The Complete Glossary of Scottish GinCovering some of the most commonly used terms in Scottish Gin.
Published: 25th April 2021
We believe that the more you can learn about the science, the history, the distillation process and other key areas, the more you can appreciate the craft and skill that goes into making a great gin. And there’s a lot to learn. London Dry, rectified, botanical basket, apéritif, grain to glass, bitters, Boston shaker. When it comes to Scottish Gin, the wider gin category, gin based cocktails and all the different topics that play a part in the story of our favourite juniper based spirit, there can be a lot to take in and understand. Even more so if you’re going from casual gin drinker to someone who is keen to learn more and develop a better understanding of the liquid in your glass.
We’ve put together The Complete Glossary of Scottish Gin to help debunk and simplify some of the terminology you’ll come across as you delve deeper into the wonderful world of Scottish Gin. This glossary covers some of the most common terms and our descriptions are in plain English. It also includes some of the significant historical moments that have helped shaped gin.
Alcohol by volume (ABV) the standard measuring system used in the UK to measure how much alcohol is in a specific alcoholic beverage.
The agitator is a tool used to mix the contents of the still. Usually the agitator is built into most modern, engineered stills, for example, stills from Arnold Holstein have the agitator built into the still and can be operated via a control panel. The agitator acts like a spoon continuously mixing the botanicals, base alcohol and water. This mixing process ensures all the botanicals are evenly heated and avoid getting burnt or stuck to the insides of the still.
A type of still used to create batches of distillates. Traditionally made from beaten copper, an alembic still consist of four sections including the pot, the head, the swan neck and the condenser. The pot is the main body of the still where the botanicals, water and base alcohol are heated. The alembic lid, which often looks like a bubble, ball or has even been described as an onion, is where the vapours from the distillate in the pot rises into the head of the still before being drawn down the swan neck. The swan neck is the curved tube that leads to the condenser, sometimes called a worm coil. The condenser normally looks like a copper bucket with a tightly wound copper tube in the middle, filled with cold water. When the vapours and condensate travel down the worm, the cold water cools the vapour turning it back into a liquid.
Amaro, which is Italian for ‘Bitter’, is a herbal liqueur originating from Italy. Traditionally drank after-dinner as a digestif, Amaros have a bitter sweet flavour and are made using three key ingredients, which include alcohol, botanicals or herbs and sweet elements. ABV can vary between 16% ABV to as strong as 40% ABV. The drink can be enjoyed neat over ice, as part of a cocktail or stretched into a longer drink with the addition of a mixer. Well known Amaros include Fernet Branca and Amaro Montenegro.
Traditionally served before a meal, apéritifs were created to help with your appetite and metabolism. Still popular in some European countries, well known aperitifs include Campari, Dubonnet, Aperol and can be enjoyed neat over ice or mixed in cocktails.
AWRS (Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme)
Introduced by HMRC to tackle alcohol fraud, the AWRS licence helps provide transparency and protect businesses purchasing alcohol through a wholesaler.
Some gin makers chose to produce their gins in batches. What constitutes how many bottles are in a batch is up to the individual gin maker. Some batches may be 100 bottles or anywhere into the 1000s; there is no legal definition of how many bottles make a batch. Some gin makers don’t create batches, instead choosing to simply produce any given number of bottles and releasing them.
Bathtub gins use a process where botanicals or ingredients are added to a neutral grain spirit in a container before being filtered and bottled. This method of gin started with people making gin at home by using their bathtub hence where the term bathtub gin originated. This production method is often referred to as Cold Compounding or Compounding.
Beer Street and Gin Lane
Created by English artist William Hogarth in 1751, Beer Street and Gin Lane are two prints that were created to support The Sale of Spirits Act of 1750, commonly known as the Gin Act. The act was introduced by the Parliament of Great Britain to stem the rise of alcohol consumption, specifically gin. The illustration of Beer Street depicts a scene of happy, healthy and well nourished people, industry and thriving commerce. By total contrast, Gin Lane shows a scene of deprivation, crime, suicide and mental health issues. The two prints were created to show the merits of drinking beer verses the evils of gin consumption.
Bitters are featured in a variety of drinks to add extra character and balance to a cocktail. Traditionally made using alcohol and botanicals including aromatic herbs, bark, roots, spices or fruit. Although bitters come in a variety of types, the most common bitters you’ll find behind nearly every bar is Angostura bitters made by the House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Boston Shaker is one of the key tools for any mixologist. Unlike more traditional shakers, which normally consist of two metal parts (the container and a lid, which can often get stuck), the Boston Shaker consists of a glass and a metal shaker. Due to its size and ease of use, it’s quick to use at a bar and can make large cocktails. Plus it’s less likely to see a mixologist using all their might to pry the shaker apart.
The key ingredients of any gin recipe. Predominantly plant based botanicals are used in the gin making process, including juniper (if a gin doesn’t use juniper then it’s not a gin), citrus peel, coriander seed, angelica, caraway seeds, cassia bark, coriander, orris root, grains of paradise, lemon verbena and many many more.
A person who represents a brand at events. In the case of brand ambassadors in the drinks industry, they often have some experience of working in the bar or hospitality sector. It’s a brand ambassador’s role to help educate consumers about the brand they represent, including being able to answer questions about the drinks, production, people, business and more. A good brand ambassador can be a crucial part of any drinks team, as they help to create engagement with customers and generate brand awareness.
