Dare to imagine gin without juniper? Impossible, you say. It is like knocking flowers off the spring season. Without the presence of these coniferous plants, gin is just plain vodka, both distilled from a variety of agricultural products. But during the distillation process the moment it gets itself dunked in a gravy of botanicals, gin says goodbye to vodka, to take an entirely different path.
You know while sipping gin, there is this aha moment when you scream out: “I got it! Juniper!” Look around. Sullen silence. Sadly that is also the reason why many stay away from the spirit. Forgive their pathetic souls, they are not cut out for this unique herbal taste that has found its raving fans all over the world.
Centuries ago monks in Italy knew the art and science of infusing botanicals in the liquors they made as medicines. Later as the relationship between England and France soured, the former was looking for options other than the French brandy, Cognac and Champagne. Finally, their eyes fell on a curious Dutch liquor – Jenever.
Here, a long and deep affair began. Though not its birthplace, it was in England that gin flourished in myriad varieties, the most popular being the London dry gin, while Plymouth is another.
But even as the aficionados of traditional gin grew exponentially, there was also a steady increase in the number of people who hated the tang of juniper. Towards the end of the last century, many distillers heard this cry in the wilderness and began to respond.
They explored the possibility of creating gin without its signature taste. Before you cry out check these famous juniper-less gins which have all become successful in carving out their own niches in the world of spirits.
It was the last century, when the Scottish spirits giant William Grant and Sons turned their attention away from whiskey, few might have thought it would set on a new wave of revolution.
Instead of the usual botanicals added to gin, the company used the extract of cucumber and rose to flavour the spirit. The new taste took drinkers off their feet. A radical change came to the black and white world of gin as the latest product from the company is ‘Midsummer Solstice’, a gin inspired by a wedding bouquet.
The master distiller Lesley Gracie took one whiff of it and set out to recreate it in gin with the help of flower extracts.
2. Bombay Sapphire East
You might be surprised to find Bombay Sapphire, a traditional London style spirit, in this list of offbeat gins. Sorry, you haven’t read it all, this is Bombay Sapphire East, which has a different and spicy story to tell. The dominant tang of pepper and lemongrass helps this drink make wonders, especially in Asian-inspired cocktails. Sip it along with your spicy food.
Roku, the name means six. What six? It refers to six different Japanese botanicals – sakura leaf, sakura flower, sencha tea, gykuro tea, yuzu peel, and sansho pepper. You’d be bowled over by the floral and citrusy taste.
4. Barr Hill
Have all those spicy gins smoldered your palate? Take this Old Tom style of gin sweetened with honey. You heard it right, Barr Hill is honey in gin.
Caledonia, Vermont-based company adds raw honey to their gin for the sweet-toothed among us. Hold it for a moment in your mouth, your tongue would be groping in vain for the tang of herbs. The sweetness of the honey has not only cut that out, but it has also added subtle layers making the gin exceptional.
5. Monkey 47
You have already read the story of this German gin in Tipple Point long ago. Made from 47 botanicals, most of them aromatic, your nose and taste buds would be merrily teasing apart molecules layer by layer from the rich texture of this highly traditional gin.