The Different Styles and Characteristics of Gin


Now that the warm weather is upon us, I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss gin because it always tends to be a cocktail favorite during the summer months.

Gin is a spirit produced from a mash of cereal grains, usually consisting of corn, rye, barley and wheat. The spirit’s predominate flavor and aromas come from the botanical, juniper berries. Other botanicals that are traditionally used to round out the flavor profile include –but are not limited to– coriander, lemon and orange peels, fennel, cassia, anise, almond and angelica. Gin by law cannot carry an age statement and generally ranges between 80 and 94 proof.

Traditionally there are four distinct classifications of gin. Granted nowadays, many producers are experimenting with new and innovative botanical combinations that deviate slightly from the traditional formulas, but they still fall loosely into the four traditional classifications of gin. The four categories are London Dry, Plymouth, Old Tom and Genever.

London Dry is far and away the most popular style and a benchmark of quality in the gin world. London Dry gins tend to be very aromatic and flowerly, which is a result of the botanicals added during the second or third distillation of the spirit. London Dry requires a specialized (column) still to be produced with what is called a Gin Head. A Gin Head is a custom built attachment that allows the vapors from the botanicals to be passed through the alcohol. This dry style of gin is preferred for making cocktails, especially martinis.

Plymouth Gin is a full bodied, slightly fruity and also aromatic style of gin. This gin was originally pioneered on the English Channel in the port of Plymouth. Today only one producer in Plymouth, Coates & Co., still fabricates a Plymouth Gin. However, they also control the rights to the name and term Plymouth Gin, so they will continue to be the only producer for the foreseeable future.

Old Tom Gin is a sweeter style of London Dry Gin. It is essentially derived by adding a two to three percent sugar solution to the London Dry style. Old Tom Gin was the original style of gin used in the Tom Collins cocktail and generally the variety of choice during the 19th century. It is often described as the missing link between the Dutch Genever and London Dry.

This leads us nicely into, Genever, our fourth and finial classification of gin. Genever or Dutch Gin is the original style of gin and is produced through a malted grain mash that is quite similar to whiskey. Genever’s, at around 70 to 80 proof, have a tendency to be a lower proof than their English brethren. Genever is generally aged in oak for anywhere between one to three years and comes in two forms. Oude or old Genever is the original style and generally possesses a straw hue. It tends to be fairly sweet and aromatic, while Jonge or young Genever has a drier palate and lighter body.

You can find all of these unique styles of gin at our wonderful store. I hope you have fun experimenting with all the different styles of gin this summer.

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