Case of Gin
A case of gin is traditionally a box of six bottles.
A large wooden vessel used to store liquids traditionally made from Oak.
Cask Aged Gin
A gin that’s been aged in a wooden cask. This could be an ex-Whisky cask, sherry cask, wine cask. Cask aged gins take on some of the flavour notes from the cask and its previous contents along with imparting some colour into the gin. Sometimes casks are are broken down into wooden chips, which are then added to the gin, imparting some flavours and colours.
The charge is when the liquids, base alcohol, water and botanicals are loaded into the still in preparation for the distillation.
Charging the Still
Charging the still is when the charge is heated up to start the distillation process.
A drink made using different ingredients, often including distilled spirits, fruit juices and other ingredients. With hundreds of classic cocktails and thousands of variations, all cocktails should aim to provide the drinker with a balance of flavours with every sip.
Column Still (See Rectification Column)
A column still is a column-based distillation system featuring a column, also called a continuous still, stripping still or a patent still. The column normally contains plates or filters that help separate the liquid being distilled into separate solutions. The liquid being distilled is continuously pumped through the system and into the column where the liquid, as it’s heated, normally with steam, condenses into vapour, which slowly rises up the column. As the vapour rises, it makes contact with the plates that have small holes like a sieve, allowing the vapours to rise up the column before condensing and travelling back down the column and repeating the process. As the plates tend to be cooler higher up the column, the vapours condense back into a liquid at different stages. It’s this continuous contact with the plates, as the vapour rises and falls, that allows the column to strip away the colour, flavour and any unwanted chemical compounds, with the purest vapours reaching the top of the column before condensing and being filtered off to be collected. Column stills are used to create a clean, odourless spirit, aiming for the golden number of 96% ABV.
The process that changes a liquid into a gas or vapour.
The condenser in a still helps cool the vapours which, as they cool, turn back into a liquid before being collected. An example of a simplified condenser is the worm coil, which is normally part of an Alembic Still set-up (see Alembic Still). As the vapour travels up through head of the still and travels down the swan neck, the vapours travel through a thinly wound copper tube that rests in a vessel of cold water.
Congeners are the chemical compounds found in the byproducts of the distillation or fermentation process. Acids, esters, ketones, isobutylene alcohol, acetaldehyde are examples of congeners. All can impact the flavour and aroma of the final spirit. Congeners along with being the key active biological chemicals in alcohol, are said to play a part in your hangover. Scientists are still researching why some people get a hangover and some don’t, there is no exact answer. Some theories suggest that when you drink better quality spirits, which have been distilled well, then the spirit contains less congeners, which means your body has less congeners to breakdown. Whereas a poorly made, or cheap spirit, may contain more congeners. This means your body has to use more energy to breakdown the congeners, which competes with your body breaking down the ethanol, resulting in the alcohol remaining in your system longer.
A gin that is made under contract for a gin brand owner. The gin brand owner will often work with a distiller to create a flavour profile for their gin before the distiller produces the final gin and subsequent batches. The brand owner may also be involved with the distillation process or production, including bottling and labelling.
COGM (Cost of Goods Manufactured)
The total cost of making or purchasing a product. This includes labour, materials and resources and any additional costs getting your goods to the end user.
A distiller makes a number of cuts during the distillation process. Each cut is where the distiller captures different liquids from the distillation process. The heads cut is where the distiller aims to remove most of the nasty flavour compounds and chemicals. The hearts cut is where all the rich and deep flavour compounds tend to be found – this is the good stuff. The tails cut, similar to the heads, contains less nasty flavour compounds, with woody, smoky, nutty notes normally found in the tails, which if cut correctly can provide the gin with some of these deeper, flavour compounds. Smell, taste, time, temperature, ABV and more can all be used by the distiller so they know when to make their cut during the distillation process.
A term that can be seen by some cynics as having been hijacked by marketing teams to promote spirits which are produced in thousands of bottles per day. Craft refers to the skill or experience required to create something by hand. When the term ‘craft gin’ is used, it normally means the gin has been created with skill and care and not just that the gin is small batch.
The material that is collected during the distillation process.
A drink served after a meal intended to help with digestion. Traditional digestifs include brandy, port, eau de vie, calvados, grappa, Whisky.
Distillation is the process of separating liquids, which usually involves heating up and cooling down a liquid using a still. The word distillation is said to be derived from the Latin term for ‘drop down’, which references the process of the vapours rising before dropping down and condensing during the distillation process. The origins of distillation is well disputed by historians. Some point to Mesopotamia 2,000BC where perfumes and rich aromatic spices would have been processed. However, there’s a great deal of scepticism around this theory. Some say distillation originated in Greece, China and even Italy.
Most historians believe that distillation started life in Arabia around 800AD, created by physician Abū Bakr al-Rāzī and alchemist Jabir in Hayyan, both scholars who studied the world around them, including alchemy, chemistry, philosophy and other notable academic subjects.
