According to Forbes magazine, gin is on the rise. After trailing behind vodka as a popular alcoholic beverage for years, gin is starting to make a comeback.
Gin is produced with juniper berries and a range of botanical ingredients. This means gin tends to taste herby, citrusy, and fairly floral. It should be smooth with a slight hint of bitterness.
Depending on the botanicals used in your gin, its taste will change somewhat. Some common ingredients are licorice root, orange peel, grapefruit peel, coriander, and anise.
Types of Gin
While there are more than four types of gin, we’ll be discussing four of the most common. Each one has a slightly different flavor and some feel differently in the mouth.
In this type of gin, juniper is your standout flavor. It may carry some citrusy notes along with a hint of coriander.
London dry gin will have almost no sweetness at all. If you do detect a hint, it’s most likely from licorice root.
While definitely full of juniper, it is not the star flavor in Plymouth gin. Plymouth has a somewhat earthier, spicier flavor with the inclusion of cardamom and angelica root.
This gin also has a somewhat oily texture.
This is a much sweeter gin than the others. It’s full of licorice, which only lends a sweetness, not a flavor. It also has less juniper so some of the other botanicals tend to stand out.
Old Tom is rich in the mouth and feels heavy on your tongue.
In this gin, the predominant flavor is malt. It’s a little sweet and somewhat nutty.
Genever is also incredibly rich and heavy in your mouth.
How Flavor is Added to Gin
How the flavor is added to gin, also changes its flavor profile. Let’s discuss some of the common ways to add flavor to gin and how these ways alter the taste.
When steeping, the distiller steeps the botanicals into the base spirit. This causes the alcohol to become infused with the flavor of whatever botanicals are used. This is similar to how a tea bag is steeped in water and removed before it gets bitter.
The botanicals are left in for up to 48 hours. The longer they are steeped, the more flavor they impart.
Steeping causes a fairly concentrated flavor.
Vapor Infused Distillation
Instead of steeping, distillers also have the option of infusing flavor by vapor. In this method, the botanicals never actually come into contact with the spirit.
The botanicals and herbs are placed in baskets over the alcohol. As the spirit boils, the vapors waft up and infuse with the botanicals. This vapor is then condensed into a liquid.
This technique produces a much more subtle flavor than steeping.
Barrel Aged Gin
As with most beverages aged in barrels, the flavor of the oak barrel infuses into the contents. And different types of oak produce different flavors.
Gin that is aged in American oak tends to have a sweeter taste and contains hints of vanilla and caramel.
European Oak imparts a spicier flavor into the gin. The wood of the barrel is also present, giving a somewhat woody, oaky flavor as well.
These barrels are somewhat of a combination of the first two. Using French oak gives the gin a spiciness and brings notes of vanilla and pepper.
Oak is not the only wood used for aging gin. Some other popular woods are cherry, juniper, and chestnut. These flavors are all introduced into the gin.
New Western Style Gin
Fairly recently, a new style of gin entered the market. And it’s taking gin’s most star player, juniper making it the backup.
While juniper is still present in these new styles of gin, the standout flavors are the citrus players. Lemons, oranges, and grapefruits are some of the more popular choices. In addition, the new style of gin is also leaning somewhat sweeter than your more traditional gins.
The Big Takeaway
So, overall, gin typically tastes like juniper berries, along with some herbs and citrus flavors. Depending on the exact ingredients and the method of flavor additions, your gin might have some other notes. Some of the most common are vanilla, pepper, licorice, and oak.
Gin should be smooth in the mouth although some types are distinctively richer and heavier on the tongue.