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What is gin?



Your mum loves it, your dad’s drinking it with fancy garnish at the summer BBQ and your Nan is hammered on the rattan furniture with a bottle of craft gin nestled under her arm.


Everyone’s drinking it, but do you actually know what it is and where it came from?


It's older than, well, a lot of things.


Although it feels like gin has exploded out of nowhere recently, the opposite is actually true - gin has been with us for a long, long, long time.


In 70 A.D junipers were being combined with alcohol and used in herbal medicine, in 1055, the Benedictine Monks were using it.


Come forward a little closer to the modern day and in the 1600s the Dutch began to create "genever." Genever was essentially a malt based spirit with juniper berries thrown in to mask the awful flavour. By the 1700s it was becoming more widely known as 'gin'.


The theory behind the name is that us Brits were too drunk to pronounce it properly so we shortened it. I'm not sure how true that is, but, I suppose it could be true?


Thank William for our British gins.

I'm not talking about our Prince, I'm talking of William of Orange.

In 1689, William became king of England, Ireland and Scotland. Basically, he took power and began a trade war with France, essentially reducing the quantity of Cognac available in the country. As a result, he also increased the ease of distilling within the country, and so there began the 'gin craze' where everybody could distill to their heart's desire.


At one point, it's said that a pint of gin was cheaper than a pint of beer. Imagine that idyllic world!


It was not all plain sailing however, as is typically the case when people are allowed to whatever they want, they all went mad. Gin was being made mixed with turpentine, sulphuric acid and even sawdust going into it.


Luckily nowadays, we don't add things like that to give you that great gin you love.


By 1830, things had changed, as the government promoted beer and tea, putting heavier taxes on gin after they realised the effect such huge consumption was having on the population.


The development of the column still meant that distiller could produce a cleaner spirit, and the quality of gin started to improve.


Gin in the modern day

Soldiers in the navy were given rations of quinine to fight malaria, and as everyone knows, it doesn't taste that great! Schweppes became the first to create the 'Indian Tonic Water', and with their London Dry Gin rations in hand, the soldiers created our first gin and tonics.


And so we continued, however, the number of distillers making gin was relatively low. It wasn't until 2008, that Sipsmith received the first distillers licence specifically for gin since 1820. Thereafter followed an influx of gin makers, with hundreds of distilleries opening their doors and creating new gins.


Instead of being a mania inducing, dangerous spirit, it has seen a revival as a craft cocktail ingredient, and its popularity continues to grow.


Check out our range of gins for some unique and unusual flavours.