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The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

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2 Types of gin

A visit to the spirits aisle in your local supermarket will no doubt reveal a variety of different gins. But how do these types of gin differ from each other?

There are three fundamental types of gin:

  • distilled gin
  • London Dry Gin
  • flavoured gin.

You will now look at each of these in turn.

Definition of gin

The legal EU definition of gin means that a drink must be a juniper-dominated spirit, with an agricultural origin and at least 37.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). You will learn about how the strength of an alcoholic drink is measured by volume in Week 8.

So, for a substance to be classed as gin, the main natural flavouring (known as a botanical) must be juniper, the base alcohol must be made from something natural such as wheat, barley, rye, molasses, potatoes or grapes, and there must be at least 37.5% of pure alcohol in the total volume of liquid.

Distilled gin

Distilled gin is the first of our three types of gin and is produced exclusively by redistilling ethanol of agricultural origin with an initial strength of 96% ABV in the presence of juniper berries and of other natural botanicals, provided that the juniper taste is predominant. Gin obtained simply by adding essences or flavourings to ethanol of agricultural origin is not distilled gin. You will learn more about this distillation process later in this week’s study.

London Dry Gin

London Dry Gin is the second of our three types of gin. This type of gin is not exclusive to London geographically but simply refers to a gin which is deemed to be the highest-quality gin you can produce. It has to comprise only natural ingredients, be made with high-quality alcohol and only contain 0.01 g of sugar per litre of alcohol. London gin is distilled with botanicals to get the flavour, and no artificial flavourings or additives can be added after distillation. London Dry Gin and regular distilled gin are essentially made in the same way, except for one significant difference – distilled gin can have any flavourings added to it after the distillation process.

You may recall seeing bottles of Plymouth Gin on the supermarket shelves – this was essentially London Dry Gin but was manufactured exclusively in Plymouth up until 2014. This type of gin has now essentially been rebranded as London Dry Gin.

Flavoured gins

A visit to the supermarket shelves in the gin aisle will also likely reveal a variety of so-called ‘flavoured’ gins. Strictly speaking, these do not represent a separate type of gin as such, since some flavoured gins simply add additional flavours to the gin post-distillation. Examples of readily available flavoured gins include rhubarb, raspberry, lemon and even chocolate flavoured gins.

At this point, it is also worth mentioning sloe gin. Despite the name, sloe gin isn’t actually a gin but a liqueur. This is because the ABV is in the range 20–25%, well below the minimum requirement of a spirit. Sloe gin also tends to have a much higher sugar content than is permitted in a London Dry Gin.