London Gin, the quintessentially British drink, has at last been recognized as a special quality beverage by the European Union.
The new EU definition for London Gin was passed into EU law on 20 February 2008 as part of the revised EU Spirit Drink Regulations. These list the definition of London Distilled Gin for the first time. London Gin is a premium gin product and the definition will help maintain its high standards of production and protect the drink from counterfeit products.
For over 300 years, individual producers have guarded the secrets of their recipes. Most London Gins have a unique recipe, and producers do not publish the balance of each botanical used to give their gin a special flavour. Maintaining consistent quality is an art that was perfected hundreds of years ago and one that only a few practitioners are able to practice today.
The GVA intends to progress this in six ways:
- To further communicate the definition, its relevance, and meaning to Members, other trade bodies and associations, and the relevant UK and other Government agencies.
- To give wider PR to advertising what is London Gin and to make London Gin a cache
- To make more use of industry training bodies to extend knowledge of London gin. Bar Schools will be contacted as a vehicle to emphasize the difference between London Gin and other gins
- A Brand Technical paper covering protection is to be produced on what makes London Gin special, the areas to talk about; and the mystique of London Gin.
- An audit is being undertaken of known gin brands to check which are claiming the London gin and which may or may not meet the requirements of the new definition.
- The GVA will create a voluntary list of brands that agree to accord with the new definitions, and methods of accreditation and creation of a Kite make or similar certification
EU Gin Definitions
All gins are made with ethyl alcohol flavored with juniper berries (Juniperus communis) and other flavorings. The ethyl alcohol used must be distilled to the minimum standards stated in the EU Spirit Drink Regulations. In all types of gin, the predominant flavor of must be juniper, and they must have a minimum retail strength of 37.5% abv. There are three definitions of gin: gin, distilled gin, and London Gin.
This made from:
- Suitable ethyl alcohol and flavorings.
- The ethyl alcohol does not have to be re-distilled.
- The flavoring can be either approved natural or artificial flavorings.
- The flavorings can be simply mixed together with the ethyl alcohol to form the gin (compounded).
- There is no restriction on the addition of other approved additives such as sweetening.
- Water is added to reduce the gin’s strength to the desired retail level, but not below 37.5% abv.
- There is no restriction on the coloring of gin with an approved coloring.
Distilled gin is made in a traditional still by:
- Redistilling neutral alcohol in the presence of natural flavorings.
- There is no minimum strength laid down for the resultant distillate.
- After distillation, further ethyl alcohol of the same composition may be added.
- Additional flavorings may be added after distillation and these can be either natural or artificial flavorings.
- The distillate can be further changed by the addition of other approved additives since there is no prohibition on their use in the definition.
- Water may be added to reduce the strength to the desired retail level.
- There is no restriction on the coloring of distilled gin with approved colorings.
London Gin is made in a traditional still by re-distilling ethyl alcohol in the presence of all-natural flavorings used.
- The ethyl alcohol used to distill London Gin must be of a higher quality than the standard laid down for ethyl alcohol. The methanol level in the ethyl alcohol must not exceed a maximum of 5 grams per hectolitre of 100% vol. alcohol.
- The flavorings used must all be approved natural flavorings and they must impart the flavor during the distillation process.
- The use of artificial flavorings is not permitted.
- The resultant distillate must have a minimum strength of 70% abv.
- No flavorings can be added after distillation.
- Further ethyl alcohol may be added after distillation provided it is of the same standard.
- A small amount of sweetening may be added after distillation provided the sugars do not exceed 0.5 grams/liter of the finished product (the sugar is not discernible and is added to some products purely for brand protection purposes).
- The only other substance that may be added is water.
- London Gin cannot be colored.