What are Botanicals?
First and foremost, Gin is an alcoholic spirit which is predominantly flavoured by juniper (botanicals). That is a legal requirement!
Produced using purified neutral alcohol of roughly 96% Gin can be formulated from grain or a by-product of grapes or molasses. Botanicals are wrapped in muslin or similar material, using time-honoured techniques. It is then steeped in the base alcohol inside a traditional copper still, for up to 48 hours before the distillation process commences.
Once distilled, Soli Gin is cut with locally sourced natural spring water from the Paphos region to attain the legal alcohol percentage for bottling.
The real Gin heroes are, of course, the botanicals. Soli Gin has developed a unique recipe using a harmonious variety that we believe give our Gin a flavour that is the essence of Cyprus.
We have decided to keep our recipe secret for now. If someone has a well-developed Gin palate, they may be able to identify some of the botanicals used.
Here is a short list of typical botanicals used in Gin production…
Juniper is the signature aroma and taste that should be present on the nose and palate in all Gins. Fortunately for all us Gin drinkers worldwide, juniper is a hardy, low maintenance shrub that can thrive in harsh rocky conditions. Juniper grows wild in the Akamas Conservation area. The juniper berry is known to have medicinal benefits. The ancient Greeks used juniper berries to enhance the stamina of athletes at the Olympics! Juniper berries have a tart piney flavour with citrus undertones. Their distinct aroma hints at the joys to come as when mixing a Gin and tonic!
This is the second essential botanical in Gin. Although thought to be native to Iran, Coriander grows well in Cyprus and is exported to many parts of Europe. Only the Coriander seeds are used in gin production, and when crushed, they have a citrusy aroma and flavour. However, the distillation process adds spice and nuttiness to the citrus.
Related to the dill, fennel and celery species, usually only the root is used in Gin production. Angelica has a woody, earthy flavour similar to mushrooms. Its primary importance in Gin is as a flavour binding agent.
Fortunately for us, both oranges and lemons grow abundantly in Cyprus. Thus, it is one of the easiest botanicals to collect. We use organic fruit from our gardens. Organic products are essential as the oils from the peel leach out during the distillation process. Furthermore, we can guarantee that our fruit peel is untainted by any pesticides. Citrus peel adds sharp, tart, fresh notes to Gin. Try adding a slice of orange and a sprig of rosemary to a Soli Gin and tonic to complement those citrus notes.
Similar to the properties of Angelica, Orris root binds and enhances the other botanicals. It also adds floral notes to the flavour and aroma. Generally, a small amount of Orris will impart subtle floral undertones. It is commonly used in the perfumery industry, which explains the cautious approach most Gin producers take when using it! Left to dry for five years before being ground into a powder, Orris is derived from the root of the Iris plant.
Cumin seeds are widely used in Far East and Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in curries. In Gin production, it adds earthy, spicy undertones. It is a less commonly used botanical.
Hibiscus is a beautiful bright flower that can be found growing all over Cyprus. The petals can be dried and used as a tea. In Gin, the hibiscus flower is more robust than other flowers. It adds a flavour that is fruity rather than floral, not dissimilar to berries.
As a botanical, honey is a relatively new addition on the Gin scene. Honey added to Gin contributes a subtle citrus sweetness, and softens the harshness of the spirit. It is impossible to describe the exact flavour, and aroma honey brings to Gin. It can vary greatly, depending on the source of the pollen the bees harvest.
A genuinely local botanical, Terebinth trees are native to the Mediterranean and are part of the Cashew family. The Terebinth tree is exceptionally versatile, with different parts of the tree collected in different ways. It is rich in tannins, and its resin was traditionally used in medicine. The bark produces a sweet-scented gum, and the berries are used both in a Cypriot bread and to flavour brandy in Crete! These berries can also be ground and made into a coffee. They have a resinous aroma and as a botanical, can add a sweet and sour quality to Gin.
Pink peppercorns are not pepper plants at all but are instead related to the Cashew family. Historically, pink peppercorns were used by the Wari tribe of the Amazon in the making of beer, giving the berries an association with alcohol dating back thousands of years. Used as a botanical in Gin, pink peppercorns bring a fruity sweetness with a peppery undertone without being overtly spicy.
There are many more botanicals that may give Gin a distinctive flavour and aroma. These days anything goes. Gin can be redolent with Parma violet or blushing with a hint of rhubarb.
At Soli Gin, we decided with our first product, that more is less.
We wanted a distinctly juniper-based Gin, with flavours and aromas that enhance the keynotes rather than hide them. We were determined to create a Gin blend that conjures up the taste of Cyprus by featuring botanicals that for us, evoke the spirit of this island.
We are immensely proud of our locally produced, Cypriot inspired Gin. We hope everyone will enjoy it too.
Let it evoke balmy evenings spent watching beautiful sunsets in the Mediterranean. Close your eyes and imagine lemon groves, olive trees, sweet honey. The warmth of the sun on your skin. Sunshine in a bottle.