A few weeks back I wrote about visiting The Ginstitute on Portobello Road, London. As well as learning about the history and the process of distilling gin we were able to create our own personalised blend, choosing from a range of pre-distilled botanicals. I thought I’d do a “review” of my gin, not because you’re likely to try it but because while selecting our botanicals we learnt what each one brought to the finished blend, which I found pretty interesting.
We started off with the base spirit to which four botanicals had already been added – juniper, coriander seed, angelica and orris root. These botanicals are found in almost every gin. Gin must contain juniper, or it cannot be classified as gin. Juniper is the main flavour in a classic gin, the berries are tart with notes of pine and hints of citrus. Coriander seed is quite different from coriander leaves and when distilled imparts a citrus note. Angelica and orris root don’t have much flavour themselves but are used to enhance other flavours and allow them to linger on the palate, respectively.
We were then introduced to the optional botanicals, in four categories.
- Dry Note Botanicals: Liquorice root, Yorkshire tea, lapsang souchong, celery seed, wormwood, and gentian root.
- Spices: Cinnamon, cassia bark, cubeb berry, pink peppercorn, white peppercorn, nutmeg, and mace.
- Citrus: Lemongrass, bitter orange, lime, lemon, and pink grapefruit.
- Wild Card: Fennel seed, cardamom, chamomile, rosebud, and asparagus.
We were advised to choose around six botanicals from across the categories. I like spicy gins and am not too found of overly citrus ones, which led my choices. My botanicals were:
Gentian Root – We were advised to have at least one botanical from each category. The first four dry note botanicals all had quite strong flavours I didn’t really like. Gentian root is earthy, and bitter.
Cassia Bark – Added a cinnamon-y flavour that seemed to have more depth than cinnamon.
Mace – Similar to nutmeg, but sweeter.
Bitter Orange – The least citrus-y botanical of the citrus options!
Cardamom – Spicy and aromatic, with a fresh quality to it. Features in a lot of my favourite gins, such as Opihr.
Asparagus – My wild card option. On its own the asparagus distillate did taste of asparagus, which was a little off-putting! Blended in a gin however you cannot identify the asparagus flavour but it gives the gin a smooth and creamy finish.
Once we had chosen our botanicals the gins were blended in front of us while we set about naming our gins. A fair amount of thought had gone into what my gin would be called in the
weeks days leading up to the session. When reading a book about the history of gin I learnt that during the gin craze one of the first vending machines had been invented, in order to disguise the selling of gin. It was called a Puss and Mew machine, and was a wooden cat set into a wall. You would put your money in the cat’s mouth, and the nice gentleman behind the wall would dispense your gin, via the cat’s tail! So I called my gin Puss and Mew, which felt pretty pretentious but I mostly just liked the creepy looking cat (picture above).
To serve my gin I settled on a cinnamon stick garnish, with either Fever-Tree premium or aromatic tonic, a.k.a whatever’s open in the fridge.