Explore the history of gin with Sacred

Explore the history of gin with Sacred

Gin arguably has one the most colourful stories in British history - although obviously at Sacred, our story is crystal clear!

Juniper botanical banner

Genever to Gin

In the 16th century, the Dutch began producing a spirit called ‘genever’: a distilled malt wine base with plenty juniper berries (and other herbs) to mask the harsh flavour - these were added to bring a medicinal quality to the drink. In the Anglo-Dutch wars of the 17th Century, the Dutch soldiers were rumoured by the Brits to be so brave (drunk) that Genever was dubbed 'Dutch Courage'.

Sin is for Giners

Fast forward to the latter half of the 1600s and the combination of William III’s harsh taxes on French wines, and cognacs and a British distilling free-for-all, meant that the ‘Gin Craze’ was in full swing and anybody who was anybody was distilling the spirit with whatever they could get their hands on. This included turpentine and sulphuric acid, the latter being a corrosive substance, destructive to the skin, eyes, teeth, and lungs. Quite detrimental to your health to say the least!

This period saw a humble pint of beer as more expensive than a pint of gin - don't let that give you any ideas...

Gin Lane, William Hogarth, 1751 | Tate

Putting the brakes on 'Mother's Ruin'

To crack down on gin production, laws had to be made. The Gin Act of 1751 raised taxes and fees for retailers and made licences more difficult to obtain. Instead, the promotion of beer and tea was promoted so that the Brits would, once again, be restored to a nation of beer drinkers (boring?).

Some progress at last

In the 1830’s things started to look up for our junipery friend, when Aeneas Coffey, a very influential Irish individual, invented the continuous column still, revolutionising drinks production. His invention allowed alcohol to be produced more efficiently, producing a lighter spirit at higher alcohol content. Coffey patented his design in 1830, and it became the basis for every column still to come. 

Aeneas Coffey Still

Tides are Turning

In the 1870s, Schweppes gave a novel boost to the gin category by inventing Indian Tonic Water, in response to overseas armed forces' penchant for Gin with their prescribed dose of quinine to fight malaria. Gin was finally getting its act together and becoming a little more shipshape. Quinine alone was unpalatable to say the least. For the Royal Navy, gin proved better cargo than beer which spoiled quickly, and limes were added to fight scurvy - the lime cordial and gin were combined to birth the Gimlet, our founder Hilary’s favourite cocktail (in case you were planning on buying her a drink!)

Thankfully, despite its troubled past, gin has had a rebirth and today is a much more graceful spirit.  

Time to taste this juniper-laced spirit in all its glory:

Here at Sacred, we make a diverse range of gins, each showing a different side of this beautiful juniper-forward spirit. Our classic Sacred Gin is smooth enough for a premium Martini, bold enough for a Negroni and refreshing enough for a G&T. If you're looking for something more junipery, try our Organic or Juniper Gin, and for something a little experimental, venture into the aromatic realm of Cardamom Gin, looking for citrus - look no further than Pink Grapefruit Gin: all lovingly vacuum distilled at our distillery on Highgate High Street!


< back
share story