Modern gin distillation involves five fundamental phases. Loading the charge into the still, which is the base alcohol, water and botanicals. Charging the still is when the distillation process starts and the charge is heated. Next the ‘heads’ will begin to collect in the head of the still as vapour before travelling down the swan neck to the receiver where this vapour is cooled and condenses back into a liquid. Next the ‘hearts’ will begin to run off the still, the same process as before except the ‘hearts’ is the liquid that the gin maker wants to capture and keep, as it’s this flavour and aroma-rich distillate that’s used to make the gin. And finally the ‘tails’ will run off the still. Both the ‘heads’ and the ‘tails’ contain chemical compounds that are unwanted in the gin, although sometimes a distiller will try and capture some elements from the ‘tails’, which can result in more earthy, nutty flavours.
The time taken to complete a distillation from start to finish can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the gin recipe, equipment being used and the timings and temperatures required to extract the distillate through the distillation run.
Although all gins, with exception of Bathtub Gins, are technically distilled gins, and go through some form of rectification distillation, not all distilled gins are London Dry Gins. Depending on where you are in the world, Distilled Gins, which is a recognised gin style, can also be called Contemporary gin, New American Gin or Western Style Gin. Unlike the London Dry production method, where no artificial flavourings or additives can be added to the gin post-distillation, a Distilled gin style allows the distiller to add additional flavourings (natural and artificial) post-distillation. This could simply be the addition of another distillate, where two distillates are blended to create the final gin.
It’s generally accepted, or at least the gin folklore states, that the term ‘Dutch Courage’ came about during the Eight Years’ War, the Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648). English soldiers who were there to support the Dutch fight against Philip II of Spain, took a liking to the local Dutch drink jenever, a juniper flavoured spirit and pre-cursor to gin. Soldiers would take a drink of jenever to stay warm during cold spells and also before fighting. It’s said the calming effect of jenever helped steady the nerves giving the English soldiers ‘Dutch Courage’.
Its chemical name is C2H5OH or more commonly called ethyl alcohol, neutral spirit, neutral grain spirit or grain neutral spirit; a clear, colourless, highly flammable liquid, normally supplied at a strength of minimum 96% ABV. It’s this ethanol that many distilleries use in their gin making. Thanks to its purity, a good quality neutral grain spirit provides a blank canvas for the distiller to then create their own gin.
Chemical compounds that create flavours in spirits and are derived from carboxylic acids – oils and fats. Esters are formed during the distillation process when alcohol reacts with a carboxylic acid, the oils and fats in botanicals. These carboxylic acids have a diverse range of smells and tastes, with different groups giving off different aromas and tastes.
The process of using yeast to convert sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Normally a large tank or container, used for the fermentation of a mash, typically a mixture of grains or other fermentable goods that have natural sugars. For example, fruit for cider or brandy, fermented honey for mead, rice for Sake or potatoes for vodka.
The finish is the taste at the end of tasting a gin. The finish on a gin can be described in a variety of ways. It maybe a long, lingering and warming finish if the gin has been distilled with botanicals that give off heat and spice. It could be a short, fresh fruit finish if the gin has been distilled using fruit. The length of the finish describes how long the flavours from the gin remain on your palate – short, medium, long. You can describe the finish in any number of ways – simple, some complexity etc.
Fixatives play a key role in helping bind flavours together in a gin. Examples of fixatives include angelica root, orris root, cubeb pepper, grains of paradise. Although these botanicals can impact their flavours and aromas during the distillation, angelica root and orris root are considered to be the most common fixatives. Fixatives have been used for centuries in perfume making, helping scents last longer. Fixatives in gin are the same; they are used to bond aroma and flavour compounds together, reducing the amount of aromas that are lost during the distillation process.
A flavoured gin tends to put the juniper flavour in the background, instead opting to put another flavour or flavours to the fore. These often include fruit, for example, raspberry, strawberry, lemon, orange etc. Often flavoured gins are colourful in appearance due the use of fruit or a key botanical that dominates the appearance and flavour profile. Flavoured gins are often creating by taking a more traditional gin and then infusing it with the fruit or key botanical post-distillation. This means storing the gin and botanicals in a container where over time the key flavours are imparted into the gin through a slow process of maceration but without any element of heating the gin.
On a traditional Alembic Still, the head of the still can be removed from the pot, allowing the distillery access so they can add their botanicals, base alcohol and water. It also allows access to hang a botanical basket in the head of the still. This can mean that the still loses heat, pressure and vapours, as the contents of the still are heated, unless the seam where the head meets the pot, is sealed with a solution like traditional flour paste. The past combines flour and water to create a putty like substance that can be easily moulded to close the seal, plus won’t cook or burn as the still heats up and can be easily removed.
An additional element added to a drink to enhance the appearance and flavour. Classic garnishes for gin and tonic include a slice or twist of lime, lemon or orange, with grapefruit more recently proving a popular choice.
To ensure a near perfect flavour profile between batches, larger distilleries can opt to use a gas chromatograph. This expensive and highly specialised piece of equipment wouldn’t look out of place in a high-tech laboratory. The gas chromatograph can break down a sample of liquid, separating and analysing the flavour compounds in the liquid. Distilleries can take a sample of gin and use this as their benchmark when testing batches of gin to see how the batch compares to the expected flavour profile.
