Gin is a spirit flavored with juniper berries. Each distiller has its own spices and herbs and their own recipes combining its items to give their product its own flavor.
The vast majority of this unaged spirit (federal regulations do not permit any age claims for gin, vodka and other neutral spirits) is either English dry Gin or American dry Gin. The English version uses 75% corn, 15% barley and 10% other grains for the mash. The fermentation process is similar to that of whiskey. Following fermentation the resulting liquid is distilled and rectified through a column still, producing a pure spirit of at least 90°. The liquid is then re-distilled with the many flavoring agents. Methods vary from producer to producer. Some combine the botanicals with the spirit and distill the mixture, while others suspend the botanicals above the spirit in the still and let the vapors pass through the many flavoring agents. The spirit that comes off is reduced to bottling strength anywhere from 80° to 97°.
American Gin is produced using one of two standard methods: distilling and compounding. . Distilled Gin is primarily made by adding the flavoring agents during a continuous process. There are two fairly similar methods of achieving this; direct distillation or redistillation. In direct distillation the fermented grain mash is pumped into the still. Then it is heated and the spirit vapors pass through a “gin head”, a sort of percolator basket filled with Juniper, herbs and other natural ingredients. It picks up the delicate flavoring agents as it passes through and then condenses into a high proof Gin. Water is added to bring the product down to its bottling strength usually 80°.
The other method, re-distillation, differs only in that the fermented mash is first distilled into a flavorless neutral spirit. Then it is placed in a second still, containing a “gin head”, and is re-distilled, with vapors absorbing the flavoring agents.
Compound Gin, a less costly product, is simply the combination of neutral spirits with the oil and extracts of the botanicals without redistilling. However, the dominant flavor must be from Juniper berries.
A well-made gin will be relatively dry compared to other spirits. Gin is often mixed with cocktails with sweeter ingredients like tonic water or vermouth to balance out it’s dryness.