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Odin on Gin

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Odin    45

Introduction

Over the last decade I have had the opportunity to help dozens and dozens of craft distillers with developing and designing their gins. I want to use this thread to help lay out some of the basic guidelines I learned, that make the production of great gin quite easy and straight forward. Over the coming days (and depending on comments and my time in the factory) or weeks, I want to get most of the information (if not all) that we give on our gin making courses across.

Now, gin making has a wide set of variables. And a lot of people adhere to certain approaches. If ever you feel my approaches or opinions to be contrary to yours, let's turn this thread into a discussion, not a battle ground. I for one will not. Just sharing info, not trying to convince anyone. Use the info or not. It's here (or it will be) and I will share it so you can use it.

A few things on gin. Basically, let's dive into procedures, herbs bills, distillation techniques. But I want to start with a general outline on taste. Just to make or introduce a starting point. When I make whiskey, I find the late heads, smearing into hearts, to be fruity. Front of mouth oriented. You taste them first and you taste them on your lips and the front of your tongue. The body, the grain, comes over after that. Hearts. Middle mouth feeling. Early tails, that smear into the last portion of hearts, have a nutty, root-like taste (if you give them time to develop) and are tasted at the back of your mouth towards the throat. Now, in my experience, the same holds true for a gin: it's the fruity bits that come over first, then the body, then the root-like, nutty flavors.

So if you want to make a floral gin ... don't add root-like, nutty things to your gin recipe. And cut a bit earlier. If you want a full-bodied gin that lingers in your mouth and can be consumed neat ... do add those nutty, root-like components. And cut a bit later, since these tastes come over during the last part of the run.

Okay, that was the introductionary post. More on herbs bills and aging gin and procedures in future posts!

Regards, Odin.

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Odin    45

Taste Development during the Run

So, let's follow up on the first post. Taste, in a gin, pretty much follows in the footsteps of making brandy, whiskey or rum. Fruity notes at the beginning, body in the middle, root-like, nutty tastes at the end of the run. Weird, because we normally work with GNS, when making gin, so there shouldn't be "real" heads and tails, right? Right, but the molecules, associated with certain tastes, still follow the same rules. Fruity at the beginning, root-like at the end. Lime, lemon, orange peel come over early. Rooty and nutty herbs come over near the end. And if you want multi-dimensionality, a complex gin, you need both.

It even gets more funny. Or interesting. Not only does the gin develop in taste as a whiskey or rum or brandy would ... even though you may use GNS to make your gin, you still need cuts. Cuts on a gin? Yes! A sorta Fores/Heads cut and a sorta Tails cut.

Tails cut is easy. It is when you stop the run, because the later parts of the run just bring too much root-like tastes over (and they easily overpower the fruitiness of the beginning of the run). But a "Fores/Heads cut"? Yes, you need it. A small one. Only like 0.5 liters on a 250 liter charge. Maybe a liter in a 500 liter boiler charge of gin. The first (half a) liter. Why? This contains the very oily, excessive and harsh first juniper oils. You want to cut them out.

I'll try to find a picture and add it to this thread. So you can see how these first juniper oils, that you want to cut out, look like. Really remarkable. A bubble of haze in a pint of alcohol. Not nice. Toss it. I can't find pics right now, but I'll dive in later. Important that you see it, so you can recognize it.

All right, so how can we use cuts to perfect our gin? Well, if you are not satisfied with the amount of back of throat taste / root-like tastes ... you could cut a bit later, allowing for more nutty flavors to come over. Or if you feel you need a little less fruity notes ... well, you can dial the amount of fruit peel back ... or you can take a slightly larger "Fores/Heads cut". I am not saying one solution is better than the other, I am just informing you that by "gin cutting" you have an additional tool to perfect your gin runs.

Something else you can use. If you make rum or brandy or whiskey, you can do a swift stripping run. Fast, low alcohol purity, lots of tastes blending in all over the place. Just so you get the picture: faster strips make for dirtier smearing of heads and tails into hearts.

