A Brief History of Gin
All you need is a bunch of juniper berries, some herbs, a still and some willpower to make it. In fact, because gin (almost always) spends no time in a barrel, it is commonly regarded as a more commercially friendly spirit relative to spirits which must be aged like whisky, brandy or rum.
Originating in Holland sometime in the 16th century, gin found its way to England where it was quickly lapped up and became one of the biggest spirit success stories in history. It changed the way people drank - in fact it made alcoholics out of otherwise normally restrained people. Such was its popularity that the English government tried several times to ban the spirit altogether. We're glad they failed in the long term!
The Process of Making Gin
Gin is typically made starting with a strong neutral spirit - a spirit that is distilled multiple times to round out all the harsh edges and eradicate almost all traces of flavour.
But not always - some distilleries prefer to start with a spirit that strongly reflects its ingredients (or 'mash bill'). Tasmania Distillery (maker's of Sullivan's Cove whisky) does this for their 'Hobart No. 4' gin, although we suspect the main reason for that is more to do with convenience (the base spirit is actually the 'new make' for Sullivan's Cove whisky).
Distilleries have the choice of making the base spirit from scratch or buying a commercial neutral spirit.
At this point it is a high strength alcohol with little taste, but may still bear some resemblance to the ingredients used in the mash. It's then distilled again in the presence of various 'botanicals' which impart flavour back into the spirit. Now the only rule for making gin is that the main botanical ingredient must be juniper - a berry (well, actually technically it's a seed) traditionally used for medicinal purposes. But otherwise, the choice of all the other botanicals is totally up to the distiller. This gives the distiller extraordinary flexibility in creating a unique gin - after all, the number of permutations is almost limitless. But with extraordinary flexibility comes immense difficulty. If you've ever tried blending together individually distilled botanicals, you'll know just how hard it can be to achieve a coherent flavour (if you haven't been to a blending session, we highly recommend it).
Botanicals in Gin-making
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Here are some typical botanicals used in making gin. How many do you recognise?
Over the past few years, Australia has seen an explosion in craft gin production. It's not hard to see why. With an abundance of unique flora, there is no shortage of interesting local ingredients to put in a still. Brendan from Applewood Distillery (SA) likens gin to an 'edible perfume' - a somewhat surprising but totally logical conclusion (incidentally, we came across some gin scented perfumes too). What results is an incredibly diverse variety of gin - some distilleries feel a moral obligation to use local 'bushtucker' as a way of honoring the land, while others make great gin from local and imported spices. Yes, it's true that gin can be distilled anywhere with no regard to local influences. But with Australia's native botanicals so unique, there's a lot to be gained from using them.
Some interesting local flora is being used in some Aussie craft gins... here's a sneak peak at just three of them:
Top Selling Gins in the World
Gin @ White Possum
Grasslands Gin - This is our very own gin! It's designed to be the perfect companion to tonic water (in a G&T) or vermouth (in a Negroni). It's got a distinct citrus accent imparted by sweet dried oranges and the zest of lemons and limes.
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Gin Guzzler Subscription - This is a monthly subscription like no other. Each delivery includes a bottle of premium Australian gin, tasting notes, a botanical sample, botanical notes, and sometimes we even include a bottle of quality tonic water from our friends at CAPI. A Gin Guzzler subscription goes for 12 deliveries, and you can opt for a monthly or quarterly delivery interval.
'Flight of the Juniper Possum' Gin Tasting Set - Our Australian gin tasting set is the first of its kind. With the recent explosion in Australian gins, there are lots of different ones to try! In this set, we've compiled 12 of our favourite local gins and bottled them into sleek matte black bottles. The set comes with a tasting and inspiration guide with detailed information about each gin and its distillery.