For those who consider themselves connoisseurs of gin, there are countless brands and varieties of this spirit available throughout the world. Gin History shows that Gin is a clear or white colored spirit that has been in existence for well over four hundred years and was first used as a medicine before gaining popularity as an alcoholic beverage. Most commonly mixed with tonic water, gin is flavored with a variety of spices, herbs and juniper berries, and many say it has a truly unique flavor. The primary ingredient in gin is either a rye or wheat grain, which makes it both smooth and light in its overall body. Juniper berries add to the unique aroma and flavor of drinks mixed with the popular spirit.
Gin never really picked up in Britain until the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688, when a union of parliamentarians and the Dutch steward William The Third of Orange overthrew the kingdom of King James The Second of England. The new king of England attempted to discourage the importation of brandy from catholic countries by setting high tariffs on imports. As a result, Gin became more fashionable. To further discourage people from buying foreign alcohols, King William promoted the production of grain spirits by abolishing taxes and licensing fees for the manufacture of such local products as Gin. A complete 360′ turn in comparison to the prohibition in the United States in the twenties and early thirties. Both periods in history are ironically similar, however, in that they both resulted in the downfall of society.
When searching for the best brands of gin, it is important to understand the three available types of the spirit. Distilled gin is the most common variety, which means it has been created in a more traditional manner through the re-distillation process with juniper berries. Another variety is compound gin, which has not been re-distilled and is considered a flavored grain spirit. London dry gin is the third variety, which is re-distilled and also contains orange peel, lemon and spices like cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg but is free of preservatives and sugar. It is important to decide on the best variety for your palate before choosing a specific brand to purchase.
While there are many brands of gin on the market today, spending just a bit more for a high quality spirit is a worthy investment for any gin drinker.
But like all good economies, even the Gin craze had its bust. Because of the rising cost of grain, landowners could afford to abandon the production of Gin. That, with a booming population growth, poor crops resulting in lower wages and food shortages, by the time the government released the Gin Act of 1751, which forced distillers to sell to only licensed retailers, the Gin craze was falling fast. By 1757, the Gin craze, along with its countless drunks, was dead.
The British flag was flying across the seas at an increasing pace. As England’s territory expanded, so did its language, its customs, and its liquor. Gin grew in popularity not only in Europe, but across the globe to wherever the Union Jacks went. In 1832 under the reign of William the Fourth, the French born Irish raised inventor Aeneas Coffey invented the revolutionary Column Still. More efficient than the Pot still, the Column Still produced a high proof, light bodied, clean spirit. Now recognizable as the standard for all Gins, the “London Dry” Gin was created. London Dry Gin flourished in the nineteenth century. The tropical British colonies, because of the London Drys excellent body for mixed drinks, Gin was used to mask the bitter taste of tonic water made with cinchona bark. The Gin and Tonic made its debut. Other Gin based drinks made their first appearance as well in the coming decades. The martini was introduced, as well as the Gin Fizz later in the nineteenth century. The Singapore sling, created for the Raffles Hotel in Singapore by Ngiam Tong Boon, made its entrance the in the early years of the twentieth century. Gin, because of its relatively easy manufacture, sprouted in Prohibition era America alongside moonshine and other alcohols that require little to no aging in barrels.
The revoke of Prohibition in 1933 ended the illegal production of Gin in the states. While the dominant white spirit of the last 100 years will remain strong for decades to come, it isn’t until the ’70s that Gin suffered a deadly blow to the heart. The rise of Vodka in western nations killed the prevailing liquor. Today Gin isn’t as popular as it once was in the eighteenth century. Although still fairly popular, it is now outclassed by other drinks such as vodka or beer. Unlike the others, however, its impact on society, particularly in Europe, will subsist for generations.
Most gin produced in the UK begins as a white, neutral, spirit distilled from grain, usually wheat or rye. The grain harvest is distilled at a central location in highly efficient column stills that produce a high proof, light bodied compound with a minimum of flavoring agents. The neutral distillate then moves into the hands of distillers who create the nuances and characteristics of each individual brand.
One of the fastest growing premium gin brands in the world is Bombay Sapphire Gin. Known for its bright blue glass bottle, Bombay Sapphire contains ten different exotic botanicals like grains of paradise, cassia bark, lemon peel and many others. Bombay Sapphire is distilled in the London Dry variety and contains 47 percent alcohol by volume. It is widely known for its spicy aftertaste.
Tanqueray London Dry Gin, which is distilled in England, uses a 150 year old top secret recipe from the Tanqueray family. Though many of the ingredients in this popular brand’s gin are a closely guarded family and company secret, it is clear that the gin is quadruple distilled using top quality botanical ingredients.
Beefeater gin is another London Dry Gin that is popular throughout the world amongst gin drinkers. In fact, Beefeater is the highest exported gin brand in the world. The bottle of this dry gin features a beefeater, or English soldier on the front. It was originally made by a pharmacist in the early 1800’s focusing on a special blend of grains and botanical ingredients. Coriander, juniper berries and citrus are major ingredients in this brand, which actually won the gold medal in the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2000.
The London Dry Gin process
Considered the most prominent high quality gin produced in the UK, the London Dry process, simply put, involves further distillation of the base spirit until the final vapor passes through a chamber where it is super saturated with selected spices, flavors and botanicals.
Here are some of the best examples of gin produced this way:
Gordon’s Dry gin
This brand of London dry gin is produced in the UK and a number of former British territories. It is reputed to be the best-selling gin in the world although it is sold in differing proofs in different countries. In the UK, it is packaged in a distinctive green bottle; in other countries it is sold in traditional clear glass. Some airport duty-free shops sell a higher proof Gordon’s in plastic containers.
Generally, Gordon’s is considered an all-purpose, budget-friendly gin best used in tall fruity drinks with assertive flavors.
Tenqureray – merged with Gordon’s in 1898. The enhanced flavor and complexity of their gin is the result additional distillations and refining.
Boodles – London Dry Gin is a classic combination of juniper and coriander with suggestions of citrus and flowers. Named for the famous club in London, it is reputed to have been the favorite of its most famous member, Winston Churchill.
Bafferts- This new distillation by Hayman Distillers, Ltd, of London was introduced in the year, 2000. The triple-distilled spirit is light and crisp with overtones of citrus, spice, and juniper and makes beautiful martinis.
Beefeater – This high quality product might be the most imported gin in the world but is also the only London dry gin that continues to be produced in London.
Bombay Sapphire gin – Originally distilled in India and made from a 1761 recipe, is a favorite with those who enjoy an assertive gin flavor.
Brockman’s Gin – Quadruple distilled premium gin flavored with Bulgarian coriander, blueberries, and blackberries. Delicious.
Compounding is a different method of production where flavorings are mixed into the neutral spirits. The result is a simpler libation that is not as popular or pervasive as London Dry gin.
Every distiller has its own favorite recipes and recommendations for enjoying the drink. Some are better suited for constructing martinis, others for gin and tonic, and some of the more complex, like Brockmans, are perfect sipping whiskey.