Gin Botanical: Saffron.

Saffron Threads
Saffron Threads
Saffron usually graces rice dishes and saffron buns more than it does gin. It has a rich, pungent, distinctive flavour and odour, and gives an intense yellow-orange colour to anything it comes near.

My grandmother used to make saffron buns regularly when I was a kid; they were a firm favourite with my Grandfather, who claimed they made your poo yellow (yes, I believed him).

Anyway, moving away from the realms of too-much-information…

The rich, aromatic scent of saffron suffusing the house on a Saturday morning played a big part of my childhood.

Saffron: Facts.

Saffron Crocus Flower
Saffron Crocus Flower
  • Saffron is the dried, harvested stigma of the blooms of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). Each bloom has three stigma and each plant up to four flowers.
  • Harvesting saffron is painstaking and the volume of spice recovered is tiny. It requires around 150,000 blooms to harvest 1kg of dried spice. This quantity of plants requires about two acres of land and takes about 40 man-hours to harvest. This results in saffron being one of the most expensive substances on earth (around £10,000 per kilo).
  • The robes worn by Buddhist Monks are usually described as “saffron robes” but, contrary to popular belief, they are usually died with Gamboge or Turmeric.

Saffron: Nose.

Alcohol – I couldn’t smell anything other than alcohol – maybe slightly sweeter than raw alcohol. There could be the very slightest hints of honey and vanilla, and an unidentified chemically smell, but I might have been imagining it. This is very odd when you consider there is a base gin in the glass with the saffron.

Saffron: Taste.

In the mouth, the saffron gin has more of a texture than a taste; it has a thick, oily mouth-feel. The flavour is sweet, but very neutral. There’s a burn in the middle-palette and after-taste that goes a bit beyond what you might expect from the alcohol.

Given how aromatic the dried spice is, I am puzzled, disappointed and astonished at how little of that scent and flavour translates into the gin. Maybe this is why some gins infuse their saffron, rather than including it in the distillation process.

The more I think about this, the more I am puzzled by the lack of scent and flavour. Can saffron really mute the other background flavours of the gin? Or did I suffer diminished senses on the night of the 6th? There is a cold doing the rounds of the family, but I thought I had escaped. I’d be very interested to hear other people’s opinions of the saffron gin.


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