Before gin was gin, it was Genever. Dating back to the 13th century, the Dutch created Genever, which is also Dutch for ‘Juniper’. A colourless botanical spirit made with a malted grain spirit, which is then blended with two or more distillates. The first distillate, triple distilled is reminiscent of Whisky and made using wheat, corn or rye. The second is a juniper based distillate. A third distillate can be blended, which can consist of a malt-like wine that’s been redistilled with additional botanicals. Genever can only be made in Holland or Belgium.
Considered a classic cocktail featuring gin and lime juice, the origins of the Gimlet go back to the middle of the 1800s after research by Scottish Surgeon Dr James Lind of Leith, Edinburgh, discovered that citrus juice could be used to help prevent scurvy. Scurvy, a lack of vitamin C, was a blight on sailors in the Royal Navy and it was thanks to Dr James Lind that the Royal Navy adopted lime juice as an essential item for any voyage. Of course common at the time was the daily ration of rum, or grog, along with officer’s rations of gin. It wasn’t until 1953 that the Gimlet Cocktail really found its popularity, thanks to the 1953 Raymond Chandler novel, The Long Goodbye, which highlighted the cocktail as being half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice. As a cocktail, it’s first real appearance was in the 1930 edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book by the famous Harry Craddock, head bartender at The Savoy.
Gin is a spirit made from the distillation of ethyl alcohol and juniper berries. The legal definition of Gin in the UK is a spirit that is 37.5% ABV and has Juniper as the predominant flavour. In the USA gin has to be minimum 40% ABV (80% proof if you were producing gin in the USA).
Gin Act 1751
The Sale of Spirits Act 1750, more commonly known as the Gin Act, was introduced by the British Parliament to stem the popularity of spirits, aimed at quelling the growing number of gin distilleries and gin consumption. Gin was primarily blamed for many of the social issues at the time. By making it illegal for gin distilleries to sell to unlicensed merchants and increasing the charges related to sales of gin to licensed merchants, the British Parliament hoped it could restrict the distribution and in turn consumption of gin.
A period that generally covers the first half of the 18th century, the Gin Craze saw the consumption of gin grow at a staggering rate in Great Britain, especially in and around London. The effects of gin on the public worried the establishment so much that the British Government passed a number of acts through parliament in 1729, 1736, 1743, 1747 and 1751 with the hope these acts and laws would reduce the consumption of gin.
Thanks to William of Orange accession to the throne in England, Wales and Scotland, and his Dutch heritage Genever was soon the drink of the establishment, nobles and the royal court. Thanks to a trade blockade implemented by William of Orange against the French, the result was imports of Brandy into Britain stopped almost over night. Relatively easy and cheap to make, thanks to the use of grains and readily available botanicals, gin soon became the drink of the masses, even though the British Government did its best to hamper gin production and sales. Also in 1690, the monopoly over distillation that the London Guild of Distillers had on distilling in London, was broken, which resulted in more and more distilleries appearing across London, producing all manner of spirits without any legal requirement for a licence.
Different varieties or styles of gin include Old Tom gin (made with a neutral grain spirit and flavoured with botanicals and sugars), Plymouth gin (similar to London dry gin with a more intense fragrance and fuller bodied flavour), London dry gin (made with botanicals distilled into the gin for a dry, light and aromatic drink) and Holland gin (distilled from malted grain mash for a high aromatic and intense juniper flavour). Dry gin is commonly used in long drinks and cocktails, such as martinis and Tom Collins.
Grain to Glass
A select few gin makers use a process known as Grain to Glass when making their gin. Using this process, a distiller will normally source their own grain, which they will use to create their own base spirit. This process normally involves creating the wash, which could be described as a low ABV beer. The wash is then redistilled, in what is called the stripping run, normally though a rectifying column that helps strip the wash of any nasties and helps increase the ABV.
Originally called a julep strainer, the Hawthorn Strainer is a type of sieve used to strain a cocktail into your glass. Because of its design, it allows the liquid to pass through the tiny holes and prevents ice from escaping the cocktail shaker or vessel used to mix. Hawthorn Strainers look like a flattened spoon with small holes and a coiled spring around one edge. It’s this spring that captures and prevents small fragments of ice escaping into your drink.
Typically the first liquids to boil and turn into vapour. Made up of almost entirely methanol, a highly concentrated alcohol that is extremely dangerous and other unwanted liquids. During the distillation process, different alcohols boil and change into vapours at different temperatures and pressures. The heads, also known as foreshots, are the first liquids to come off the still and normally contain methanol and other chemicals that aren’t for consumption. Sometimes the heads, along with the tails, will be saved and used in the next distillation run to extract any remaining ethanol.
During the distillation process, different alcohols boil and change into vapours at different temperatures and pressures. The hearts are the part of the distillation process that provide the best quality spirits, that an experienced distiller will try and capture often through taste and aroma.
A style of glass used to serve long drinks. Traditionally taller and slimmer than tumblers, highball glasses are perfect for drinks that use a spirit and a mixer.
International Scottish Gin Day
Established by The Gin Cooperative, International Scottish Gin Day is on the first Saturday of October each year and is a global celebration of all things Scottish Gin. The day sees Scotland’s gin makers, brand owners, hospitality and consumers come together to raise a toast to the wonderful world of Scottish Gin.
