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What Is The Main Flavor of Gin? Explained (2022 Updated)

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Last Updated on August 11, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Gins are great when added to mixed drinks and cocktails. It easily blends with the components of the drink without overpowering the taste. Gin’s versatility is what makes it the top choice of bartenders.

But what is the main flavor of gin? Let’s find out. 

Understanding Gin’s Main Flavor 

Gin Cocktail on desk with cocktail shaker

Unlike other liquors, gin relies on botanicals [1] or nature-identical oils and essences to produce a specific variant or type. This explains why some are spicy while others are more aromatic.

Their flavors are also influenced by their place of origin and the recipes used. 

9 Different Gin Types & How They Generally Taste

1. Plymouth

Plymouth Gin is the only spirit made in England. British soldiers commonly consumed it in the early years.

It is similar to London Dry, only drier, and has a more earthy savor. It normally contains 41.2% ABV. 

Only one distillery, Plymouth, Coates & Co., produces this gin. It uses different botanicals: coriander seeds, dried orange peel, Cardamon, Angelica root, orris root, and junipers. 

2. Genever

Genever on table with glass

Genever started in the Netherlands and was introduced to the Englishmen during the Dutch-Portuguese War in the 1660s. It is the original style of gin

The English made their version, removed the malt content, and replaced it with juniper berry.

The palate is soft, has an oily texture, and is gently warming with soft citrus, and earth tones finish. 

3. London Dry

London Dry Gin is popular worldwide but originated in London during the 18th century. After distillation, nothing should be added except water. It also has to have a minimum ABV of 37.5% 

It has a sharp and tart palate. It uses other common botanicals like coriander seeds, angelica, or orris. 

4. Sloe Gin

Sloe Gin

Sloe Gin has been a traditional distilled spirit in England since the 17th century. It got its name from the purple berries it is made from.

A high-quality sloe gin has a complex piquancy, earthy, raisiny, and sweet. 

The fruit used for this type of gin are drupes, a berry related to plums. This distilled spirit normally has 15-30% ABV, but European Union requires at least 25% before it can be called a Sloe Gin.

5. Old Tom

Old Tom or Tom Gin is a popular drink in 18th-century England. It has recently come back since modern gins are now commonly used for cocktail mixes. Old Tom gin is sweeter than London Dry Gin and uses similar botanicals, the juniper. 

Compared to Genever, it is slightly drier. However, Tom Gin is maltier, softer, and lighter than other gins using modern styles. It contains 45% ABV.

6. Reserve Gin

Reserve Gin

Reserve Gin is a spirit stored inside barrels for a long period. It has a rich and deeper character mainly because it is aged longer than other spirits.

It has strong juniper and citrusy notes with subtle oak and vanilla essences. 

It leaves a savory and woody finish that lingers for a while, leaving a tingling dryness in the mid-tongue. It contains 50.3% ABV.

7. New Western Dry 

New Western Dry Gin has less juniper presence. It still contains juniper’s flavorful seed cones, but the piquancy of New Western Dry is focused on other botanicals such as coriander and Angelica root. 

What defines gin is the dominant flavor, but for New Western Dry, it presents more than one dominating savor.

It offers layers of palates with lively floral savoriness and rich vegetal notes midway with a  sweet, spicy finish. 

8. Compound / Bathtub Gin

Compound / Bathtub Gin

Compound or Bathtub gin are homemade spirits done in amateur ways. It was first made in 1920, during the prohibition era in the United States. Making gin at home is different from machine-processed liquors. 

The nose and the palate have heavy on juniper and botanicals used. It has a smooth overall texture, but the herbs and spices infused are not well-balanced. These spirits have 43.3% ABV.

9. Dry Gin

Dry gin is a spirit initially intended for medicinal purposes. A 17th-century professor of medicine named Franciscus Sylvius included juniper berries for their diuretic properties.

After distillation, the outcome is tart and resinous but citrusy.

