How do you distill craft gin?

Producing a decent (i.e., distilled) gin requires a two-stage process: first a “neutral alcohol” base is made and then flavored by redistillation with seeds, berries, roots, fruits and herbs and spices, collectively known as “botanicals”. Gin is produced using juniper berries and other botanical ingredients to flavor a neutral alcohol already distilled. In the case of cold compound gins, after removing the botanical solids, the liquid is diluted and bottled. Compound gins are rarely labeled as such because of the negative connotations of the term, but many inexpensive gins are made this way.

Sterilize a clean glass jar or glass bottle with boiling water. Add your botanical ingredients to the jar, without fresh shell. The second method of making gin is a process of steaming or steaming in a Carterhead still. The botanical ingredients are placed in a basket in the still above the currently neutral liquor.

Botanical ingredients and liquid never come into contact with each other. Rather, when the liquid redistills, ethanol vapor passes through them. This allows botanicals to release their essential oils into the vapor. Then, as the vapor condenses back into liquid, the essence of those botanical ingredients is present.

Once again, gin is diluted with water until the correct bottling concentration is obtained. The most expensive, but possibly tastiest, way to make a gin is to redistill the alcohol after the botanical ingredients have been added. Although homemade brewing has been legal in the United States since 1979, the homemade distillation of spirits for consumption has remained illegal since the days of prohibition, including gin distillation. The differences in volatility between the flavor molecules that Carter refers to are significant enough that gin distillate has a different taste and smell during the distillation process.

And while distillers can be open about the botanical ingredients they add to their gin, the exact proportions are still a closely guarded secret. A gin basket or infuser is placed in the arm of the still so that ethanol vapor passes through it during distillation. Some distilleries also add sugar, alcohol or essences and other flavorings at this time, but none of the three distilleries mentioned here do. Due to the different volatilities of flavor molecules, distillers mix all the distillate from each roll of gin to ensure a uniform flavor to their products.

Some craft distillers, including the Baltimore Whiskey Company, put some of their gin in barrels at this point in the production process. Although all gins use juniper berries as their main flavor, distilleries have literally hundreds of botanical ingredients that they can add. Every day, producers of artisanal gin are experimenting with new botanical ingredients to offer gin enthusiasts and skeptics the products that appeal to all palates. Come have a drink with us on any of the following social platforms to keep up to date with everything related to craft alcohol, find out about upcoming events, connect with manufacturers and more.

So how do producers make our prized gins taste delicious? This is where the distiller's experience and the way gin is made really come into play, of course. In addition to water and ethanol, the only raw materials used for the manufacture of distilled gin are natural flavors known as botanical products. Another small-scale distiller is Toby Whittaker, a chemistry graduate, from Whittaker's Gin in Harrogate, UK. When tasting and smelling pure gins, side by side, it was hard to believe that they contained the exact same botanical ingredients distilled in the same way.


Terrance Wilson
Terrance Wilson

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