Same technique you can use with gin making. You don't strip, but you can vary power inputs on your distilling machine. If you go for higher energy inputs and higher output figures per liter, you will increase vapor speeds inside your column. High vapor speeds translate to more of the Tails oriented tastes to come over earlier. And they may be overpowering.

The solution? Just throttle down and you will find the outcome less root-like, less nutty oriented. More florals coming over.

Play with it: power settings. If you go too fast, taste becomes flat, one dimensional. Tune it down (by power management) and within just a few seconds, you may find the taste appealing again. Multi-faceted, interesting, complex. Playing with energy input, speed of run, and vapor speeds does not only allow you to make better tasting gin (lower speeds for better gin), it also allows you to go deeper into the Tails oriented department without the associated tastes becoming too overpowering. In other words: you can use more of the GNS to actually make more great tasting gin. End temperature based on gas temperature entering the column? Between 94.5 and 96 degrees C. The slower you go, on the last part of the run, the deeper you can go, without compromising on overal taste.

Next? Lets dive into louched gins in the next post. Are they a failure ... or maybe a sign of actual distilling success? I'll try to find some time and dive in tomorrow or the day after. For after the weekend? A take on boiler vs. vapor infused gins! I know there's lots of opinions. I won't try to take sides, I will try to explain the pro's and con's.

Regards, Odin

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Odin    45

To Louch or not to Louch, that's the question!

Thanks tbagnulo! Onwards with louched gins! I visited a distillery once that had a wide array of products. Most of them bottled at 40%. Only their gin was bottled at higher strength. I asked the master distiller why? He said - and taking a look I could see it - that even at the higher ABV of 45%, his gin was on the verge of becoming cloudy (or "louchy" as the word seems to be). Would he go any lower in ABV, the gin would turn almost white.

I asked him what he thought the solution was. He told me that he had talked to two gin experts. One advised him to cut his herbs bill in half. Use like only 50% of the total herbs bill he had used before. The second one told him to buy a chill filter and filter the haze out.

The second solution I really don't like, because it takes away essential oils AKA taste. And anyone who tells you that chill filtering doesn't ... well, let them chill filter their whiskey for 10 times only to find out it starts to taste pretty much like a vodka! The first solution of using less herbs, isn't good either. It relies on the assumption that a louched gin is bad. I feel it isn't. A louched gin is a great indication you got over huge amounts of tasty oils. And that was the goal right? To create a big tasting gin.

So how do we solve the louch? Easy, dilute some neutral / gns to the same percentage as the louched gin, and add a portion. There will be a moment (75:25, 66:34, 50:50, etc.) when all  of a sudden the louch lifts. In a second, maybe two. You now have the gin with the most taste possible. And if you think it is too big in taste? Dilute it.

Bottom line? A louched gin gives you a balpark. A starting point that makes it easy to create great tasting gin with the same flavor profile over and over again. And you can always dilute a big taste gin to a lighter one, but not the other way around.

Next post: on boiler vs. vapor infused gins.

Regards, Odin.

PS: Here's a movie on me making gin. With lots of info on how to do it! Here it is: 

 

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Odin    45

Okay, more info to follow soon. Thanks Bull and Franco for the kudos. Much appreciated. Currently dealing with a case of quite severe pneumonia. Looking back it has been in my system for the last month at least. Visited the MD three days ago and it was of to the hospital and medication right away. Feeling a bit better already. Antibiotics kicking in. But I will be a bit slower on posting the follow up on this gin thread.

Just so you know.

Regards, Odin.

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Odin    45

Vapor vs. Boiler Infusion

Slowly on the mend, Graffy. One moment I feel good, an hour later it's of to bed again. It seems pneumonia takes a bit longer to recover fully from. But enough about that. Onwards with gin! Vapor vs. boiler infusion, where the first stands for a distillation cycle with the herbs and berries in the vapor path, and where "boiler infusion" stands for a situation where the herbs and berries are put in the diluted GNS that's about to be distilled.

