30 Apr Ginformation #2: What is London Dry Gin?
You’ve probably seen the term ‘London Dry Gin” before. It’s on the label of many a gin brand, including craft and premium gins like Berkeley Square and Widges and big commercial brands like Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire. But with so many gins being produced these days, there are also many that are NOT London dry gins. Heck, many of them that do carry that on their label aren’t even from London.
So what exactly is a London dry gin? Here is a brief explanation.
1) It doesn’t have to be made in London
No, the gin doesn’t HAVE to be distilled in London to be called a London Dry gin (although there are some that are, including Beefeater). Despite the name, it’s not location-based. Rather, it actually refers more to the process of making the gin.
2) It’s called ‘dry’ because of the way it was made
The name probably came about when the Coffey still was invented in 1832, which meant gin producers could make a more consistent, unsweetened gin that tasted, yes, dry.
Before that, gin used to poorly made bad quality stuff that had to be sweetened or masked with botanicals – but after the Coffey still was invented, ‘dry gin’ became more popular. And since most of these producers of these ‘dry gins’ were located in London, that was probably how the name was coined.
3) There are rules for making London dry gin
Funnily enough, the rules for making London dry gin were not determined by the English – the official regulations were set by the European Union in February 2008.
The regulations stipulate that to be known as ‘London dry gin’, the spirit must adhere to these rules (among others):
- The base spirit must be distilled to a completely neutral state of at least 96% ABV and re-distilled (with the botanicals) to 70%
- All the flavours can only be added through the distillation, and juniper has to be the dominant botanical.
- All the ingredients must be natural plant materials. The keyword here is NATURAL, so nothing synthetic or artificial is allowed
- Nothing can be added into the gin after distillation, not even if it’s to add more flavours to the gin. (other than maybe water and a little bit of sugar). Since the spirit you obtain from distilling doesn’t have any colour in it, you can’t add any colouring in it.
- The finished product has to be 37.5% ABV or higher.
4) Juniper is usually the predominant flavour of London dry gin
While almost all gins have juniper in them (we think that it can’t be called a gin if it doesn’t have juniper), London dry gin tends to be much, much heavier on the juniper than other styles.
Also, since you can’t add anything into the gin after the final distillation to change the flavour (other than water or maybe more alcohol), London dry gin relies on the skill of the distiller to get the balance of the juniper and the other botanicals just right during the distillation process.
5) You can have London dry gins AND non-London dry gins within the same brand
Since the term basically refers to the process of making the gin, gin producers are free to make gins that are and aren’t London dry gin – they just can’t call it ‘London dry gin’ on the label of the ones that don’t follow the proper regulations.
Case in point, Spanish gin producers Siderit, whose core range includes a London Dry Gin, as well as other gins that are flavoured with hibicus and other flavours.
Looking for some great London dry gins? Check out our online store!