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Big price difference in Botanicals

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Just putting together a spreadsheet for botanical prices as I ordered a testing still and want to try out my recipes:

Compared Starwest, Mountain Rose, Pacific and Herbco

Pretty large disparity in prices, even though some seeds / roots are coming from the same country (Egypt, India, etc). For ease of computation just looked at per pound price for a few basics:

Coriander, Cubeb, Grains of Paradise, Licorice root, Angelica, Orris Root, Anise, Juniper

Starwest: $165.00

Mountain Rose: n/a

Pacific: $112.00

Herbco; $74.00

Mountain Rose didn't have enough of the above to count, and Pacific would have come out a bit more expensive as they were missing Juniper. (say around $130)

Guess question is, are you really getting better quality from Starwest to justify the 100%+ markup? Or, conversely - is Herbco offering substandard ingredients for those prices?

And of course - second question, what's the best place to source your Juniper berries?

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Unfortunately, the best way to determine quality is to just get some samples in hand. Botanicals can vary substantially between batches, region, storage conditions... if you haven't dabbled in contrasting different batches of ingredients, it's a great exercise that really takes you quite close to some flavors that you may have thought you already understood.

 

As a small facility, we've certainly struggled at times with scaling up and duplicating recipes. In our experience the cheapest botanicals are not necessarily of the highest quality. 

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2 hours ago, Sacchareligious said:

Botanicals can vary substantially between batches, region, storage conditions... if you haven't dabbled in contrasting different batches of ingredients, it's a great exercise that really takes you quite close to some flavors that you may have thought you already understood.

Exactly what he said!

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You'll also want to taste out alternative suppliers in your development stage so you are able to make substitutions when your preferred supplier runs out and tells you there will be 3 months before its restocked...

 

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We were given some sage (Ha!) advice a while back when I asked a similar question. We use Mt. Rose as they are here in town but were warned that they, like some of the other very high quality botanical dealers, are very particular about the quality of their herbs they are buying. If the juniper berries, for example, are not up to par from there supplier they will simply just say "No" and then may be out of that botanical for an underdetermined time until they find another batch that meets their standard (and there goes your consistent flavor) . Larger companies such as San Francisco Herb Co. might not be as high quality will always have the botanicals. I cant comment on price vs quality but food for thought when selecting a botanical source is consistent availability.

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Great advice! I've encountered some relatively flavorless juniper berries, but fortunately never used them in a commercial product. Penzey's Spice Company is very good (in my opinion) for quality, but they stopped selling in bulk at bulk price. Now we use San Francisco Spice Co. for the "easy" botanicals, and Mountain Rose (I'm an ex-pat Oregonian) for the less common ones. So far our flavor has been great. I'm not sure exactly the reason, but people comment (and I agree) that our gin is "brighter" than most London Dry types.

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Im in the same predicament at the moment, I usually use Mountain Rose but started looking at Woodland Foods out of Chicago (much closer to me, cheaper, and availability.) But I did a test run with woodland food's crushed juniper, instead of Mountain Rose herbs whole berries and me crushing them. I immediate noticed Woodland's crushed juniper was very dry and in the end product it was defiantly noticeable that it lacked the Juniper of my previous product, now I am hesitant to even purchase whole berries or any other botanical from a different supplier in fear that it will never be the same. 

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I don't find Woodland's whole berries to be dry.  A lot less debris in the juniper than from SF Herb.  It does taste different though than SF Herb.

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16 hours ago, jeffw said:

I don't find Woodland's whole berries to be dry.  A lot less debris in the juniper than from SF Herb.  It does taste different though than SF Herb.

That's good to know, their pre crushed juniper was a lot dryer than crushing juniper berries your self.  

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Forget price! Quality is your number 1 determinate. Get a pres-shipment sample and test. If it meets your internal quality specs THEN look at price.

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