Find out more about the botanicals we use in Lytham Gin
A botanical is a plant that is valued because of its flavour, scent, medicinal or therapeutic properties. Botanicals are the ingredients used in gin to give it its unique taste. Sandgrown Spirits use a variety of leaves, fruits, nuts, barks, seeds, roots and flowers to impart a range of flavours to their spirits.
Getting the Balance Right
Botanicals can provide a number of different flavours which can be classified as herbaceous, spicy, citrus, floral or fruity. A good gin should contain elements of several flavour groups, for example our Original gin is described as being citrus and spiced whereas our Blooming Gorgeous is floral and fruity.
Meet The Botanicals
Juniper berries are the single most important botanical used in gin manufacture. In fact, the name ‘gin’ is derived from the French word for juniper, genièvre. Gin cannot be called gin if it does not contain juniper and purists believe that the overriding flavour of gin should be that of juniper, with the other flavours layered below. So if your gin tastes of raspberries, it’s not strictly gin!
Juniper (Juniperus Communis) is an evergreen shrub which grows throughout the northern hemisphere, from the arctic circle to the tropics and has been used for thousands of years in traditional and herbal medicine.
The plant is rich in aromatic oils and recent research has shown that it has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. The most important molecule as far as gin makers are concerned is alpha-pinene, which provides the ‘ginny’ flavour that is so highly prized.
Juniper berries are tart and sharp, with a resinous, piney flavour and hints of citrus. The best in the world come from the Balkans (Macedonia, Albania etc) and often they are left to dry out for up to two years before using. It is worth investing in a small packet of juniper berries to garnish your gin and tonics. Just two or three can brighten up any gin.
Coriander, or more specifically, coriander seeds are the second most important botanical used in gin. Although more commonly associated with Indian cuisine and the flavour of curry, they actually impart complex citrus notes to gin.
Growing across southern Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia it is also known as Chinese parsley, dhania or cilantro. Some people report that coriander tastes ‘soapy’ and this can cause a problem if the ratio of juniper to coriander in a gin recipe is not right.
The molecule making up the essential oil in coriander is linalool. Interestingly, this is also found in basil, rose, orange and lavender. It has a spicy aromatic flavour of lemons and sage. It has also been shown to act as a sedative, an antidepressant and helps to reduce anxiety.
It is probably the use of coriander in gin that makes a G&T the perfect match for a spicy curry!
After juniper and coriander, angelica is the third key ingredient in gin.
It belongs to the same family of herbs as coriander and grows throughout the northern hemisphere. It is another plant that has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine, usually to treat colds and respiratory conditions.
All parts of the plant can be used in making gin but most commonly it is the dried root that is prized. It has a musky, nutty, earthy kind of smell that is reminiscent of a woodland floor and it imparts an important ‘rootiness’ or savoury flavour to gin.
It also plays an important role in fixing or holding the other flavours in solution so that they don’t disappear with age.
Citrus notes play a really important part when trying to balance the flavours in gin. As well as the obvious orange, lemon or grapefruity flavours, citrus peels impart bright, fresh notes to gin which complement the piney flavours and rootiness associated with the drink.
The fresh or dried peel can be used as they give subtly different flavours. When using any kind of citrus peel, it is important to include as little of the pith as possible. The pith can be very bitter.
Sandgrown Spirits uses different citrus fruits in all of their gins, including orange, bitter orange, lemon, lime and satsuma.
Grains of Paradise
A West African peppercorn, grains of paradise (or GOP to gin aficionados) bring a little heat to our Original gin. Mellower than black peppercorn, they also add to the lemony citrus notes from coriander and peels.
Most noticeable in the autumn due to their proliferation of bright red berries, rowan or mountain ash trees are a common sight. The berries are often thought to be poisonous and although they are not recommended to be eaten raw, it is possible to make jams and wine from them. And of course use as a botanical in gin.
They bring a sort of bitter-sweet fruitiness to our Original, Blooming Gorgeous and Positively Purple gins.
Liquorice is an unusual botanical in that it brings a little spicy heat as well as a sweetness to gin.
It is actually a legume, meaning that it is part of the bean family. It grows mainly in Asia and has been used for thousands of years as a flavouring.
We use the powdered root in our Original Gin, The Navigator’s Navy Strength and Bee’s Knees.
Orris root is obtained from irises. The rhizomes (or roots) are aged for about four years before being ground up into a powder. As well as being used to make gin, orris is also used in the manufacture of potpourri due to its ability to fix aromas. It has a pleasant smell, reminiscent of clean hay and sawdust.
In Japan, the roots and leaves of the plant were hung in the eaves of a house to protect the house and occupants from attacks by evil spirits. Other magic uses include using it as a "love potion", with the root powder in sachets, or sprinkled around the house or sheets of a bedroom!