I extoll the virtues of Highclere Castle Gin every day of my cocktail life, but I rarely attempt to answer the most simple and important question of them all: 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 grandiose, 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 different.) 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.
Neutral grain spirit. Ever heard of that before?
Odorless, colorless flavorless. For anecdotal purposes, we can consider gin the world’s most royal flavored vodka. If you ask a snarky bartender what their favorite vodka flavor is, you’ll get a wry smile and a one syllable answer: gin.
Liquors of Loose Morals vs The London Dry Standard
Within this definition, much license has been taken, 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 offered by many quasi brands.
The vast majority of these “microwave gins” do not deserve your time, attention or money.
I can say with confidence and research to support it that the most predominant, quality controlled and historically relevant category of gin is London Dry.
This category is restricted from containing more than trace amounts of sugar (hence “dry”)and 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.
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 really 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:
- Lime flower
- Orange peel
- Angelica root
- Coriander seed
- Lemon peel
One of these has come to really distinguish HCG, make it sippable neat and adds a supple and lush mouthfeel that is unparalleled. Can you guess which? The answer will appear next week, with more on the production of our most royal tipple.
I did some research on how blogs are read and the bold is helpful due to the scan and skim nature of web browsing. Let me know what you think. I think we are on the ball here with the simple being the main driver of the blog, and i thought we could make the Castle Curator piece a small part to add some value every week.
Castle Curator- An example of HCG being used to great success on the digital landscape.
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 own favorite is a most Regal Martini pairing the Gin with Dry Vermouth in a ratio of 6 cl gin and 1.5 cl Vermouth. Add a dash or two orange bitters and express a lemon zest over the drink. Enjoy.