Here’s 6 experts on how they make their gin

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Gin has never been bigger than it is today. Ok, well that’s not strictly true — back in 1700s England they were drinking gallons of the stuff per person each year.

It’s today’s access to great gin that’s unprecedented — there’s none of the bathtub stuff happening here. So, we asked the people behind the gin just what makes their gin stand out.

Rowland-Short-Ask-the-Experts

Expert’s name: Rowland Short
Distillery: McLaren Vale Distilling Co and Settlers Gin
Expert’s role: Owner/Distiller

Can you describe the kind of still you use to produce your gin?
We have two stills; a copper pot still and a five plate column still.

Could you briefly describe the distillation process you employ?
We use grape spirit as our base because, 1) that’s what was used when gin was invented; 2) because we run a vineyard and winery and 3) because grape spirit is very soft in your mouth (it has no burn).

What are the core botanicals used in your gin?
We have four gins; A Rare Dry gin Driven by aromatics of lemon myrtle, orange and native pepper; an Old Tom gin with liquorice root and spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; an Oak Aged gin with structure and a smokiness provided by the oak and a complexity of botanicals that include angelica root and cucumber; and a Sloe gin made from Sloe berries that have been steeped in our Rare Dry gin and turned every day for several months.

How do you extract the flavour from these botanicals, and why do you use this method?
A great question because our process results in flavours that are clean, bright and clearly defined. We hang our botanical basket in the vapour space above the boiling alcohol and steam vapour infuse each botanical separately and then blend afterwards to our recipe. It creates much more work, but we think that the results make it worth the effort!

What’s your favourite way to mix your gin in a drink?
My favourite G&T this week is our Old Tom, garnished with a fresh sage leaf with a slice of lime.

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Expert’s name: Peter Darroch
Brand: Black Robin Rare Gin
Distillery: Ditto Distillerie Ltd, Tauranga, New Zealand
Expert’s role: Owner

Can you describe the kind of still you use to produce your gin?
A German made Holstein, pot reflux still.

Could you briefly describe the distillation process you employ?
The process the distillery employs in making this rare gin is to firstly create a strong and potent concentrate of all 11 botanicals through a delicate pre-heating process called maceration or steeping. The next day the distillation starts from liquid to vapour to liquid transforming into a high percentage concentrate. This is where distiller knows when to take the middle cut, the best or the heart of the spirit leaving the heads and tails behind. The blending of this potent concentrate with five times distilled spirit and pure spring water takes time and skill of the master distiller to yield the perfect gin. Pure, rare and delicious!

What are the core botanicals used in your gin?
We employ some traditional classic gin botanicals like juniper, angelica etc while incorporating New World flavours with some very special native NZ botanicals.

What’s your favourite way to mix your gin in a drink?
Black Robin Rare Gin and Soda 3 to 1. Slice of lemon and fresh mint. Loads of ice – this is the only way truly experience the delicate botanicals of any gin. Oh, there is one other way actually – Black Robin Rare Gin straight over ice. This gin is so smooth and refined you can actually drink it straight.

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Expert’s name: Jared Brown
Distillery: Sipsmith, The first copper distillery in London for 200 years
Expert’s role: Master Distiller

Can you describe the kind of still you use to produce your gin? 
Traditional Copper Pot Still, made by the Christian Carl Family.

Could you briefly describe the distillation process you employ?
Traditional Pot distillation method taking only the heart cut of the distillation run. We set up the first copper distillery in London for nearly 200 years on a mission to bring gin of uncompromising quality and character back to the city where it earned its name. So central to the Sipsmith philosophy is an ongoing belief in, and commitment to, the traditional One Shot Distillation method- meaning our gin is never from concentrate. It’s gin made the way it used to be, the way it should be.

What are the core botanicals used in your gin?
I wanted to create a quintessential expression of London Dry gin, one that wouldn’t be unfamiliar to a Gentleman Master Distiller in 1800S London. All the dried botanicals would have arrived in the London Docks via the spice trail. So we scoured the globe for only the best: we use Macedonian  Juniper Berries, Seville Orange and Lemon Peel, along with coriander, cassia and a host of other traditional boatnicals.

How do you extract the flavour from these botanicals, and why do you use this method?
Traditional copper pot maceration – we wanted to get the deeper more complex notes out of the botanicals that simply won’t release any other way.

What’s your favourite way to mix your gin in a drink?
What time of day is it? Ramos Gin Fizz or a Red Snapper if it’s breakfast. I have a thing I am constantly talking to bartenders about at the moment, I am amazed at how many of these Bloody Mary’s and Red Snappers are now getting thrown. The tomato juice is a thixatropic, a plastic colloid emulsion, meaning when it is at rest it becomes increasingly solid, with agitation it becomes watery – never shake or throw your tomato juice. You end up with a watery mess.

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Expert’s name: Paul Messenger
Distillery: Husk Distillers, Tumbulgum
Expert’s role: Distiller

Can you describe the kind of still you use to produce your gin?
Gin is hugely popular in Spain so it made sense to contact our friend Armindo in Pontevedra, who has been making copper stills for 45 years. We needed a versatile still that could be set up for either rum or gin production so we chose a 1,000 litre hand-beaten pot still with a column and an expansion chamber above the pot, which we designed with Armindo. Since installing the still we’ve made a number of other modifications including designing and fabricating a dephlegamator for the top of the column, which allows us to control the amount of reflux.