Originating in Holland and derived from the word juniper, Jenever is a close cousin of Whisky. Distilled using malted grain, the final spirit is placed in casks and left to age before bottling. Also known as genièvre, genever, peket.
The jigger normally features two sets of measures for liquid, so the bartender can make drinks accurately and quickly.
The annual gin festival from the team behind Spirits Beacon, formerly Gin Foundry, founded by brothers Olivier and Emilie Ward. The festival takes place in a number of countries including the UK and Australia. Visitors can enjoy meet-the-maker events, masterclasses, samples and tastings, along with a variety of gin related stalls and events on the day.
The key botanical in gin. Rich in oil and flavour compounds when distilled with ethanol, these flavour compounds are released. Without being overly scientific, when you look at the flavour compounds, mainly monoterpenes C10 structures and sesquiterpenes C15 structures, they are naturally occurring flavour compounds and oils.
C10 flavour molecules include: α-pinene – piney, resinous flavour, borneol – wood, β-myrcene – spicy, balsamic, slightly musty and earthy, Camphene – woody, Cineole – minty, Sabinene – woody and spicy, Limonene – citrus, Terpinene – woody, Terpinen-4-ol – nutmeg, p-cymene – oxidised citrus.
The dominant C15 flavour molecules include: Farnesene – floral, caryophyllene – spicy and cadinene – woody.
Juniper berries are in fact not berries. Juniper is a seed cone produced by female juniper plants. Its appearance, with its soft flesh, looks like a blueberry or a garden pea, depending on how mature the seed is. The Juniper berry is green when young and slowly matures to a deep black-purple colour over 18 months.
Held annually at Summerhall, in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, Juniper Fest brings together gin producers and consumers for meet-the-maker events and masterclasses, including the art of cocktails and more. Juniper Fest is run and co-ordinated by the team behind The Summerhall Drinks Lab.
London Dry Gin
GNS is distilled/rectified along with the botanicals at the same time to create the final gin, which must have a minimum 70% ABV when it comes off the still. At this stage, the distillate can be blended with water and an additional amount of GNS before being bottled. The GNS must be the same type and quality used throughout the process, so the distiller, by law, can’t use one type of GNS for the initial distillation run and then use a difference GNS post-distillation. A minute amount of sweetener can be added after the distillation but a true classic London Dry Gin does not have any flavourings or additives added after distillation and must be colourless. Also, all flavours must come from natural flavourings, so in other words, all the flavour must come from the botanicals. There is no specific ‘flavour’ that defines a London Dry Gin, rather London Dry is a production process first and foremost and not a gin style, although London Dry Gins tend to be dry, light, aromatic and feature juniper as a key botanical, with some notes of citrus and spice.
When mixing a gin with a mixer, a gin can sometimes turn a milky, hazy colour. This happens when the oils and flavour compounds, which have been held in suspension by the alcohol, are suddenly freed from suspension releasing their flavours and visible oils. There are some gins that louche and many more that don’t. Louching is not a reflection on the quality of a gin.
Low and High Wines
Some gin makers produce their own base alcohol from grain. Often called Grain to Glass (see Glass to Grain), the production of making your own base alcohol is expensive and time consuming. Low wines are the first distillate that come off during the distillation process. The liquid at this stage is normally in the low to mid 20% ABV range but can be as low as 10% ABV. High wines are produced at the next stage of distillation and often sit between 20% to 65% ABV. This is the liquid from the first distillation that’s been redistilled to increase the ABV to a higher percentage. The aim, depending on the spirit being made, is to increase the ABV to a high number. With gin, the distiller is looking to achieve an ABV of 96.5% ABV. The spirit at this stage, should be stripped of all colour and aromas, providing a clean spirit for use in the gin making process.
Softening or breaking into pieces, using a liquid. For example, botanicals or fruit are left to soak in gin, which results in flavour and colour being absorbed by the gin.
The Martini is considered to be a classic cocktail. It uses vermouth and gin or vodka and should be served in a chilled Martini glass and traditionally garnished with an olive or twist of lemon. There are a number of Martini variations, including a Dry or Wet Martini, 50/50 Martini, Dirty Martini, Gibson Martini and more.
The mash is the combination of liquid and raw materials, in the case of making ethanol, this would be of agricultural origin, which includes crops or grapes, ideally with high concentration of natural sugars or carbohydrates, which can be converted to sugars. The mash is then put through the distillation process a number of times to create the desired strength and type of ethanol.
It’s a term that can be banded about and used with marketing bravado, but a true master distiller can comfortably produce a spirit to the highest of standards. Through years of practical experience, learning the nuances of the distillation process, a master distiller can capture the very best liquids from the distillation process. Often in charge of maintaining quality, along with recipe development and more, the job of a master distiller can be varied and diverse.
Where a cocktail requires some of the ingredients to be muddled, a muddler is used; a long tool similar to a small rolling pin with a dimpled or textured end. Ingredients, fruits or herbs are crushed or ‘muddled’ in the bottom of a glass or vessel to release flavours and aromas.
A multi-shot distilled gin is made using a super-concentrated botanical distillate that is mixed with neutral spirit after distillation before water is added to reduce the ABV to the required percentage. This method, for example in a two-shot distillation, can yield twice the normal amount of gin. This process can make it cheaper to produce larger volumes of gin and can be more cost effective than single-shot, or one-shot distillation, which is a more expensive way of making gin.
