What exactly is gin and how is it made? Everything you need to know about your favourite spirit

PUBLISHED: 09:49 26 October 2020

Masons of Yorkshire's original dry gin is made from juniper, citrus and warming spice. Photo: Will Stanley

Masons of Yorkshire's original dry gin is made from juniper, citrus and warming spice. Photo: Will Stanley

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We speak to Masons of Yorkshire about how they make their award-winning gin

Juniper is the predominant botanical in gin. Photo: Madeline PenfoldJuniper is the predominant botanical in gin. Photo: Madeline Penfold

Once considered an old-fashioned drink, gin has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years – and there’s no signs of it slowing down anytime soon. But how much do you know about this trendy tipple and where it comes from?

Following the launch of their new Orange and Lime Leaf collection, Karl and Cathy Mason from Masons of Yorkshire tell us how their London Dry Gin is made and what gives it its unique flavour.

Before we get technical, can you tell us what exactly gin is?

For gin to be called gin, it must be made with juniper berries. While there are many different styles, juniper is always the predominant botanical and is what gives the spirit its distinct taste and aroma.

What is London Dry Gin?

London Dry Gin is made through distilling botanicals with a neutral alcohol, which is heated in a still (pictured). Photo: David LindsayLondon Dry Gin is made through distilling botanicals with a neutral alcohol, which is heated in a still (pictured). Photo: David Lindsay

London Dry is generally considered to be the premium style of gin. Despite the name, it doesn’t have to be made in London (we make it here in Yorkshire) but there are specific rules it has to follow. In short, it has to be made from a pure grain spirit, be distilled with natural botanicals and have no more than 0.1 grams of sugar per litre. Nothing can be added after distillation and all flavour must come from what’s put in the still. Essentially, it’s gin in its purest form.

How is it made?

There are several ways to make gin and every distillery will have its own technique. The most common method – and the one we use for our London Dry Gin – is to distil the botanicals with a neutral alcohol. The process starts by heating the base spirit in what’s called a still, which is essentially a very large kettle that boils the alcohol, creates vapour, and then condenses it. The neutral spirit alcohol is already distilled to an initial alcoholic strength of at least 96 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume).

The botanicals are then added and it comes off the still at around 85-90 percent ABV. Afterwards, a small amount of filtered water is added which takes it down to the Masons’ bottling strength – 42 per cent ABV – and then it’s bottled.

The Masons of Yorkshire range features a variety of flavours, including their new orange and lime leaf gin. Photo: Tim AinsworthThe Masons of Yorkshire range features a variety of flavours, including their new orange and lime leaf gin. Photo: Tim Ainsworth

What flavours can be added?

As well as juniper, a variety of other botanicals can be added to make unique recipes, whether you want a fragrantly sweet and floral taste or dry and spicy notes. Most gins have a blend of around 8-12 botanicals such as coriander, cardamon, citrus peel, rose, lavender, chamomile, macadamia nuts and almonds.

What’s included in the Masons of Yorkshire range?

As well as our original gin we have a selection of award-winning flavours, from Pear and Pink Peppercorn to English Lavender, and of course Yorkshire Tea to celebrate our roots. Our latest addition is Orange and Lime Leaf, which has a beautifully refreshing and fragrant taste with a dry finish.

All of our gins have a smooth quality, distinct flavours and are best served with a premium tonic water, a slice of citrus fruit and plenty of ice.

Cathy and Karl Mason, founders of Masons of Yorkshire gin. Photo: David LindsayCathy and Karl Mason, founders of Masons of Yorkshire gin. Photo: David Lindsay

Find out more

If you’re keen to discover more about Britain’s favourite spirit, the Masons of Yorkshire distillery has a new bar area where you can taste their latest range of gins with the stills on display. They are also offering a number of socially distanced experiences, including guided tastings, tours and cocktail making classes. Pop-up food events with local producers are regularly held at the distillery, with tables for up to six people.

Find out more at masonsofyorkshire.com, call 01677426467 or email info@masonsofyorkshire.com.

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