House Made Podcast

Episode #13 - Gin 101

May 10, 2021 House Made Season 1 Episode 13
House Made Podcast
Episode #13 - Gin 101
House Made Podcast
Episode #13 - Gin 101
May 10, 2021 Season 1 Episode 13
House Made

In this episode we dive into the world of gin, looking at the 5 different styles and where they came from.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we dive into the world of gin, looking at the 5 different styles and where they came from.

John Vieira (00:01):
This is the house made podcast. We're your hosts, John Vieira and Nick Boban. We're here to cover your questions about home bartending. So let's get into it.

John Vieira (00:22):
What's up everybody. House made podcast here again. Today we're going to talk about gin. There's some different types. I think we're into what first couple of weeks of may at this point as we're listening to it. So we're talking nice weather. We're talking about drinking some Tom Collins, some martinis or just drinking it on the rocks or straight if that's your kind of thing. So let's learn about some gin.

Nick Boban (00:47):
Yeah. So I think that we should probably start with a little bit of history about gin. There's actually quite a few different styles that I don't think a lot of people know of. So let's go back all the way to the time of the monks. I know monks are still around, but back when they wrote most of history.

John Vieira (01:06):
Back in their heyday.

Nick Boban (01:07):
Back in their heyday. So Genever is where I want to start on our gin quest here.

John Vieira (01:14):
Okay. So point A on our timeline for gin, we're looking at Genever.

Nick Boban (01:19):
We're looking at Genever. Way back in 16 something. Wow. Yeah. Well, because back then, all of this distillation was an alchemy, right? And it was to try and prolong human life. Everybody was looking for the fountain of youth, if you will. So they were just distilling things, trying to make them into their purest forms, which arose to them believing that they could take it as medicine. So Genever actually comes from Holland and the name itself, I just found out was derived from the Latin word for Juniper.

John Vieira (01:58):
I guess that makes 100% sense.

Nick Boban (02:00):
And so the Dutch were originally distilling malted wine to 50% alcohol by volume and then adding quite a good amount of Juniper back to it for flavoring. So that it was easier to drink.

John Vieira (02:18):
Man. So many great things have come out of the monk's quest for these elixirs.

Nick Boban (02:26):
Think about chartreuse.

John Vieira (02:27):
Charteuse and Benedictine and all this stuff. It's like, wow, you guys really did the Lord's work in coming up with so delicious stuff. Okay. So what are some characteristics? How did this really come to be our first gin product?

Nick Boban (02:41):
So I guess that has to... Well, so it's the... It's a spirit that tastes like Juniper. So that that's where our quest on the gin train goes, because as we'll get into later, the TTB ruling on what makes gin, gin is less than a sentence on how to become gin. We'll touch on that later. So Genever. Malted... The biggest difference from current spirits of gin is that it's not a grain neutral, it's actually malted grain, which is way more similar to the process of making whiskey to start. So that final product itself is almost if you would think about like if gin and whiskey had a baby. It's like an un-aged whiskey that's very Junipery. It's very pine tree like.

John Vieira (03:39):
So, I guess it's still very different than this, but almost similar to like the concept of like a white lightning whiskey, like something that hasn't really been barrel aged for that long it's it's obviously a grain spirit. It's a whiskey, but this is going to be much less so obviously, but it does still have some of that maltiness to it.

Nick Boban (04:00):
Oh yeah. And so that's the biggest difference to it. And so it actually had fully disappeared off the market, in modern history until Bols brand actually recreated it. Won tons of awards on it, which is crazy that bols produces that.

John Vieira (04:25):
Yeah. What else did they produce?

Nick Boban (04:26):
All those crazy, neon colored bottles. They're like the dekypers, you know? They're like those weird, big, long blue necks and they got like slotted lines all the way over and they make like puckers and all that kind of garbage.

John Vieira (04:40):
Oh, crazy. I didn't realize...

Nick Boban (04:42):
I didn't even realize that they were the same brands either. My mind almost melted when I figured that one out. I was like, Oh, weird. But now there are lots of Genevers that are coming back to the market, especially with this whole big resurgence, and I'm sure in Holland and over there in Deutschland that they've always made these spirits. They probably never went away, but as far as like America goes and like a world stage, they're just starting to come back.

