J'AIME NOVEMBER 2019

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MASTER DISTILLER

CHRIS ABBOT RUNS GIN

BRITANNIA

the technical aspects of the gin-making process.

From the origins of Dutch genever through to the

prominence of London dry in the early 18th century,

right up to the current ‘ginnaisance’ which has seen

gin earn its place as the spirit du jour, Chris takes us

on a whistlestop tour of gin’s colourful evolution.

The reason for gin’s explosive success in recent years,

he says, is simply that is is so easy to make. Whisky,

by law, needs to mature for at least three years before

it can reach the shelves. By contrast, gin reaches

optimum maturation in weeks, or even days.

Gin’s versatility is another huge selling point. Just

take a quick gander around the spirit shelves of your

local supermarket and you’ll find flavoured gins

aplenty. From rhubarb and ginger to Parma Violet,

via mystical-sounding Unicorn Tears and festive

candy cane, the potential is limitless - and there’s sure

to be a gin out their to tickle your fancy.

The only legal component, Chris tells us, is juniper.

These small blue-black berries are at the heart of

every gin, adding dryness and astringency as well as

giving that distinctive ‘gin’ taste.

And after juniper, the botanical world’s your oyster.

Chris has around 45 different botanicals

to choose from, and we spend time sniffing

and tasting them so we can get an idea

of the kind of gin we want to make for

ourselves. He has already pre-selected a

mix of common gin botanicals to form

a base; coriander seeds, angelica root - a

member of the carrot family, which has an

earthy taste and helps to smooth out the

flavours in the finished gin, and orris root

powder, a natural fixative which lends a

floral note.

Pepper is another must-have, bringing

length but not heat to the finished

product, ensuring the flavours last longer

on the palate. As well as black and pink

peppercorns, we have the more exoticsounding

grains of paradise and bolderflavoured

cubeb to pick from.

Gin grew up around the spice trade, and

Chris has a veritable treasure trove of

delicious spices to choose from. Green

cardamom, he says, adds a lovely light, spicy

citrus note while its black counterpart gives

a smoky flavour. Cinnamon, too, works

incredibly well in gins, bringing a sweetness,

while cassia bark is a more subtle and

cheaper alternative.

Star anise gives a real aniseed flavour but

contains lots of oils so many distilleries won’t

use it, explains Chris, preferring fennel or caraway

for a lighter aniseed hint.

More unusual additions include coconut for a

tropical vibe, guarana seeds - a high-caffeine seed

notoriously used in energy drinks - which brings a

real berry flavour, and tonka beans, an alternative

to sweet almond which is used to give a marzipan-y

layer.

While we deliberate our choices, Chris whips up

a round of G&Ts using his very own Iconic gin,

which is set to be launched next year. Mixed with a

classic Fever Tree tonic, it’s a refreshing tipple which

certainly aids the thinking process.

As a fan of juniper-forward, heavily citrus gins,

I’m tempted to go down this tried-and-tested route

for my own creation. But no; I decide to use the

opportunity to craft something a little different.

With temperatures dropping and nights drawing in,

I opt for a seasonal take, with rich spices and flavours

more suited to winter supping. And since Christmas

is just around the corner, my inspiration comes

from those festive favourites; Christmas pudding,

WHEN IT COMES TO GIN,

THE BOTANICAL WORLD

IS YOUR OYSTER

7

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