Otis’ Gin Journey

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OtisT
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Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by OtisT » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:47 pm

Otis’ Gin Journey

With a new mini boiler and gin head in hand it’s time for Otis to start making gin, and it’s about damn time.

For my entire adult life I have avoided gin drinks of any form. This avoidance dates way back to the first time I ever drank alcohol and also happens to be the first time I drank WAY too much alcohol. One school night after getting home from work at 1 AM, my best friend Jim and I finished a liter of gin that my brother, who was in the Navy had obtained in his travels and had left at our family home. Jim and I downed it in a short amount of time, on a whim. I recall the entire thought process was something like “Hey! Let’s get drunk.” At that time I weighed a whopping 108 lb wet, and needless to say I was sick for days. It’s the smell of juniper in gin that triggers my memory of those fateful days.

In my attempt to overcome my aversion to juniper, I plan to start by making light gins, very light in juniper and I’ll work my way up from there.

I plan to document my Gin journey in this thread, one recipe at a time. I’ll record what I make, what I like or don’t, and we’ll see where it goes. I think it goes without saying that I’m no expert at making gin, so consider this if you read any further.

A Good Base Neutral
To help me identify and adjust the impact of various botanicals on the gin I make I will need a good clean neutral as a base. I recently made a batch of Shady’s Sugar Shine that is the cleanest neutral I have ever made, so that will be the base I use until further notice.
Shady’s Sugar Shine viewtopic.php?f=40&t=70585

Standing on the shoulders of giants
I’ve been reading a lot of gin threads, including the parent site page on gin and all of Odin’s easy gin thread.
HD Gin page https://homedistiller.org/flavor/gin" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow
Odin’s Easy Gin viewtopic.php?f=14&t=48594
I just want to thank those who have posted so much about gin making already that I will be drawing upon.

A few things I read about gin making
* The amount of botanicals used in most commercial gin ranges from 20-35 grams per liter
* Juniper is the predominant botanical used in making gin
* Juniper and Coriander typically account for 90% of the botanicals used in commercial gin

Let the games begin!
Last edited by OtisT on Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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OtisT
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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by OtisT » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:06 pm

Otis’s Light Gin

My first gin will be light on botanicals and extra light on juniper.

3.5 liters neutral base, 43% ABV
Juniper, 25 grams (45% of the botanical bill)
Coriander, 25 grams
Angelica root, 5 grams
Orris root, 1 gram
Meyer Lemon zest, 1 gram. (Small peels with all of the white pith removed)

The combined botanical bill is only 16 grams / liter. That is well below the low end of commercial gins, and thus the term “light”

All of the botanicals except for the citrus were crushed and soaked in the neutral for almost 2 days before distillation.

Distillation
Mini pot still with a gin head
I left the soaked botanicals in the boiler.
The 1 gram of Meyer Lemon zest was placed in the gin head for vapor infusing.
I ran the still at approximately 450 watts and was collecting 100 ml every 4:20 for the first 2/3 of the run. The last 1/3 saw a slow increase in 100 ml collection time until I cut things off after a steep decline in rate. I cut things off after a big decline in collection rate for the last two jars. I kept all but the very last jar in the cuts, so don’t jump the gun and end the run too early.
Mini pot still with a gin head
Mini pot still with a gin head
Lemon zest in gin head
Lemon zest in gin head
Cuts
I collected in many small jars so that I could learn a bit about what smells appear in which fractions of the run. Jar #1-5=50ml, #6-7=75ml, #8-23=100ml.

My cut was made by taste. I only diluted a sample of the first three and last three jars for tasting purposes. Diluted to approximately 30% ABV. Jar 1 had a bad chemically taste that lingered while jars 2 and 3 were fine (strong juniper). The last jar had a bad bitter taste that lingered on the tung a long time, while the two previous jars tasted fine, with no lingering or bad tastes.

Juniper was the dominant smell in the first 7 jars, and was not detected after that. I could also detect some lemon behind the juniper on occasion.