John Vieira (05:12):
It's cool that the Dutch people have such a heavy stamp on like a specific spirit or category just cause like, man Holland's really cool.

Nick Boban (05:23):
I know. They make a lot of good food and spirits.

John Vieira (05:26):
Their soccer team is also super good. I was watching the world cup a few years back when it was on and they were my favorite team.

Nick Boban (05:36):
Okay. So I don't really want to go into Genever super heavy because it's something that I don't think a lot of our listeners are going to jump right into. I think we're more worried about gins that we can buy on the shelf and, uh, how to make cocktails with them and stuff like that. What they taste like, what the difference is, so that's just one of our categories of gin is actually Genever.

John Vieira (06:01):
Yeah. Let's look at...

Nick Boban (06:02):
So fast forward a little bit when grain starts to get harder to come by in England, we start to see a shift into this Old Tom style of gin.

John Vieira (06:12):
Yeah. And old Tom originally got kind of a bad rap because it was just gin that everyone was making. They were making it in their bathtubs. It was just all over the place. And so a lot of it was really, really bad.

Nick Boban (06:25):
Nasty. And I was reading on here too, that... So not only were the distilling techniques not that great. I mean, we're talking about 19th, 18th and 19th century now, bumping up a little bit, so 1700 and 1800s. Distilling techniques aren't good and there's no regulation. People are putting arsenic or no, not arsenic. Turpentine. Yeah, turpentine and sulphuric acids into these products to kind of stretch them out a little bit, to make a little bit more money. So the English were adding sugar now to these. So now you have like a neutral grain spirit. That's pretty awful that still has Juniper flavoring to it. But now with the added sugar.

John Vieira (07:17):
Yeah. Just to make it tolerable.

Nick Boban (07:21):
Yeah, so what were you finding out about the old Toms and the barrel aging and stuff like that?

John Vieira (07:26):
So there were, apparently, there was a lot of really big inconsistencies. There was a lot of gin being exported at that point in time. A lot of it being sent to America. And just due to that process, right? Barrels traveling over overseas to America and stuff like that. You had a lot of inconsistencies with these products. So some were much more aged and some were sweeter or less sweet. And so it was really difficult to get a real pinpoint on exactly what this gin should taste like, I guess. You were just getting so much variation, but the biggest difference that you mentioned earlier moving into that old Tom style gin is that since the grains were getting harder to come by, they started relying a lot more on essentially a neutral spirit. Essentially a vodka, and then using the Juniper and the other botanicals to kind of infuse into there in the distillation process. So it really became kind of a different thing altogether than what the Genever was. And then that also kind of takes you to that next step that we're going to talk about, which is kind of our London dry style. And that's what I think most of us are familiar with when you think of gin, right? You think of that London dry style, but what I thought was most interesting about the old Tom and I didn't, I didn't realize this until I started looking things up. It's sort of, I guess it's sort of the bridge between London dry and Genever, not just timeline-wise, but flavor-wise. So it's a little bit sweeter than your typical, very dry London dry style, but it's also not as malty, not quite as sweet as the Genever. But I thought this was really interesting. Apparently the British government was really trying to stem the flow of...

Nick Boban (09:29):
Hey. It's taxation without representation. That's why we're America.

John Vieira (09:33):
Exactly, but we still wanted their gin, apparently.

Nick Boban (09:37):
We're all alcoholics.

New Speaker (09:39):
So yeah. They were really trying to stem that flow and, with all their taxes and everything like that.

Nick Boban (09:46):
Yeah cause what was it called? It was called the gin act of 17 or 1830 something.

John Vieira (09:53):
Yeah. I don't remember the year at all.

Nick Boban (09:54):
I was, okay. You read, I'll look it up.

John Vieira (09:56):
But essentially because of everything that was happening, it kind of drove that whole scene underground and so they had these plaques, I guess, like these wooden plaques that were up on the outside walls of pubs at street level, essentially. And they had like the old Tom cat kind of on this thing. And you would literally walk up and put money into this pipe or tube or something like that and you'd receive a shot of this old Tom gin. And it was like this really cool, weird secret thing that they were doing. I just thought that was really interesting. What year was, did you find that?