Navy Strength Gin
Navy Strength Gin, sometimes called gunpowder or overproof, has to be at least 57% ABV or above to be classed as a Navy Strength Gin in the UK. It earned the name ‘Navy Strength’ because sailors used to test the ABV of their rationed gin on the ship by mixing it with a small quantity of gunpowder, and if the mixture ignited, they would know the gin was suitable and had not been watered down. The higher ABV can often amplify the flavours and aromas.
When a drink is served neat, it means the liquid is poured and served with no additional mixers or additions. Neat over ice would be the drink served neat, but with the addition of ice.
Originating in Italy, this apéritif cocktail is traditionally made using equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari. The drink is served neat with ice and a slice or twist of orange.
Neutral Grain Spirit (NGS)
An odourless and colourless highly concentrated ethanol. Normally created through the repeated distillation of ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, normally grain, although some ethanol is produced from the distillation of grapes or even molasses, the by-product of sugar refining. The liquid is distilled until it reaches an ABV of 96% or over, which is the legal requirement for the base alcohol used to create a London Dry Gin or Distilled Gin. A smaller number of distilleries are able to create their own NGS in-house, although typically it is purchased, as it is commercially available through pharmaceutical companies, who use NGS in the manufacture and production of medicine.
The aromas given off by a gin when you smell it. The olfactory receptors, which are located high up in your nose, process the chemical signals in the aromas and send the messages to your brain, which processes the messages and translates them into ‘smells’. This is why some common aromas can be easily identified and some more subtle aromas can be more difficult to detect.
A shop selling alcoholic drinks for consumption elsewhere or off-site. Off-Licences have to have a special licence to sell alcohol and have to operate under strict legal guidelines and laws.
Selling to supermarkets, off-licenses and retailers.
Old Tom Gin is a sweeter version of gin meaning sugars, sweet syrups or natural sweeteners are added post-distillation to create a sweet style gin.
Selling to hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes.
Not to be confused with Pallet, a wooden frame used for transporting goods, your palate helps you distinguish between flavours. With the help of your tongue, nose and brain, your palate helps you identify flavours including salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umani (which is described as being either meaty or savoury). When you drink, the liquid releases chemicals that travel up your nose. These chemicals trigger olfactory receptors that. along with your taste buds. tell your brain how something tastes. This is why sometimes, when you have a cold, you can’t really taste your food as your olfactory receptors aren’t receiving clear chemical signals from your food and drink. The human palate can vary greatly between people with some people are able to detect certain tastes and aromas where others can struggle. With plenty of practice, you can train your palate to detect certain flavours and aromas.
Neither a legal style of gin or recognised flavour profile, Pink Gin, as the name suggests, is normally pink in appearance. It will often be flavoured with a type of red fruit or berry to make Pink Gin.
Pink Gin is also a type of cocktail traditionally made using gin and bitters. Its origins are again linked closely with the British Royal Navy. Bitters were often given to sailors to try and help with sea sickness. Due to their ‘bitter’ taste, often the bitters would be mixed with a splash of gin to help make the drink more palatable. The drink soon found favour with the general public in the later half of the 19th century. The modern Pink Gin cocktail varies greatly in ingredients, which can include rose syrups, the classic Angostura Bitters and lime juice although the classic recipe simply calls for gin and Angostura Bitters.
Once a hot spot for the production of gin, especially for the Royal Navy, the Plymouth Gin style, up until 2015, had to be made in Plymouth, England. It is described as being slightly less dry than London Dry Gin due to the use of more root botanicals in the recipe. Today there is only one distillery, Black Friars Distillery, that produces Plymouth Gin.
Pots stills are traditionally used for producing specific types of spirits, including single-malt Whisky. Similar to other still types, the wash is heated in the pot before the vapours rise up into the neck of the still, where the vapours are caught in the drawn off into the arm, a long tube that leads to a condenser, where the vapours turn back into a liquid. Often this liquid passes through a spirits safe, a locked box with windows, where the distiller can keep an eye on ABV and divert the heads, heart and tails into the relevant vessels for collection or fed back into the distilling system for further processing. Pot Stills come in a wide variety of styles and types with different production volumes ranging from hundreds of litres up to thousands of litres.
Proof is a term used to measure the volume of alcohol in a liquid. The unit of measure used in a number of countries, including the USA, 80% proof whiskey would be the UK equivalent of 40% ABV, with ABV (Alcohol By Volume) the term used to measure the volume of alcohol in a liquid here in the UK. In France, they use the Gay-Lussac scale, developed in 1824 by French scientist Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac, which uses degrees of GL to measure the volume of alcohol in a liquid.
As well as a region in the South of France, Provence in gin means a sense of place and how the gin is linked to the local landscape and region. This could be the use of locally foraged botanicals, the base alcohol could be made using locally grown crops, the water used could be sourced from a local spring, the packaging or brand name may directly tie to the area, town or to a specific landmark or all of the above.
The bitter ingredient in tonic, derived from the bark of the cinchona tree.
The process of rectification involves the rectification (redistilling) of ethyl alcohol (GNS).
