Distiller’s Notebook: Gin StillsOctober 20, 2014
Distiller’s Notebook is an ongoing series of dispatches from the world of craft spirits from the desk of Short Path Distillery.
Here at Short Path Distillery, we use a reflux still equipped with a gin basket to make our signature gin.
Here’s a two-minute history of gin distillation.
Over the years, gin has been distilled in just about any type of still. Originally, it was distilled in a pot still, which produces a malt-forward, rich, viscous distillate. While these attributes are desirable for whiskey and rum, they can easily overpower the delicate subtleties of the botanicals in gin.
The invention of reflux stills — with their tall, narrow refining columns – meant that higher concentrations of alcohol and more control over the distillation process could be achieved, but at the cost of less flavor in the resulting distillate. Distillers could compensate for the loss of flavor by using additional botanicals, and as a result, lighter, crisper, and drier gins came onto the market and the London Dry style was born.
Depending on what a distiller is trying to create in his gin, he or she can use a pot still, a reflux still, or a combination of both. And there are modifications distillers can make to further hone in on their desired flavor profile.
That’s exactly what we’ve done. Our gin still is very similar to a pot still, with something called a gin basket in the column. This is a perforated copper basket (think of the colander in your kitchen) that sits in the column where the botanicals are placed. As the alcoholic steam rises up the column, the flavors of the juniper and accompanying botanicals are gently extracted by the vapors, which then enter the condenser where the flavor-laden vapors return to liquid form.
Gin made in this method is lighter in body and crisper in flavor than products made in pot stills or by soaking the botanicals in the neutral base spirit to extract the botanical flavors. It allows the secondary botanicals to shine through the juniper base and gives our gin the fidelity of flavor that we love – and that we hope you will, too.