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London Dry Gin.

The story of London Dry Gin begins in the early 17th century, though it wasn’t until the late 18th century that the style we recognise today began to take shape. Originally developed in the Netherlands, where it was known as Genever, the spirit was brought to England by soldiers returning from the Thirty Years’ War. In England, the spirit evolved, becoming drier and more refined than its Dutch ancestor.

The term “London Dry” emerged in the 19th century, although, somewhat confusingly, it doesn’t necessarily denote a gin produced in London. Instead, it refers to a style of gin production. This style was a response to the earlier versions of gin that were often sweetened to mask impurities. The invention of the continuous still in the 1830s by Aeneas Coffey allowed for a much purer and consistent spirit, paving the way for the dry style of gin to flourish.

Making London Dry

The production of London Dry Gin is defined by a specific and stringent process. The base spirit must be distilled to an extremely high proof, ensuring purity and neutrality. The botanicals, of which juniper is the most dominant and essential, are then added. Other common botanicals include coriander, citrus peels, angelica root, orris root, and cardamom, though the exact recipe varies between distilleries.

The distinctive feature of London Dry Gin is that no artificial flavours or colours can be added after distillation. If any sweetening is done, it must be minimal. This results in a cleaner, crisper gin that allows the natural flavours of the botanicals to shine through.

Flavour Profile

London Dry Gin is renowned for its crisp, dry taste with a predominant juniper flavour. The juniper berries provide a piney, slightly resinous taste, which is complemented by the earthy notes of angelica and the spicy, citrusy undertones from coriander and citrus peels. Each distillery has its unique blend of botanicals, which lends each London Dry Gin its distinctive character, but they all share the common characteristics of being dry, aromatic, and complex.

Cultural Impact

The cultural impact of London Dry Gin is vast and multifaceted. In the 18th and 19th centuries, gin became a staple in British society, though not without problems. The infamous “Gin Craze” of the 18th century led to widespread overconsumption and social issues, prompting the government to enact several Gin Acts to control production and sales.

However, the spirit eventually shed its notorious reputation and became associated with sophistication and refinement. It became a staple in the British colonial empire, especially in India, where it was mixed with tonic water, not only for its quinine content, beneficial in preventing malaria but also because the bitterness of the tonic complemented the dryness of the gin, giving birth to the classic Gin and Tonic. It remains a ubiquitous presence on back-bars the world over and is a vital part of all manner of classic cocktails and drinks.

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