Botanicals: What's in the gin?

Juniper, coriander, lemon and orange peel, cinnamon, tree bark, liquorice, nutmeg and violet root - when you read the list of ingredients of some gins, such as Hayman's London Dry Gin, it is often hard to imagine that this wild mixture of spices, fruits and nature is supposed to make a delicious drink. But anyone who has tried a gin or two knows that the recipes taste good! But in the gin industry, we don't speak of ingredients, but of botanicals.

There is no precise equivalent for the English term 'botanicals' in German. Botanical' means nothing other than 'botanical', but it refers to the plant ingredients that can be contained in gin. This includes plants and plant extracts, which can be divided into the following categories: Spices, Herbs, Citrus, Fruits and Berries, Flowers, Nuts and Beans and finally Vegetables. As the spirit gin had developed from a medieval medicine, there are still many 'healing' and 'soothing' substances among the ingredients. Among them are herbs, roots, seeds, flowers, barks, berries and fruits recommended by experts and publications in the field of health, fitness and wellness.

Discover a detailed page showing the origin of each gin botanical. Learn in which regions they grow and what flavours they contribute to gin production.

Spices

What can refine food in the kitchen can also refine a spirit!

The most important botanical in gin is juniper. The EU Spirits Regulation stipulates that the juniper flavour must predominate among the aromas. A distillate may only call itself gin if this is the case. The juniper gives gin its characteristic sweet, resinous and slightly peppery-hot aroma. Apart from this specification, there are no limits to the gin-makers' imagination. The spirits journalist Karl Rudolf was able to find 182 ingredients in 134 different gins. All in all, it is of course the secret of each individual gin distiller which ingredients make up his gin.

Coriander is also a popular ingredient in gin distillation; it is the flavouring agent in 60 % of the gins. The seeds contain essential oils that give the gin a sweet citrus aroma with a slight bitterness and spiciness. The taste of coriander leaves is polarising: Either you love it or you hate it. In contrast to the leaves, the small round fruits taste less soapy and more citrusy. It combines particularly harmoniously with citrus fruits. Cardamom provides a fresh menthol and fruity taste, while pepper in its colourful variety gives the gin spice and pungency. Cinnamon and allspice, which make us think of Christmas biscuits, also find their way into the gin.

You can find more spices with their typical taste, their origin and corresponding product examples here:

NameRegionTypeFlavourBottle
AllSpiceCentral America, CaribbeanBerriesSlightly bitter, earthy, and fruity, a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg
Angostura barkSouth AmericaLeafBitter and spicy
Birds Eye chili fruitAfrica FruitFruity, sweet and peppery flavour
Black cardamomHimalayas SeedDistinct smoky aroma and flavour
Black pepperSoutheast AsiaSeedPeppery and spicy with a woody note
CarawayNorthern and Central Europe, Asia SeedSlightly spicy, spicy to sweet with a slightly bitter note
CardamomSouth India, Sri LankaSeedPiney, fruity, and almost menthol-like flavour
CinnamonSouth America, South AsiaBarkWarm, sweet, slight citrusy note, and its spicy taste
Cinnamon cassiaChinaBarkSweet, aromatic, and pungent
ClovesIndonesia, East AfricaBudIntense, slightly pungent and spicy flavour with sweet aroma
CorianderMediterraneanSeedSpicy-tart with sweet aftertaste
Cubeb pepperEast and Southeast AsiaSeedMild peppery flavour with a slightly bitter aftertaste
CuminAsia, Southern MediterraneanSeedSweet-bitter warming taste with a nutty note
GingerAsia, South and Central AmericaRootFruity and spicy with a sweet note
Grains of paradiseWest AfricaSeedPeppery-fruity and spicy aroma
JuniperNorthern HemisphereBerriesSlightly piney flavour with a touch of both fruitiness and pepperiness.
Japanese peppercornJapanSeedCitrus and grassy notes
LiquoriceMediterraneanLeafSweet and woody, with sour and bitter notes, liquorice flavour
Long pepperIndia SeedSharp, warm, and at the same sweet flavour of licorice and dark chocolate
Nepalese pepperNepalSeedCitrus note, mild spicy with a slightly bitter note
Phu Quoc peppercornsVietnamSeedCitrusy heat with a fruity note
Poblano peppersMexicoFruitMild spicy chilli flavour
Rosemary MediterraneanGrassSpicy-tart, resinous, peppery, lemony
Saigon cinnamonVietnamBarkCassia-like flavour, aromatic-sweet with a hint of bitterness
Sancho pepperJapanSeedStrong citrus flavour with a slight peppery spiciness
SenchaJapanleafTart, grassy aroma
Sichuan pepperChinaSeedSparkling spiciness with a fine citrus aroma
Smoke-dried jalapeñosCentral, South AmericaPlantSmoky and spicy
Star aniseVietnam, ChinaFruitMore intense than anise, liquorice aroma
Syrian oreganoSyriaLeafStrong tart-spicy aroma
Tasmanian mountain pepperAustraliaBerriesFruity-sweet with pleasant spiciness
Thyme Worldwide PlantEarthy yet fresh flavour with a slightly bitter note
TimutNepalSeedBright citrusy flavour that is reminiscent of grapefruit
White pepperIndia, Vietnam, IndonesiaSeedDominant spiciness, grassy citrus aroma

