So, what is gin?
Gin is a spirit which derives its main flavour from juniper berries. Each gin is different and will typically have a number of other ingredients that add to the flavour; these are termed ‘botanicals’ and, as the name suggests, are plant-based.
EU law defines three types of gin.
Sometimes known as ‘compound gin’, this is made from ethyl alcohol and flavourings. The alcohol does not have to be re-distilled and the flavourings can be either approved natural or artificial flavourings. The alcohol and flavourings are just mixed together (compounded) to form the gin. There are no restrictions on the addition of other additives (as long as they approved for food use), sweeteners may be added as well as colourings.
Frankly, this should be called ‘gin-flavoured spirit’.
Distilled gin is a bit more traditional and is made in a traditional still by redistilling alcohol in the presence of natural flavourings. Additional flavourings can be added after distillation and these can be either natural or artificial and colourings may be added.
This is where the quality steps up a notch. London Gin is made in a traditional still by re-distilling alcohol with natural flavourings. The alcohol used must be of a higher standard than usual guidelines (methanol content in the ethyl alcohol must not exceed a maximum of 5 grams per hectolitre of alcohol). The flavourings have to be approved natural flavourings and they must impart the flavour during the distillation process. Artificial flavourings are not permitted and no flavourings may be added after distillation. Small amounts of sweetening may be added after distillation, provided the sugars do not exceed 0.5 grams/litre of finished product (although most London Gin doesn’t have any sweetening). London Gin cannot be coloured.
So, that’s gin in a nutshell.