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Gin Foundry's Gin History

The History of Gin

Emile Ward

on 26 June 2013

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Transcript of Gin Foundry's Gin History

7000 BC

The earliest evidence of alcohol can be found in China around 7000 BC.

Jiahu, found in wine jars, was produced by fermenting rice, honey, and fruit.

The Greeks and Romans had a god of wine.

Bacchus / Dionysus

There was even a cult of Dionysus, in which intoxication was believed to bring people closer
to their deity. Similar cults are around today...
1500 BC
1000 AD

Originating in the Persian world,
moving to Europe through the Moors.

Early evidence of distillation comes from
the School of Salerno in the 12th century.
(The School of Salerno was the world’s first medical school).

The first clear evidence of alcohol distillation comes from Greek alchemists working in Alexandria in the 1st century AD.

Distillation and medicine have quite
extensive links in the early years.
Alchemists used to dissolve & preserve medicinal plants.

The Compedium Salernica
(a collection of treatments compiled around 1055) includes a recipe for tonic wine infused with juniper.

The use of juniper in a distilled form
began as a medicinal treatment.

The Dutch publication 'Der Naturen Bloeme' by Jacob van Maerlant features a chapter on medicinal herbs and their healing properties - including juniper.

There are many reports of people across Europe consuming juniper cordials and elixirs in the misguided belief they would ward off the plague.

Masks filled with Juniper berries
were used as protection by doctors...
Which is where the term for a doctor being
a "Quack" comes from.

Obviously, it wasn’t much help!

Spreading from Italy, the art of distilling is slowly mastered. In 1500 Hieronymous Braunschweig published 'Liber de Arte Destillandi', describing distilled spirits as "the mistress of all medicine".

One of the first pieces of written evidence of juniper outside of the context of medicine is written in the 1552 'Constelijck Distiller' book.

Professor Sylvius De Bouve is essentially credited with the creation of what we would
recognize today as Genever.

He added juniper oils to grain spirit as a stimulant / diuretic treatment for lumbago. There are also records dating back to 1595 showing Sylvius De Bouve selling a juniper flavoured spirit called

It's a bit of a miss-credit to say that he invented Genever as there would have been others making it earlier. His records are simply some of the first.

It was highly likely that his recipe was later commercialized by Bols which is why everyone points to him and gives him the credit for inventing Gin.

So maybe not the inventor of GIN but a hero either way!

The term "Dutch Courage" began around the time that lead up to the 30 Year War (1618–1648), where British troops were sent to fight against Catholic Spain. Allegedly war tots were served as a way of paying troops and gearing them up for battle.

They returned home with tales of how the spirit had given them "Dutch Courage".

The Dutch East India Company
(Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie)
was a chartered company established in 1602.
It was granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia.

It is often considered to have been the first multinational corporation, possessing quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts, negotiate treaties, coin money, and establish colonies.

At it’s peak the VOC was worth (in today’s terms)
$7.8 Trillion Dollars.

Most importantly in the context of Gin, the VOC enjoyed huge profits from its spice trade through most of the 17th century. It imported tons of herbs and this had a large impact on the kind of spirits being made and why Genever became such a complex spirit.
Only liquor made in Holland and Belgium, two French provinces and two German federal states can use the name Jenever.

Jenever was originally produced by distilling malt wine (Moutwijn in Dutch) to 50% ABV.

Because the resulting spirit was not palatable due to the lack of refined distilling techniques,
herbs were added to mask the flavour.

There are two types of jenever:
OUDE (old) and JONGE (young).
This is not a matter of aging, but distilling techniques.
Sylvius De Bouve is often mistaken for another guy.

Fanciscus Sylvius

Born in Germany but lived in the Netherlands, he is rightfully credited for defining and
mapping parts of the brain.

They get confused because, amongst other things, they have a similar name, taught at the same university and both had terrible haircuts...

Bols was established in 1575, when the Bulsius family set up a distillery in Amsterdam. In the process they shortened their name to the more Dutch-sounding Bols.

It is believed they ended up in Amsterdam after first fleeing Antwerp as religious refugees. They then settled in Amsterdam, which was independent from the rule of the Catholic Spanish King.

They may well have settled in Amsterdam slightly earlier but even the 1575 date makes Bols the world’s oldest distilled brand in the world.