Could you briefly describe the distillation process you employ?
We start by filling the still with neutral wheat grain spirit and add water harvested from the hills of the Gondwana rainforest in the Northern Rivers, which we run through a reverse osmosis membrane. The distillation takes 11 hours and the temperature and steam pressure must be carefully controlled throughout the process.

The most critical time is around the head and tail cuts and this is one of the areas where craft distilling departs significantly from commercial distilleries. Large commercial stills typically use a padlocked glass spirit safe and the distiller is unable to directly smell or taste the spirit flowing from the still. We closely monitor the temperatures and spirit strength but our final cuts are based on our most powerful instrument, the distillers taste and olfactory senses. We’ve got an old school copper tube and spout, known as the “parrot beak” fitted to the base of the condenser. The cuts are made based on the smell and taste the spirit flowing over the parrot beak.

What are the core botanicals used in your gin?
Organic Hungarian Juniper berries are the largest botanicial component and form the basis of Ink Gin but Ink’s defining character comes from the second tier group of botanicals led by locally grown lemon myrtle leaf, coriander seed, Tasmanian pepperberry and freshly peeled sundried sweet orange peel. Together the major ingredients give Ink Gin its fresh piney, citrus and spicy aroma and flavour. The next group of minor botanicals include elderflower, cinnamon, cardamom, angelica, oris, licorice root, lemon peel and bois bande. Like a pinch of salt, these minor ingredients are critical to the end result adding perfume, body and balance.

The final ingredient is infused after the distillation. The trimmed and carefully prepared flower petals of the butterfly pea give Ink Gin its distinctive colour, a modest obscuration that smooths the taste and a slight astringency that leaves the palate crisp and clean allowing the flavours of the major botanicals a long fresh finish.

How do you extract the flavour from these botanicals, and why do you use this method?
Each botanical needs to be prepared separately oven dried or sun dried, peeled, shredded, crushed, ground or broken. We then combine them into three large muslin bags and steep them in the charged still over night.
Although the expansion chamber can be used as a carter head we find our best results come from leaving muslin bags suspended inside the pot during distillation. The pot is fitted with a steam coil and we run an Australian made steam boiler delivering low-pressure steam at 150 kPa to give a very gentle low temperature heat.

What’s your favourite way to mix your gin in a drink?
Ink Gin in a wine glass on a large ice cube, but mixed I would have to say the Martinez is my favourite.

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Expert’s name: Lesley Gracie
Distillery: Hendrick’s
Expert’s role: Master Distiller

Can you describe the kind of still you use to produce your gin? 
We use two stills to produce the Hendricks Gin. One is a Bennett Still dating back to 1860 which is a 1000 litre capacity pot still, the other is a Carter Head still dating from 1948.

Could you briefly describe the distillation process you employ?
For the Bennett Still distillation we put all of the botanicals into the still and add alcohol at around 60% v/v and leave it to steep for approximately 24 hours. During this time the flavour compounds and essential oils in the botanicals are extracted into the alcohol / water mix. We heat the still via the external steam jacket and collect about 500 litres of very concentrated essence. For the Carter Head still all of the botanicals are placed in the botanical basket and 1000 litres of alcohol at approx 60%v/v are placed in the still. The still is again heated by an external steam jacket and during the distillation it is the alcohol vapour passing up through the botanicals in the basket that extracts the flavour compounds and essential oils. We again collect approximately 500 litres of concentrated essence per distillation. The two distillates are combined in a very specific ratio, our rose and cucumber distillates are added to the mix of the two distillates and the mix, due to the very concentrated nature of the essences, is diluted by a factor of 10 into grain neutral spirit and then down with demineralised water to bottling strength.

What are the core botanicals used in your gin?
Our recipe contains juniper, coriander, angelica root, lemon and orange peel, caraway seeds, cubeb berries, chamomile flowers, elderflowers, yarrow and orris root and all of these go into both stills. Of course we can’t forget out rose and cucumber distillates which we add to the combination of distillates from our stills.

How do you extract the flavour from these botanicals, and why do you use this method?
The two distillation techniques we employ, one of liquid extraction and the other of vapour extraction allow us to prepare distillates with very different characteristics. We feel the Bennett still gives us deep complex character which is complemented by the lighter brighter distillate of the Carter Head. The combination of these two flavour profiles gives a very complex but balanced flavour to our gin.

BEN-HORLEY

Expert’s name: Ben Horley
Distillery: Blind Tiger Distillery
Expert’s role: Master Distiller

Can you describe the kind of still you use to produce your gin?
Water jacketed copper pot still.

Could you briefly describe the distillation process you employ?
The organic grain spirit is distilled separately to the botanicals via a multi column continuous still for absolute purity. The botanical mix is pot distilled.

What are the core botanicals used in your gin?
Four only, all organically sourced – juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root and savory.

Juniper Berry is the core botanical of many Gins and in Blind Tiger provides a backbone of fresh spring forest and citrus notes. Coriander root has been selected as it enhances the citrus characters of the juniper and imparts a subtle earthy character whilst the angelica root gives a delightfully aromatic and heady note of musk. Summer savoury completes the botanical mix and contributes a subtle mint like peppery character.

The combination of these herbs creates a London Dry Gin that is a perfect mixer with Tonic or Soda and a great base for one of the hugely popular gin based cocktails.

How do you extract the flavour from these botanicals, and why do you use this method?
The botanicals are infused in organic grain spirit for 24 hours and then distilled to produce a concentrate. This method is used to ensure consistency of style between each production run.

What’s your favourite way to mix your gin in a drink?
Personally, a classic Martini, 4:1, with Dolin Dry. Blind Tiger and the Dolin blend together seamlessly.

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