Herbs

So what is the difference between herbs and spices? Herbs are preferably used fresh, whereas spices are dried! In our linguistic usage, we use it fluently. For example, with coriander we speak of herbs and spices, whereas it correctly falls under spices!

Anise, fennel and angelica root are representatives of herbs. All of them are also known as medicinal herbs and give their very typical flavour to the gin. These herbs should be dosed sparingly.

Among the herbs, some are quite common kitchen herbs that end up in gins.

Here, too, the rule is: what spices up the food can also spice up the gin!

Chervil and cress, parsley and cranberries, sage and chives - just as herbs provide that certain pep in the kitchen, they also do so in gin.

Various gin producers have made it their business to use the typical herbs of their region in their gin. Frankfurt's 'Gin Sieben', for example, contains the seven herbs from the recipe for the famous Frankfurt Green Sauce: borage, chervil, cress, parsley, salad burnet, sorrel and chives. The Duke Munich Dry Gin' harks back to the beer-brewing roots of the Bavarian capital with the basic ingredients hops and malt. But there are also gins like 'Elephant London Dry Gin', which is entirely dedicated to the African continent and its aromas, 'Canaima Gin', which is distilled with herbs and fruits from the Amazon rainforest, or 'Noble White', which aromatically covers the entire Alpine region.

