Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Making Gin is not like Making Whisky

Gin is a neat substance.  It started out in Holland as a medical tonic.  (Isn't it funny how all the great beverages start out that way?)

Juniper is the paramount ingredient, giving gin its required aroma.  From there, the creativity of the distiller determines what spices and herbs are in the maceration.

At our distillery, we use about twelve different herbs and spices, soaking them in a cotton bag inside the twice distilled neutral rye base for over 24 hours.  When the maceration is complete, we have a dark amber liquid that is slightly viscous. 

This liquid is neither pleasing, nor resembles much the sight, aroma or taste of gin.  The botanicals have not yet had a chance to blend and interact through the still.

My favorite part is during distillation.  Since gin has so many different substances in it, and since each of those botanical oils has a different boiling point, gin is an excellent demonstration of fractional distillation.

As you begin to receive the gin spirits from the receiver, the first tastes are of citrus.  Lemons and oranges... wow!  Soon after, the juniper comes through loud and clear, and sits for quite a while.  After all, over 80% of the botanicals are juniper.

Then other flavors will come through, one by one, strictly separated into their fractions.  You'll even get flavors that you didn't add to the beginning mix which are subcomponents of some other botanical:  licorice, fresh mowed hay, bark... the list goes on and on.

Finally, the distillation will pass into a bitter aspirin flavor, at which time, we shut down the distillation.  These are the final residues from the now-cooked gin base in the still, and these off flavors are neither desired, nor kept.

When the absolutely clear gin distillate is diluted to 100 proof, it is ready for the bottle!


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