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Basic Gin Questions

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Hey Folks,

New distiller here. Had a couple of very basic questions about gin for all the experts on here!

1) Any reason you need a vodka column to make gin from mash? If I had a 4-plate column, couldn't I just make a strong low-wines, seep the botanicals and distill with them in the kettle? Would 2 runs be sufficient or would I need to do a 3rd with a still like this?

2) Any quick/easy formula to gauge what quantity of botanicals (roughly speaking) are needed for gin in this method?

Many thanks for the help!

- applefan

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Applefan,

A column is useful for making neutral spirit, which is a primary ingredient in most gin. Most gin is produced in a simple pot still from a maceration of NGS and botanicals. I'd argue that a London Dry style gin MUST be made in this fashion. Whether or not you feel it necessary to distill your own NGS or buy the NGS from someone else is a question that you'll have to answer for yourself. If it costs you well over twice as much to make NGS yourself as it does to buy it from a quality supplier, and you're just going to macerate it with botanicals and redistill it anyway, I'd argue that you might as well buy the NGS.

When making Genever, a small portion of "malt wine" produced in the method that you describe is utilized to add complexity, but I believe that the malt wine constitutes a minority of the total alcohol of the maceration, which is mostly NGS.

The home distillers have a nice little cheat sheet here if you want some rough estimations of the quantities of botanicals in different recipes.

Have fun!

Nick

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All good Gins start with a good neutral spirit.

If my memory serves me correct when I was working for Seagrams, the Guild specified the 'botanicals' run (last run) to be on 90% or better NGS, when using a Carthead still.

Personally I believe the better the NGS the better the Gin. The yeasty ethyl acetate nose you get from poor spirit detracts from what I believe good London Dry gins should strive for.

I do not believe you will get an outstanding product from steeping, then distilling off. In my experience, holding the botanicals in the vapor path (aka a Carterhead still) is the best way. I have had good success from suspending a large teabag in the pot, above the surface of the boil. Extraction rates are far less so you'll need more botanicals.

As for the amount of botanicals, Nick's comments are good, check out HomeDistiller, or there is a great section in the excellent book "Distilled Spirits Worldwide Conference: Production, Technology and Innovation" by Nottingham Press.

The problem you will find with your botanical is the freshness, or apparent dryness, hence the available level of essential oils. The vast differences we see here in Juniper and coriander, means we have to trial every batch. It can be a real chore to get consistency from batch to batch. One approach is to distill the botanicals sepearatly and blend, as you would a wine from different casks.

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it really

Has anyone tried making a gin with a spirit that wasn't quite neutral? Would it be overly harsh?

it really depends on the base spirit. I tried a gin made from a rice spirit, which still had lots of character. it was one of the nicest gins I've ever had.

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Has anyone tried making a gin with a spirit that wasn't quite neutral? Would it be overly harsh?

Ask Rick Wasmund down at Copper Fox. Or better yet, pay him a visit. The man's doing some amazing things down there...

Nick

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We make a gin that is a single distillation from corn mash. The key here is that most mean dry gin or London dry gin when discussing gin. That has to be made on NGS for London dry gin (Euro requirement), or from what we might call a light whiskey for a dry gin (because for us NGS is 95%, but elsewhere 90%). But gin does NOT have to be dry, and types like old genever are not. So, our product is not intended to be anything like a dry gin, and so many who think the only good gin is a dry gin think it flawed or hate it. We don't, and we find many others that like the product, particularly those that don't like dry gins but enjoy sipping whiskey, they find it is a good sipping gin. In addition, there is a growing number of American craft distillers that are producing a redistilled gin where the base is not NGS but an unaged whiskey. We plan to make one of these as well. Both do nicely when later allowed to age in barrels.

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Genever is made from a young whiskey called malt wine. Depending on the variety up till 100% malt wine genever can be made. Herbs bill is a bit different from a gin. No so many juniper berries there. And a grainy, malty note and some sweetness from the malt sugars.

My experience is that boiling herbs in the boiler brings over most taste.

A usual approach would be to make a neutral in two runs. One strip run, one spirit run. The ready product can be used in gin or genever making. The higher the abv the drier the result. Malt wine can be made as a whiskey, preferably 30% malted barley, 30% corn, 40% rye. Again in two runs. Well, if you want to make a genever. Next step is you play around mixing to find a sweet spot where the herbs accompagny the grain and malt notes as best as possible.

The malt wine or young whiskey can actually be barrel aged. That way you get more flexible in your set up. You have a neutral that can serve as a base for vodka or (dry) gin. And you can use some to make a genever essence. At the same time your young whiskey ages, and you can decide to sell some as is (whiskey) and use another part as aged malt wine together with the neutral base genever essence.

You now have like 4 products out of two types of fermentation.

Good luck!

Edwin.

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Certainly experimentation to use different spirits bases when making gin; it's make it tricky because essentially you have a whole new dimension of flavour to get right. And if you just want to taste the botanicals then NGS is the way to go. As Artisan Still Design mentioned there are gins that use rice spirit there are also apple, pear, grape, potato, honey, whey, 7 grain, oats, millet based gins out there.

If you want your Classic Style of Gin I'd stick with NGS if you want something a bit more Contemporary (modern/new western) then either NGS or new-make can work.