NameRegionTypeFlavourBottle
Angelica rootNorthern HemisphereRootEarthy with a slight spiciness, a warm flavour
AnisEastern MediterraneanSeedsLicorice
Avocado leafCentral and South AmericaLeafNutty hazelnut aroma and a mellow anise-licorice flavour
BambooEast Asia, South and Central America, Africa, AustraliaGrassEarthy taste with hints of nuttiness
Basil Africa to South East AsiaLeafSweet, pungent, and slightly spicy
Bay leafMediterraneanLeafbitter and pungent, notes similar to thyme or oregano
Bladder wrackNorth Sea, Baltic Sea, Atlantic/Pacific OceanGrassBriny taste, strong ocean umami flavour
Bog myrtleNorthern HemisphereGrassEucalyptic kind of aroma
CongonaSouth America, Canary IslandsGrassCinnamon flavour
DillEurasiaGrassFresh, citrus-like taste, with a slightly grassy undertone
Eucalyptus AustraliaLeafMix of menthol, citrus, and pine
FennelWorldwide GrassMild anise, licorice flavour
Fir shoots North America, UKShootLemon peel or tangerine peel
Green Tea leafChinaLeafGrassy, vegetal, nutty, herbaceous
Ground ivyWorldwide LeafBasil and sage with minty undertones
Gunpowder teaChinaLeafSmooth, hearty flavour and nutty, vegetal, slightly smoky notes
Gyokuro tea JapanLeafSeaweed and grasses, followed by an intense sweetness
HinokiJapanPlantWoody-tart, slightly smoky, with refreshing notes
HopsWest Asia, Europe and North AmericaHopsCitrusy, pine-like, herbal, and earthy aromatics
Iris rootAsiaRootFloral, distinct bitter taste
Japanese red pineJapan, Korea, ChinaTreeMildly sweet, with a slightly resinous or pine-like flavour
Leaf of the cashew treeWorldwide LeafTangy, astringent
Lemon thyme MediterraneanGrassSweet citrus aroma, minty, earthy and floral notes
LemongrassAsia, Africa, AustraliaGrassMild citrus with a hint of ginger
Lotus leafWorldwide LeafSweet in taste with a hint of bitterness
Matcha teaJapanLeafMellow, earthy taste
MintEurasiaLeafSubtly sweet taste and cool sensation 
Mulberry leafNorth AmericaLeafFruity and sweet, and the dried leaf will impart a slightly earthy and bitter taste
Muscovado Southern HemisphereLeafSweet and malty with a hint of caramel
Oolong tea ChinaLeafSweet, fruity taste with a hint of nuttiness
PerillaSoutheast AsiaLleafGrassy with notes of anise or licorice
Peruvian coca leafPeruLeafGreen tea, slightly bitter with some sweetness
Pine budsNorthern HemisphereBudSpiky flavour: herbal, sweet, a little perfumey
Pine needleNorthern HemisphereNeedlePiney, resinous, astringent, and citrusy, with undertones of mint
Red algaeWorldwide, coral reefsGrassSubtle taste of the sea with slightly earthy notes
Rose rootAsia and Europe (Arctic regions)RootSlightly bitter
SageMediterraneanLeafEarthy, slightly peppery taste with hints of mint, eucalyptus, and lemon
SavoryMediterraneanGrassSpicy-aromatic, peppery, thyme-like flavour
Sea fennelBlack Sea, European Atlantic coasts GrassTart, fresh, to lemony
SeaweedWorldwide GrassBriny and salty, sweet when dried
Spoonwort EuropeGrassSlightly spicy and maritime notes 
Spruce shootsCentral and Eastern EuropeSeedBright, citrus flavour
VerbenaEuropeGrassLemony scent,slight minty or even tangerine taste
Violet rootsNorthern HemisphereRootSweet and floral
WoodruffEurasiaGrassSweet, hay-like, earthy aroma
WormwoodEurasiaGrassBitter
YarrowEurasiaGrassSweet flavour with a bitter finish, often compared to anise and tarragon

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits are present in almost all gins, usually even several varieties. In addition to oranges and lemons, grapefruits, limes and grapefruits are also common. Whether from the pulp or the peels, the fruity-sour citrus notes contribute significantly to the flavour of the gin. Often, only the peels are used, which are rich in essential oils.

In the New Western Dry Gins, where the typical juniper flavour is to take a back seat in favour of other notes, strong citrus flavours are often used.

NameRegionTypeFlavourBottle
AmanatsuJapanFruitSweet and sour flavour
BergamotItalyFruitAromatic-tart and very sour, combination of lemon and bitter orange.
Blood orangesMediterraneanFruitSweet and sour taste, slightly more bitter than conventional oranges
Buddah's HandSouth East Asia, South and Central ItalyFruitBittersweet, similar to an ordinary lemon, only sweeter
Chinese limeChinaFruitMixture of salty and sour
ClementineSouthern Europe, Northwest Africa, FloridaFruitFruity-sweet with mild aroma
DaidaiJapanFruitExtremely bitter 
Finger limes AustraliaFruitCitrusy, acidic, and slightly bitter with some herbaceous notes
GrapefruitCaribbean Islands, South of the USAFruitBitter and sweet
Hetsuka Bitter OrangesJapanFruitSweet and sour, juicy, similar to lime
Kabosu JapanFruitSour, tangy
Kaffir lime Southeast AsiaFruitFine sour lime aroma
KumquatWorldwide FruitAromatically sweet with a slightly sour orange flavour
LemonMediterraneanFruitSour with a slightly sweet note
Lemon myrtleAustraliaFruitSeet, spicy flavour with intense and refreshing citrus notes
Lemon verbenaSouth AmericaHerbsIntense lemon aroma
LimesIndia, Malaysia, USAFruitAcidic-tart, with a slight hint of sweetness
OrangeMediterranean, India, China, BrazilFruitSweet-tart 
Orange peelMediterranean, India, China, BrazilFruitLess sweet than the rest of the orange, with characteristic bitterness
Pink grapefruitCaribbean Islands, South of the USAFruitTart-fruity, sweet-sour and slightly bitter
Seville orangeSpainFruitBitter-sweet
Sicilian lemon peelItalyFruitTart-bitter, with little acidity
YuzuJapan, China, KoreaFruitPleasant acidity with tart notes and slightly sweet, like a mixture of lemon, grapefruit and orange.

