Gin is so in vogue these days! We asked our in-house Atlas spirits educators to explain how the flavor of gin is affected by the way it’s produced. We also asked them to share the best way of tasting gin to appreciate these flavor differences.
WHAT IS GIN
Gin is a neutral grain spirit that is re-distilled along with a mixture of botanicals (juniper berries being a crucial ingredient). There isn’t a prescribed ratio of how much juniper berries must go into the manufacturing of gin, all it says is that the flavor of juniper has to be present. That being said, there’s a wide, virtually unlimited spectrum of gin styles out there to be appreciated.
Massive Gin Stills
The primary drivers of flavor in gin are botanicals or ‘nature-identical' oils and essences. These are added according to many different recipes and in varying methods. Here are some of the most important, which are found in many gins on the market today.
Atlas Handcrafted Gins are made using Locally Sourced Sustainable Botanicals, a luxurious mix of kumquats, grapefruit, mandarin oranges, Mikan, ginger, and Asian spices and herbs. Juniper is the only botanical that must be included in gin by law. Juniper berries give gin its characterful and invigorating pine-like quality.
Coriander seeds are present in most gins. They add spicy notes and, depending on their source, sometimes peppery ones – such as ginger or sage.
Angelica Root has a musky, earthy aroma - reminiscent of walking through dry wood.
Citrus peels complement the other botanicals, adding a zesty complexity - whether lemon, lime, grapefruit, pomelo, bergamot, sweet orange or bitter orange.
Cinnamon, cassia bark and licorice root are sweeter botanicals which balance out more bitter, floral, or earthy botanicals.
UNDERSTANDING & TASTING GIN
In its raw form, gin—being a spirit distilled from neutral grains— should taste like vodka. But what really transforms gin into gin is its predominant profile of juniper berries. Other aromatics that give gin its distinctive flavor include cumin seeds, coriander seeds, angelica root, citrus peels, cardamom pods, cassia bark, grains of paradise, and cubeb berries.
Given that there is no strict recipe (save for juniper berries) for making gin, many makers are free to add different ratios of each ingredient. Some gins, as you’ll come to find, take on a brighter, citrusy profile while others, piney, and complex.
Here are three key steps. We recommend that you write notes at each stage.
Assess how the spirit appears in the glass. Is it clear or a bit hazy? What color is it? As we’re looking at the gin, we want it to be clear and water-white.
When nosing a spirit there is no need to swirl the glass vigorously. This will release a lot of alcohol and could give you quite an unpleasant shock. Sniff gently and gradually try to build up a picture of the aromas - you won’t pick up everything in one go. How intense are the aromas? To be classified as a gin there must be distinct aromas of juniper,
The Atlas Handcrafted Holiday Gin is made with juniper but also 12 distinctive Asian botanicals for each month of the year!
Take a sip and let the gin coat your mouth. While it’s in your mouth, it’s important to consider two factors - how does it taste and how does it feel? Assess the nature and length of the finish. How many flavors can you taste? How did they develop in the mouth? Did they linger after the first sip or disappear quickly? Gin complexity can vary but the very best gins have long complex finishes.
The best way to find your favorite gin is to try lots of varieties! So pay attention next time you enjoy that Gin & Tonic, your gin of choice might just be in the bar. or you could explore our comprehensive Gin collection here.