Rectification Column (See Column Still)
Thanks to its design, a rectification column can be used to create a flavourless and odourless high strength alcohol. Starting with a combination of grain and water, which is left to ferment creating a low ABV mash, this mash, or low ABV beer is then redistilled through a continuous distillation process with the liquid slowly changing from a liquid to a gas and vapour as it climbs up the rectification column. The rectification column is made from copper and features a number of interchangeable plates, with each featuring a number of small holes that allow the vapours to travel up the column before condensing and returning to liquid form, with the unwanted parts of the distillate falling back down the column. It’s this process of continuous contact, reflux, of the liquid travelling up the still that helps remove the unwanted flavour compounds and chemicals, such as sulphur, with the purest alcohol reaching the top of the still, where it’s filtered off before condensing back into a liquid.
As different compounds boil at different temperatures, the purpose of the rectification column is create a super high ABV; a colourless, orderless base alcohol that can be used in the production of spirits. Depending on the spirit being made, for example Whisky, some of these flavour compounds are left in the distillation run (the new make spirit) as it can be these flavour compounds, along with the cask location and ageing of the new make spirit, that give Whisky its rich and complex flavours.
A special licence issued by HMRC allowing the licence holder to rectify ethyl alcohol (GNS).
Rectified spirit, also known as neutral spirit, rectified alcohol, or ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin, is highly concentrated ethanol which has been purified by means of repeated distillation, a process that is called rectification.
Reflux is when vapours gather in the neck and head of a still and condense back into a liquid before returning down the sides of the still collecting back in the main pot. It’s this process and the contact with the inside of the still, and neck, which is almost always copper, that helps strip out some of the less desirable elements in the distillation process. The higher the reflux ratio, means more contact with copper inside the still, resulting in a higher purity and quality of distillate. Copper is an excellent material for absorbing heat but most importantly, copper helps strip out the sulphuric compounds of alcohol. This is why some column stills used to make base alcohol, can be referred to as ‘stripping columns’ or ‘stripping stills’.
Rotary Evaporator, or Rotovap, allows liquids to boil under extreme pressures at low temperatures. By reducing the pressure inside the container with the liquid, the liquid has a lower boiling point. More delicate and complicated botanicals can be distilled at this lower temperature without burning or destroying the flavour compounds that might be lost using a traditional gin still and traditional distillation methods.
Although there is no legal definition of what makes a Scottish Gin “Scottish”, nor is the term “Scottish Gin” legally protected, the term Scottish Gin is widely accepted by most producers in the Scottish Gin category as meaning a gin produced in Scotland (including cold compounding and rectification using purchased GNS or Grain to Glass). The Gin Cooperative believes a Scottish Gin is a gin that’s been distilled, rectified or cold compounded in Scotland, regardless of where the base alcohol or the botanicals come from, by a business that’s based in Scotland and clearly promotes their gin as being a Scottish Gin and champions the term Scottish Gin.
Scottish Gin Awards
The Scottish Gin Awards were founded in 2016 by KD Media, with the inaugural Scottish Gin Awards taking place in 2017. The awards programme is the only awards programme dedicated solely to the promotion of Scottish Gin and recognises Scotland’s gin industry across a variety of categories. With a strict and measured judging process, awards categories include Scottish Distillery of the Year, London Dry Gin of the Year, High Strength Gin of the Year and more. The Scottish Gin Awards also has strict entry guidelines, which means gin entrants must be distilled in Scotland and the business must have a business address in Scotland.
Single Shot Distillation
Single shot distillation, or one shot distillation as it’s also known, is the distillation process where the gin is distilled and diluted to the required ABV strength before bottling. Most small batch London Dry Gins are produced this way. Unlike multi-shot distillation, where the ratio of botanicals is greatly multiplied to create a concentrated distillate that can then be diluted down with water and GNS, leaving some room to tweak the final gin, single shot distillation means the botanicals in the recipe have to be carefully weighed and balanced as there’s minimum or no room for error, if there’s an issue with the batch.
Small Batch Gin
There is no legal definition of what a small batch gin is. For a small producer, this might be a few hundred bottles. However, it could also refer to a larger gin producer producing a thousand bottles a day and because there is legal restriction, gin makers are free to weave the term “small batch” into the products. Although, it’s usually fairly obvious when visiting a gin distillery, based on the size of their still, and the commercial availability of their gins.
Spirits Duty is a tax that has to be paid to HMRC on any spirits, or any mixture or combination of spirits with an ABV strength of 1.2% and above. Spirits are liable for Spirits Duty as soon as they’ve been produced.
The same as maceration, botanicals are added to the base alcohol before distillation, soaking the botanicals which helps the base alcohol extract some flavour compounds before the distillation process begins.
During the distillation process, different alcohols boil and change into vapours at different temperatures and pressures. The tails, also known as the faints, are the last liquids to come off the still and normally contain the alcohols with the highest boiling point. Sometimes the tails along with the heads will be saved and used in the next distillation run to extract any remaining ethanol.
The set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop’s specific growth habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir also refers to this character.
The Gin To My Tonic
A variety of gin related events and festivals held all over the UK each year that bring gin makers and consumers together. Established by long-time friends and gin drinkers Emira Shepherd and Paul Hudson-Jones, the events bring together gin makers, brands and more, all under one roof where visitors can enjoy samples, masterclasses and meet-the-maker style events.
