Craft gin has taken South Africa by storm. Restaurants, pubs and even your mate at a braai – craft gin is everywhere. If you are a little behind the craze, can’t understand why it is so popular, or just want to know a little more about gin, here is a short run through of what makes craft gin so special.
What is gin?
Knowing what gin actually is, is a pretty good place to start. Gin is a fairly neutral tasting spirit. It is made from grain and is further distilled using different botanicals. It has quite a distinct juniper flavour, helping it stand out from other spirits. There are many, many different flavour combinations that could be used when creating gin, from nutmeg to berries, there is a flavour for a variety of tastes.
Where and when did it all start?
Gin can be dated back to the 17th century. It climbed to fame in London, but not with a very good persona. Gin was known as “Mother’s Ruin” because even a mothers instinct could not overcome the effect of gin. It was cheaper than beer and was used often to drown away sorrows. Gin became a problem – people became dependent on it. The government soon introduced licence fees and gin taxes to try and curb its popularity.
In the 1800’s, gin found a new lease on life. Gin bars opened up around London and with a new sophisticated scenery, gin moved up in ranks.
It was from this new attitude towards gin, up until today, that the craftsmanship and love for gin and all its accompanying flavours have grown.
Fast-forward to the craft gin craze
Small craft distilleries started popping up in the UK, and then we saw our own starting to pop up in South Africa. Inverroche is a leader in South African craft gin and offers one of the best tasting gins around.
What to do?
Diving headfirst into the craft gin craze might seem a little intimidating, so here are a few tips on how to taste gin and really grow your appreciation for its unique flavour combinations.
- Always taste gin at room temperature. Don’t swallow too fast. Rather take the time to swill the gin around your mouth to try and pick out any distinct flavours.
- Don’t drink too hard or too fast. Gin is a spirit, and it can get you drunk pretty quickly! Take your time and appreciate the taste.
- If you add a little bit of water to your gin, you might be able to taste the flavours more. The water seems to pronounce individual tastes
- Remember that a good gin won’t leave you feel headachey or dizzy.
- A good ratio for tasting is 25 ml gin to 150/175 ml tonic water.
Craft gin in South Africa
South Africans have really embraced the craft gin craze with open arms. You are able to buy many different types of gins in bottle stores, and order your favourite gin in most restaurants. The selection is much wider than it used to be.
If the selection of gins available are a bit overwhelming for you, here is a list of some of the best gins to try out in South Africa.
Tanqueray London Dry
This is one of the most classic gins around. It was first brewed in London, but is now distilled in Scotland. Tanqueray London Dry Gin contains four known botanicals – juniper, coriander seed, liquorice and angelica root. This gin is best enjoyed with some lime, grapefruit and tonic water.
Pine, citrus and juniper are all featured in this prominent gin. Tonic, grapefruit and sage pair perfectly with this gin. The Inverroche Verdant is more of a floral gin and the tastes of fennel and Fynbos shine through. Inverroche Amber is the earthy gin, it is woody, spicy and goes great with tonic, orange and cinnamon.
Distilled in Salt River, there is a distinctive taste of ginger and cardamom. Paired with some lime wedges, ginger and basil, poured in with tonic, this is a real taster of a gin!
A Spainish gin, is has the taste of black olives and rosemary. The mediterranean flavour is hard to miss. Throw it in with some muddled mango, black pepper and tonic and you have a very distinctive drink to savour.
Gin is Monkey 47
This is a real winner of a gin. Distilled with over 47 different botanicals, some from the Black Forest which is found in Germany, it has a very refined and distinctive taste. It definitely isn’t the most affordable gin, but it is one that should be on your bucket list. Lemongrass and tonic are perfect for this drink, you don’t want to drown out the amazing flavor of the spirit itself.
Hope Salt River Gin
The blackcurrent and earthy flavour present is due to the prominent juniper and Buchu. To really enjoy this gin, mix it with 2/3 tonic water and 1/3 soda water, lemon and rosemary.
South African Gin
There are some incredible South African gins to be proud of, and what better way to celebrate them than by having a taste of them all. Create a bucket list of all the gins you wish to try. Try different accompaniments and cocktails per bottle and find out which flavour combination works best for each spirit. You never know, you may find the next big gin craze!
Why not take a little world tour of all the different gins. Figure out which country you prefer. Better yet, if you go away on holiday, find out if there are any craft distilleries for you visit on your trip. Take a tour of a few of the local bests and take a bottle or two home to remember your trip by.
Remember to always drink responsibly. Enjoy your gin, savour it and pick out your favourite flavours, but do it in good taste. It is something that has been crafted to be enjoyed, not overdone and underappreciated.
Share your favourite gin with your friends, start a tasting club!