What is gin and what is it made from?
What is gin? And what is it made of?
For a drink to be described as ‘gin’ in the UK it must meet two criteria:
- Strength of alcohol:
It must be at least 37.5%ABV (alcohol by volume)
It must taste predominantly of juniper.
So gin is a distilled spirit with a minimum alcohol strength (it can be stronger than 37.5%) and juniper is the only mandatory ‘botanical’.
(‘Botanicals’ are the herbs, spices, fruit etc that are added to the alcohol to give the gin its flavour.) Popular botanicals include coriander, orris root, angelica and citrus peel.
Beyond these two rules, gin makers can be very creative with the things they add - and indeed there are some very weird and wonderful gins out there - Palma Violet, Lemon Drizzle, Seaweed …
York Gin's contribution
At York Gin, we make six different gins. Three are traditional types of gin that have been made for many years - London Dry, Old Tom and Navy Strength.
Three are more experimental and include more fanciful ingredients. Roman Fruit is a deep red colour and has strawberries, apple and hibiscus added. Grey Lady is a gentle blue-grey colour from pea flower.
And Chocolate & Orange (a tribute to the Terry’s Chocolate Orange invented and made for decades in York) has cocoa beans and fresh oranges added to the mix of botanicals.
The base botanicals we use are nine ingredients that have been available to English gin makers since the 18th Century 'Gin Craze' - imported along the 'Spice Route'.
They are: Juniper, coriander seeds, angelica root, cardamom, cinnamon bark, dried lemon peel, orris root, black pepper and grains of paradise.
Strength of gins
You’ll find the cheapest gins have the minimum alcohol strength (the duty on alcohol is high).
More expensive gins often have higher alcohol levels. Five of our gins are 42.5% (we chose this because at this ABV we’ve found the perfect balance). We make one Navy Strength gin - York Gin Outlaw - that’s a whopping 57%. Whisky drinkers and lovers of stronger flavours love it. It is more expensive because of the duty on the extra alcohol.
Find your favourites
Our advice is always to experiment with different gins, do some research. Find local distilleries, find distilleries that sound interesting. If you can, visit them or try miniature bottles to see if you really love their gin before investing in a large bottle. With hundreds of gin distilleries in the UK, you’re bound to find quite a few you love!