Airen and Macabeo Grapes
May 14 2020 / James Thompson

What is gin made from? Grape vs Grain

Which spirits are made from grapes?…Is gin a grape or grain?…How do you make gin out of grapes?… stop right there, we have the answers for all your gin-quisitive minds!

Why did you decide to craft Sing Gin from grapes? I am glad you asked… this question is what makes our journey so wonderful and special.

Sing Gin is crafted from grape to help achieve the fruity silk-smoothness of flavour that you know and love! Grape is the key to quality, craft and authenticity. Let history speak for itself, grape was used in the world’s very first juniper spirits back in the 14th century!

Our grape spirit is crafted from two white varities of grape native to Spain, the Airen and Macabeo. These grapes are harvested from the Ciudad Real region in central Spain. The city famous for its museums, churches and historic cathedrals, has a famed history of producing grapes. They even built a wonderful stone arch and paid for it with their wine taxes (in the Roman times)!  If you are a bit of a grape-geek, the Spanish wine region these grapes are sourced from is D.O.P Valdepenas.

Vineyard in Valdepenas Region

Vineyard in Valdepenas Region

To better understand the present, we need to understand the past. Make yourself comfortable and we will feed our curiosity with the history of grape spirits.

 

History of Grapes in Alcoholic Beverages

Rewinding a few centuries, the first citation of grapes in spirits dates back to a manuscript from 1495 in the Arnhem/Apeldoorn region of the Netherlands.

We know very little about the individuals who created this original recipe, but we do know it was for recreational use as it was located within the kitchen food section. This particular manuscript was titled ‘Medicinal Tracts’, alongside a mass of medicinal recipes.

In 1494, twelve months before the citation of the botanical spirit distilled from wine was recorded, the first written proof of recreational whiskey making was logged. Under king’s orders, a man named Friar John Cor in Scotland was granted a hefty quantity of malt to produce aqua vitae.

Fast forward to 1996, leading expert in distilling and author Professor Eric van Schoonenberghe writes about a recipe titled ‘Om Gebrande Wyn te Maken’ (try pronouncing that after a few Sing Gin’s!), discovered in the Sloane Manuscripts over 400 years ago.

Through dialect analysis, Schoonenberghe uncovered this game-changing formula, which listed specific ingredients (now known as botanicals) including our favourites; juniper, ginger, cardamom, and seeds of paradise for a botanical spirit distilled from wine.

Thanks to Professor Van Schoonenberghe’s discovery, we have proof of grapes in the history of the first ever juniper spirits!

That settles it then, grape wins? Not quite… in 1582, the first distilling book was published by Coolhaes in the Netherlands, titled ‘A Guide to Distilling’. This showed the typical base for distilled spirits had become grain, not grapes.

So, why grain over grape? An ice-age. Yes, you have read correctly! Some experts speculated that the onset of a ‘little ice age’ in the mid-16th century might have caused the shift. Colder climates making harvesting more difficult, distillers would have been unable to import the amount of wine necessary to create the botanical spirit distilled from wine.

 

Like this? You might also be interested in:

a) Gin and Ginger Ale…The Love Affair

b) Why is Gin called Mother’s Ruin?