Nick Boban (10:40):
Yeah, so it was called the gin act of 1751 and it essentially looks, I haven't gotten all the way through this, but it looks like a prohibition style thing that the government was doing, kind of much how our government is doing it with guns right now, where they're just putting a heavy excise tax on these products. They were doing the same thing with gin. They were trying to curb the consumption.

John Vieira (11:04):
Yeah. That's kind of what it seemed like. A couple practical applications before we jump too far into the next level. When you think of old Tom gin... It's had kind of a large resurgence in the whole craft cocktail movement that's been happening for a while now, because you have these really great classic cocktails like a Martinez and Tom Collins and stuff like that that were typically always made with an old Tom style gin. And so since some of these brands are available, like ransom is a favorite of ours that we use...

Nick Boban (11:37):
Which I found all about. I found a bunch of stuff about that.

John Vieira (11:41):
Oh, cool. So, yeah, there's some really great classic cocktails that, you know, you can make them with London dry...

Nick Boban (11:48):
But they're twice as good.

John Vieira (11:49):
Yeah. That really wasn't the intention. That's not how they were originally made. So if you want to taste one of these, kind of in the flesh so to speak, you're going to want an old Tom.

Nick Boban (11:58):
Okay. So that ransom, right? Guess who had a heavy hand in making that? Dave Wondrich.

John Vieira (12:04):
Oh, I was, yeah. I was going to guess that that seemed too obvious.

Nick Boban (12:07):
Yeah. Dude. He's cocktail historian of all time.

John Vieira (12:12):
That guy's incredible. I almost feel kind of stupid even trying to cover history.

Nick Boban (12:17):
Like the history of it? Yeah. Well, whatever it's history out of our mouth.

John Vieira (12:20):
Yeah. Just know that when you listen to what we're saying, you should absolutely go find what he's saying about it.

Nick Boban (12:27):
Yeah. If you really want to figure out the actual history, Dave Wondrich. He's got a few books out.

John Vieira (12:34):
Yeah. He's the man.

Nick Boban (12:35):
He's the cocktail historian. He's the guy. He's the dude that writes the textbooks. So like his word goes. Um, but... So I was reading about the old Tom, trying to brush up and it was saying that, like everything else, prohibition in America had essentially killed old Tom. And then by the 50s, it all but dried up. The dude from ransom, which is a winery and distillery in Oregon was hanging with Dave wondrich. And he was thinking about distilling gin and wondrich goes, "You need to do old Tom." And so they actually produced it based off of Dave wondrich's research of what it looks like, tastes like, all that kind of stuff. And they essentially recreated it.

John Vieira (13:25):
That's awesome because...

Nick Boban (13:26):
And since then, there's a ton more out on the market.

John Vieira (13:29):
I forgot that ransom was the brand of those vermouths that we were having.

Nick Boban (13:34):
They're super good too.

John Vieira (13:36):
Those were amazing.

Nick Boban (13:36):
Everything out of that ransom distillery is awesome.

John Vieira (13:38):
Yeah. The sweet vermouth, especially it was so good. Can you imagine a Martinez cocktail with that, the old Tom, a little bit of luxardo?

Nick Boban (13:48):
Oh yeah. That's the full package. Okay. So after old Tom dried up, we start to get into modern distillation techniques and London dry is what pops up. London dry style gin is I think what most people think of when they think of gin.

John Vieira (14:06):
I think so. It's by far, at least in this area, it's what you see on the shelf all the time.

Nick Boban (14:13):
Well, and it's everything that... We talk to people, that's grandma's gin. That's what she drank, was London dry. That super pine tree...

John Vieira (14:23):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, apparently... So these Gin rules and regulations that we're talking about, there's kind of different guidelines based on the type of gin that we're talking about. So what I had read previously that I thought was interesting was London dry is seen by a lot of people as the purest form of gin, just because...

Nick Boban (14:47):
It's essentially the base. There are other botanicals in it, but it's very minimal.

