Making Gin | Gin styles

In a previous post I went through what goes in gin, but each style is made in a different way.

The most basic style is compound gin, which is made by adding natural or artificial oils and flavours from juniper and botanicals to neutral spirit. This style is generally frowned about by serious gin drinkers.

The more recognised style is distilled gin. This can be made by vapor or maceration. The vapor technique involves passing the vapor of the neutral spirit through dried juniper and botanicals. The maceration technique consists of soaking the botanicals in neutral spirit until the desired flavour is achieved then distilling the spirit to bind the flavours.

Any distilled gin can be called ‘distilled gin’ according to EU naming standards and additives such as sugar and flavourings can be added.  Distilled gin with no additives can be called London gin; it does not have to be produced in London.

The other historical style is Plymouth gin. Only gin made in Plymouth can be called Plymouth gin. Plymouth is less dry than London gin and to my palate more rough with a slight flavour of the sea, but that might be my overactive imagination. Plymouth original strength is 41.5% alcohol, which may be why I find it a bit rough. (I like rough by the way!) Plymouth also make Navy Strength gin which comes in at a whopping 57% alcohol which apparently is the proof that will prevent gun powder from igniting if it is accidently spilt on it.

As I mentioned when I taste-tested Aviation, there is a new style emerging, New Western Dry gin. While not officially recognised in the same way as London and Plymouth, this style is used to describe gins that allow juniper to share the starring role with other flavours and botanicals. While London and Plymouth are different, juniper is clearly the dominant flavour. Western Dry is more democratic allowing other traditional and non-traditional flavours to shine.

After plowing your way through all those rather dull facts, you have probably earned yourself a gin. Make it London, Plymouth, New Western or just distilled, doesn’t really matter as long as you enjoy it!



Filed under A Brief History of Gin, Making Gin

8 responses to “Making Gin | Gin styles

  1. Trishola

    Can you give a bit more information about which botanicals apart from juniper are used? As I am a herbalist I am interested to know.

    • It depends from gin to gin. Juniper has to feature for it to be called gin, but from there anything can be added. Bombay Sapphire features 12 botanicals (they are etched on the side of the bottle, pretty!). Some of the most common botanicals are cardamom, corriander root, lemon zest, but there are styles like The Lark Distillery’s pepperberry gin with native pepperberries and Hoxton gin which features grapefruit and coconut (not sure about that one!).

      • Trishola

        As it happens I have a bottle of Bombay Sapphire! Had never noticed the lovely etchings with little pictures of the plants. Gorgeous. Thanks so much for that information. I tend to agree about the coconut.

  2. Excited to see more gin bloggers on the scene!

    I’m not so sure I like the terminology “New American” or “New Western” though to reflect the new kind of non-junipercentric botanical characteristics of gin. I see a lot of that experimentation happening in Europe (Spain especially) and on the same side of that, there’s a lot of very recently released well-made gins which are essentially of the London Dry style (Big gin comes to mind, but there are others).

    I like to refer to them as “contemporary” and “classic,” as the types aren’t truly regional.

    There is one other EU protected type of gin, called “Steinhager” which can only be made with juniper + neutral spirit + water, and is relegated to a small valley in Germany. Only two companies actually make gin which can be called Steinhager (Schlichte being the one available worldwide).

    Look forward to hearing more!

  3. DTS

    Interesting to read your article.

    I’ve always wondered whether “plymouth gin” (small p) is really a style – Plymouth gin (made at the Blackfriars Distillery) is different to other gins but then Beefeater is different to Tanqueray.

    The only stylistic difference I can see that is due to it’s location is that a gin made in Plymouth would probably use of Dartmoor water (very soft) for production. Otherwise it’s just a legal anomaly.

    Xoriguer Mahon Gin (Menorca) and Vilnius Gin (Lithuania) have similar protections to “plymouth gin.”

    I applaud Ryan’s work in New Western gin but I am inclined to agree with Aaron above – we have discussed it at length previously though!

  4. Pingback: Tasting Gin | Begin Gin | The Ginstress

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