Gin has a rich history that dates back several centuries, evolving from its medicinal origins in the Netherlands to become a beloved and iconic sprit. Gin was initially developed as a tonic known as ‘genever’ and used for its supposed therapeutic properties. Over the centuries, London Dry has emerged as the dominant style of gin worldwide. It is characterised by the use of neutral grain spirit and a specific list of botanical ingredients (primarily juniper, coriander and citrus peels).

Today, gin is a very popular spirit and has gained popularity due to its versatile nature and the wide range of styles produced. Contemporary gins focus on creative botanical blends beyond the juniper-dominated traditional styles, often emphasising citrus, floral or herbal elements, resulting in a more diverse flavour range. Gin production in South Australia showcases a wide range of products and experimentation, reflecting the state’s unique indigenous botanicals and creative distillation techniques. Some producers are also exploring the impact of ageing in wine or whisky casks, adding complexity, colour and depth to the spirit.

Recently, Affinity Labs carried out a gin benchmarking study, including iconic South Australian products alongside market-leading global gin brands, with an emphasis on the classic London Dry style. The goal was to provide valuable chemical data and sensory profile information to allow producers to understand the stylistic differences and key compounds that influence gin aroma and flavour. Ultimately, ten different gin products were provided by SA producers and evaluated alongside four benchmark gin products from iconic interstate producers and four leading global gin brands.

The market leading gin products (Tanqueray, Hendrick’s, Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire) showed dominant coriander, pepper (and juniper, of course) characters, while some of the SA gins were characterised by elevated orange, cardamom, confection and floral characters. Some of these also showed relatively high (but still safe) fusel alcohols, imparting pungency to the spirit, As well as high levels of terpenes. Some of the gins also displayed noticeable fruity characters, due to elevated levels of some ester compounds.

Clustering of commercial gin samples, according to significant aroma and flavour characteristics

By combining targeted chemical analysis with sensory profiling, producers can gain an understanding of the subtle nuances in aroma and flavour characters for different gin products. These tools can be used to craft and define unique products and provide a real point of difference in a crowded marketplace. It allows distillers to tailor their process and product to meet specific consumer desires and needs, before the tonic water and garnishes add the final flourishing touch.