John Vieira (14:52):
Got to have that Juniper as as the number one driving force, but it also... It can only contain 0.01 grams of sugar per liter and it has to be distilled with botanicals for flavor. So it can't have any artificial flavors or additives, whereas other distilled gins that you might find on the shelf that aren't labeled as London dry or things like that. They can have those artificial flavors and some of that stuff. So for a lot of the aficionados, I should say, the London dry category is seen as like the IT category.

Nick Boban (15:27):
So that also might have to do with the way that gin is produced, actually too, because a lot of those funkier, fuller flavor gins with a lot of other characteristics to it, those are pot stilled ones. So they're distilled first, then they're re distilled with botanicals, but you're only getting the alcohol by volume up into like the 50s or 70% and then cutting it down with water as to where another way of making gin is in a column still with what's called a gin basket, where they pack all the botanicals into the head of the still itself and the alcohol vapors condense through it, which strips all the flavor. Now that's going all the way up to like 90% or 96% ABV. So it's the same process as like vodka making. This was saying that you just get the flavor of Juniper over everything else and the flavor itself is a lot less, which is usually how they make London drys, from my understanding.

John Vieira (16:31):
Gotcha. The other interesting thing to note is, just based off the description and the details that we just looked at, it would make it seem like every London dry would essentially taste the same, but just like every other spirit category we've talked about, there's massive differences in flavor, just based on specific distillation methods, regions, things like that because technically London dry gin can be made anywhere in the world.

Nick Boban (17:00):
And with anything.

John Vieira (17:01):
Yeah. Juniper does have to be the main botanical, but a lot of times you get fresh citrus peels, coriander, things like that. And so you end up with these really unique products. And so if you are a fan of gin and you're a fan of those botanicals, it's really worth kind of looking at some of these on their own, tasting them and seeing what you like the best and maybe what would lend itself to certain drinks or applications better than maybe some other products, because there's really a lot of variants and, something like a Roku gin. That's Suntory, isn't it? Yeah. So it's a Japanese gin. I think it's kind of new on the scene. At least it is in this region, but it's been selling like wildfire at our bar and it's really tasty. We'll get into this on the next episode. We're actually going to taste some gins and talk about them, but that one in particular is not a London dry style. And so...

Nick Boban (18:00):
And so what's that next style?

John Vieira (18:03):
The next step is now referred to as international style to be, I guess PC.

Nick Boban (18:08):
Yeah. When I first learned about it, it was called new American style.

John Vieira (18:11):
Right. And that is actually a lot of gins that you may not...

Nick Boban (18:17):
It's everything that's not London dry. There's almost no Genevers and no old Toms on the market, so you're essentially looking at new international or London dry when you go to the store.

John Vieira (18:28):
Right. So even what? Things like some really big names, like Hendrick's is considered an international style.

Nick Boban (18:35):
Yep. They're all about the cucumber.

John Vieira (18:36):
Yeah. They got a big cucumber push. Man, there's a whole bunch of them. I can't even remember what they all are now, but essentially if your bottle doesn't say London dry on it, it's basically a international style.

Nick Boban (18:48):
Yeah. And those are everywhere. They still have Juniper forward, but they're like lavender, cucumber, citrus. They have a different, like big botanical push.

John Vieira (18:59):
Exactly. And that's where that Roku one falls into, which is why it's so tasty. Roku means six in Japanese, I believe. And so the bottle's really cool. It's actually, um, it's got six different panels and the bottle is molded with the botanicals on each panel. Six primary botanicals that it's made from. And, you know, when you taste something like that versus any other gin, it's different. And so it's very noticeable how different it is. So with that, the other category that we're not really going to dive into too much, but there is a fifth category. It's called Plymouth style and it's kind of strange that it has its own category since it's only one distillery that produces it.

Nick Boban (19:48):
That was a good marketing push on their part.

John Vieira (19:50):
But it's one of the oldest distilleries in the UK so it's notable. The British Royal Navy loved this product so much that they actually requested the higher proof version of it as well.

Nick Boban (20:04):
Oh, is that what they call it Navy strength?

John Vieira (20:07):
And it is really good gin. It's a completely different experience than like your typical London dry, but I will tell you if you're a fan of Negroni's, one of my absolute favorite Negroni's is Plymouth gin, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and Campari, and it's like, it's other worldly. It's so good.

