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Exploring the Origins and Definition of Gin

 I extoll the virtues of Highclere Castle Gin every day of my cocktail life, but I rarely attempt to answer the most simple and essential question: what exactly is gin in the first place? Where did it originate? Where does it now reside? How come there are so many of them? Sometimes we miss the simple in favor of the exquisite, but no longer. Let us build our castle, one brick of knowledge at a time. 

Gin’s Official Definitions and Designations

Gin originated as a British rendition (not offspring) of Dutch Genever. Genever translates to juniper (the botanical most important in gin. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.) but is more akin to a whiskey in its production and flavor. It originated in the 12th century and was chiefly for medicinal purposes. 

The technical definition of gin from the foremost cocktail historian* goes like this: neutral grain spirit distilled and infused with botanicals, primarily juniper. Result? There it is. All other categories and definitions are built on this foundation. 

Gin’s Official Definitions and Designations

Odorless, colorless, flavorless – we can consider gin the world’s most royal-flavored vodka for anecdotal purposes. If you ask a snarky bartender their favorite vodka flavor, you’ll get a wry smile and a one-syllable answer: gin. 

Liquors of Loose Morals vs. The London Dry Standard

Much license has been taken within this definition, often with mediocre results. Gin is thought to be easy to distill (good gin is anything but easy to make) and is the first product many quasi-brands offer. 

Most of these “microwave gins” do not deserve your time, attention, or money. 

With confidence and research to support it, London Dry is the most predominant, quality-controlled, and historically relevant gin category. 

This category is restricted from containing more than trace amounts of sugar (hence “dry”). It must adhere to guidelines on proof (no less than 70), quality of distillate, and absolutely nothing added after distillation besides water. Plymouth gin follows as 

a close second, but has not the history or bona fides of London Dry. 

The Botanicals  

This is where we separate the royal from the pretenders. 

Those gins of dubious distinction are the result of poorly balanced botanicals. We can’t hold that against them because the proper blending and infusion of botanicals is a complex, intricate process that involves summoning up a master distiller’s skill. One out-of-balance can wallop all the others and make for a strangely pungent gin that seems like it’s gone off. Very few do it well, and only one has been called “perfect.” I’m confident you can guess which. 

Countless botanicals can make up a London Dry Gin, and Highclere Castle Gin is comprised of these 10: 

  • Juniper
  • Lavender 
  • Lime flower 
  • Orange peel 
  • Angelica root 
  • Licorice 
  • Coriander seed 
  • Cassia 
  • Lemon peel 
  • Oats. 


One of these has come to distinguish Highclere Castle Gin, making it sippable and neat and adding an unparalleled supple and lush mouthfeel. Can you guess which? The answer will appear next week, with more on our most royal tipple production. 

On Mixology, home and professional

“The brilliant Mixologist and Home Bartender studies the world, which is reflected in his drinks. The best way to start this adventure is to create and invent while learning from other Mixologists. Start with the simple things, and then proceed from there.” 

On the Virtues of our Royal Tipple

A gin with a regal presence both outside and inside the bottle. A very versatile gin that allows the home bartender to mix cocktails varying from simple and crisp Gin and Tonics to more advanced cocktails with multiple ingredients. My favorite is a most Regal Martini pairing the Gin with Dry Vermouth in a ratio of  2 oz. Highclere Castle Gin gin and .5 oz. Vermouth. Add a dash or two orange bitters and express a lemon zest over the drink. Enjoy.