These rich berries grow wild on steep mountain sides in areas where vegetation has not been cleared to make way for modern agriculture. The plant throws its crop 12 months in advance meaning there are both unripe (green) and ripe (blue/black) berries on the bush at any one time. So careful harvesting is required to avoid picking unripe berries and reducing the following year’s crop. All juniper is picked by hand using a large sorting sieve that sits under the bush while the tree is gently tapped with a stick to knock off the ripe berries.
Juniper is what gives gin its distinctive flavour. Without juniper you don’t have gin.
Coriander is usually planted in the spring and harvested later that summer when the plant and the seed within it have dried out. The plants stand at approximately one meter tall and are harvested using a modern combine harvester. After harvesting, coriander needs to be extensively processed and cleaned which can result in losses of 30-40% of the crop.
Typically, in a gin, the flavour of coriander seed is more discernible towards the end of the flavour journey. However, coriander plays a central role in gin and is the second most used botanical after juniper. It is actually quite rare to find a gin that doesn’t use coriander seed in its ingredients.
Angelica root is probably the third most important botanical used in the production of Gin
It is an 18-24 month crop, planted in built-up rows with the roots reaching up to 30cms below ground. Above ground level a plant with green foliage grows throughout the summer but dies back with the onset of winter. The root can be harvested at any time but usually after 18 months, during the autumn. The roots are washed and then dried before being cut to various sizes.
As well as distilling, angelica is also used for decorating cakes and the perfumery trade. In gin, its importance comes from being a fixative used to ‘bind’ many of the other volatile oils.
The evergreen trees from which cassia bark is stripped originated in southern China and have been widely cultivated across Asia. The trees produce long, beautiful leaves and buds that resemble cloves in appearance.
As a botanical it lends a complex base note and a certain feeling of familiarity. Its hot and spicy smell conjures up images of exotic markets and far-flung destinations, but it also has an earthy tone and a sweet finish, reminiscent of liquorice.
The root of the Glycyrrhiza glabra is a sweet, woody botanical that has been used as a sugar alternative for centuries. Commercially cultivated, the root is dug up and cut away from the crown before being washed and peeled, then allowed to dry. Only then is it ground into a powder for gin production.
When distilled, the flavour doesn’t much change – it brings oily, viscous qualities and has a very powerful capacity to change the texture and feel of a gin in your mouth.
Orris Root Powder
Orris Root Powder is milled from the root of the iris flower and has traditionally come from hills around Florence, Italy. The iris plants are grown in rows, often between vines, and are harvested by hand. The roots are then cleaned and left to dry naturally in the sun for up to 3 years. This means the root becomes extremely hard and bone like, and it is this hardness that allows the root to be milled to such a fine powder.
Orris Root Powder is used in both the production of gin and in perfumery and is well known for its floral qualities but more importantly the ability to fixate flavour and smell within a bottle of gin.
The orange tree is an evergreen, flowering tree which reaches heights of between nine and 10 metres. The trees bear fruit in abundance for 50 to 80 years, though some ancient trees – thought to be centuries old – still produce crops. Following the fruit harvest (for fresh fruit and juice), collectors are allowed to hand select any fruit that remain on the trees. These fruits are then individually hand-peeled with the ribbons left out to dry naturally in the Mediterranean sun. Harvest usually takes place once a year between January and April.
Orange obviously brings a distinctive citrus element to the gin.
Similar to the oranges, following the harvest for fresh fruit and juice, collectors are allowed to hand select any fruit that remains on the trees. This in turn provides a vital service for the fresh fruit farmers as it is important to remove all the fruit so that any left fruit does not rot and attract pests. The lemons are then individually hand-peeled with the ribbons left out to dry naturally in the Mediterranean sun. Harvest for the lemon can take place twice a year with small quantities harvested in November but with the major harvest between February-May.
Lemons are slightly different to peel than oranges as the pith of a lemon is much thinner than an orange and therefore it is easier to peel some of the fruit’s flesh but, as with orange, it brings a citrus hit to gin.
Samphire, from the French, ‘Saint Pierre’ the patron saint of fishermen, describes a number of distinct edible plants that occur in coastal regions. Alternatively known as sea asparagus or, rather romantically, a mermaid’s kiss, it is succulent marsh samphire, a salt-tolerant plant, that is found widely in Norfolk’s coastal marsh regions. An old English name for it is ‘glasswort’, describing its original use in the making of soap and glass.
Samphire is a key ingredient in setting WhataHoot Norfolk Dry gin apart from its rivals. This subtle hint of saltiness brings a unique element to our gin.
An evergreen shrub whose bright purple flowers give off an overwhelmingly striking, completely unique fragrance. The plant – which is part of the mint family – is believed to be from the Mediterranean, Middle East and India. However, here at WhataHoot, we look closer to home for our ingredients, so our lavender is from just down the road from our distillery in Heacham, Norfolk. Founded in 1932 it is England’s premier lavender farm and is renowned worldwide as it has nearly 100 acres of lavender under cultivation. Well worth a visit!
As with the samphire, the lavender gives our signature gin a unique floral twist which we think is the finishing touch to a perfect blend of botanicals!