The history of gin

By September 28, 2016 November 21st, 2016 No Comments

Where does gin come from?

Gin was first referenced in the fourteen hundreds in Holland as Genever. Where it was being used to treat ailments from allergies, aches and pains right the way through to the plague.

Dutch Courage

Gin was first introduced to the British arm during the 30 years war in sixteen hundreds when gin was gin was given to the troops to keep them warm in the damp weather and inspire them in battle.

Gin comes to Britain

While troops brought gin back from the 30 years war it was when William of Orange was crowned King of England in 1689 that gin really started to take off in England. The new king positively encouraged the production of spirits using the surplus barley and wheat.

Unfortunately over the next 20 years, and in our typical British way we started to abuse our new found knowledge of gin production. At its height in London 1 in 4 houses were producing and selling their own form of gin. It was said during the early 1700’s that it was cheaper to buy gin than it was clean drinking water.

With London and Britain now on the throes of a gin epidemic the government introduced the gin act of 1736 which required any person wishing to sell gin to pay a £50 for a licence.

Once again in a typically British fashion this was ignored and the production of gin over the next 15 year increased by 50%. Over the same period only 2 £50 licence applications were processed.

The gin act of 1751

An alteration in the act was introduced that made it illegal to produce alcohol on a still smaller that 1800 litres, this started the transformation of gin from being a dirty drink drunk by the poor to a much more refined product that was enjoyed by the upper classes.

The change in the law lead to the establishment of the “Big Four” distilleries that monopolised the production of gin for over 200 years. Beefeater, Gordon’s, Plymouth and Greenhall’s.

The gin revolution

Every small batch gin distiller owes a debt of gratitude to Sam and Fairfax, the creators of Sipsmiths Gin. It was there 2 year campaign that removed the 1800 litre minimum still size from the 1751 gin act in 2009. From that day forward it opened the door to the nearly 600 gin distillers in the country to master and create a new gin in their own image.