In our distillery in Aalst we make many products, both new and old, which vary widely. Over the last 15 years or so, the production of gin has seriously increased and different styles and flavors are being sought, ranging from original, perfumed gin with a twist to traditional matchmakers with lots of juniper that do justice to the name gin. But what official categories and styles are there and can you just call everything gin? We will explain the gin jungle in more detail.
Gin is a distilled drink that comes directly from the Flemish-Dutch jenever. It is a combination of neutral alcohol, water, juniper berries and other added vegetable ingredients, the so-called botanicals.
Globally, there are two core principles that gin making must adhere to. Firstly, the flavor of juniper berries must be dominant and the gin must be distilled from a neutral alcohol (grain, grapes, sugar,...). Neutral alcohol from grain is often seen as the highest quality base. Europe has determined that the minimum alcohol percentage must be 37.5%, while the United States has set the minimum at 40%. Gins produced in Europe must also comply with European Regulation 110/2008 for spirits. These are the regulated rules of the game for anyone who produces gin and must be strictly followed. In the event of abuse, significant fines may be imposed.
Categories and styles
Categories of qualifications
To choose a good gin, it is useful to know the different categories and associated styles. There are three categories in total, descending from the highest to the lowest quality;
London gin is a qualification that stands for a one-off distillation in which all ingredients are also distilled. In addition, London gin also requires the addition of water after distillation. London gin is made by combining neutral alcohol (96%) with natural aromas. This is then redistilled in a distillation column. The resulting distillate must have an alcohol percentage of at least 70%. No artificial additives and colorings may be added.
Distilled gin is made by combining neutral alcohol (96%) with botanicals. This combination is then redistilled in a traditional still. Artificial additives and colorings are allowed.
Gin is the most basic form of gin. No redistillation has taken place during production, so it is actually a simple mixture of alcohol and vegetable ingredients. Artificial additives and colorings are permitted in gin.
Various styles can be found within these categories.
But first the prefix Dry
Dry refers to the sugar content in the gin: it may not be more than 0.1 grams of sugar per liter. All this gives the most classic gin flavor you know: juniper, dry and citrus.A good example of this is Gordon's gin. In principle this can be added anywhere, but in practice this only happens with London gin --> London Dry gin.
Styles of gin
London dry gin was originally only produced in London and can be considered the purest gin. Pure base alcohol is used in its manufacture and no artificial additives, sweeteners or colorings are added. All botanicals go together in the still and are distilled at least once. The only thing that may be added after distillation is water. It is important that the dry gin is “dry”;the gin is characterized by the juniper berry and not by added botanicals.
Old Tom Gin is the predecessor of London dry gin. Before the distillation column existed, gin was made in all kinds of stills. Because knowledge was lacking, the gin tasted far from good. To disguise the taste, sugar was added to the gin. This was the start of Old Tom Gin. Nowadays, the Old Tom Gin still tastes slightly sweeter and is drunk neat or used for gin cocktails.
The Western dry gin, also known as New Generation gin, is a counterpart of the classic gin. Instead of using a dominant juniper flavor, flavors from other botanicals are highlighted. The perfect balance between juniper berries and other botanicals creates a beautiful aroma and this gin can also be drunk neat. Well-known examples are Gin Mare and Hendrick's Gin.
Compound gin belongs to the gin category. This gin is produced by combining juniper berries with neutral base alcohol and botanicals. The distillation of the botanicals often does not take place. Examples of compound gin are the house brands.
Sloe gin is produced by steeping sloe berries in the gin. However, due to the amount of (ripe) sloe berries and sugar, sloe gin is considered a liqueur. The minimum alcohol percentage is therefore much lower; this is 25% instead of 37.5%
The name actually says it all; this gin is strong! Navy Strength gin is a gin that is bottled with an alcohol percentage of 57%. Nowadays this gin is mainly used in cocktails
Pink gin is the perfect gin for women as it is pink! The Pink gin contains fruity, floral aromas and therefore has a sweet taste. Dye is often used to color the gin, but there are also natural colored pink juices from botanicals.
For the Distiller's Cut gin, the distiller takes the standard gin as a basis, after which everything is done to create your own party. Because the taste experience is intense, the gin can be drunk neat. Usually highly perfumed gins.
Plymouth gin is a special gin style, because it is the only British gin with a quality mark. The “Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée” quality mark stands for a protective designation of origin. Black Friars Distillery by Pernod Ricard from Plymouth is the only distillery in the world that produces Plymouth gin.
The Van der Schueren distillery portfolio contains products from many styles and categories. Especially among the private labels that we make. We make both London Dry and Distilled gin for third parties and mainly New Western, London Dry, Pink, Navy Strenght, Compound and Sloe gins. No Old Tom or Distiller's Cut and logically no Plymouth either.
Our own brands are also in the same categories: London Dry and Distilled gin and are limited to three styles: London Dry, New Western and Distiller's Cut (coming soon).
Cockney's London Dry: London Dry gin all the way!
Cockney's Premium: Distilled & London Dry style
Cockney's inspired by JRE: Distilled & New Western style
Belgin Ultra 13: Distilled & London Dry style
Belgin Fresh Hop: Distilled & New Western style
Belgin St. Cruyt: Distilled & New Western style
Now that you know the difference between all the gins, you can more easily find your own taste and it's time to purchase your next discovery. For our homemade gins you can always visit us in the store or from home in our webshop.