The evidence of the 1575 date is found in a 1763 family document where the writer talks about his great-grandfather starting the family distillery in 1575.

At the time, distillation was not permitted in the centre of Amsterdam, due to the fire risks associated with operating a still amongst Amsterdam’s predominantly wooden buildings.

Bols set up its still on the outskirts of the city in a small wooden building used for storing botanicals. The distillery was known as ‘t Lootsje’, a Dutch expression which translates as ‘the little shed’.
(McGovern, Patrick E. (2003). Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 314)
(A Short History of the Art of Distillation:From the Beginnings Up to the Death of Cellier Blumenthal)

(A Short History of the Art of Distillation: From the Beginnings Up to the Death of Cellier Blumenthal)
Juniper VS The Plague (1340)
Distillation Continues to Grow (1500)
Medicines Continue to be Developed (1269)
Distilling alcohol grows in popularity
Early Medicines (1055)
Distillation Begins (1000 AD)
Fast-forward a few thousand years…

1500 to be a bit more precise.
Early Years of Alcohol
Juniper as an ingredient / flavouring (1552)
Sylvius De Bouve (1572)
Bols is Established (1575)
Dutch Courage (1580)
The Dutch East India Company is Established (1602)
Theodore De Mayerne, a noted physisian and alchemist joined Thomas Cademan, physician to the Queen - to found The Worshipful Company of Distillers.

Their Royal connections secured a Royal Charter, giving the company exclusive rights to distil grain within London.
This was in essence a Monopoly on the production of spirits.

Allegedly, the pair set minimum quality and production standards.
The Worshipful Company of Distillers (1638)

The arrival of King William III drove up the popularity of Genever in the UK. As part of the conflict with France, he started a blockade against French Brandy.

British made Genever became popular as it was a way of showing allegiance to the King and filled the gap left by the smaller supplies of foreign spirits.
William of Orange Arrives on the Throne (1689)

The British parliament passed 'an act for encouraging the distilling of brandy and spirits from corn', enabling more people to distil. They also left the taxes on spirits low.

It had a double effect – it filled the demand left by the disappearance of Brandy and helped fund the war by the excise duty that was being charged on spirits.
The Distilling Act (1690)
The War of the Grand Alliance was underway and
in 1694 the government was short of funds,
leading to the Tonnage Act.

The Act established the concept of National Debt and enabled the government to levy duties on ships according to their tonnage. The taxing of beer increased its price so much to the extent that Spirits were almost the same cost.

The Act also allowed anyone who wanted to distil alcohol to legally do so by simply posting a public notice giving at least 10 days' notice of their intention to start distilling.
The Tonnage Act (1694)

Queen Anne canceled the Royal Charter afforded to the Worshipful Company of Distillers.

Hundreds of back-street distilleries emerged in the backstreets of London as a result.
Queen Anne Succeeded William III (1702)

The first known written use of the word 'Gin' appears in "The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices, Publik Benefits” in 1714 by Bernard Mandeveille.

“The infamous liquor, the name of which deriv’d from Juniper-Berries in Dutch, is now, by frequent use… from a word of middling length shrunk into a Monosyllable, intoxicating Gin.”
First Recorded Use of the Word Gin (1714)

The British Mutiny Act absolved tradesmen engaged in distilling from having to billet soldiers.

The term tradesmen included innkeepers so, rather predictably; many of them started distilling their own gin to avoid having to house unwanted guests…
British Mutiny Act (1720)

These are slightly loose dates based on when people were publicly expressing their concerns for the craze.

Not even crack cocaine on inner city ghettos have
reached the epidemic proportions of the Gin Craze
– nor the squalor and depravity it triggered.
The Gin Craze 1720 - 1750

75% of babies were dead before the age of five. The terms Madam Geneva, Mother's Ruin start to emerge as a result.
Death Rate in London Outstrips Birth Rate: Gin is Blamed (1723)

The rising tide of drunkenness and shocking effects of poorly distilled Gin – which would sometimes contain Turpentine and Sulphuric Acid – caused Parliament to introduce the first of eight Gin Acts.

