Gin has been a seriously underrated drink, until now. Millennials have made Gin one of the most popular spirits today, having discovered it is the life force behind many great cocktails. But do you have any idea how Gin is produced?
Stark Spirits Micro-Distillery in Pasadena is an award-winning local micro-distillery acknowledged nationally and internationally for its great-tasting spirit beverages. Greg Stark is the Stark Spirits master distiller for most of their spirits, but Karen is the Gin Maker at Stark Spirits. She gave us an insider’s peek into the Gin-making process, and how creative it is. There is a lot of work to making a truly great and award-winning Gin like Stark’s Skyline Gin, but it’s worth the time and effort.
As you may well know, Gin is a botanical drink distilled from a neutral grain spirit base, meaning it starts as odorless, tasteless, and colorless, no hint of its original ingredient. It can have as little as four on up to 26 different herbs, spices, berries—the botanicals! Gin always has to have juniper, but then the other botanicals can be things like orange peel, cinnamon, star anise to more exotic items like squash blossoms. Gin is a drink of wide and varying creativity.
Stark’s Skyline Gin begins with traditional ingredients, but the result surprises as a Gin that goes its own way.
“The nose is citrusy to me, the flavor profile well-balanced for tart and sweet, lemon-honey-spicy, gently warms the palate and finishes dry with lingering notes of tart and sweet,” says Karen, who developed the recipe for the great Gin coming out of Stark Spirits distillery.
What she has found amazing is the wealth of impressions from the visitors that come for tastings at the distillery. Individual elements in her recipe stand out so uniquely for different palates.
Karen also was amazed at how many people have told her “I really don’t like Gin, but this is delicious” or some other word of praise. She didn’t know how to take this sort of spontaneous critique: was it a good thing or a bad thing to make a Gin that appeals to people who don’t like Gin? However, she was relieved to find that serious Gin drinkers praise Skyline enthusiastically as well as novices.
There are two common methods of making Gin. One is called maceration, and the other is called vapor infused distillation. Macerated Gins’ botanicals sit in the still right in the neutral spirit, and all the botanicals infuse the Gin at once. Stark Spirits Distillery uses a vapor infused distillation method, one favored by many well-known commercial brands. The botanicals are placed in a basket at the top of the still, and the boiled spirit vaporizes through the basket, condensing to the aromatic, flavorful liquid called Gin. Karen favors this method because she can distill very slowly, giving the more delicate botanicals sufficient time to express their aromas and flavors in the Gin.
Of course, each different Gin has its own special recipe, usually a guarded secret, with specific botanical volume ratios. The challenge facing small distillers such as Stark Distillery is to ensure that the botanicals used will create the same flavor profile each and every time. It’s a hard task and one that requires expertise and concentration and luck! That’s because the botanicals obtained from a supplier can derive from different regions where the environment provides subtle or not so subtle differences in flavor profile. But Karen points out that anything handcrafted means slight variations are to be expected!
So the next time you order a Skyline martini or a Gin and tonic, hold your glass up and remember all of the work that went into it at Stark Spirits Distillery.
Stark Distillery is located at 1260 Lincoln Ave #1100, in Pasadena. For more information call (626) 798-1377 or visit http://starkspirits.com/ .