Fruits & Berries

Although the main botanical, juniper, has a berry shape, it belongs to the category of spices! Fruits and berries in gin making are, for example, blackberry and marula fruit. They give the gin colour on the one hand and sweetness on the other.

NameRegionTypeFlavourBottle
Acai AmazonsBerriesEarthy, bitter taste that contains hints of dark chocolate and blackberry
Amaou StrawberryJapanBerriesVery sweet
ApplesWorldwide FruitSweet, tart, hints of cinnamon spice, honey-like flavour
ApricotTurkeyFruitPeach and plum
Aronia BerriesNorth AmericaBerriesSharp, sour taste
BaobabAfricaFruitSweet, citrusy taste
BlackberryWorldwide BerriesSucculent, juicy berries with a tart flavour
Blackcurrant EurasiaBerriesGrape-like flavour and acidic to taste with hints of cherry
BlueberryNorth AmericaBerriesSweet taste with a bit of acid
Buckthorn BerriesWorldwide BerriesTart and citrusy, with subtle sweetness
Charentais MelonFranceFruitSweet taste reminiscent of papaya and pineapple
Chinese Dragon Eye FruitChinaBerriesMusky, sweet
CranberryNorth AmericaBerriesBitter, sharp taste,
DamsonWorldwide FruitTart, sour, and subtly sweet
Dragon FruitWorldwide FruitBlend of pear and kiwi
ElderberryWorldwide BerriesBitter and earthy 
FigTurkeyFruitSweet, honey taste
Fruit Of The Moriche PalmSouth AmericaFruitBitter-sweet taste
Goji Berries AsiaBerriesSweet and sour flavour
Gooseberries EurasiaBerriesSimilar to grapes but more acidic
Guava Central And South AmericaBerriesSweet, exotic taste, slightly tart
LingonberriesEurasia, North AmericaBerriesTaste sour with a bit of sweetness
LycheeChinaBerriesSweet and fruity taste with hints of floral notes
MangoSouthern HemisphereFruitSweet tasting fruit and juicy like orange.
Marula FruitAfrica FruitTart, with a pleasant sweet and sour taste
MulberriesNorth AmericaBerriesSweet and tart flavours, with a hint of baking spices or woody cedar
PapayaCentral, South AmericaFruitJuicy with a sweet flavour 
Passion Fruit Central, South AmericaFruitA unique blend of sour and sweet with a very floral finish and citrussy notes
PeachWorldwide FruitSweet with little acidity
Peruvian PhysalisSouth AmericaBerriesSlightly tart, grape-like flavour
PineappleSouth America, CaribbeanFruitFusion of sweet and acidic notes
Pineapple BerryThe NetherlandsBerriesPleasantly sweet, tart and juicy and to some,the tropical version of a strawberry 
PlumChinaFruitSweet fruit, and it slightly has a close taste to apricot
Prickly PearMexico, Southern UsFruitOften compared to that of a melon or a kiwi, with a hint of bubblegum
QuinceTurkey, GreeceFruitInedible when raw, tastes reminiscent of apples and pears when cooked
Red BananaEast Africa, Asia, South AmericaFruitLike a regular banana with a hint of raspberry sweetness
Rose HipsEuropa, AsiaFruitFloral, slightly sweet flavour with a touch of tartness
Rowan BerriesNorthern HemisphereBerriesSour with a slight bitterness
SloeWorldwide BerriesExtremely tart 
Strawberries Worldwide BerriesRanging from pineapple to tree fruit such as apple and pear
TamarilloSouth America, New ZealandFruitTangy and variably sweet, with a bold and complex flavour
Ume Plum JapanFruitSour-tart aroma, not suitable for consumption raw
White PeachWorldwide FruitDelicate, floral sweetness
White Wine GrapeWorldwide FruitSweet to slightly sour taste
Williams PearEurope, AmericaFruitFruity like pear, apple, peach, apricot, melon, and tropical fruit
Yamazakura CherryJapanBerriesSweet and sour, with slightly woody flavours and almond aromas
Peruvian physalisSouth AmericaBerriesSlightly tart, grape-like flavour

Flowers

Flowers play a fascinating role in the world of gin, lending their delicate and aromatic qualities to the drink. Botanicals such as hibiscus and the beautiful cherry blossom sakura are often accompanied during the distillation process by floral additions such as lavender, rose petals and camomile. These flowers give the distillate a refined fragrance and pleasant aromas that create a harmony between earthy and floral notes.

