Botanicals are the primarily influence on the taste of gin but when hearing which botanicals feature in the all important recipe do you know what flavour the individual ingredients bring to your glass? Greatgins talks you through 10 botanicals to help with your tastings
Without Juniper there is no Gin. In fact the very origins of the word Gin are based in the French and Dutch words for juniper – genièvre and jenever respectively.
In fact, Juniper is so important to Gin, that by law, it has to be the most prominent flavour.
Juniper has been included in things such as cooking and medicine for centuries. It was especially popular in Roman times to add flavour and spice and the Greeks ate it before the Olympics as they believed it would increase stamina.
It can be found all over the world, even here in Britain, where it is found in parts of England but mostly on the Eastern side of Scotland. It is not an endangered plant but is not very abundant, and as such, is included in the Biodiversity Action Plan.
Juniper imparts a piney flavour, with evergreen needles and turpentine being two of the main notes. This comes from an element called alpha-pinene that contributes much of the taste of Juniper. It can also have a spicy and bitter flavour, with a bit of wood as well.
It is a very earthy botanical that brings a lot of richness and dryness to Gin, and sometimes even a little hint of citrus.
Angelica, also known as Wild Celery is one of the most common botanicals used alongside Juniper to make Gin. It is rare to find a Gin that does not have it, either in root or seed form, and sometimes even both!
It can be found all over the world and has been used throughout history mainly as a medicine and in teas to add some flavour. Some people swear by it as a cure for the common cold and fevers, although this might not apply if you’re only taking it in the form of Gin.
It brings in a lot of different flavours, especially a bitterness that is easily mistaken for Juniper. As well as an earthy bitter note, Angelica also gives Gin a sweet, floral and herbal aroma.
It is distinctive from Juniper because its flavour is more herbal and wood focussed.
Alongside, Angelica and Juniper, Coriander is one of the most important botanicals used when making Gin.As well as its use in Gin, both the seed and leaves very popular in cooking for the herbal and sweet flavours it gives off.
Coriander can be found mainly in parts of Asia, Africa and Southern Europe, and in your local Tesco, although this probably isn’t the same stuff as Gin distillers use.
It is most commonly used for making Gin in its seed form, as this is very different from the leaf and brings in a sweeter flavour than it would otherwise.
Many Gin distillers will say that after Juniper, Coriander is the most important botanical they use, with Angelica coming a close third.
It contributes a citrus sweetness and a herbal flavour. Coriander also has an element called alpha-pinene, which is also found in Juniper, and gives a pine needle flavour. It also has a slightly musty aroma to it.
Orris is the root of the Iris flower and has several functions within Gin distilling besides adding flavour.
It is dried and then ground to make a powder, which is then used to bind and enhance the other flavours in Gin. It is also used in perfumes for the same reason.
Once it is used in Gin, it brings in lots of floral notes, with an especially violet flavour to it.
Orris is a gentle flavour with lots of sweetness to it and a slight wooded note, giving it a wonderful depth.
Liquorice is a root that can be found in India and Southern Europe and is nothing like liquorice sweets. It is famous throughout history and has a number of famous fans, including King Tut and Napoleon.
It is often likened to aniseed or star of anise, but has more of a wooded tone with an oily mouth feel.
It is wonderfully sweet and earthy, adding a bright sugary tone and some grassy notes as well.
If you’ve ever watch the Great British Bake Off, then you’ll know or at least have heard of Cardamom. It is a very popular spice from India that has been used in cooking and medicine for centuries.
You can use it in almost anything, from perfume to cough medicine, and the Egyptians even used it as an embalming agent.
It has a strong flavour, with lots of aromatic spices and herbs, which is why it is especially popular for use in curries.
In Gin it brings out a really herbal note, with a very earthy flavour to it. It also has a lovely warmth and slightly floral note on the palate.
There is a difference between green and black cardamom, with the green giving off a more herbal flavour and the black emitting a deeper, smokier note.
7. Cassia Bark
Cassia Bark comes from an evergreen tree that can be found right across Asia and originated in China.
It is often confused with cinnamon but has a sweeter flavour and is not as spicy to taste.
Cassia Bark is used to give Gin a spicy and earthy aroma. It mixes well with more herbal notes and really helps to give these depth and distinction.
There is a gentle sweetness to it that ties in well with the earthy tones and the spice is not as obvious as cinnamon but is warming and delicate.
Cubeb is found in Indonesia and resemble black pepper corns. This is the result of the fruit being harvested and then left to dry.
For centuries Cubeb has been used in medicine and was even once sold as cigarettes as a form of asthma treatment.
It also has a history of being used as an aphrodisiac, but unfortunately it does not seem to hold the same properties when used in Gin.
Cubeb is an interesting botanical as it imparts two very different flavours – a light floral note and a rich peppery spice.
It often mixes well with Juniper, as it brings out a deep flavour and can really give body to the spirit. The flip side of this is that it can also be too dominant, so distillers must be careful about just how much they use.
9. Grains of Paradise
Grains of Paradise sound pretty exotic but their name comes from a popular medieval lie that traders used, when they claimed the grains came from Eden because they tasted so good.
They are actually part of the ginger family and can be found on the West African Coast. They have a long history in the alcohol industry and at one point were used to flavour beer and became incredible popular in England in the mid-1800s.
They bring in lots of different aromas and flavour with a focus on pine and wooded notes.
They also have a peppery spice that adds warmth and depth to Gin but they are not as strongly flavoured as pepper itself.
10. Citrus Fruit
There are several different citrus fruits used in Gin distilling, most notably lemon, lime, oranges and pink grapefruit.
Citrus fruits are massively popular for use in Gins and are some of the most common botanicals used.
They are typically added by having been dried in slices and then being soaked in Gin, but some distilleries added them fresh or by using only the peel. It is also common for distilleries to hand prepare their citrus fruits.
The flavours of citrus fruits are imparted from their essential oils, which is why it is common to see their peel being used.
Depending on the fruit, different flavours will be imparted, but for the most, these botanicals will give off a tangy, zesty aroma and flavour that really livens up a Gin.