A little more on alcohol strength. While distilling and while bottling. Let’s start with the ABV of you vodka/neutral/GNS in the boiler …
The first question, related to alcohol strength is of course: how does it influence taste? Luckily, the answer is pretty straight forward: if you distill your gin at a higher proof, it will get dryer in taste. That’s why London Dry Gin is called “Dry”. It is distilled at no less than 70% / 140 proof, that’s a quite high percentage … so “High” equals “Dry”. And if you want to get an understanding at what “Dry” means in a gin … maybe buy a bottle of Gordon’s or Beefeater’s.
If “High” is “Dry”, what happens if we distill with lower proof in the boiler, in order to get the distilate to come over below 70%? Well, in that case the gin becomes less dry and more mellow in style.
All right. Now, for example’s sake, let’s assume you want to make a more mellow gin. How to achieve it? By putting a less strong GNS in your boiler. But here comes the interesting challenge: below 30% not all herbs give up their taste oils. Now, if you choose to vapor infuse that’s not a problem. The rising gases are stronger than 30%. Even on a 20% boiler charge. But vapor infusion brings over less taste. So how do we deal with boiler infused gin? Bigger taste, but since the boiler charge needs to be 30% for oils extraction … does this mean we cannot make anything else – when boiler infusing – than a dry style gin? No, it doesn’t. And here’s the solution I like to work with.
What I do, when I make a gin (and I am more of a big taste – so boiler infused – and mellow – so below 70% kinda guy), is this: I prepare my gin run the night before. I fill (example) a 500 liter boiler with 200 liters of 60%. I put the berries in and I put the herbs in. I let them steep over night. Next morning I top of with warm water to bring the ABV down and to preheat the boiler contents (to get to the production phase sooner). Best of both worlds. Works like a charm. Please see the video posted above for more explanation.
Now, onwards to bottling strength. Many commercial gins are bottled at 40%. You’d need a very forward cut or light and floral gin to be able to dilute it to 40% without louching. Or you need to chill filter, of which I am not a fan, because it takes away taste. I personally feel 43 to 45% is great. Sometimes 47% is wonderful. My advice: play with ABV. I have helped develop a beautiful gin for customers from Ireland, where we wanted a neat sipper and a gin for in the gin tonic. We used the same herbs bill, the same distilling procedure, and the same cut points. The only thing we changed is how far we diluted down. The neat sipper stayed at 47%, the gin for gin tonic went down to 43%. Amazing taste differences are to be found, just playing with your bottling strength.
So what’s next? I could talk a bit more on gin aging. Some misconceptions there we can dive into. And/or you tell me what you want me to cover in the next post and I’ll try to dive into your questions. Just let me know.
Gin herbs …