What makes a quality gin? The simple answer is quality base spirit and botanicals. If your base spirit is rough, it’s not going to taste good whatever level of botanicals are thrown in. A good base spirit is determined by smoothness, if it burns at the back of your throat then the base alcohol is not the finest quality. If it has a smooth intense character without a rawness then this gives and indication of quality.
Gin, by definition, has to contain Juniper as the main flavouring. After that, it’s up to the distiller what they want to add. However there are caveats relating to style and botanicals added, eg Distilled Gin, London Dry, Plymouth and so forth.
For our own Castle Gate Gin we include acorns which add a nuttiness to the flavour and makes it truly unique and Nottingham. We also then balance out the nuttiness with a secret blend of botanicals.
If a distiller tries to cut costs on botanicals, this can also impact on quality. Good quality ingredients are evident, to the palate, by clarity of flavour. Poorer quality botanicals can taste less intense and be more bitter/artificial compared to better quality additions.
Much like in wine production and all agriculturally based produce; the quality of the end product depends on the quality of the harvest. Juniper, coriander, acorns and all the other essential botanicals/ingredients are subject to the same variances in temperature, rainfall, hail, frost, pests and diseases as grapes which means that you get the same differences in quality between vintages. On my 4th acorn harvest I am learning a lot about where and how to collect my acorns. Luckily in 2019, I got in just before all the rain!
It therefore takes massive amounts of skill, time and effort to source the right quality of botanicals year after year. This is especially true as gin, like non-vintage Champagne, tends to be a product that requires continuity of flavour.
We all have individual palettes and that is what makes us passionate about wines and spirits – discovering wines and spirits to suit your taste. We are always here to advise and help you to discover your favoured combinations of gins, botanicals and mixers.