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The Ultimate Guide to Pot Still Gin: What Makes It Different and Why You Should Try It

Gin is one of the most popular spirits in the world, but do you know how it is made? We will explore the history and origins of pot still gin, a traditional method of distilling gin that gives it a distinctive flavour and character.
Pot still gin is a type of gin that is distilled in a pot still, a simple device that consists of a large copper vessel with a narrow neck and a condenser. A pot still is the oldest and simplest way of distilling alcohol, and it has been used for centuries to make whiskey, brandy, and other spirits.
Pot still gin is made by adding botanicals, such as juniper berries, coriander seeds, citrus peels, and other herbs and spices, to a base spirit, usually grain alcohol or malt wine. The mixture is then heated in the pot still until the alcohol vaporises and rises through the neck. The vapour passes through a basket or chamber filled with more botanicals, which infuse their flavours and aromas into the vapour. The vapour then condenses into a liquid in the condenser, which is collected as pot still gin.
Pot still gin is different from other types of gin, such as column still gin or compound gin, in several ways.
The base spirit
 The base spirit is the alcohol that is used to infuse the botanicals (the herbs, spices, fruits, and flowers that give gin its flavour and aroma). Most gins use a neutral grain spirit as their base, which is essentially pure ethanol with no distinctive taste or smell. Pot still gins, on the other hand, use a base spirit that is distilled from malted barley or other grains in a pot still. This gives the gin a more complex and full-bodied character, with hints of cereal, bread, or nuttiness. Pot still gin is often described as having a malty, earthy, or spicy taste, depending on the ingredients used.
The botanicals
 The botanicals are the ingredients that are added to the base spirit during or after distillation to create the unique profile of each gin. Most gins use a combination of common botanicals, such as juniper berries, coriander seeds, citrus peels, and angelica root. Pot still gins, however, tend to use fewer and more carefully selected botanicals, often sourced from local or exotic regions. This results in a more refined and balanced flavour, with subtle nuances and depth.
The alcohol
 Pot still gin tends to have a higher alcohol content, usually between 40% and 60% ABV, compared to column still gin, which is usually between 37.5% and 40% ABV.

The history of pot still gin

Pot still gin has a long and fascinating history that dates back to the Middle Ages. The origin of gin is not clear, but some historians believe that it was first created by monks in Italy or France, who used juniper berries to flavour their medicinal spirits. Juniper berries have antiseptic and diuretic properties, and they were used to treat various ailments, such as kidney stones, gout, and plague.
The word “gin” comes from the Dutch word “jenever”, which means “juniper”. The Dutch are credited with popularising and commercialising gin in the 16th and 17th centuries. They used pot stills to distill malt wine, a low-quality alcoholic beverage made from fermented grains, and added juniper berries and other botanicals to mask its unpleasant taste. This resulted in a strong and cheap spirit that was widely consumed by soldiers, sailors, and commoners.
The Dutch introduced gin to England in the late 17th century, when William of Orange became king of England. Gin became very popular among the English people, especially the poor, who drank it as a substitute for beer or wine. Gin was cheaper and more potent than other drinks, and it helped them cope with the harsh living conditions of the time. However, gin also caused many social problems, such as crime, violence, poverty, and disease. Gin consumption reached its peak in the early 18th century, when it was estimated that Londoners drank about 10 litres of gin per person per year. This period is known as the “Gin Craze”, and it inspired many artists and writers to depict the negative effects of gin on society.
The British government tried to regulate and tax gin production and consumption several times, but these measures were often met with resistance and riots. It was not until 1751 that the Gin Act effectively reduced gin consumption by raising its price and limiting its availability. This led to a decline in the popularity of pot still gin, which was replaced by column still gin, a cheaper and smoother type of gin that was invented in 1832 by Aeneas Coffey.
The revival of pot still gin
Pot still gin experienced a revival in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, thanks to the growing interest in craft spirits and premium gins. Many distillers around the world started to produce pot still gin using traditional recipes or creating new ones with innovative botanicals.

The main characteristics and features of pot still gin

If you’re a fan of gin, you might have heard of pot stills. But what are they, and how do they affect the taste and quality of your favourite spirit? In this section, we’ll explore the main characteristics and features of pot still gin, and why it’s worth trying if you haven’t already.
What are pot stills?
Pot stills are the oldest and simplest type of stills used to distill spirits. They consist of a large copper pot with a narrow neck that leads to a condenser, where the vapour is cooled and collected. Pot stills operate in batches, meaning that each time a new batch of fermented liquid (called wash) is added to the pot, the previous one has to be removed.
Pot stills are mainly used to produce whiskies, but they can also be used to make gin. In fact, some of the most famous and prestigious gin brands use pot stills, such as Tanqueray, Beefeater, and Bombay Sapphire.
What are the benefits of pot still gin?
Pot still gin has many benefits for both producers and consumers. For producers, pot stills allow more control and creativity over the distillation process, as they can adjust the temperature, pressure, and timing of each batch. They can also experiment with different base spirits and botanicals to create distinctive and original gins.
For consumers, pot still gin offers a more authentic and premium experience, as they can enjoy the craftsmanship and history behind each bottle. They can also appreciate the rich and smooth taste of pot still gin, which can be enjoyed neat or mixed with tonic or other ingredients.
Some examples of pot still gin
If you’re curious about pot still gin and want to try some for yourself, here are some examples of brands that use this method:
Tanqueray No. Ten
This is a super-premium gin that uses fresh citrus fruits as its main botanicals, along with juniper, coriander, angelica, liquorice, and chamomile. It has a crisp and refreshing taste with a citrusy kick.
Beefeater 24
This is a modern and sophisticated gin that uses 12 botanicals from around the world, including Japanese sencha tea, Chinese green tea, grapefruit peel, lemon peel, juniper, coriander seed, angelica root/seeds/berries etc. It has a smooth and delicate taste with a floral touch.
Bombay Sapphire
This is a classic and iconic gin that uses 10 botanicals from various countries, such as juniper berries from Tuscany (Italy), coriander seeds from Morocco (Africa), lemon peel from Spain (Europe), cubeb berries from Java (Indonesia), grains of paradise from West Africa etc. It has a clean and balanced taste with a spicy edge.