The first Gin Act was intended to restrict Gin sales by increasing duty on its sale and raising retail licensing fees. It didn’t work and heavily penalized legitimate
distillers while boosting illicit trade.
1st Gin Act (1729)
The first Gin Act was repealed and replaced with a second that was just as flawed. The 1733 Act sought to end the sale of Gin by street hawkers and stores and encouraged sales from taverns. It didn’t help as it resulted in thousands of houses being turned into shops.
2nd Gin Act (1733)

Another Act and another replacement of the previous version. This one is more interesting as it’s effects were devastating. “The Act for Laying a Duty upon the Retailers of Spirituous Liquors” prohibited sales of Gin by imposing a £50 annual license (at least a year’s wages) and a minimum unit sale of two gallons.

It put most of the respectable distillers out of
business and forced the sale of alcohol to go underground.
3rd Gin Act (1736)
More of an addendum than an Act, this clause closed off various loopholes in the 1736 version. Most importantly, it allowed informants to be rewarded for reporting in Gin sellers.

There was a surge in convictions but this just provoked a backlash against the Gin Act (as people were being convicted) and also the rule of law.
4th Gin Act (1737)

The fifth Gin Act virtually outlawed Gin
and made attacks on informers a felony.
Gin distilling was forced further underground and
illegal stills and drinking dens proliferated.
5th Gin Act (1738)

Attacks on informers were still occurring. Few of the convicted could afford to pay the £10 fine but the informers were still being paid – equaling a huge loss for Excise Office who quickly ran out of money.

Despite all of the Gin Acts, spirit production had risen by over 30%. Moreover, despite being outlawed, consumption of Gin was equivalent to every man, woman and child each drinking 2 pints a week.

The 6th Gin Act targeted distillers and reduced fees to retail so that legitimate publicans could pay, ending the need for informers. It also forbid distillers to sell directly to the public. The result was the first Act to actually cause Gin consumption to drop.
6th Gin Act (1743)
Minor tweaks to improve version 6. It helped.
7th Gin Act (1747)
The lady is thought to be Judith Defour (an infamous case from 1734).
Hogarth's Gin Lane (1750)

The Tippling Act was brought on by a continued anti Gin crusade. For the most part it was an extension of the laws that were already working. It raised the tax on retailers, made the licenses only available to inns, taverns and alehouses, granted immunity from prosecution from any unlicensed retailer informing on the distiller supplying them.

1 year later the amount of spirits produced had fallen by a third. Things were returning to normal.
The 8th Gin Act (1751) The Tippling Act
1759 was a plentiful year and soon after, distilleries were allowed to get back to business.
Distilling is Back in Business (1760)
People started using the term 'Oude' for the old-style Jenever, and 'Jonge' for the new style, which contains more grain instead of malt.

Traditionally the drink is served in a tulip-shaped glass filled to the brim and colloquially knows as a jonkie ("young'un").

Around the 1850’s, it became possible to distil a high-grade type of alcohol almost neutral in taste, independent of the origin of the spirit.

A worldwide tendency for a lighter and less dominant tastes, as well as lower prices, led to the development of blended Whisky in Great Britain,
and in the Netherlands - to Jonge Jenever.

During the Great War, lack of imported cereals, and hence malt,
forced the promotion of this lighter style even further.

The Harvest failed and resulted in a huge shortage of corn, malt, wheat, barley and grain. Distilling was banned. The only available alcohol was too expensive for the poor and sobriety prevailed.
Grain Distilling is Banned (1757)
Dakin set up his distillery in Bridge Street, Warrington in 1761.

It thrived because he had a big local market for his products.

Late eighteenth century Warrington was a transport hub as the main business of Bridge Street was travel. Coaches from London to Preston passed through Warrington and, having crossed the Mersey at the bridge.
Thomas Dakin (1761)

Alexander Gordon established Gordon & Company in Bermondsey. Years later
(1798) he moved the operations to Clerkenwell due to its plentiful wells.
Gordon & Company was a turning point in the history of Gin and is the
marking point of a regulated & reputable English Distilling industry.
Gordon & Company Established (1769)
Carbonation is introduced by Englishmen Joseph Priestly in 1767.
When the Coates family joined the established distillers Fox & Williamson
and converted the old Black Friars Distillery, Plymouth Gin was established.

Historically, Plymouth city was an important naval dockyard and much of the
distillery's business was geared to the officer's mess (the Royal Navy) who purchased large quantities of Gin for its officers. The same was also true of
distilleries in Bristol and Liverpool, but Plymouth was the only one to survive.