Grains and grapes are used for this gin type added with cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and caraway. Navy Strength gin and dry gins are categorized as modern gin. These liquors have 40-47% ABV. 

Read: Low-Calorie Gins

Factors That Affect Its Main Flavor 

Factors That Affect Its Main Flavor 

Botanicals

Juniper 

Its oil, extract, and berry are commonly used botanicals for many gins. The aroma is piney, woody, and fresh, but the flavor profile is similar to a lemon with a bit of spice. 

Angelica Root

It is commonly used in Asia for medical reasons relating to sleeping disorders, blood circulation, and calming effects. It is also used as a flavoring. It has a sweet savor, earthy, and a bit of bitterness similar to licorice. 

Coriander Seeds

Coriander Seeds

Coriander has many names, parsley, Kothmir, and cilantro. It is commonly added to Thai curries, but some distillers use these spices and herbs to mask the bitter essence of quinine. 

Citrus Peels

Citrus peels are commonly used as a garnish in an alcoholic beverage like gin and tonic or a martini. However, these are also used as additional flavoring to cocktails, making them brighter and citrusy. 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the aromatic condiment and flavoring additives commonly used in cuisines and traditional drinks. However, this is also commonly used for its medicinal properties. These are also infused in spirits to improve their savoriness. 

Cassia Bark 

Cassia Bark 

Cassia Bark is very similar to cinnamon when it comes to savoriness. These spices are commonly used for their sweetness and tang. 

Licorice Root 

Licorice root is one of the perennial herbs used in candies and liquors. It has a bitter-sweet piquancy that improves the piquancy of the gin. This added savoriness makes a gin perfect for cocktails.

Recipe

Recipe

There are different recipes to follow depending on the type of gin you are making. The botanical ingredients have their strengths, and the increase or decrease of measurements greatly affects the savor.

Still Location

Some manufacturers muddle or macerate botanicals along with the spirit to ensure a stable scent and savoriness during the first sip. Others place substances in semi-porous bags to limit the blend. 

Another location is atop the distilling liquid in a tray to allow vapors to simply pass-through for a lighter effect. 

Cut Points

Cut Points

Aromatic substances have different volatility; thus, their evaporation [2] naturally differs. Because of this, distillers collect different parts and treat them with botanicals. 

Usually, the orange peels come first, followed by the junipers. Spicy notes from coriander come next; the last ones are Angelica roots and licorice.

Gin Fun Facts 

Ingredients: juniper berries, botanicals

Alcohol Proof: 40–50%.

Calories (Per Shot): 64 calories

Origin: Southern Italy, Flanders, and the Netherlands

Tasting Notes: Citrusy, herbal, spicy with the savoriness of pine

Best Served: Gin is best mixed in cocktails. It is also great on the rocks, while special, imported spirits are exceptional when drunk straight. 

FAQs 

What’s the most flavorful gin type?

The most flavorful gin type is London Dry gin. The dominant savor is juniper, but with balanced layers of other flavors.

The tartness and sweetness of the botanicals blend perfectly so one can shine without overpowering the other. 

Do gin and vodka have the same flavor?

No, gin and vodka do not have the same flavor. The palate will savor herbs and citrus when you drink gin. Vodkas are neutral spirits.  

Taste Test: Final Verdict 

The main flavor of gin is piney due to junipers. Depending on what type of gin you drink, you will also savor varying botanicals. Junipers are usually the dominating savor of gins. 

However, other types increase the percentage of nature-identical oils and essences to give it a varied taste. More citrus peels give it a much brighter piquancy, while coriander seeds add more spice. 

The versatility of this spirit relies mainly on its balanced flavors. It can be enjoyed straight, mixed in a gin cocktail, or simply with tonic water. It is a liquor that you can appreciate at any time of day. 

References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-are-botanicals
  2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/chilling-science-evaporative-cooling-with-liquids/
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