I feel the discussion of vapor vs. boiler infused gin follows quite naturally on the thinking about louched vs. non-louched gins. Vapor infusion has seen a steep rise in attention over boiler infusion, over the last years. Mainly, in my opinion, there are two reasons for that. First, vapor infusion is a great way to create a gin without the "issues" associated with louching. Vapor infused gins don't louch, where boiler infused gins do. So if you feel louching is bad (please see the post above), vapor infusion can help you out. The second thing that happened is that Bombay Saphire Gin became a huge hit. And it acclaimed its success to its great taste and its great taste to its vapor infused distilling method. "Delicate" is a word often used to describe vapor infused gins.

To burst that second bubble first: Bombay Saphire does not taste great. Yes, it does, when compared to traditional English gins like Beefeaters and Gordons, but in a direct comparison with most Craft Distilled Gins, it does not stand a chance. I know, because we use Bombay (and Hendricks and Tanqueray) in blind tastings when helping our customers developing great tasting gins. Even people that come in and say: "Bombay (or Hendricks or Tanqueray) is my prefered gin!" will never go back to it, once they have done a side-by-side comparison with Craft Distilled Gins.

Vapor infusion does not create gins that louche. The reason is that vapors are much, much "thinner" than liquids. Around 1200 limes. One liter of (say) 30% diluted GNS in the boiler will boil-of as 1200 liters of gases. Gas to herbs contact therefore creates much less taste (tasty oils) transfer than liquid to herbs contact. Less oils over means that vapor infusion produces non-louching gins. It also explains why vapor infusion makes a lighter gin. Not by definition more delicate, but, yes, by definition lighter.

So, its not like one method is better than the other, that really depends on your goal. Do you want a ligher gin? Use vapor infusion or use boiler infusion and then dilute with GNS. Do you want a bolder, heavier style? Go the route of boiler infused gin.

"But how about peels? Peels need to be vapor infused, right? They turn rancid otherwise!" Yes and no. It's not the peels of lemons and limes, tangerines and oranges that turns rancid. It's the inside white, the pith, that does. Both in vapor and in boiler infused approaches. It's just that in vapor infusion less taste, so also less of the potentially rancid tastes, come over.

In other words: if you make sure the peel you use has zero to none inside white ... you can put them where ever you like. It is my profound experience (and nowadays the experience of many, many distilleries that have sought our help in product development) that the statement that peels need vapor infusion is a myth.

Does this mean vapor management is a myth? That it serves no goal? No. As before: it is a choice you have. An extra tool you can apply. But it is not The Tool That Solves Everything. In fact, if you understand that louching is actually a good thing, and if you work with well cleaned peels in your gin recipe, you'll probably find boiler infusion to be easier and more economical to work with, since it allows you to make both lighter and heavier styles, while using less total herbs to get you there.

There is one thing, though, that vapor infusion is king at. And that's if you have flowers in your gin recipe. Most flowers benefit from an oils extraction method that combines both higher ABV's (higher alcohol percentages) and lower temperatures. That's exactly where vapor infusion excels. Gases have undergone one distillation and are by definition stronger in alcohol percentage than the boiler content they boil-of from. And gases have a lower temperature than the temperature of the liquids in the boiler.

If you have flowers in your gin recipe, vapor infusion is a great tool. And that's all that's to it. It's not like vapor infusion or boiler infusion are better. Due to the different chemical / scientific situations they offer, both methods provide tools you can use to your benefit. To what goal? To make even better gin. It's not vapor vs. boiler infusion, its vapor AND boiler infusion.

Next post? Let's dive into alcohol strength and the difference between a London Dry Style Gin and other gins.

Regards, Odin.

 

 

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Odin    45

Congratulations to Avian & Team from The Wrecking Coast Distillery of Tintagel, Cornwall for their clotted cream gin being elected best flavored gin in the world!

http://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/christmasgifts/drink/best-flavoured-gin-sacred-four-pillars-a7470066.html

Regards, Odin.