The best brands and varieties of pot still gin to look for

How do you know which pot still gin to choose? There are so many brands and varieties on the market, each with its own recipe and style. To help you out, we have compiled a list of some of the best pot still gins that you can find. Whether you prefer a classic London dry, a fruity and floral gin, or something more exotic and spicy, there is a pot still gin for you.
Here are our top picks
Sipsmith London Dry Gin
This is one of the most popular and widely available pot still gins in the world. It is made in small batches in London, using 10 botanicals such as juniper, coriander, lemon peel, orange peel, angelica, orris root, liquorice, cinnamon, cassia and almond. The result is a balanced and smooth gin that has a strong juniper character and a citrusy freshness. It is perfect for making a classic gin and tonic or a martini.
Hendrick’s Gin
This is a unique and quirky gin that is made in Scotland, using two different pot stills: a Bennett still and a Carter-Head still. The Bennett still produces a robust and malty spirit, while the Carter-Head still produces a lighter and more delicate spirit. The two spirits are then blended together and infused with 11 botanicals such as juniper, coriander, rose petals, cucumber, chamomile, elderflower, lemon peel, orange peel, yarrow, caraway and cubeb. The result is a floral and refreshing gin that has a subtle cucumber and rose flavour. It is ideal for making a refreshing gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber or a rose lemonade.
Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin
This is an exotic and complex gin that is made in Germany, using 47 botanicals that are sourced from the Black Forest region. Some of the botanicals include juniper, lavender, lemon verbena, lingonberries, blackberries, cranberries, spruce tips, acacia flowers, bramble leaves, wild rose buds, angelica root, ginger root, cardamom, nutmeg, clove and star anise. The result is a spicy and fruity gin that has a piney and earthy undertone. It is great for making a bold and flavourful gin and tonic or a negroni.

How to enjoy pot still gin: cocktails, mixers, and food pairings

Here are some tips on how to enjoy pot still gin and discover its amazing taste.
Cocktails with pot still gin
One of the best ways to enjoy pot still gin is to mix it with other ingredients and create delicious cocktails. Pot still gin can be used in many classic gin cocktails, such as the martini, the negroni, the gimlet, and the Tom Collins. These cocktails showcase the smooth and balanced flavour of pot still gin and enhance its botanical notes. You can also experiment with different vermouths, bitters, syrups, and juices to create your own variations of these cocktails.
Another option is to try some cocktails that are specifically designed for pot still gin, such as the Irish Rose, the Dubliner, and the Emerald Isle. These cocktails use ingredients that complement the distinctive character of pot still gin, such as Irish whiskey, elderflower liqueur, apple juice, and mint. These cocktails are perfect for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or any occasion with a touch of Irish charm.
Mixers with pot still gin
If you prefer a simpler way to enjoy pot still gin, you can also mix it with some refreshing and flavourful mixers. Pot still gin goes well with many types of tonic water, especially those that are made with natural quinine and botanical extracts. You can also add some fresh fruit or herbs to your gin and tonic, such as lemon, lime, grapefruit, cucumber, rosemary, or thyme. These mixers bring out the citrus and herbal notes of pot still gin and make it more refreshing.
Another great mixer for pot still gin is ginger ale or ginger beer. Ginger adds a spicy and zesty kick to pot still gin and creates a warming and satisfying drink. You can also add some lemon or lime juice to balance the sweetness of the ginger. This mixer is ideal for cold winter days or cozy nights in.
Food pairings with pot still gin
Pot still gin is not only a great drink, but also a great ingredient for cooking and baking. Pot still gin can be used to marinate meats, fish, and vegetables, as well as to make sauces, glazes, and dressings. Pot still gin adds a depth of flavour and a subtle aroma to your dishes and enhances their natural flavours.
Some examples of food pairings with pot still gin are:

  • Roasted chicken with pot still gin and lemon
  • Salmon with pot still gin and dill sauce
  • Roasted vegetables with pot still gin and honey glaze
  • Chocolate cake with pot still gin and orange frosting
These dishes are easy to make and delicious to eat. You can also serve them with a glass of pot still gin cocktail or mixer to complete your meal.
Pot still gin is a wonderful spirit that deserves to be enjoyed in many ways. Whether you like it in cocktails, mixers, or food pairings, you will discover its rich and complex flavour and its unique botanicals. Pot still gin is a true expression of craftsmanship and tradition that will delight your senses.

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