Gin is made from neutral ethyl alcohol and flavoured with a juniper-dominated collection of botanicals. The ethyl alcohol used must be distilled to the minimum standards stated in the EU Spirit Drink Regulations. In all types of gin, the predominant flavour must be juniper, and they must have a minimum retail strength of 37.5% abv.
There are three definitions of gin: Gin, Distilled Gin and London Gin.
This is made from suitable ethyl alcohol and flavourings. The ethyl alcohol does not have to be re-distilled. The flavouring can be either approved natural or artificial flavourings, and can be simply mixed together with the ethyl alcohol to form the gin (compounded).
There is no restriction on the addition of other approved additives such as sweetening. Water is added to reduce the gin’s strength to the desired retail level, but not below 37.5% abv. There is no restriction on the colouring of gin with an approved colouring.
In essence this is ‘gin-flavoured spirit’.
Distilled Gin is made in a traditional still by redistilling neutral alcohol in the presence of natural flavourings. There is no minimum strength laid down for the resultant distillate. After distillation, further ethyl alcohol of the same composition may be added.
Additional flavourings may be added after distillation and these can be either natural or artificial flavourings. The distillate can be further changed by the addition of other approved additives since there is no prohibition on their use in the definition.
Water may be added to reduce the strength to the desired retail level. There is no restriction on the colouring of distilled gin with approved colourings
Distilled Gin can be some of the finest and brands such as Hendrick’s are made by this method.
London Gin is made in a traditional still by re-distilling ethyl alcohol in the presence of all natural flavourings used.
The ethyl alcohol used to distil London Gin must be of a higher quality than the standard laid down for ethyl alcohol. The methanol level in the ethyl alcohol must not exceed a maximum of 5 grams per hectolitre of 100% vol. alcohol.
The flavourings used must all be approved natural flavourings and they must impart the flavour during the distillation process. The use of artificial flavourings is not permitted. No flavourings can be added after distillation.
The resultant distillate must have a minimum strength of 70% abv. Further ethyl alcohol may be added after distillation provided it is of the same standard.
A small amount of sweetening may be added after distillation provided the sugars do not exceed 0.1 grams/litre of finished product (the sugar is not discernible and is added to some products purely for brand protection purposes). The only other substance that may be added is water. London Gin cannot be coloured.
London Gins are traditionally thought to be the best gins available (the Distillers will argue against that). Some of the brands producing London Dry gins are Tanqueray (Export Strength and 10), Sipsmith, SW4, No 3, Greenall’s, Gordon’s, Bloom and Bombay Sapphire.