 

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Odin    45

Alcohol Strength

A little more on alcohol strength. While distilling and while bottling. Let's start with the ABV of you vodka/neutral/GNS in the boiler ...

The first question, related to alcohol strength is of course: how does it influence taste? Luckily, the answer is pretty straight forward: if you distill your gin at a higher proof, it will get dryer in taste. That's why London Dry Gin is called "Dry". It is distilled at no less than 70% / 140 proof, that's a quite high percentage ... so "High" equals "Dry". And if you want to get an understanding at what "Dry" means in a gin ... maybe buy a bottle of Gordon's or Beefeater's.

If "High" is "Dry", what happens if we distill with lower proof in the boiler, in order to get the distilate to come over below 70%? Well, in that case the gin becomes less dry and more mellow in style.

All right. Now, for example's sake, let's assume you want to make a more mellow gin. How to achieve it? By putting a less strong GNS in your boiler. But here comes the interesting challenge: below 30% not all herbs give up their taste oils. Now, if you choose to vapor infuse that's not a problem. The rising gases are stronger than 30%. Even on a 20% boiler charge. But vapor infusion brings over less taste. So how do we deal with boiler infused gin? Bigger taste, but since the boiler charge needs to be 30% for oils extraction ... does this mean we cannot make anything else - when boiler infusing - than a dry style gin? No, it doesn't. And here's the solution I like to work with.

What I do, when I make a gin (and I am more of a big taste - so boiler infused - and mellow - so below 70% kinda guy), is this: I prepare my gin run the night before. I fill (example) a 500 liter boiler with 200 liters of 60%. I put the berries in and I put the herbs in. I let them steep over night. Next morning I top of with warm water to bring the ABV down and to preheat the boiler contents (to get to the production phase sooner). Best of both worlds. Works like a charm. Please see the video posted above for more explanation.

Now, onwards to bottling strength. Many commercial gins are bottled at 40%. You'd need a very forward cut or light and floral gin to be able to dilute it to 40% without louching. Or you need to chill filter, of which I am not a fan, because it takes away taste. I personally feel 43 to 45% is great. Sometimes 47% is wonderful. My advice: play with ABV. I have helped develop a beautiful gin for customers from Ireland, where we wanted a neat sipper and a gin for in the gin tonic. We used the same herbs bill, the same distilling procedure, and the same cut points. The only thing we changed is how far we diluted down. The neat sipper stayed at 47%, the gin for gin tonic went down to 43%. Amazing taste differences are to be found, just playing with your bottling strength.

So what's next? I could talk a bit more on gin aging. Some misconceptions there we can dive into. And/or you tell me what you want me to cover in the next post and I'll try to dive into your questions. Just let me know.

Regards, Odin.

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jeffw    6

It really is a nice thread Odin.  Thanks for all the input.  I do find the bottling strength to be a pretty interesting topic.  We bottle the same gin at a couple different proofs.  i would say that the juniper perception goes up with proof and spices and floral notes fade away.  

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Odin    45

Thanks for sharing, Jeff!

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Odin    45

Aging White Gin

I think there are two topics here. First, the making, diluting, and bottling of gin, does that require any aging? Secondly, there is a big move towards barrel aged gin. I will start with the first question first ... and I will leave "barrel aged gin" for another post.

White gin requires aging. Not much, but you can't just dilute it and bottle it and sell it. Well, you can, but you won't create the best tasting gin that way. A gin that's bottled right after it's been diluted to bottling strength has two issues:

1. It tickles on the tongue;

2. Taste is not integrated.

The tickling of the tongue is a very good indication that a gin is not yet aged out. The tickling is caused by alcohol sucking water up water. Since alcohol is highly hydrofile or hygroscopic, that makes sense ... if you didn't give your gin enough time after diluting it to bottling strength. If you add water to your gin to bring it down from (for example) 70% to 45%, a process starts that I call "the marriage between water and alcohol". It is not an instant process. It is not a gentle process either. It is a process where some of the water gets dissolved into the alcohol. A process that creates heat (some), slightly lowers the total volume (total volume is lower than the volume of the original alcohol and water), and raises the proof a bit. All because water dissolves - over time - in alcohol.