Lemon was hard to find. Lemon was strongest in jar 1 which missed the cut. I sensed some lemon under the juniper early on, and think I smelled some in jars 8-10 and in jars 15-16. Lemon was also dominant in the gin head cup left over after the run.

Coriander? There was a general sweet smell I could detect in most jars, though it did not specifically smell like Coriander. Most of this sweetness was in the early/middle jars, starting just after juniper ramped down and it ended a few jars before the root smells started.

Also in the middle of the run there were some jars that seemed a bit sweeter than most. Again, maybe this was coriander but a few seemed like early hints of Orris and Angelica.

Orris root and Angelica root only appeared in the last 4 jars (20-23). 3 of them made the cut, this last did not.

Combining jars 2-22 resulted in roughly 1,650 ml at 78% ABV.

Diluting the cut down to 45% ABV really opened up the smell, especially juniper.

Helpful tips when making cuts
Smells appeared to diminish or appear quickly as I would smell my way up and down the range of jars. I found that if I would smell jars out of sequence I could detect more subtle notes in jars. Example: I initially thought juniper smell ended with jar 4 or 5. After smelling my way to the end, I went back and could detect lighter notes of juniper in jars 6 and 7. I started skipping around out of sequence after that and uncovered some subtle scents I did not notice when smelling in sequence. Some light notes of lemon, Angelica, orris, and coriander were noted in various jars in the middle of the range.

Having small samples of the botanicals to smell helped my identify what was in the jars. It was not always obvious what I was smelling and I had to clear my nose a lot by smelling something totally different (not a botanical).

Speaking of clearing your nose. A distiller friend of mine taught me a way to “reset” your nose. Smelling your own body cleared the nose and “resets” it. Take a few whiffs of the back of your wrist or forearm to reset things, then the next thing you smell is brighter and it is easier to detect faint scents.

Tasting and Smelling the final product (new make)
From what I have read, letting a new gin rest for multiple weeks can really help open up smells/tastes and can also take off some of the rough edges. All that said, I want to try this new gin now.

Juniper is the dominant smell but does not seem overpowering like most gins I have tried. I would also describe the dominant smell as a mix of sweetness. That sweetness seems like a combination of Angelica and likely Coriander ( I just can’t identify coriander for sure, but think it is that powerful sweetness I keep mentioning). There is also a very faint scent of Lemon. I’ll be damned if I can single out the smell of Orris root. Orris root smells like a really sweet alfalfa to me, and while I am getting lots of sweet for sure, I don’t detect anything that smells like a grass/grain.

Diluted this gin down to approximately 30% ABV greatly diminishes the juniper and makes all the sweet smells dominate. Coriander, orris root, Angelica root, and coriander at all sweet smelling, and it seems like a mix of all of those.

Tasting this I think I found the Coriander in my gin. I can also taste the roots in there. Juniper is present, but not dominant. There is a bit of lingering taste that is sweetness , but it’s not juniper. Seems like mostly coriander and the roots. I’m not sure if I can detect any lemon taste.

For a “gin hater” I really like this gin. I guess I can’t call myself that any more.

There is a very slight burn in the mouth, but not harsh and it does not last long. I think it’s the 45% ABV I’m feeling.

Resting the gin
I had read that gin needs to rest after distillation. Odin recommends 5 weeks for his simple gin. Time is supposed to help flavors blend and take off any rough edges. I’ll report back after 5 weeks.

Mixing a drink
Now it’s time to end this wonderful day by mixing a drink.
Since I could not taste any of the lemon I put into this gin I decided to make my first mixed drink with a bit of fresh lemon in it. And because this is the first gin drink I have made myself in 25 years, I’ll give this drink a name.

. Otis’ Light Lemon Gin Martini
. * 1 part fresh squeezed Meyer Lemon juice (from the lemon I skinned for this gin)
. * 4 parts Otis’ Light Gin
. * Shake well with a handful of ice cubes and pour into a chilled martini glass
. * Garnish with a very small sliver of lemon rind

It is absolutely delicious. Very light smell of juniper. The drink is a bit sweet with a light taste of lemon. If this has alcohol in it, I can’t really tell. I think I’ll make another after finishing this post.

