Gins demystified

The recent gin explosion has made an almost overwhelming range of styles available… London Dry, Old Tom, Matured, Signature, Compound to name a few.

But what do these names actually mean to the average gin sipper and how does the process and techniques differ between them?

These styles are normally defined by a few key criteria – 

  • How the flavours are imparted
  • The bottled alcohol strength
  • Modification after distillation
  • Type of botanicals used

London Dry

The London Dry style is perhaps the most well known and has a reputation for producing some high quality gins, including our flagship product!

The flavour profile is Juniper-driven with other aromas providing balance rather than direction and it is the gin of choice for martini cocktails and G&Ts.

It is tightly regulated with certain requirements that must be met. The botanicals and flavours must be imparted through distillation with the spirit reaching an alcohol content immediately post-distillation of at least 70% ABV.

These regulations came about to separate it from its predecessor, Old Tom.

Old Tom

During London’s gin epidemic in the 1800s, unscrupulous distillers tried to stretch their gin by cutting it with turpentine amongst other poisonous spirits. Adding sugar and liquorice to cover the unpleasant taste, Old Tom was sold on the cheap to oblivious customers.

The new spirits caused pubs to be inundated with drunks forcing landlords to come up with a novel solution – serve them drinks outside. The name ‘Old Tom’ is believed to come from the wooden plaques of cat into which one could drop a coin to receive a shot of the cheap gin through a metal pipe extending out through its paw.

Once new methods of distillation came along, the quality of gin picked up and the London Dry style became popular. Old Tom gins began to disappear until very recently when they were rediscovered during the craft gin revival.

Classic Gin

London Dry describes a gin that has been carefully regulated but mostly in terms of technique and process rather than botanicals. A classic gin describes the flavour profile we would associate with traditional gins including a dominant juniper notes balanced with coriander, angelica root and some citrus notes.

Bathtub Gin

Traditionally known as a low quality gin due to the low cost methods used to impart flavour into the spirit. These gins aren’t distilled but are made by steeping (macerating) the spirit in botanicals for sufficient time until the spirit has taken on the flavour of the botanicals. This was used to make the cheapest gin and so was often mixed in bath tubs to keep costs down.

It has seen a resurgence with the gin explosion but thankfully the bath tubs have been left behind.

Contemporary Style

A new type of gin that is characteristic of new world distilleries,  As with all gins, juniper is still discernible but other flavours like citrus and spice are more prominent, often providing the leading direction. It is a style that encompasses ‘New-wave’ and ‘ New American Dry’ amongst others.

Plymouth

This style of gin is a close relative of the London Dry but with less juniper presence and a strong combination of earthy flavours delivered through botanicals like Angelica and Orris root. 

Navy

This refers to any gin bottled at an ABV of between 57-58%.

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