So here's the first trick in letting your gin age out: dilute it, then give it like five weeks for the marriage to take place. After this period, when you taste the gin, the tickle on your tongue is gone. The five week period also helps the different oils and tastes settle out. Please try it. Make your gin, dilute it, fill one bottle, open the cap on that bottle like every day, and taste is:

- On day one (not coherent, tickly, is this the gin I wanted to make?);

- After three days (nice, its moving in a good direction, wow, this is different shit!);

- After five weeks (when you'll have reached your final taste profile).

This test will teach you that you will achieve around 2/3rds of the final taste profile already after the first three days. It will also teach you that giving it more time really pays of.

I know that waiting for five weeks can be a pain. You need more time to market, and you need more storage space. But in the end, if you want to make the best product, there is no escaping it. There are, however, a few tricks you can use to speed up the process. Here they are:

1. Use an ultrasonic cleaner (50 Watt per liter minimum and at 40 kHz) and give your gin like three ten minute treatments. It won't skip the five week rest period completely, but it will get you closer sooner. The process of especially water marrying to alcohol is sped up. And if you look in your ultrasonic cleaner, while doing it, you'll see for yourself that this process is not a gentle one: the liquids turn grey during the first part of the ultrasonification.

2. Use corks instead of caps on your bottles. A cork may allow for slight air movements in and out. If you allow for that, the process of water dissolving into alcohol can take place in the bottle. But if you have a hard capped bottle, the process of water dissolving in alcohol cannot take place, because its a process that shrinks total volume. A relative vacuum developing in the air pocket would prevent the water to dissolve properly. So ... with hard capped gin bottles, you may want to skip the white gin aging process a bit with ultrasonic treatments, or not and you wait five weeks before you bottle. The good news is: it will improve your drink hugely. And the fun thing is that if you did the tests I proposed, you'll recognize other gins as having had the appropriate amount of aging or not.

Aging white gin is not completely straight forward in the sense that five weeks will do it. Time and again, I learn that the vapor speeds and how deep we go towards tails / the end part of the run influence the aging curve. See the first post on that please. The concise? If you run your rig harder (higher vapor speeds) more aging is needed. If you run longer, more aging is needed. If you run your rig slower and cut a bit earlier, for a more floral gin, the marriage may just take as much as only three weeks to take place.

Next post in this thread will be about barrel aging gin. After that? Lets dive into herbs bills!

Regards, Odin.

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KINKY    1

Oh great Odin!

I have read this forum for a long time but now I decide to ask you.
I've started making my gin by vapor infusion with a carter head putted between reflux column and condenser. 
In general, I use GNS  96,2% and in my boiler I dilute to 12%, my final result is about 41% . My obsession is refrigeration water at low constant temperature.
I puted out 200 initial ml (90%), and at this moment I put the botanicals in the head. I start at 88-89% and stop when distillate is about 10%.
I begin whit 20 gr juniper by liter of PURE ALCOHOL in the boiler, I use coriander, almonds, cardamom etc and angelica and orris root for fixation.
My firsts Gins are (with tonic) very bitter and astringent the first days (day 1 and 2), but with several days (2 weeks) they are most flavoured and sweet. I like almost everything but I have an astringent aftertaste still that lasts in time... 

Which way do you advise me to follow? What part of what I do you would not do? Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

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Odin    45

Hi Kinky,

I don't know your set-up so I may be wrong, but there are two things I would dive into, if I were you:

  • Lots of juniper comes over in the beginning of the run. If you collect that at very high temperatures, it is easier to bring tanine-like tastes over ... so maybe reflux a bit less ... or not at all, but up the ABV in the boiler. Since you do vapor infusion, low temps in the boiler have no benefit.
  • If you collect till what comes over is 10% ... it looks like you run very deep into tails. Quite some astringent tastes can be found there.

