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A Recipe for Gin

Achroous Gin, Electric Spirit Co.

Published: 4th June 2020

In ‘A Recipe for Gin’, we meet the people responsible for creating Scottish Gin recipes, providing a fascinating insight into the gin making process and the inspiration and challenges of bringing an idea for a gin to life.

Its dayglow bright orange bottle instantly catches your eye and once sampled, the contents capture your taste buds. Achroous from Electric Spirit Co. has continued to garner a reputation as a Scottish Gin that excites the senses. Created by distiller and founder at Electric Spirit Co., James Porteous, we recently caught up with James to learn more about how he created the recipe for the award-winning Achroous gin.

What inspired you to create this gin?

Achroous has been around for a few years now, and was dreamed up when the gin scene was a bit different from today – pretty much every new distillery was making a straight-up London Dry as their launch/core product (weird when you look at today’s liqueur-fest). My goal with Electric was always to try and take a different tack, so I wanted to use that traditional style and riff on it a little, while still maintaining the key characteristics that people associate with a London Dry. I was also keen to create a product that was as bullshit-free as possible, so wanted to make a spirit with a really short botanical bill, only containing ingredients that served a fundamental role in the gin’s aroma and flavour.

What are some of the key botanicals in your gin?

Based on what I set out to do, that botanical bill ended up being seven ingredients. Five are pretty standard – juniper; coriander; orris; liquorice; angelica – and of these, I’d say the key points are the juniper (there’s a sizeable, resinous dose) and the angelica root (again, a large addition to give the gin a rich, earthy quality). The two other botanicals, and the two that really define the gin, are fennel seed and Sichuan peppercorn. Fennel seed has a beautiful fruity sweetness, and is there because I love cooking with it, while Sichuan peppercorn tastes of pretty much everything. It has an incredible floral, woody, spiced aroma, and on the tongue has a spectacular lemon sherbert flavour. It’s mean to pick favourites, but I love working with it.

What’s the distillation process?

Achroous has been made across a number of different stills – initial trials were on a 1L glass kit, scaling up to 10L and later 20L during the early days of Electric’s life as a distillery. At that point I was doing multiple distillations and marrying them together to make one batch, and it took about a week to make 130 bottles, which was pretty exhausting. The current setup is a 500L Genio G-Still, which is filled with spirit and all the botanicals two days before a run, and left to macerate. On the third day the still’s fired up first thing, running all day and producing enough hearts for a few hundred litres of gin. It’s a pretty straightforward process, but all the botanicals used benefit from a good soak and the heat of a pot distillation, so it’s the best way.

From start to finish, how much time went into the creation of your gin recipe?

I had a good starting point in that I knew the botanicals I wanted to include, and the aromas and flavours I wanted to hit, so maybe a dozen or so iterations to get the trial batch dialled in. The good thing about gin is that you can rapidly develop an idea by doing a shedload of distillations in a very short space of time. It’s important not to get too fixated on releasing perfection – you can tweak recipes based on feedback as you go, but you’re going to get no feedback if nobody gets to taste it.

To make sure I didn’t go totally off the reservation in terms of the recipe, I came up with a few tests. One, it had to work in a gin and tonic – it sounds like an obvious statement, but a classic tonic takes very few prisoners, and you’ve got to nail those core botanicals, especially the juniper, to get that. Two, it had to work in a negroni – it’s a big, bold drink where the vermouth and Campari will overpower any gin that’s too shy with its botanical content, so there needs to be a bit of punch in the gin to make it stand out. Three, it had to convince bartenders – I’m lucky to have a good few friends who know a lot more than me about mixed drinks. They’ve collectively tasted most of the market, and know what works in a gin, even down to helping decide what ABV the final product sat at. Finally – my wife’s palate is way better than mine, so she was instrumental in tasting through the samples, and vitally, killing a few darlings in the process.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when creating your gin?

I’d say the most nerve-wracking bit has been scaling up the recipe of an established product between a well-worn, 20L still and its brand new, unknown 500L replacement – not every ingredient scales in a nice linear way (looking at you here, fennel seed), so you need to be really careful and aware of the characteristics of your botanicals, and how they behave in the still. You’re also aware that after a few years, people know what the gin is meant to taste like, and there’s a real nervousness that you won’t be able to recreate it at scale. After scaling up and getting the recipe settled in, Achroous scored a 96/100 at the IWSC awards, which as much as anything was a huge relief, and I guess means I didn’t make a total arse of it.

Can you describe the flavour profile?

First and foremost – unmistakably, a proper gin. A strong juniper backbone gives you a resinous astringency, while the root content builds body and gives a rich, earthy quality. Fennel seed brings a bright, fruity note, while the Sichuan peppercorn lays on a lovely floral, spiced aroma, and fresh citrus on the palate. It’ll stand up to a Negroni, and it’ll give you a cracking G&T with a light, dry tonic and lots of good ice.

You can learn more about Electric Spirit Co. here.

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