What is Gin, The Origins of Gin
and How Gin is Made
The actual origins of Gin can be traced to 17th century Holland. Dr. Franciscus de La Boie invented Gin in 1650. He was a medical professor at the University of Leyden and was
more widely known as Dr. Sylvius. As was with many other spirits. The origins of Gin originally intended to be used as a medicine. Dr. Sylvius was seeking an inexpensive, but effective diuretic to use in the treatment of kidney disorders. He mixed oil of Juniper berries with grain alcohol, both of which have diuretic properties. He called his new medical concoction "genever", from the French word for Juniper.
What made the origins of Gin recipe so revolutionary, was not the use of Juniper, it had been used before in dozens of liqueur formulas, but the choice of grain alcohol. Until Dr. Sylvius, most beverage alcohol had been made from grapes or other fruit. In other words, Brandies. While the Scotch and Irish were making Whiskies from grain, they tempered them with years of aging in wooded casks. Unaged grain spirits, at least those produced with 17th century technology, were considered too harsh for human consumption. But Genever tasted good and it was relatively inexpensive to produce.
At the same time in the origins of Gin, English soldiers, who were fighting on the continent, were introduced to what they termed "Dutch Courage". They returned to England with a preference for this new drink, and the population at large soon grew fond of this palatable yet inexpensive spirit, so much so that it eventually became identified as the national drink of England, It was the English, of course, that shortened the name to "Gin".
Gin was also quite popular with the English foreign service in the "colonies". It mixed naturally with quinine (tonic water) which was used as a profilacsis to mulify the effects of Malaria. Even today it's easy to conjure up an image of the British Colonial officers sitting on a wide veranda sipping a Gin and Tonic while surveying his vast dominion.
ORIGINS OF GIN - "LONDON DRY" AND OTHER STYLES
The origins of Gin of the dry Gin that London distillers eventually developed is very different from the Holland or Geneva Gin still made by the Dutch, which is heavy-bodied and strongly flavored with a pronounced malty taste and aroma.
London dry Gin appeared soon after the continuous still was invented in 1831. This new still made a purer spirit possible, encouraging English distillers to try an unsweetened or dry style. Sugars had been used to mask the rough and unpleasant flavors that could show up in older pot still production. Originally, the phrase "London dry Gin" specified a geographic location; that the Gin was made in or near London. Now, the term is considered to be generic and is used to describe a style of Gin, (in fact, Beefeater. is now the only Gin distilled in London.) and virtually every din on the market uses the term "dry".
The origins of Gin is the distillate of a grain mash with various flavoring agents. It gets its primary flavor from Juniper berries, but many other herbs and spices go into the make-up. The botanicals come from all over the world: Cardamom from Sri Lanka, Cassia bark from Vietnam, Orange peel from Spain, Coriander seed from the Czech Republic, Angelica root from Germany. Most of the Juniper berries themselves are imported from Italy. There are also dozens of other possible ingredients. Each distiller has his own secret formula and no two Gin brands are exactly alike.
THE ORIGINS OF GIN PRODUCTION
The vast majority of this unaged spirit (federal regulations do not permit any age claims for gin, vodka and other neutral spirits) is either English dry Gin or American dry Gin. The English version uses 75% corn, 15% barley and 10% other grains for the mash. The fermentation process is similar to that of whiskey. Following fermentation the resulting liquid is distilled and rectified through a column still, producing a pure spirit of at least 90°. The liquid is then re-distilled with the many flavoring agents. Methods vary from producer to producer. Some combine the botanicals with the spirit and distill the mixture, while others suspend the botanicals above the spirit in the still and let the vapors pass through the many flavoring agents. The spirit that comes off is reduced to bottling strength anywhere from 80° to 97°.
American Gin is produced using one of two standard methods: distilling and compounding. . Distilled Gin is primarily made by adding the flavoring agents during a continuous process. There are two fairly similar methods of achieving this; direct distillation or redistillation. In direct distillation the fermented grain mash is pumped into the still. Then it is heated and the spirit vapors pass through a "gin head", a sort of percolator basket filled with Juniper, herbs and other natural ingredients. It picks up the delicate flavoring agents as it passes through and then condenses into a high proof Gin. Water is added to bring the product down to its bottling strength usually 80°.
The other method, re-distillation, differs only in that the fermented mash is first distill.ed into a flavorless neutral spirit. Then it is placed in a second still, containing a "gin head", and is re-distilled, with vapors absorbing the flavoring agents.
Compound Gin, a less costly product, is simply the combination of neutral spirits with . the oil and extracts of the botanicals. However, the dominant flavor must be from Juniper berries.