My advice is: run higher ABV in the boiler and do it potstill style. And collect in mason jars, write down collection temps (Temperature in the column) of each jar, and do taste settings there, so you can decide on where to stop.

Regards, Odin.

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KINKY    1

Hi again Mr Odin.
I understand you, and I will follow your tips. I will push up ABV  in the boiler, and I'll check when I stop the collection. But I do not understand something that you say: 

  • Lots of juniper comes over in the beginning of the run. If you collect that at very high temperatures, it is easier to bring tanine-like tastes over ... so maybe reflux a bit less ... or not at all, but up the ABV in the boiler. I understand your thinking
  • But when you say : Since you do vapor infusion, low temps in the boiler have no benefit. It seems that this is being fought with the above.

Seems to be difficult to combine both. Maybe finding the balance between these two is the way to go?

I usually begin to collect with a temperature of 80.3 - 80.5ºC in the boiler, the end is approximately 89.5ºC in the boiler. Do you think these temperatures are far from the ideal range?

Thank you for making me think :blink:

That someone gives you their knowledge Is one of the things that I most appreciate.

Thank you.

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Odin    45

That must be: "High temps in the boiler ..." I wrote that down incorrectly.

Good luck on your gin, Kinky.

Regards, Odin.

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Odin    45

Here is a customer review on the gin (and iStill) we helped him out with:

"

Hi Odin,

Since last week, I’ve been having the occasion sniff of our gin and even the occasional sip. We brought back two bottles to London. I have been a bit nervous about the spicy undertones but decided to give it the full five weeks before making a final judgement.

Today, I had three guys over or a work session (IT Business) and gave them some of the gin to taste at lunchtime. We had it with Fever Tree (Classic Indian) and a slice of orange and ice.

I can honestly say that I was blown away by it. It really is completely delicious and the rest of the team agreed strongly! They are all keen to buy.

The best bit is that we have four weeks to go ‘resting time’ before we actually bottle and already this is showing truly great promise.

Jude has done a great job with the recipe (we need to keep those cloves dialled right down) and you have done an amazing job getting us this far. I’m completely delighted and I’m sure Jude is too. I have great confidence in the product, which is just what you need if you’re going to be selling it, and I can’t thank you enough.

We’ll keep you posted on sales.

We’ve just bought another 200ltrs of GNS today.

All the very best,

Peter.

"

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Odin    45

Great gin workshop with 11 participants!

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Hello, 

I was participating in the white spirits course by istill. I must say that it was a very good course, Odin and Nick are very knowledgeable distillers, they run the course very smoothly sharing they secrets. I  recommend this course to anyone that is interested in learning more about distilling.  Moreover you can see some istills working. 

Thank you Odin 

Franco

  

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Odin    45

... and thanks for the feedback, Franco. It was great meeting you and it is even better seeing you have enjoyed the workshop. We have new workshops planned for the weekend of March 12 and March 26. Both three day courses on mashing, fermenting and advanced distilling. Whiskey, vodka, rum and gin. The first one is already sold out, the second one still has a few places free. And, yes, during those days we will use an iStill 500 `NextGen to do the actual mashing, fermenting and distilling with! I am looking forward to it.

Franco, do you remember tasting the Clotted Cream Gin from The Wrecking Coast Distillery? The one that won the title of Best Flavored Gin in the World? Well, their business is doing good, so they ordered another iStill 500 NextGen. Here's a picture of their unit being put up for crating. We don't just sell stills and related equipment, we want to be a key supplier that helps our customers achieve their business goals. That's also why the workshops and consultancy and product development we offer are so important. But I am sidetracking ... Next post on the makings of fine gin again!

Regards, Odin.

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