In 2009 the gin world experienced a minor revolution in the form of Oxley Gin, made by the Bacardi-owned Oxley Spirits Company. It took eight years and 38 different recipes to arrive at the final recipe, which consists of 14 botanicals.
The classic gin botanicals plus the rather more unusual meadowsweet, vanilla and aniseed. These are placed in the still with a high quality neutral grain spirit and allowed to macerate for up to fifteen hours. And this is when it all gets high tech. Instead of the more conventional methods of distilling botanicals in the spirit through the application of heat – think here either of straightforward ‘boiling’ or the less used ‘infusion’ methods – Oxley Gin is made by a unique Cold Distillation process at sub zero temperatures.
This is how it works: instead of heat being applied to redistil the spirit with the botanicals, vacuum is used to reduce the pressure in the still and lower the temperature to approximately -5ºC. At this temperature the spirit becomes vapour. A cold finger probe (chilled to -100 ºC) is then inserted into the still and the vapour is condensed back into spirit with the botanical flavours now thoroughly imbedded. The whole process takes around 5 to 6 hours.
A major advantage of Cold Distillation is that there are no heads or tails to be discarded – everything that comes out of the still goes into the final bottle so less wastage than traditional distillation methods. But the most obvious breakthrough is in the taste of the gin itself. The theory is that Cold Distillation leaves the structure of the botanical molecules unchanged, thus preserving their original intensity rather than cooking them. As the development team discovered it also allows for the use of fresh fruit – in this case grapefruits, oranges and lemons. There are no harsh notes to contend with so what one experiences is an exceptional freshness and cleanness. On tasting Oxley Gin is slightly spicy on the nose with hints of lavender, almond, marshmallow and soft citrus, juniper is evident but not dominant – herbaceous and scented rather than oily and pungent. The thing that stands out however is the texture and purity of the spirit that is holding these complex aromas together. At 47% ABV Oxley is a big gin but it’s very smooth and lush, almost creamy.
Oxley Gin is a London Dry Gin according to the EU definition as nothing is added after distillation. The bespoke still at the Thames Distillery in London produces only 240 bottles a day so Oxley Gin by it very nature is always going to be a limited, luxury spirit. We recommend it served straight over ice in a balloon glass with a grapefruit twist. And there are not many gins one could say that about.
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- Website: www.oxleygin.com