The Science of Gin
Recently I was lucky enough to be able to listen to an alternative perspective of gin as I took part in the inaugural ‘City Drinks’ hosted by Sir David Wootton at the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) in London. Proceeds from the evening went to the charity Lifelites who donate specialist assistive technology packages to over 10,000 children and young people with life-limiting, life-threatening and disabling conditions using every one of the 60 children's hospice services throughout the British Isles.
The main lecture was from Professor Andy Whiting of pHure Liquors who has applied modern thinking and science to look at an alternative way to make gin. I will not attempt to re-present the complex chemical process that occurs but instead share some of my thoughts in response to what I learned.
In the past I have heard presentations and read articles and books on the history of gin and even attended a gin school and produced my own gin, however this took it to another level. Who knew the complexity involved in taking pure alcohol through a process of fermentation, distillation, rectification and finally producing gin? Even the humble juniper berry contains more than 200 natural productsthat are not even fully characterised. We heard in great detail the importance of understanding and appreciating factors such as a lower distillation temperature, how different compounds react with each other and their relative volatility. It struck me that I wonder how many of the small batch distillers that have sprung up around the country really understand the detailed reactions that are occurring during the process of turning alcohol into their gin that is presented in beautiful and sometimes ornate bottles.
As is appropriate, we were given the pleasure of tasting some of the fruits of their labour. What I found was the distinct difference in the aroma and taste of the gins, in particular their strawberry gin (ABV 30%). Imagine picking up a punnet of strawberries at the supermarket, and if you are like me, putting your nose to the holes in the top to see if their sweetness comes through. That sweetness on the nose that tells me they are ripe is the exact aroma you get from pHure Liquors strawberry gin. However, the palate, for me, is very different. Some ‘fruit’ gins and liqueurs still retain that sweetness, which in comparison could seem somewhat artificial, but not in this case. At 30%ABV, it retains the taste of a great gin without being underwhelming or over-powering. The result is a beautiful balance on the palate. Equally their regular distilled gin doesn’t have the burn that some gins that I have tasted have. Instead the delicate citrus notes come through smoothly with an unmistakable juniper undertone.
pHure Liquor’s strapline is “taste driven, scientifically delivered”. For me, this perfectly sums up the important aspects of making gin. It is a simple process to distill gin and as a consumer you will either like it or you won’t, but the complex interrelationships and interpendencies of the ingredients mean that you can’t fail to ignore the importance of how they work together.
All in all, I was educated and introduced to a wonderfully fresh and smooth new gin, one which I am sure I will be drinking more of. Oh, and I won the raffle!! Not bad for a Tuesday evening in central London.
To find out more about the brains behind pHure Liquors and their products, visit their website www.phure-liquors.com.