Discover the four key flavours of gin

Written by
Vintage Cellars
May 14, 2019
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From fruity and floral, to juniper and citrus, gin comes in many flavour profiles. Here, we taste four in the main gin game.

Before we delve into the world of gin flavours, let's go back to basics to consider how gin is made. It all starts with a high-proof neutral spirit. This spirit is steeped with botanicals in various vessels and with myriad methods in order to achieve the acquired result as dictated by the distiller. What's uniform across all gin production is that gin must contain a minimum of 51% juniper berries. But the rest looks a little like choose your own adventure! Take a trip through the various gin flavour profiles to discover the classics and find a new favourite. And enjoy your favourite gin on World Gin Day, 8 June 2019.

 

Juniper

All gin is made using juniper berries, but the distinction that exists between gins is how much focus the distiller chooses to place on the juniper. The juniper species used in gin is generally Juniperus communis. In fact, juniper is such an integral part of gin that its name is a derivation of the old English word genever, which is related to the French word genièvre and the Dutch word jenever. All ultimately derive from Juniperus, which is Latin for juniper. So what does juniper bring to gin? The berry imparts that unique botanical flavour component, with its traditional pine note, although it can also come across as resiny, waxy, herbaceous or even green and fresh.

 

Floral

Flowers and the various components of their parent plants belong to the group of ingredients considered botanicals, used in the production of gin — and these floral elements are often used to add a layer of flavour or a contrasting note over the top of the foundational juniper berry element. From classic rose petals and lavender to the more innovative honeysuckle and samphire, these floral flavourings add a perfume to the aroma and a softness to the flavour profile that round out the whole gin experience. Floral flavours also contrast nicely with the sometimes pronounced bittersweet overtones of the juniper berries.

 

Citrus

You say G&T; most gin lovers close the deal with a squeeze or slice of lemon! Understandable, given citrus and gin make the perfect marriage of flavours. Citrus peel of all types — orange, bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, lime — are a common gin botanical, adding an explosion of zingy vibrancy to the primary juniper berry component. Citrus also lifts flavours and cuts through the underlying herbs, spices and sweet flavours. Distillers tend to use a lot of citrus in their distillation because it integrates well with other ingredients without dominating. Bring the citrus element to life in your own gin drinks by garnishing them with a twist of lemon, a wedge of orange or a strip of lime zest.

 

Fruity

Sweetness in gin is an acquired flavour component — it may not be appreciated by old-school gin lovers, but as a new generation of gin connoisseurs rises up, these sweet gin lovers are choosing gins infused with fruits such as sloe berries, strawberries, blackcurrant, and plums, as well as other interesting flavouring ingredients such as Madagascan vanilla and even cocoa. The addition of sweet flavours softens the often very herbal sensibility of gin, enriching the final taste. Gins with sweet flavour profiles make great after dinner dessert drinks and marry well with a sweet mixer such as lemonade.