Conclusion (prior to resting the gin)
I think I hit the mark I was hoping for on my first shot at gin. Enough juniper smell to make it a gin, yet the taste of juniper is subtle. Lots of sweetness and a few distinct and identifiable botanicals. I could drink this stuff all day long.

I wish you good fortune in the cuts to come

Otis
Last edited by OtisT on Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by Oldvine Zin » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:13 pm

I hear you Otis, I had my worst alcohol poisoning after a long night of drinking gin and tonics. Just the smell of juniper would send my head spinning. The gins that I am making now are very light on the juniper and I can tolerate them.

OVZ

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by OtisT » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:47 pm

Oldvine Zin wrote:I hear you Otis, I had my worst alcohol poisoning after a long night of drinking gin and tonics. Just the smell of juniper would send my head spinning. The gins that I am making now are very light on the juniper and I can tolerate them.

OVZ
What do you consider light? How many grams of juniper / liter?
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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by Manc » Sat Feb 16, 2019 4:48 am

Nice thread and build Otis look forward to reading more I'm subscribed.

Lee

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by Oldvine Zin » Sat Feb 16, 2019 9:02 am

I used 25 grams of juniper in a 8 gal run at 40 ABV - that was my gin mare run

OVZ

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by hellbilly007 » Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:07 am

Great thread Otis. For a couple of years I've been wanting to try my hand at gin, just haven't gotten that far. Until I get to, I can somewhat live vicariously through your posts here.

I would like to try each herb by itself (within reason) in a maceration and a vapor infusion to determine which method compliments the flavor. Once I have collected a nice array of flavors create a blend, by weight for repeatability. This would be like SMaSH brewing, except gin instead of beer

I'm looking forward to the next installment of Otis' Gin Journey

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by OtisT » Mon Feb 25, 2019 1:46 pm

hellbilly007 wrote:Great thread Otis. For a couple of years I've been wanting to try my hand at gin, just haven't gotten that far. Until I get to, I can somewhat live vicariously through your posts here.

I would like to try each herb by itself (within reason) in a maceration and a vapor infusion to determine which method compliments the flavor. Once I have collected a nice array of flavors create a blend, by weight for repeatability. This would be like SMaSH brewing, except gin instead of beer

I'm looking forward to the next installment of Otis' Gin Journey

Hi hillbilly. That is an interesting approach to gin and it sounds like it would be a fun way to make product. I’ve seen others discuss the essence or tincture approach to flavoring products and it’s always intrigued me. I hope you get there soon. Would love to read about it.

Just a few notes for you to consider:
If you have not already, check out the HD page on gin flavoring, linked to in my OP. It has a chart that lists relative % amounts of various botanicals in a batch of gin. It’s a good place to start with learning your portion control.

One thing that has intereagued me about my gin run was where each individual botanical came across in the run. This will impact how you would collect each isolated essence and how you determine the strength of your essence. For example, if I were only capturing Juniper essence I could stop the run soon after collection begins because juniper comes over fast and ends soon. Conversely, Angelica does not come over until the very tail end of a run. Something in the process caused the difference in location of these botanicals. Could it be because of trace amounts of heads and tails that these essences stick to, or possibly the ABV or the Temp of the vapor that caused each to come out in different places. My run was made with ethanol that was fairly pure, but there are always some trace amounts of 2-proposal and ethal acetate. This also has me wondering how vacuum distillation would impact the isolation and collection of botanicals, considering a vacuum drastically effects the temperature of vaporization/condensation. If Angelica comes late because of temperature, could it even be captured properly under vacuum?

This variation in collection location could impact your plan for creating a gin recipe by a set amount of botanical essence because how do you calculate the strength of the essence? Take juniper for example. I could process 100g of juniper in one liter of ethanol through the still and capture almost all of the juniper in the first 10% of the collection. I could also collect 90% of the liter and still have a very strong juniper essence, but the first one will be roughly 900% stronger. Not sure if my nose could tell the difference between the two at tincture concentrations, but it should become more obvious as each is diluted down. Just food for thought as you develop you plan for tincturing.