A carbonated soft drink featuring quinine. In the early 19th century, the British Army was deployed in India, which at the time was part of the British Empire. Quinine was known for its properties in staving off malaria. Unfortunately the taste of quinine, even when mixed with water, at the time, was barely palatable. British soldiers and officers would mix the quinine with soda and sugar to try and mask the quinine, creating a tonic. Officers at the time also had access to a number of spirits including brandy, port, Whisky and gin. Over time, to help the ‘medicine go down’, officers started adding their gin to their ‘tonic’ and so the humble gin and tonic was born.
This method commonly involves the botanicals being suspended in a mesh basket in the neck or head of the still. As the alcohol in the still heats up, the vapour rises and is pulled through and over the basket of botanicals. This method allows the distiller to work with more delicate botanicals and can result is more refined flavours that would otherwise be lost if the botanicals were macerated with the alcohol. Often delicate botanicals can end up being cooked in the still when macerated at high temperatures resulting in loss of flavour.
The wash is the finished fermented liquid, often described as similar to beer, that will be used for distillation. The wash is created by mixing water with a crop of agricultural origin, for example barley, and heating up the mixture. The heat helps convert the starch enzymes into sugars and the result is a beer about 7% – 12% ABV in strength. It’s this liquid that can then be put through further distillation processes to create ethanol, with each distillation process stripping out flavours and colours.
William of Orange (William III of England, William II of Scotland)
Willem Hendrik better known as William of Orange (born 4 November 1650, died 8 March 1702), was sovereign prince of Orange from birth. Orange was a feudal state from 1163 to 1713 in Provence, located in what is now the south of modern day France and was surrounded by the independent papal state of Comtat Venaissin. He was also Stadtholder of Holland, a position that William rose to through the ranks of European Royalty and through chance, fate and bold political posturing, invading England to claim the throne, forcing James II to flee. James II was already unpopular due to his public support for Catholicism. William had already taken part in several conflicts against Louis XIV, the Catholic king of France, and so William was able to ascend to the throne with the support of the ‘Immortal Seven’, seven notable English nobles who sent a letter to William, which was received by him on 30 June 1688.
The letter asked William, who was a nephew and son-in-law of James II, to use military force to make James II into making his daughter Mary, William’s wife, the heir to the King. Even though James II had a new born son who was rightful heir to the throne, the letter stated that this son was an imposter. The letter made it clear to William that if he were to land ashore in England with an army, that the Immortal Seven and their allies would rise up and stand with William.
Although there is a lot more to the story and family history, it was William of Orange who really introduced the aristocracy to gins predecessor, the dutch juniper spirit Jenever. With a trade blockade in place with France, resulting in a shortage of the most popular spirit drink in Britain – Brandy. But with open trade links to Holland, imports of Jenever to Britain began. And thanks to the recipe calling for a grain based spirit rather than wine, it also meant that Jenever could be produced in Britain. Keen to show their support for their new monarchs, William and Mary and supporting the Protestant faith, many noblemen and attendees of the royal court began drinking Jenever.
Although William III died in 1702, the seeds for gin were well and truly sown as more and more distilleries appeared, especially in London, and gin’s popularity grew at a staggering rate. So much so that by 1750, the British Government introduced The Sale of Spirits Act 1750 to try and quell the sale of gin. Writer and journalist Daniel Defoe commented “the Distillers have found out a way to hit the palate of the Poor, by their new fashion’d compound Waters called Geneva, so that the common People seem not to value the French-brandy as usual, and even not to desire it”.
World Gin Day
World Gin Day falls on the second Saturday in June and is a global celebration of gin. The day sees producers from around the world celebrate, collaborate along with the hospitality industry. Established in 2009 by Neil Houston, who along with a group of friends, celebrated the first ever World Gin Day in Birmingham as a way of enjoying the juniper led spirit. Since then, the mantle was passed to Emma Stokes, known as Gin Monkey on social media, who has championed the day and helped grow it to be a global celebration of gin.
Worm Coil (See Condenser)
A hollow copper coil attached to the end of the swan neck on a still. As the vapours rise up and into the neck and head of the still, the vapours travel down the worm coil, which is normally housed in a vessel filled with water. As the worm coil is kept cold as the vapour travels through the coil, it condenses from a vapour back into a liquid before coming off the still as gin.
Without yeast there wouldn’t be alcohol, well certainly not as we know it. Essential to the fermentation process that converts sugars into ethanol and bi-product carbon monoxide, yeasts are both fascinating, complex and a wonder of mother nature. In it’s simplest most basic form, yeast is a single-cell organism that multiples when exposed to oxygen with some strains of yeast carefully cultivated and used as the key for many malt whiskies, kept safe under strict laboratory conditions whilst some are wild and are left to grow naturally in the liquids that will become alcohol.
The Yolanda cocktail features gin, anisette, brandy, sweet vermouth, grenadine and garnish. Another recipe from the famous 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock, head bartender at The Savoy.
We’ve included all the topics and terms we believe can help you learn and understand more about the world of Scottish Gin and wider gin category. We will continue to add to this glossary with new content on an on-going basis, but if there’s anything you’d like us to add please get in touch.