Regarding the botanicals the cheat sheet selection looks good, fresh, rather than dried. citrus adds quite a nice character: there are a few more thoughts here: http://distilling.uberflip.com/t/63864 on pages 45-46.

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I've been experimenting with using a beer base. Our brewery makes a beer that has very low hops, and I've done double and triple distillations on it followed by maceration and a final distillation.

When blending for a final gin, every botanical distillate has a common "thread" of flavor...seemingly left over from the base beer even after 3 and 4 distillations. While the flavor isn't unpleasant, it's very difficult to blend with. Many of the botanicals seem muddied, and the clear progression of tastes over your tongue (the part of drinking gin I enjoy most) gets lost. I can see the attraction of making a gin based on an unmature whiskey, and I will probably be doing that in the future, but for now I'm leaning toward using NGS to enhance that "crisp" delineation between my infused tastes. Perhaps a hybrid of both techniques will be what I end up with.

I'd be curious to hear what people omitting Orris Root might be coming up with as an alternative. I'm very interested in gins using mostly locally sourced botanicals, and Orris isn't something we grow locally :-)

It's amazing what a list of potential herbs, roots, and spices one can come up with even when working with a local limitation. Anyone used sourgrass? Magnolia? Kudzu flower? Acorns? Dandelions?

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I like the idea of your base, Adnams a brewer in East England make their own base from the same ingredients as their beer but they use a different fermentation temperature (than when making beer) to remove more sugar.

Some gins I know distill their botanicals in NGS and then blend a little new make at the end - to add a little extra flavour.

For Orris Root substitute I'd use Angleica Root or Jasmine. I know Caoruun ( a Scottish Gin uses Dandelion).

Regarding the muddiness of the botanicals, what sort of flavour profile are you going for spicy/floral/citrus/savoury/herbal? My suggestion would probably to go down the herbal root. Another suggestion might be have a recipe with less botanicals.

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Thanks DTS, I've been playing with Jasmine, and maybe I'll try Angelica root as well. As for the muddiness, I distilled some 50 botanicals separately on my bench still, and threw a little "blending party." I had about 12 people, and the rules were that they HAD to use juniper and that the result HAD to be proofed down to 40% (all the distillates were at 160, so that was easy....whatever the volume they ended up with was mixed with the same volume of filtered water).

We had about 50 different recipes to try, and there was a common flavor (not juniper) to all of them...which was reminiscent of the base beer. Made it so that a citrus-forward blend was much the same as a juniper-cinammon-hop blend. That is when we concluded that we needed to repeat the experiment with NGS, which is what I'm working on now. As well as making lots of whiskey and grappa :-)

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We had about 50 different recipes to try, and there was a common flavor (not juniper) to all of them...which was reminiscent of the base beer.

Natrat,

My own experiments with distilling hopped beer had the same result. Regardless of the number of passes through a five-plate column under high rectification, an off flavor that I would describe as "rancid" remained. However, after even a single distillation, an aggressive carbon filtration would render the spirit suitably neutral for use in a gin. Of course, the cost of this process (even though the beer was free) far exceeded the cost of buying even the highest quality NGS, so...

Nick

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Natrat,

My own experiments with distilling hopped beer had the same result. Regardless of the number of passes through a five-plate column under high rectification, an off flavor that I would describe as "rancid" remained. However, after even a single distillation, an aggressive carbon filtration would render the spirit suitably neutral for use in a gin. Of course, the cost of this process (even though the beer was free) far exceeded the cost of buying even the highest quality NGS, so...

Nick

Yup...that's pretty much where I got to. I feel a bit better, now.

Having said that, I still have a LOT of brewed beer that I could use. Maybe I'll try charcoal filtering...any ideas for really aggressive DIY cheapo filtering? Could I fill a drum with swimming pool media and pour it through?

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any ideas for really aggressive DIY cheapo filtering? Could I fill a drum with swimming pool media and pour it through?

When you start talking about cheapo DIY charcoal filtering, I think that your first question will be how picky you want to be about materials. I stayed away from the off-the-shelf stuff meant for water because I tend to lean towards stainless and other tried-and-true materials when dealing with ethanol, but my understanding is that many distillers just re-purpose stuff meant for water.

If you do decide to be more DIY, you should peruse a nice little publication that the hobbyists put together: http://homedistiller.org/activated_book1.pdf. I had an extra soda keg lying around, so I just got some fittings from Foxx and rigged up a gravity fed filter: one 270 gal tote on the top of a pallet rack feeding down into the outlet side of the soda keg, up through a bed of Granular Activated Carbon, out the inlet of the soda keg, and into an empty tote. I'd let it run overnight, over the span of multiple days, or whatever was necessary. The profile of the keg is probably a little short and wide, but it worked in a pinch. It's the GAC that is the expensive part: 5 gals is quite a bit of the stuff.

Don't neglect to rinse your carbon before use as described in the above text. When I made that mistake, my first batch tasted like perfectly clean, neutral, coconut vodka.

Nick

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That sounds like my kind of thing. I have a lot of soda kegs from our soda program...or I could always remove the valve from a sankey spear...or maybe just one of my yeast brink kegs...hmmmm.

I like stainless, too...especially because I can make it do whatever I want with a bit of TIG persuasion.

Thanks for all the tips, Nick. I appreciate it!

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