NameRegionTypeFlavourBottle
Black orchidAsia, South AmericaFlower Tasty, sweet, cake-like
Bulgarian rose petalsBulgariaPetalsFloral notes, sweet undertones, and mild touches of Spice
Cactus blossomNorth and South AmericaFlower Quite tasty, sweet
Cempasúchil flowersMexicoFlower Subtly bitter taste 
Chamomile Worldwide Flower Mild, slightly bitter-sweet taste with earthy flavour
CornflowerWorldwide Flower Spicy-sweet, slightly salty
Elderflowers Worldwide Flower Fresh, flowery-fruity, intensely sweet-smelling
FuchsiaCentral, South AmericaFlower Sweet and floral
HawthornsNorthern HemisphereFlower Tart, tangy, and slightly sweet
HeatherSouth Africa, EuropeFlower Spice and apple tones, herbal, woody, floral, peaty fruit
HibiscusAsia, Tropical regionsFlower Slightly sour taste with floral or fruity undertones
Jasmine Asia, EuropeFlower Sweet, floral and slightly bitter
Lavender MediterraneanFlower Sweet and floral with a slightly bitter aftertaste
LilyNorthern HemisphereFlower Sweet-tart, with a slightly bitter aftertaste
Lime blossomEuropeFlower Aromatic, slightly sweet and mild, light honey note
Orange blossomAsiaFlower Floral-fruity aroma, reminiscent of honey
Red cloverEurope, AsiaFlower Gentle and sweet taste with a slight bean aroma
Rose petalsNorthern HemispherePetalsMild aroma with light sweetness and floral notes
SakuraJapanFlower Mild floral flavour, with a very subtle hint of bitterness
VioletWorldwide Flower Sweet and floral

Nuts & Beans

Nuts and beans add extra flavour dimensions to the gin and enrich the aroma. Almonds and hazelnuts are often integrated into the gin-making process and contribute nutty undertones with roasted aromas. But the aromatic spicy fennel and the strong tart aroma of nutmeg also belong to this category. These additions create a harmonious balance between earthy and nutty notes and elevate the overall profile of the gin.

NameRegionTypeFlavourBottle
Acacia seedsAustralia SeedCoffee, chocolate and hazelnuts
AlmondsMediterraneanNutSweet with a slightly nutty taste (only the poisonous bitter almonds are bitter!)
CashewWorldwide NutRich nutty flavour, similar to almonds or peanuts
Cocoa beansAfricaBeanAcidic and fruity, slight floral taste
Fennel seedsMediterraneanSeedSweet, licorice-like flavour
Guarana seedsBrazil, Venezuela, ParaguaySeedBitter, earthy, and slightly astringent
NutmegSouth AsiaNutSpicy, earthy and slightly sweet, but not sugary
Poppy seedsWorldwide SeedSubtle nutty flavour and light sweetness 
Seje AmazonsLeafOily mesocarp has a chocolate-like flavour
Tonka beansSouth AmericaBeanRich, slightly nutty vanilla flavour, with hints of sweet spice

Vegetables

Vegetables are rarely used in gin production. However, there are some excellent examples of vegetables being used in gin. The most famous example is Hendricks Gin with its legendary cucumber in the recipe!

NameRegionTypeFlavourBottle
Black tomatoesNorthern HemisphereFruitSmoky and sweet, with a touch of acid
Brussels sproutEurope, USABudsSpicy-earthy and bitter flavour
Cucumber Worldwide FruitMild, refreshing, lightly sweet flavour 
Rhubarb Asia, EuropeLeaf stemTart and sour to mildly fruity

Conclusion

Whether roots, fruits or herbs, the botanicals not only give gin its flavour, but are still known today for their medicinal effects and are contained in medicines. We don't want to go so far as to claim that gin makes you healthy. Nevertheless, it helps to go back to the roots - in the truest sense of the word - to know where the taste comes from!

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