Juniper, a highly aromatic blue-green fruit is the fundamental ingredient in gin production however the base distillate may contain maize, wheat, barley or rye. For some types of gin molasses and rice may be used. As for most other spirits, gin was also considered a medicinal tonic at first. The Dutch dubbed it "Genever", the name they still use today. Some time later this drink was introduced to England and they abbreviated the term to gin. It was first sold in pharmacies as a relaxing tonic.
The making of gin is attributed to a Dutchman, Francisco De La Boe who elaborated a drink from the juniper berry as a diuretic. The Italians also lay claim to being the first to produce a spirituous juniper drink.
Gin production starts off with the boiling and fermentation of mixed cereals that will make up the mash. A strong, colourless distillate with an alcoholic volume of 90% or above is obtained after distillation in column stills.
After the initial distillation the aromatic botanicals are added for a second distillation in a basket suspended in the column and undergo a steam distillation. Juniper, the most important ingredient is added, also other botanicals that may be included are aniseed, angelica root, cinnamon, lemon or orange rind, coriander, orris root, liquorice, caraway, grains of paradise, cubeb berries, ginger, nutmeg and cassia bark. The combination of the various ingredients is what differentiates the various gins, each producer closely guarding their recipe. After the second distillation the distillate is diluted with distilled water prior to bottling. For this reason commercial gin will have an alcoholic volume of about 40%.
Many types of gin are commercialised the British gins being London Dry Gin (the most popular); Old Tom Gin (slightly sweetened); Plymouth Gin; and Sloe Gin (sweet gin flavoured with sloe plums) The Dutch Gins tend to be relatively sweet and aromatic.
With some careful practice and persistence you may replicate your favourite gin by varying in method and combination of ingredients. If you would like to try making your own gin at home a basic rule of thumb is to use 20 to 35grams of botanicals per litre of distillate. The botanicals may be steeped in alcohol for about 24 hours before being steam distilled. We have some steam distillation models for professional distillers and hobbyists. If you intend on distilling at home we recommend the small distilling units with column and internal basket (Ref. 4184.1) or for larger quantities the 2,5L distilling appliance alembic with internal sieve basket (Ref. 5873) or the 6L column alembic with internal sieve basket (Ref. 5872). The botanicals would be added in the 2nddistillation to allow the essential oils to fuse with the distillate resulting in a distinctive and unique gin all of your own making which may equal or even surpass any commercially sold gin.