Sacred Spirits: The journey of a great gin

Sacred Spirits: The journey of a great gin

“The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.” - Winston Churchill

Have you noticed that any mention of the word “gin” seems to perk people up quite considerably? In fact, quests for the perfect blend of botanicals have become more popular than the holy grail! And here’s a surprising fact: With thousands of rather dubious distilleries illicitly producing batches throughout London in the 1700s, the town became, albeit briefly, the unofficial gin capital of the world. So, while poor quality didn’t gain it much traction back then, it’s clearly been in our veins for centuries – which probably explains our current obsession.

If you’re new on the gin scene, picking out your first few tipples can be somewhat overwhelming. The choice is almost limitless and, with enthusiasts pontificating about things like base notes, distilling methods and infusions, it can all get a bit much. So before you next trot down to your favourite watering hole to raise your spirits, give this a read. Our fun facts will help you up the ante and get you talking like a budding connoisseur. Bottoms up!

What is gin?

Originally a medicinal brew used as a painkiller throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, gin flourished in England after the introduction of jenever, a Dutch and Belgian liquor. It is told that the British sipped on it before battle in the Eighty Years War, resulting in the expression “Dutch courage”.

Now popular worldwide, it is essentially a distilled spirit made from malt or grain and infused with the distinct pine flavour of juniper berries. In fact, despite the modern addition of a wide range of botanicals, the beverage cannot be called gin unless it has juniper in it.

Today, gin is produced in a variety of ways and, with a plethora of new flavour combinations encompassing fruit, spice, herbal and floral, there is more than enough diversity to suit every palate.


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How is gin made?

Because of the many techniques used in gin-making, this is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Steeping and vapour infusions are traditional pot distillation methods and share similar processes, the main difference being how the botanicals are introduced into the base alcohol. Vacuum distillation is a much newer practice done at lower temperatures, which results in a delicious, multi-layered end product.

Botanicals play a major role in the subtleties and complexities of gin and each brand has its own signature combination. The most common profiles include blends of ingredients such as angelica root, coriander, cardamom, cucumber, lemon, liquorice and black pepper. And with “craft” distilleries constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas, the gin-world is an ever-changing phenomenon.

Sacred Spirits: The journey of a great gin

Gin types

To make matters even more complicated, gins fit into categories. To keep you in vogue, here’s the low down.

London Dry Gin

This is the most common version and contains very little sugar giving it a dry taste. It is also colourless and must, by law, be predominantly juniper flavoured.


The grandfather of all British gins, it comprises a mash of botanicals with either rye, barley or corn. Malty in flavour, it’s roughness is often appreciated by whisky drinkers.

Plymouth Gin

Popular with tonic, this slightly sweeter gin is made specifically in Plymouth. It has strong notes of juniper along with a pleasant earthy undertone.

Sloe Gin

Sloe gin is made from a small plum-like fruit that is actually part of the rose family. It is infused into already-made gin, is red in colour and deliciously mild.

Old Tom Gin

This robust gin is drier than Genever but sweeter than London dry and, having fallen from grace in the 19th century, is now making a comeback amongst aficionados.

Navy Strength Gin

While the term certainly wasn’t coined by the navy, the name refers to any botanical-forward gin that has an ABV of at least 57%.

Barrel-aged Gin

Aging gin over time in oak barrels is an old and now less common tradition, but it does produce an impressively smoky flavour that is highly appreciated by the fans.

Contemporary Gin

This refers to modern-day, eclectic infusions that showcase unusual new flavours. The results are fun, delicious and are most certainly keeping the wheels on the gin-wagon.

Sacred Spirits: The journey of a great gin

Sacred Spirits

If gin is your thing, then it’s time you gave Sacred Spirits a try. Ex Wall Street trader Ian Hart launched his label from a Wendy house at the back of his childhood home in Highgate, London in 2008. With a degree in natural science and a love for chemistry, Ian was determined to produce a gin that showcased the delicateness of every botanical. So, complete with handblown glassware from York, he boldly created a space that introduced vacuum distillation to the world.

With his intrepid use of frankincense in his first-ever London Dry Gin, Ian showed his intention to create otherworldly flavours, giving rise to the name Sacred Spirits. Now, using his eye for the unusual, Ian distils his extracts separately and experiments with them before blending them to make bespoke gins.

So look out for their distinctive label in any of your local pubs, hotels and restaurants. Or, if you’re feeling inspired, join them at the Sacred Distillery for a “make your own gin” session. For more lifestyle blogs on our food & wine finds, click here. 

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