What is in Gin? A Beginners Guide.

Everyone has heard of a gin and tonic, but do you know what is in gin? With the recent boom within the gin industry, it can be hard to remember what a real gin actually is!

Gin had always been a traditional drink and a long time favourite addition for cocktail makers and mixologists. Just think of the humble Negronis (remember our Christmas version?)

Now thanks to the gin revival gins are no longer limited to boring mixers or elaborate cocktails. They can now be enjoyed solo, like our Mint and Lime gin that is based on a mojito!

The legalities

is it illegal to make gin

Before we get started its important to know the law. This article is purely written for information. Distilling any spirit in the UK requires licenses and registration with HMRC. Just to be extra clear – Distilling alcohol (including gin) is illegal in the UK. Emma, Joe and Springmount Spirits cannot be held responsible for the actions taken by any individuals not acting within the parameters of the law. Now that’s out the way lets get on with the article.

What is gin

Legally, gin has to fit the definition set by its respective country. Globally the definition is very similar:

  • Gin must be a neutral spirit distilled from something natural like wheat, barley, potatoes or grapes.
  • The flavours of a gin come from its botanicals (that’s the herbs, seeds, flowers, plants or spices added during production), and, crucially, all gins must contain juniper; in fact, the predominant flavour must be of juniper, otherwise, the drink can’t be defined as gin, by law.
  • There must be at least 37.5% of pure alcohol in the total volume of liquid

Any alcoholic beverage that does not fit the above description can not legally be called a gin. This is were terms such as “gin liqueur” and “juniper led spirit” come from. Its brands wanting to be included in the gin brand without meeting the legal criteria to be called gin.

The history of gin

what is genever

The history of gin can be traced all the way back to the 16th century in what we now call the Netherlands. Surprisingly although gin is usually thought of as an “English” drink, it was actually discovered by the Dutch. Originally it was called “genever“. Genever is still actually made today from its original recipe although London dry gin’s recipe has evolved since then.

Originally Genever was made using malt wine which gave it a malty flavour taste. Genever can be split into two types – Oude and Jonge. The older “Oude” is the much more traditional style of genever and contained 15 – 50% abv malt wine base. This created a heavier malty taste along with a deeper flavour.

“Jonge” is the newer version and uses less malt wine which creates a lighter flavour. The malt wine used is a lower ABV as well usually up to 15%

Although gin is usually thought of as an “English” drink, it was actually discovered by the Dutch. The UK didnt discover it until the 17th Century and it took over a century for them to create their own.

Ever since then gin has been known as England’s national spirit.

Base alcohol

One of the first ingredients that are in gin is the base alcohol. This is typically a “neutral grain spirit”.

Gins base spirit can actually be made using fermenting and distilling any agricultural product. Examples of this are corn, wheat and malt. In fact, these three can also be combined and used the create the base spirit as well!

In order to make this from scratch the agricultural products as combined with distillers malt, yeast and several gallons of water. These ingredients are usually heated up to around 152 °F whilst being mashed together. Lastly, the ingredients are left for 1 – 2 weeks to ferment.

The perfect ABV for the base alcohol is around 80% ABV.

Jumping Juniper

What is juniper

The second ingredient is one of the most important, Juniper. Juniper is the signature botanical that is used to add flavour to gin. People often confuse the taste of gin and juniper.

Juniper legally has to be the predominant flavour in gin and so is the highest volume of botanicals used.

When people say they prefer the older styles, it’s really all down to the amount of juniper the gin contains.

Beautiful Botanicals

The botanicals come next and this is where the fun begins! There is no limit to which botanicals can be used. This allows the creators to let their imagination and creativity go wild.

Botanicals is how you can tell each gin apart. No gin should ever taste alike as every recipe is uniquely created by its maker.

The botanicals can be used to create distinct or subtle flavours. Our Strawberry and Raspberry gin is subtle and delicate but the addition of honey helps to lift the sweetness that isn’t present from the fruit oils alone.

The list of botanicals is endless from herbs, flowers and spices all can be combined to create the unique flavour.

Some gins create fifteen or more botanicals to create a complex flavour that doesn’t always appeal to the mass market of gin lovers. Others contain a handful to create a simple flavour that isn’t too busy.

Types of gin

what are heads hearts and tails

There are a few different types of gin that are currently part of the gin market with not all of them meeting the legal definition for gin:London Dry Gin

London Dry Gin

This gin style has legal requirements all on its own! Section 21.a of Regulation 2019/787 of the EU regulations put in place in Feb 2008 details exactly what a London Dry style gin needs to be labelled as such. All of our Springmount Gins are London Dry. You can read more about London Dry Gin here. The main difference between London Dry and other gin styles is that all botanicals have to be added during distillation and the final product can not be altered afterwards. The gin has to be perfect first time and mistakes cant be corrected by double or triple filtering as some gins do!

Navy Strength Gin

There is a lot of controversy around Navy gin with some claiming that it is merely a marketing term from the 1990s! Navy strength gin is used to describe gin with an ABV higher than 57%

Flavoured gin

This term was created whilst the gin boom occurred a few years back and refers to pushing the boundaries of how gin can taste. Flavoured gin is simply when the traditional botanicals take a back seat from the flavour profile and newer fruits, spices and berries take the front seat.

Gin liqueurs

does pink gin have sugar in

These do not follow the legal definition of gin. They differ from gin by containing a high concentration of sugar, creating a more syrupy taste and texture. The ABV of a gin liquer is also much lower than gin usually being 20 – 30% and Juniper is not its main flavour. Gin liquers are much cheaper to make plus they aren’t required to pay duty in the UK since the ABV is so low.

A fun fact is that Sloe gin is actually not a gin at all it is in fact a gin liquer!

For the love of gin!

All our gins are made according to legal definitions of London Dry gin. We love honouring the laws protecting gin and challenging ourselves to create modern flavours and recipes whilst adhering to the strict laws protecting gin.

We are on a mission to prove the London Dry Gins can be exciting, whilst also adhering to strict laws to ensure quality above all.

Complete Signature