taste as well. Orris root has violet and scented notes. Cassia brings cinnamon tones to the mix. Anise is sometimes used for the slight licorice taste in some premium Gins. Throw in nutmeg, fennel, vanilla and cloves as well. The possible list of ingredients can be numbered in the hundreds.
Some producers use orange and citrus peels. Different peels are chosen to add different flavors. Citrus peels also work well with coriander. Most of the producers try and keep their recipe as house secret, but if you know the basic profiles of the botanicals, you can figure out which botanicals are used.
Hendricks uses most of the botanicals as well as cucumber and rose. Bombay Sapphire as well as the common ingredients also uses Spanish lemon peel, and Cubeb Berries.These berries have pine notes, which I taste as a background after taste. Tanqueray does not disclose their recipe other than listing, coriander and angelica. They are not quite so reluctant a let you know that Number ten has white grapefruit and chamomile. Plymouth Gin is not so shy in listing their mix of botanicals, they use fewer junipers and more sweet orange and lemon peels ,which add more essential oils, along with the usual suspects of orrisroot and angelica. The citrus gives Plymouth its full-bodied fruity taste. Aviation Gin as well as the regular stuff lists Indian Sarsaparilla as well which works well in some cocktails.
I think I need to mix a drink after all of this.Pink Gin Cocktail
4 Drops of Angostura Bitters
2 Oz Gin
Swirl the bitters in a chilled Martin glass; add the gin, and a twist of lemon for garnish. Plymouth gin was the traditional brand for this cocktail but Hendricks works with the bitters as well. This drink was supposedly a favorite of the British Navy in the nineteenth century. There is the out form of this cocktail where the bitters are discarded after the swirl in the glass.