Who knew that juniper and geranium would be a unique but perfectly suited chemical match…
Geranium Gin, still a relatively unheard gin in the UK, was launched in September 2009 in Denmark (early 2010 in the UK) and is slowly but surely converting gin soaked barkeeps around the country, drawn in by its creator’s scientific approach and the gins’ very particular profile.
Geranium Gin was created by Henrik Hammer, an accredited IWSC Gin judge who had been contemplating the potential use of geranium in gin for years. Before the relatively recent surge in gins available, Henrik had found that the flavour spectrum of gins (at the time) was relatively narrow, this made him think of other ways to expand upon a juniper base. Geranium and juniper may seem like an odd botanical pairing at first, but geranium extracts have been used for many years in therapeutic libations, which also include juniper and angelica. Interested in the historical parallels of the botanicals, Henrik decided to investigate whether on a less conceptual and much more scientific level, geranium and juniper could work together.
Together with his chemist father they chemically analysed geranium leaves (where the essential oils of the plant can be found) and discovered that there were significant quantities of oils like geraniol formate, rose oxide and citronelol which are also present in most other fruits, vegetables and spices already used in the production of gin. For those not as chemically minded, in essence the research showed that the core extracts of geranium were already present in botanicals like juniper, lemon etc… and proved, at least theoretically, that geranium would be a good botanical to add to the mix when creating gin, as it would enhance and compliment the others already there.
Satisfied that the chemistry and history were both in his favour, Henrik and his father set about finding a basic recipe to create their gin. More importantly, they had to find a way of extracting the geranium oils from the plant and infusing them into the spirit as, up until then, the oils from geraniums had typically been extracted using steam and not alcohol. Fortunately for gin fans, Henrik’s father had worked with essential oils for the perfume and food industry and this expertise allowed them to continue to develop the idea. Using a small 5 litre still they set about experimenting at home and after several months of trials they had found the perfect method to prepare, macerate and distil geranium.
Although doing the bulk initial research in Denmark, the father and son team already had one eye on the next step and had been working in partnership with Langley’s Distillery in Birmingham, England (who produce a number of famous gins including Martin Miller’s). With the initial hurdles overcome the pair sat down with the Master Distiller and worked on fine-tuning the recipe for full scale commercial production (albeit in relatively small batches in an old pot still nicknamed ‘Constance’).
The final product is distilled using pure wheat grain alcohol and ten botanicals including juniper, geranium, lemon, orange, coriander seeds, cassia bark, orris root, angelica root, liquorice, and one secret ingredient – all of which are steeped for 48 hours prior to distillation. The result is a traditionally styled gin while at the same time adding something new and different. Once distilled the spirit is then transported to Thames Distillers Ltd for bottling.
Geranium Gin has a gentle mix of juniper and floral notes both on the nose and palate. The gin feels smooth and light, but all the flavours are there. It’s not overtly floral or too complicated to discern what’s in the glass. The spices anchor the top notes and at 44% ABV the spirit is both botanically balanced and carries well in a G&T, without any unwanted alcoholic heat. Firm but fair so to speak…
We’ll admit to having previously had huge concerns over this gin, as the name suggested that it could have been one that runs away from juniper and is a totally separate thing masquerading as gin. Thankfully, this is plainly not the case and Geranium Gin can safely call itself a London Dry Gin. Henrik refers to having a gin that relates to the past but is made with the spirit of a new generation and we agree; Geranium Gin is a well-conceived, well-made modern classic where the additional flavour components add to a traditional flavour profile, rather than overwhelm it.
The way that Geranium Gin was created, driven by this father-son teamwork and a marriage of skills, passion and enthusiasm makes it all the more saddening to hear that Henrik’s father passed away before the first bottle was ever created. There are small touches that refer to their collaboration like the Hammer & Son label on the bottle and the press references to Geranium Gin being part of a “new generation” (which obviously applies to the flavour profile too). Henrik continues to be hands on with the actual production of the gin itself and is the one who harvests, prepares and delivers the geranium plants to the distillery each year (typically in July when their oil content is at its highest).
With Henrik continuing his talks across the country, and the wider team over at Coe Vintners working hard to establish more trade partners, Geranium Gin is part of the growing number of gin brands fighting for a place on shelves. Standing on a back-bar, the bottle bears all the hallmarks of Danish design with its simple uncomplicated elegance and we’re starting to see it in more bars and trade outlets so the signs are positive. In 2012 they expected sales in the region of 50,000 bottles from the 11 European countries in which they are currently distributing. Given that it is not the intention for Geranium Gin to be available in a supermarket for the foreseeable future (as the teams lead by Henrik, are calling for the spirit to be used as a tool for bartenders and an experience for gin enthusiasts rather that a spirit for anyone and anywhere), the numbers are testament to the growing appreciation for the gin category as a whole.
The authenticity behind the story of its creation is where we think Geranium Gin sets itself apart. It deserves recognition for not having been the creation of a marketing team but the result of genuine, passionate individuals who have a deep-rooted affection for gin. Henrik’s passion for the science, chemistry and flavour profiles are endearing, so too is his clear appreciation for the gin category as a whole. This alone ought to rise Geranium Gin above the rest, but take our word for it – those who appreciate a lighter yet still clearly juniper centred gin will also enjoy this.
For more information about Geranium Gin, visit their website: geraniumgin.com
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