Gin is often seen as England’s traditional spirit, these days conjuring up images of an ice-cold ‘G & T’, Martini cocktails and long hot English summers. However, its origins are very much from overseas! The first documented production of Gin was in Holland in the 17th Century, where its initial function was mostly medicinal but recipes for Jenever (as Dutch gin is called) date back even earlier than this.
Gin first appeared in Britain in the 17th Century, brought back by troops fighting in the Thirty Years’ War. At this time distillation was only taking place in a small way in England, but when King William III (William of Orange) came to the throne in 1689, he prohibited the importation of alcohol and made a series of statutes to actively encourage the distillation of English spirits. This led to a boom in production, and the consumption of gin increased rapidly, although the majority of it was of very dubious quality! A firm favourite of the poor, many people over consumed and the city had an epidemic of extreme drunkenness on their hands which provoked much moral outrage and led to the label ‘Mothers ruin’! By 1730 London had over 7000 shops that sold spirits alone, and gin was distilled and sold in one-fifth of London homes! The government struggled to bring the ‘Gin Craze’ under control, trying various pieces of legislation during the 18th Century and by 1757 had mostly succeeded.
Gin at its simplest is a spirit flavoured with a variety of botanicals, where the predominant flavour must be juniper. The rest of the ingredients are left up to the producer but there are certain botanicals which are very common: orange and lemon peel (both fresh and dried), orris and angelica root, coriander, liquorice, anise and cardamom. The increasing popularity of gin has led to many producers looking at new botanicals: elderflower, dandelion, grains of paradise, burdock, saffron, green tea, raspberry, honey, hops, exotic fruit and locally harvested plants have all been used, each contributing to new, exciting craft gins!
In recent history, it was commonly believed that Customs and Excise would not grant a licence to anyone using a still of less than 1800 litres for spirit production, which prevented many people from getting involved. However, in 2012 this was discovered to be a misinterpretation of the very complex law surrounding alcohol production and consequentially a large number of craft and boutique gins have arrived on the market in the 5 years since.
Here we share with you some of our current list – which is sure to be ever-changing as new ones are popping up all the time and lots of companies produce limited editions!