Gin

In order to illustrate the use of steam distillation for extracting essential oils from botanicals we'll take a look at gin.

As is rather well known the major flavouring ingredient in gin is juniper berries. There are other ingredients, however, and lists of such ingredients can be found in encyclopaedias and sometimes on the labels of commercial gins. Among the more important listed will be found:

Coriander Cassis bark Cardamom Anise

Orris root Ginger Lemon peel Cinnamon

Angelica Nutmeg Bitter almonds

What is never mentioned is the quantity of each ingredient used in a particular brand, nor the exact method by which the flavour is extracted from the herb. These are closely guarded secrets of the manufacturer and the reason why amateurs have difficulty in duplicating a commercial gin.

Articles on gin-making stress the point that the country of origin of the juniper berries is important in determining flavour, as is the time of harvest and the weather prevailing during the growing season. The juniper berries are supposed to mature for 18 months or so after harvest and then used within a critical period of one week! It is all very reminiscent of wine-

making. The amateur cannot possibly cope with such stringent requirements, but one is led to wonder just how much of these stated conditions is fact and how much merely folklore and a deliberate attempt to introduce a mystique into the operation. And if so, who can blame a manufacturer for so doing?

The amateur gin-maker is obviously on his own when it comes to flavouring, and it has to be admitted that we have never duplicated exactly the flavour and bouquet of a commercial gin. However, what we produce is very pleasing and there is the satisfaction of knowing that we have made it ourselves from authentic ingredients, so why worry? And then there is the continuing challenge of modifying the flavour by ringing the changes on the quantities of the various botanicals used.

The flavouring step is the only one in gin-making which involves art rather than science and where there is scope for imagination, so the absence of a commercial recipe may not be such a bad thing after all.

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