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by hellbilly007 » Mon Feb 25, 2019 2:49 pm

I'm glad you brought that up about different flavors coming across at different temps. Sometimes I ignore the obvious in search of an answer with more depth.

Vacuum distillation has piqued my interest for quite a while now. I think it could be very beneficial in gin flavors

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by Gatsby » Wed Jun 05, 2019 10:50 am

Don't laugh.
Please tell me about these botanicals. Juniper; are you talking about dried Juniper berries from a spice rack? Same about Coriander?
Angelica, Orris, roots, where does one get these?
Thanks

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by OtisT » Wed Jun 05, 2019 1:13 pm

Gatsby wrote:Don't laugh.
Please tell me about these botanicals. Juniper; are you talking about dried Juniper berries from a spice rack? Same about Coriander?
Angelica, Orris, roots, where does one get these?
Thanks
I am fortunate to live near both a Spice Shop and a hippy dippy shop that sells herbs for medicinal purposes, among other interesting things. I’m able to get most things at the spice shop but a few come from the hippie store. If you don’t have either type of shop near by, the internet is your next best bet.

People will use what they have access to. Some here grow a lot of their own stuff but I buy mine. The juniper I used was prepackaged “dried” juniper berries. They were hard on the outside and a bit soft inside. Everything I have been using is dried except I use fresh citrus.

Otis
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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by still_stirrin » Wed Jun 05, 2019 1:15 pm

Gatsby wrote:Don't laugh.
Please tell me about these botanicals. Juniper; are you talking about dried Juniper berries from a spice rack? Same about Coriander?
Angelica, Orris, roots, where does one get these?
Thanks
Well, you could buy them here: https://www.amazon.com/Juniper-Berries- ... B0001VWGK0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow

But I ordered a bunch of stuff from here: https://www.herbco.com/c-328-juniper-berry.aspx" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" rel="nofollow

They have just about any of the spics and botanicals you might need. And it is all excellent quality.
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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by Avo » Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:29 am

OtisT wrote:
Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:06 pm
Otis’s Light Gin

Otis
Fantastic top notch post Otis - most appreciated :thumbup:

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by Cabron99 » Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:19 am

Thanks for all you do, Otis
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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by cayars » Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:51 pm

OtisT, you still making Gin?

Have you learned to like the juniper more?
Have you increased your botanicals or still using the same for the light gin?

Carlo
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More than a decade working for NASA & FAA Tech with computer code used on Space Shuttles and some airline flight recorders.

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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by OtisT » Sat Oct 12, 2019 4:26 pm

cayars wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:51 pm
OtisT, you still making Gin?

Have you learned to like the juniper more?
Have you increased your botanicals or still using the same for the light gin?

Carlo
I will be making more and playing with botanicals, but not until spring time. My stilling is currently on hold. :( I’m mid move now and my still is in storage, though I did keep my jars and barrels with me. :-) As soon as I get settled, a big batch of neutral is first on my list and I’ll be making some gin with that for sure.

Otis
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Learning to Toast: Toasting Wood
Polishing Spirits with Fruitwood: Fruitwood
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Re: Otis’ Gin Journey

Post by cayars » Sat Oct 12, 2019 6:04 pm

Wow a half a barrel year away before stilling.
I think I'd have to find room for a couple of 5 gallon buckets of ferment and a small stove top 5 gallon pot/worm or something to take the edge off every once in a while. :)

I do remember reading about your move but forgot about it. I didn't realize you would be down for so long however!
Best of luck with the moving stuff. I've done enough of that to last me a lifetime and then some.

Carlo
Programmer specializing in process control for ExxonMobil (ethanol refinery control), WT, Omron, Bosch, Honeywell & Boeing.
More than a decade working for NASA & FAA Tech with computer code used on Space Shuttles and some airline flight recorders.

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