Interesting facts about gin


Gin is a clear alcoholic spirit which derives its predominant flavour from juniper berries (Juniperus communis).

The name gin is a shortened form of the older English word genever, related to the French word genièvre and the Dutch word jenever. All ultimately derive from juniperus, the Latin for juniper.

A juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by the various species of junipers. It is not a true berry but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance. Juniper has been used for more than 1,000 years as a medicine to treat rheumatism, arthritis, loss of appetite (as well as overactive appetite) and gout. The flavor profile of young, green berries is dominated by pinene; as they mature this piney, resinous backdrop is joined by what Harold McGee describes as “green-fresh” and citrus notes.

juniper berry

The first confirmed date for the production of gin is the early 17th century in Holland, although claims have been made that it was produced prior to this in Italy. In Holland it was produced as a medicine and sold in chemist shops to treat stomach complaints, gout and gallstones. To make it more palatable, the Dutch started to flavour it with juniper, which had medicinal properties of its own.

When William of Orange, ruler of the Dutch Republic, occupied the British throne with his wife Mary in what has become known as the Glorious Revolution, gin became vastly more popular, particularly in crude, inferior forms, where it was more likely to be flavoured with turpentine as an alternative to juniper.

william of orange

Gin drinking in England rose significantly after the government allowed unlicensed gin production, and at the same time imposed a heavy duty on all imported spirits such as French brandy. This created a market for poor-quality grain that was unfit for brewing beer, and thousands of gin-shops sprang up throughout England, a period known as the Gin Craze.

The Gin Act 1736 imposed high taxes on retailers and led to riots in the streets. The prohibitive dutywas gradually reduced and finally abolished in 1742.

Gin had been known as ‘Mother’s Milk’ from the 1820s but later in the century it became known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’, a description perhaps originating from the earlier ‘Blue Ruin’ of the prohibition era in the previous century.

gin bottles

Gin is made from the same base ingredient as vodka: neutral spirit. What separates gin from vodka is the inclusion of juniper and other ‘botanicals’. Popular botanicals include citrus elements, such as lemon and bitter orange peel, as well as a combination of other spices, which may include any of anise, angelica root and seed, orris root, licorice root, cinnamon, almond, cubeb, savory, lime peel, grapefruit peel, dragon eye (longan), saffron, baobab, frankincense, coriander, grains of paradise, nutmeg, cassia bark or others.

There are several methods of producing gin.

gin distillery

First and most important is London Dry Gin. Curiously, a London Dry Gin does not have to be made in London, instead it’s defined by getting its juniper flavor from neutral spirits (grain alcohol) re-distilled with the natural flavouring ingredients – botanicals, and nothing added after the re-distillation process. The type and quantity of each producer’s botanicals vary according to their own closely guarded recipes; all are carefully selected and tested for purity and quality. Like all gins, London Dry Gin should have a predominant juniper flavour.

Compound Gin can be made not via the re-distillation of botanicals, but by simply adding approved natural flavouring substances to a neutral spirit of agricultural origin. The predominant flavour must be juniper.

Another style of gin, and history says it’s the first style, is the Dutch Genever. Rather than starting with a neutral grain spirit, a genever starts with a malted grain mash, more like whiskey. The process lends itself to barrel-aging, whereas making English gins is a very quick process, sometimes taking no longer than a day. The soft yellow spirit has been making a comeback lately.

dutch genever

Old Tom Gin is a gin recipe popular in 18th-century England. In modern times, it became rare but has experienced a resurgence in the “Craft Cocktail” movement. It is slightly sweeter than London Dry, but slightly drier than the Dutch Jenever, thus is sometimes called “the missing link”.

Gin range from 37.5% to 50% alcohol by volume.

The Philippines is the world’s largest gin market. The spirits market comprises nearly 50 million cases and is dominated by domestically produced spirits (98%). The country drinks over 22 million cases of Ginebra San Miguel, and while this gin accounts for 43% of the gin market, most people outside the Philippines have never heard of it.

san miguel

If you take out the unique situation in the Philippines, the US it is the largest gin market and is by far the biggest export market for UK produced gin by volume. Additionally, a large volume of UK label gin is produced in the USA.

Top 5 Best Selling Gin Brands (outside the Philippines) in the World are:
1. Gordon’s
2. Bombay Sapphire
3. Tanqueray
4. Beefeater
5. Seagram’s

top 5 best selling gin brands

Surrey-based Silent Pool Distillers has created what is thought to be the world’s largest (9 liter) and most expensive bottle of gin, costing £5,000 (about $7,000). Hand painted and signed by artist Laura Barrett, it contains the 24-botanical Silent Pool Gin.

silent pool gin 9 liter

Gin is commonly used in cocktails and mixed drinks, such as the gin and tonic, martini, Negroni, gimlet, Tom Collins, French 75, Aviation, Singapore Sling, 20th Century, Gibson, Last Word, Vesper, gin fizz, Old Etonian and Moon River.

gin cocktails

As the British Crown took over the governance of India, British immigrants began to struggle with the ravages of malaria. A local cure came from the bark of the chinchona or ‘fever’ tree, which contained the notoriously bitter quinine. To make it more palatable, sugar, lime, ice and gin were added – and the gin and tonic.

Officers of the British Navy were paid a portion of their wage in gin. Alcohol on board Naval ships was decreed to be a minimum of 57.7% ABV to ensure gunpowder stocks stayed flammable if contaminated by any leaky gin barrels. Never ones to be short changed, sailors would light a small amount of gin-soaked gunpowder, therefore obtaining ‘proof’ their ration had not been watered down by a scrimping Navy.

London Gin was called “dry gin” because it was clear and unsweetened and it was flavoured with more subtle aromatic botanicals. Because most of the distillers making this type of gin were based in London they bottled their products as “London Dry Gin” and the name stuck.

The largest gin tasting event (multiple venues) involved 796 participants, achieved by The New World Trading Company (UK), across nine venues in the UK, on 11 February 2016.

The most varieties of gin commercially available is 623, achieved by Kevin Berkins (UK), at the Fence Gate in Burnley, Lancashire, UK, as verified on 1 July 2015.

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