Trying to describe the taste of gin isn’t a straightforward task because there’s so much variety in the world of gin.
Gin’s flavour varies depending on the what the gin is made from. While many gins are made from grain, Sing Gin is made from grapes. We think this gives our product a silky smoothness that grain can’t compete with – and our customers agree.
Another factor that impacts the taste of gin is the way the gin is made. This is where it gets scientific, and we have a whole article that explains gin’s production process if you’d like to dive into the wonderful world of gin making. The method used to make gin can influence the type of gin produced. Did you know there are five broad styles of gin?
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While a lot of things influence gin’s flavour profile, one of the most exciting factors is the botanicals used in the production process. All gins must be made using juniper (if it doesn’t have juniper, it can’t legally be called gin), but beyond that, we gin distillers are free to go wild. And wild we went when we created Sing Gin, eventually settling on a beautiful blend of seven premium botanicals. Many gin makers will cut corners, but we grind our botanicals by hand.
Each brand of gin has its own distinct taste. As a non-aged and non-barrelled spirit, gin usually has a potent alcohol “bloom” or odour.
Bad gin often tastes like pine and nothing else. That comes from the juniper. Good gin makers know that it’s essential to balance out the verdant taste of the juniper berry (which isn’t actually a berry – you can read all about how juniper is used in gin in our article) with botanicals that enhance and complement that flavour.
Popular botanicals used in gin include angelica root, orris root, liquorice root, cassia bark, orange peel, grapefruit peel, and dried herbs like coriander and anise. While all gins have juniper flavour, these additional botanical ingredients make each brand of gin unique. Gin typically has a strong aroma and taste of citrus because citrus peels are often used in the gin making process. Most gin will start with these two flavours and then move into hints of other aromatics, like cardamom and coriander.
When you select a premium gin, the flavour profile is so complex and delightful that you can actually drink the gin neat – no mixer necessary.
While tasting bottle after bottle is, of course, the best way to master any spirit, here’s a general guide to what each type of gin tastes like. Trust us, we did a lot of research when we were creating Sing Gin – and not all of it was pretty.
Legally, to be called a London Dry Gin, the spirit has to have a predominant flavour of juniper berries. It may make you think of Christmas trees. Juniper has a tart, sharp taste and a resinious flavour with a hint of citrus along with myrcene, which is found in cannabis, hops, and wild thyme. The juniper creates an “aromatic canvas” for the other botanicals used – and aroma hugely influences how we perceive flavour. You may find that London Dry Gin tastes herbaceous and floral.
Limonene, the lively citrus flavour common in many herbs and spices, is present in London Dry Gins as well. This is why juniper is often combined with coriander, lemon peel, and other spices to make gin – the same flavour compounds are found in many of those plants, just in different combinations.
London Dry Gin tends to have an oilier texture than other styles.
The type of wood used, its age, size and the previous liquid in the cask all impact the taste of Barrel Aged Gin. The ageing time is much shorter than it would be for spirits like brandy or whisky. This is because the makers still want to allow the botanicals to shine through.
On the nose, herbal notes tend to come through, along with the anticipated juniper.
Many distilleries use virgin oak, which means the cask is new and therefore not flavoured by any previous liquid. American oak gives a softer, sweeter taste with notes of vanilla and caramel, while European oak is spicier and has a stronger wood input. French oak is used to age wine and cognac. It will bring notes of vanilla, pepper and subtle spiciness.
Other wood types used are cherrywood, juniper and chestnut – all of which introduce different flavours to the gin. The casks can introduce flavours like vanilla, caramel, oak, and smoke that would never normally be present in gin.
Barrel Aged Gin’s flavours vary perhaps the most out of all of the types of gin. It can be aged in casks that have held a vast array of liquids, including bourbon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Irish whiskey, cognac, beer, rum, Pinot Noir, vermouth, Rioja, peaty scotch, and ginger beer. You can only imagine the nuances this litany of flavours brings to the final product!
Because of the complex flavours, Barrel Aged Gins are best served over ice with orange peel, or neat. They also work well in gin cocktails, particularly classics like the Martinez or Negroni. They make an excellent replacement for whiskey in cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.
Bridging the gap between jenever and London Dry Gin, Old Tom Gin has a subtle spice to it. Each gin maker interprets the historic style of gin in their own way – but the flavours have undoubtedly improved since the saccharine concoctions served in the 18th and 19th centuries.
If you aren’t keen on the taste of juniper, Old Tom Gin is the one for you. Typically sweeter, this slightly malty gin often has a sweetener added after the distillation process. Otherwise, sweet botanicals like liquorice are used to enhance the flavour.
Old Tom Gin is sometimes aged in a barrel because the vanillin from oak adds a sweetness that can replace other sweeteners or cover overpowering notes in a base spirit.
Simply put, Old Tom Gin is the gin for people who don’t like the taste of gin.
This newer style of gin is less juniper-forward and some experts feel it shouldn’t actually be classed as gin at all. In contemporary gins, the supporting botanicals are allowed to shine – often brighter than the classic juniper.
New Western Gins usually taste fruity or floral, and cucumber is a common flavour. There’s more freedom for artistic licence with this style of gin, and it makes for some interesting products.
Japanese whisky distillers are exploring Japanese botanicals in their contemporary styled Japanese gins. Thai distillers are fermenting local fruits to create botanically unusual contemporary Thai gins.
So, next time you’re sipping a gin and tonic – see if you can detect the different botanicals used, their varying strengths, and check the label to find out what type of gin you’re quaffing. There’s a multitude of different flavours, aromas and textures in the gin world but we think the premium taste of Sing Gin is the best of the bunch.
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