Nick Boban (20:30):
Okay. So that essentially is the categories of gin. I want to read you the TTB thing on this and then touch on, on the gin categories again. So the TTB says to become gin, it is spirits with a main characteristic flavor derived from Juniper berries produced by distillation or mixing of spirits with Juniper berries and other error aromatics or extracts derived from these materials and bottled not less than 40% alcohol by volume. That's it. There's like eight pages on whiskey. That's it for gin.

John Vieira (21:06):
Well, whiskeys a little...

Nick Boban (21:08):
Whiskey is quintessentially American.

John Vieira (21:10):
Yeah. A little over the top,

Nick Boban (21:12):
But so then within that gin category... I guess we should also note that it's not... These categories aren't government mandated. They're very much like a loose industry type of term, more or less. Unless I'm wrong. I don't know.

John Vieira (21:32):
I don't think so. Not to my knowledge, I'll say.

Nick Boban (21:37):
Yeah. So we have Genever. We have old Tom, London dry, new international and Plymouth.

John Vieira (21:44):
Plymouth. Yeah.

Nick Boban (21:45):
Is there more? Was there any that we didn't find?

John Vieira (21:48):
No, I believe there's just the five, well, as of this time of recording in 2021.

Nick Boban (21:53):
Gotcha. Yeah, so there could be more.

John Vieira (21:55):
Plymouth as well. I don't know if it's a hundred percent across the board, but I'm pretty sure Plymouth gin as a style, which is really only that one distillery anyway is pot stilled, which is worth noting.

Nick Boban (22:08):
There's a couple that are.

John Vieira (22:09):
Yeah, there's a few that are, but it really contributes, as we learned from rum. It contributes a much different flavor and overall experience.

Nick Boban (22:18):
And texture too, Oh yeah.

New Speaker (22:19):
So for me, in just the things that I tend to like, pot stilled is kind of Primo.

Nick Boban (22:26):
Oh pot stilled is great. Well it's because you're not stripping everything out. You're not distilling all the way up to nothing. And then just adding water and whatever you want back to it. There's a time and a place for that, but as far as like the art of distillation goes, you're talking about fermenting something. So you're letting bacteria eat it and then poop out alcohol and then your essentially boiling off everything else except the alcohol, the poop of the bacteria and drinking it. As crude as that sounds.

John Vieira (22:56):
You're making me thirsty with all this talk. It's crazy.

Nick Boban (23:00):
There's a real art to it and I'm a big advocate with you on the potstill. I think potstills awesome.

John Vieira (23:09):
Cool. Well, I mean, at this point, let's break into our next episode. If you guys want to stick around with us, we are going to be tasting some gins. We've got a few different styles as well. And we're just gonna taste some stuff. It won't be a blind taste test like we've done just because there's a lot more variation. We'd probably be able to...

Nick Boban (23:29):
Yeah we couldn't figure out how to do a blind taste test.

John Vieira (23:31):
We may do one in the future with just London drys. Yeah. Some of our top brands, at least in this region. We might do a shootout with those just for fun. But today we're just going to taste them. We're just going to look at them. Well, actually, so for our listeners are listening. When this comes out, we'll be tasting this in two days. So come back and check us out.

John Vieira (23:51):
That's true. Yeah. If you're listening to this live. Yeah. It'll be out Friday.

Nick Boban (23:58):
Yeah. So in two days, but we're going to taste... Which ones are we doing? We're doing... We have Old Boise gin. Which is made out of Konig. Right here where we live.

John Vieira (24:08):
We got the Roku that we talked about which is the Suntory Japanese one.

Nick Boban (24:12):
We got Tanqueray 10 cause neither one of us have tried it.

John Vieira (24:15):
I've heard from many people that it is amazing and I've never had it. So we got Tanqueray 10. And then, um, what was your, Oh, wait...

Nick Boban (24:25):
What was the last one?

John Vieira (24:29):
Big gin. Okay.

Nick Boban (24:32):
That's a Northwest spirit.

John Vieira (24:34):
Yeah and it's a really popular London dry option around these parts.

Nick Boban (24:39):
So yeah, come back. Check us out. Let's go taste some gins.

Speaker 1 (24:46):
Okay. Cheers. Fiercer.