Updated: Jul 30, 2022
So what has olympic doping and panic at pancakes got to do with gin. Read on to find out....
This blog is all about botanicals - a quick fly through some of the botanicals that we employ in our gin recipes to produce our range of flavours. It's not a comprehensive list but hopefully gives a fun insight into some of the chemistry, history and strange facts and beliefs associated with some of our ingredients.
This is the one given for gin - it has got to have a predominance of juniper or it's not gin!
Juniper has the biggest geographical range of any tree in the world from Alaska to Greenland to North Africa and most points in between. The Juniper tree will take more than 10 years to produce flowers and fruit and interestingly trees are male or female, Unlike most other trees.
Most of the Juniper used in gin is sourced from Places like Italy, Macedonia, Morocco and Eastern Europe. Our juniper hails from Macedonia.
The ancient Egyptians are the earliest recorded users of Juniper, using it topically, to treat joint and muscle pain, Athletes in the ancient Olympic games used to eat copious amounts to improve their performance on the track. Was this the first recorded incidence of doping in sports..?
The juniper berries contain a chemical called alpha-pinene which gives it a (wait-for-it) ....pine flavour and another chemical myrcene which is also found in hops, wild thyme and of all things, cannabis…. Interesting thought that.
The high resin content generates the volatility of the compounds and in turn it is this volatility that leads to the strength of character of the juniper as a base for gin.
In days of old - it was recommended for urinary tract complaints.
Juniper was also well known for it's smokeless burning - mentioned in Alistair MacLean's book 'The Guns of Navarone', when the wood is used to - on the surface - provide heat and sustenance to the heroes of the story who were being chased overland. However, despite it's smokelessness, it also gives off a strong odour upon burning and that is how the heroes ended up being captured -the traitor in their midst being aware that the smell would be noticeable and trackable by the chasing soldiers. (Note, the book is different to the film - but in my top three of all time films so I'm sorry, some personal indulgence here!!!)
Hailing from the Indian and Meditteranean areas, Coriander has a slight soapiness to its flavour - again coming from resinous origins. A crucial ingredient of gin - its well known flavour is changed dramatically by drying and the oil of the seed is the source of the rich flavour produced by the oils such as “linalool” and “pinene” (nuts) and “thymol” (warmness). Some of the best coriander comes from places like Siberia and Scandinavia.
Historically the main use of coriander by ancient healers was for gastrointestinal problems.
It takes 2 years to germinate and it houses a lot of chemicals that have been used in the past to help to repel insects. It used to be readily available in Britain until its perceived benefit for use in combating the bubonic plague led to it being pretty much stripped from the countryside. It’s a common ingredient in liqueurs but is classically used within a London Dry Gin to “bind other flavours together”. Perhaps originating from Syria, it also has grown wild in the Nordic area. We have 5 London dry gins in our range at the Herbal Gin Company. Safe to say, it’s in our ingredients list for all…!
This is a relative of ginger, but the seeds are used rather than the underground element (rhizome) that would be more reminiscent of the ginger that we recognise in the supermarket . Guatemala is a main producer nowadays, but in Ancient Greek times, it was attributed to be one of the main ingredients for items produced by the sorceress Circe. The greener the better nowadays and it has a eucalyptus tupe scent with terpene / pine notes. The “linalool” within has been attributed to helping issues with stress in years gone by.
Please be aware that is Circe - the greek goddess [who forced Odysseus to stay with her, having a son with him - whilst he was returning to his homeland (a bit difficult to man the oars when Circe (remember she was a sorceress, turned all his sailors into pigs - she was known for that sort of stuff - like when she turned the Italian king Picus into a woodpecker for resisting her advances and there was also that time when she turned the sea god Glaucus into a monster because he fancied Scylia instead...!)] ... not Cersei (played by Lena Headley) from a well known historical fantasy series that took the world by storm in the recent past
Circe - don't get on her wrong side.....