While Plymouth Gin is the only Gin still made at the same distillery in which it was created, it has been owned by various companies. It is said that in one of these changeovers, the recipe has been altered to suit more American tastes
and resemble the predominant London Dry style.
Originally it may well have been much spicier and a style onto it's own.
Plymouth Gin Established (1793)
London Trade Directory (1794)
The 1820's saw the first of many licensed public houses selling beer that would then spread across Britain like wildfire.

In 1825 the government slashed spirit duties with dramatic effect. Within a
year, spirit production doubled to hit levels not seen since 1743...

Previously, Gin shops or 'dram shops' were just small shops
that sold Gin for take away or to drink standing up.
The Rise of the Gin Palace (1820's)
Old Tom (1830's)
Charles Tanqueray established his Bloomsbury Distillery
in Finsbury, London.

Using a copper still nicknamed "Old Tom", Charles Tanqueray
began distilling but it is thought that the popular recipe we know today only came 8 years after the first batch.

Production is now based in Scotland.
Tanqueray is Launched (1830)
Anneas Coffey Patents the Coffey Still (1831)
There were many attempts to improve distilling techniques and in 1826 Robert
Stein invented a still consisting of two columns. Aeneas Coffey, an Irishman
and patent office clerk took the design, adjusted it making improvements and
patented the Coffey still.

The speed and quality of distillation was greatly improved.
The Rise of Dry Gin (1830's to 1870)
The Coffey still enabled distillers to produce a much cleaner spirit on a
larger scale. This lead to the reduction of sugar usage, and a general move
towards dry Gin as we know it today.
While the origins of Beefeater begin with the Chelsea Distillery being built in
the 1820's, it was in 1863 that James Burroughs paid £400 to purchase the
distillery. In doing so, he renamed it 'James Burroughs, Distiller and
importer of Foreign Liqueurs'.

The first Gin recipe recorded to have been created by James Burrough's hand
is in 1879. It was a Seville Orange Gin made using oranges bought from Mr
Isaac's in Covent Garden.

It would have been common for distillers to have multiple Gins alongside
other liqueurs & while London Dry Gin was becoming increasingly popular,
many continued to make Old Tom Gin as well.
James Burrough buys the Chelsea Distillery (1863)
Schweppes Indian Tonic Water is Produced (1870)

In March 1884 and in February 1887 Coates successfully obtained injunctions
to prevent London distilleries making 'Plymouth Gin'. Only Gins made in the
town of Plymouth can have the name Plymouth on its labels.

In our minds, this goes to show at one point, the taste was so different
that it had a style of its own.

It also shows the importance of the Naval trade...
Plymouth Appellation Contrôlée (1884)
Before the 1890s, Gin was sold by the barrel or in earthenware crocks (like the Genever bottles).

Developments in glass changed and with
it the birth of the glass bottle.
Bottled Gin! (1890's)
The two biggest names in Gin merge.
Tanqueray & Gordon's Merge (1898)
Langley Distillery is Established (1902)
In the midst of a Victorian Gin boom, local publicans pooled together to buy the brewery and installed stills.

Today, Langley Distillery is owned by W.H. Palmer.
They are one of the "Big Three" contract Gin Distillers distilling many brands including Martin Millers.
Until the 1900's only green glass could be used (in volume) and in 1907 to
celebrate a large Australian export order, the company decided to create an
export version using clear glass.

The Green vs Clear demarcation continues to this day.
Gordon's Export Launched (1907)
USA Prohibition (1920 - 1933)
After prohibition was repealed, Tanqueray Gordon established their first US distillery.
Gordon's Distilled in the USA & the UK (1933)

Sweeter styles of Gin are slowly phased out as
London Dry becomes more popular.
In 1953, the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II sparks a mania for everything British in the US. Gin enjoys a boost!
Gin & cocktails suffer a huge demise. Premix, fast food,
and other spirits such as Vodka become popular.

The dark ages of Gin create a generation who think the spirit is both uncool and boring.
1960's to 1990's
Bombay Sapphire is Created (1988)
Hendrick's Gin, Martin Millers, Tanqueray No 10, Beefeater 24 (2001)
Revival of Old Tom spearheaded by Hayman's Gin.

Bols Genever is launched and almost single-handedly brings back Genever to the trade.

The continued popularity of Jerry Tomas era cocktails play a huge part in this revival.

Craft Distilling in the UK starts to emerge as a more prominent focus on provenance and small scale production grows in popularity.

