For a long time relegated to the background behind vodkas, Gin came back into fashion after the end of the 1980s. Dedicated entirely to the world of cocktails and mixology, it competes in creativity and technique, allowing distillers to wide their work with new aromas and spices. Doing so, they create new flavors, good to increase the level of these spirits and to satisfy the increasing demand of an educated and more sophisticated market.
At the peak of its glory during the 50s and 60s, Gin was the base of several cocktails, including the most famous: the Dry Martini. The advent of vodka in this same period goes therefore to change the cards on the table: little by little relegated to the background, the Gin ends up falling into disuse. During the 1970s, he also suffered from an aged image, in front of a young and vodka-dependent clientele.
We will have to wait until the end of the 80s and the introduction of a new brand of gin, Bombay Sapphire, so that the whole category regains its splendor and arouses the curiosity of barmen and mixologysts again. The Gin then becomes a new source of inspiration and innovation: numerous distillers compete in ingenuity to renew the recipes. Original cocktails where all the aromatic diversity of the raw materials (spices and herbs) are expressed, as well as the talent and technical mastery of the distillers.
At the very heart of the gin production is a blue-green berry, fruit of a shrub called genus juniperus: juniper. Then the coriander grains are used by most producers as aromas. Note: no rule establishes the choice and dosage of herbs, aromas and other spices that make up this brandy. In fact, if the final character of Gin is certainly linked to its components, its quality and complexity do not depend only on the number of spices and aromas used in the recipe.
Beyond the proportions, the skill of the distiller is based on a precise knowledge of the extraction conditions of the essential oils of each of the selected plants, aromatic herbs and spices. Thus, some producers do not hesitate to resort to the three extraction techniques which are the infusion, maceration and distillation to elaborate their recipe.
During the 1960s, the company John Dore & Co Ltd produced for the first time a still called Carter-Head Still. Its function? Transform the alcohol of cereal distilled from the Coffey Stills (introduced in 1831 by Aeneas Coffey) into vodka or gin. Consisting of a 3000 liter boiler topped by a column, the Carter-Head Still is distinguished from the column stills by a copper chamber located at its top.
Filled with spices, aromatic herbs and juniper berries, this allows the vapors of alcohol to be loaded with aromas which, running from plate to plate, end their run inside. This type of still has become extremely rare, it sometimes exists among some distillers who try to mix their very light distillates with the heavier ones, born from Pot Still stills.
Aromatized cereal and molasses (vodka) spirit. This flavoring can be carried out naturally, by infusion or maceration of alcohol with spices and wild herbs, or artificially, mixing natural or artificial essences of gin. Juniper, which gives its name to gin, is an essential component.
In Europe the minimum grade of a gin is 37.5 °.
Its taste and appearance can be modified with the addition of sugar and colorings.
Most gins are made from a pure alcohol of corn or molasses. In the case of a cereal alcohol, the must is often composed of a mixture of cereals: corn (75%), barley (15%), and other cereals (10%) including rye.
“Distilled gin”: this method makes it possible to produce the best gins. Distillation is carried out in batches in a traditional still. This still is steam heated in the middle of a heating element placed on the bottom of the boiler. The boiler of this still (the pot) receives pure alcohol, reduced to about 45° - 60°. Once the alcohol is boiled, the vapors that develop are impregnated with the aromas of the berries and aromatic herbs. The toxic head and tails from distillation are recycled, then redistillated while the heart is led to the bottling center, for dilution and bottling.
Infusion flavoring: the principle consists in suspending a cotton pocket containing all the aromatic herbs, juniper berries and spices in the still, above the alcohol, or placing them in a "perforated chamber" installed at the neck of the still. When they come into contact, the vapors of alcohol are infused, soaked with essences released by aromatic herbs.
Maceration flavouring: the principle consists in macerating the juniper berries, aromatic herbs and spices directly in pure alcohol at 45°, leaving them to soak freely in the alcohol or arranging them for 24-48 hours in cotton bags. Some distilleries filter the mixture before distillation, to separate the flavorings from the alcohol; others distil the whole, producing an alcohol particularly full of aromas.
“Compound gin”: this technique is based on mixing a pure alcohol (molasses mostly) with a concentrate of gin aromas (cold compounding), or with artificial essences of juniper berries, spices and aromatic herbs (compound essence). This method does not involve any redistillation and is mainly used in the preparation of gin for mass consumption.
Once distilled, the alcohol is left to rest for few hours, then its alcoholic strength is gradually reduced by dilution to the desired alcohol level. Filtration can be carried out cold: after lowering the temperature to -2 °, the alcohol is passed through a cellulose filter, to eliminate all the particles left in suspension. Other filtration techniques such as activated carbon can be used: the alcohol then drips through a layer of charcoal.
Beyond the tecnique of flavouring, by maceration, by distillation or by mixing, Gin has different categories:
LONDON GIN (London Dry Gin): this category, also called "English style", symbolizes the quintessence of gin. The term "London" does not express an origin, but a style that can be reproduced throughout the world. The "London Gin" or "London Dry Gin" are "distilled gin" to which no artificial element can be added (aromas or coloring) if not sugar and in well-defined proportions (5 g / hectolitre at 100% alc / vol).
PLYMOUTH GIN: to date it is the only denomination of origin that exists for Gin reserved Domain of the south of England, this gin is produced by a single distillery located in Plymouth, Blackfriars Distillery (Coates & Co), which holds the only right of use of the denomination.
OLD TOM GIN: ancestor of the London Dry Gin, this gin was very popular in the 18th century. Sweeter, it was also loaded with aromas to mask a harder and less pure alcoholic base than the current ones. A style almost extincted.
JENEVER: first cousin of gin, jenever is mainly produced in Belgium, Holland and Germany (Dornkaat). It is made from an alcohol resulting from the distillation of a cereal wort (mixture of rye, wheat, corn and barley), as some whiskies. Jenever is generally distilled in a pot still and produces a stronger alcohol than gin. There are two types of jenever: "jonge" (young) and "oude" (aged) put in oak barrels from 1 to 3 years.
SLOE GIN: liqueur made from gin infused with sloes, small berries that grow spontaneously in the hedges of all England. Some recipes involve a period of aging in oak barrels.
The introduction of Bombay Sapphire in 1988 has allowed all the categories of gin to evolve to today's taste. The revival of gin also makes it possible to revisit a whole series of classic cocktails and to attract a new generation of consumers. These new-flavored gins widen the available aromatic palette a little more, so that mixologists can practice their talents and compose new cocktails. Some brands also offer aged wood versions, in order to make gin a product to be tasted alone.