Small, micro distillers begin to emerge.
Back to the Beginning - 2008
Sipsmith Begin Distilling (2009)
The City of London Distillery (2012)
The London Distillery Company (2013)
Prior to the column still, Gin was more pungent due to the limited
purification that can be achieved in pot stills. The harsher, rougher flavours
would have been masked by various flavourings such as juniper, lemon,
aniseed and sweeter botanicals such as liquorice. As sugar became a cheaper
commodity, this was also added to Gins.

This sweeter style of Gin became known as Old Tom, however the origins as to
why it was named Old Tom is shrouded with conflicting stories.
There are two parts to the story: The Cat & The Name

The Name is thought to have come from an early Gin compounder called Thomas Chamberlain who worked at Hodges Distillery in Lambeth. Allegedly, his apprentice (another Thomas) left the distillery to open a Gin Palace and labeled the casks of Gin according to their style. The one made by Tom Chamberlain was thus called Old Tom.

The Cat makes its appearance in Boord's of London Gin some years
later. Boord's seems to have been the first to bottle a type of Gin with an
illustration of a tomcat sat on a barrel as its label. It was one of the best known brands of sweetened Gin so perhaps this is why the logo became something many looked to copy (as a way of tapping into the competition).
Boord & Son went to court in 1903 to defend their trademark against Huddart
& Company, presenting evidence that they had introduced the term in 1849
after old Thomas Chamberlain of Hodges distillery.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the river was crucial to the success of Warrington. Its most prosperous industry was the manufacture of sailcloth for merchant ships and the Royal Navy.

Travelers, sailors and water workers were the first to appreciate Thomas Dakin’s Gin and they were soon followed by local people, eager to copy London fashion, as well as doctors and apothecaries who recommended Gin and distilled cordials for colds and indigestion.

Right from the start Dakin’s Gin was a quality product. Records from the Bridge Street Wine shop shows supplies ranged from drinks including ‘fine Gin, Maidstone Gin and Hollands’.
This time however, distillers were doing well and decided to compete by
replacing traditional Gin shops with opulent establishments that soon became known as 'Gin Palaces'.

Dickens wrote of Gin Palaces in his "Sketches by Boz", 'perfectly dazzling
when contrasted with the darkness and dirt we have just left'.

He went on to describe Gin Palaces as 'a bar of French polished
Mahogany, elegantly carved, extends the whole width of the place;
and there are two side-aisles of great casks,
painted green and gold, enclosed within a light brass rail..."
Dry Gins Dominate (1950's)
The effects of gin were compounded by beer. It's not just Gin's fault...

The amount of beer brewed in London remained relatively constant from 1725 to 1760's (around 30 gallons per capita) suggest that the harms associated with gin were not caused by gin alone.
Even 30 years later - distillers we still insisting that they were using the worst grain, unfit to make bread.

Described as "coarse foul damaged Grain" by
The London Daily Post in 1736
"Ever since the Former and Latter War with France,
and the great duties laid on Forein Brandy, the Making of Brandy from Malted Corn, and other Materieal,
hath greatly increased, and been of the service to
the Publick, in regard to Her Majesty's Revenue,
and the Landed interest of Great Britain"

The Case of the Distillers of London, 1710
Lord Harvey is quoted in The Gentleman's Magazine in November 1743- stating that gin was destroying "all voluntary Submission, putting an End to Subordination" and "every Man to an Equality with his Master or his Govenour"
The Story of the gin Craze is the story of two different set of crises. One in the worried minds of the men who governed and employed London's poor, the other in the teeming slums of Westminster and East London. Rarely, if ever did one reflect the other.

Jessica Warner. Gin and debauchery in an age of reason.
The Death of Madamme Geneva
In 1736, a hawker by the name of Mary Bryan was arrested for selling Gin. During her trial one Clifford Williams Phillips - a justice of the peace - came to her defense.

He was also a distiller and her supplier...
Inside the gin-palace you are dazzled with the light of a thousand gas lamps. Upstairs there is a spacious salon divided down the middle; in one half there is a row of tables separated one from the other by wooden screens...In the other half there is a dais where the prostitutes parade in all their finery; seeking to arouse the men with their glances and their remarks...

Taken from "the London Journals" written by Flora Tristan, a noted French
feminist in 1830.
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