From Juniper to the Moon
Moonshot Gin is an extraordinary beverage, partly for the several awards it has won from various industry bodies, but also because the botanicals used in distillation have all been to or come from space.
Moonshot is produced by That Boutique-y Gin Company. Every few months, they send us a huge box of botanicals which we launch to the edge of space on a series of flights, before returning to their facility to be used in distilling and flavouring Moonshot. The final touch is the addition of genuine moon rock retrieved from a lunar meteorite to the botanicals during the brewing process. No other distiller can claim that their gin really is 'out of this world'
We've just launched two massive batches in preparation for the launch of the gin in ASDA supermarkets next year, so to celebrate, we thought we'd share a few fascinating facts about the history of gin!
Medicine or Monster?
The most important ingredient of gin is juniper berries. In fact, gin began its storied life as a Dutch medicine. Juniper berries were believed to treat all manner of ailments and were added to distilled malt wine to make 'genever', which was sold in chemists and pharmacists as a tonic for kidney problems, gout, gallstones and to soothe the nerves. When English soldiers fighting alongside the Dutch in the 16th Century saw Dutch soldiers drinking genever to keep calm before battles, they nicknamed the drink 'Dutch courage', a term still in use to this day. Gin is responsible for a few more slang terms, as we'll see later...
The soldiers brought genever back to England, where it was mostly seen as a curiosity. That changed when Dutch-born noble William of Orange became William III of England, Ireland and Scotland. In an attack on the economies of rival France, King William greatly increased taxes on imported drinks like wine and cognac, while providing tax breaks on distilling in England with his Corn Laws.
Because of the relative cheapness of distilling compared to brewing beer, genever was actually cheaper pint for pint than beer! This was the start of the Gin Craze, with alcoholism running rampant in cities and a complete lack of regulatory control leading to drinks sold containing turpentine, sulphuric acid, and even sawdust. It is believed that the drink became known as gin at this point because so many people couldn't say 'genever' when they were drunk. It also became known as 'mother's ruin' after a high-profile legal case of a woman who abandoned her daughter and sold her possessions to buy a drink of gin.
Repeated legal interventions tried to stem the tide of gin through the country's streets, but it took several decades before the Gin Act 1751 created an enforceable licensing system and restored beer to the pride of place in English hearts. Gin's reputation was sealed among the general populace as the beverage of the lower classes.
Among members of the British Royal Navy, however, it remained a staple because it lasted longer than beer on long voyages. When tonic water was invented as a palatable source of quinine (a foul-tasting malaria treatment), sailors mixed the drinks, creating the iconic gin and tonic. Their preference for a slice of lime in their drinks earned them the nickname 'limeys' - another piece of slang born from gin which persists to this day!
Since then, gin has gone through many ups and downs in popularity. In the past few years, it's seen a resurgence thanks to the rise in cocktail bars and craft distilleries. Which brings us all the way back around to...
So just what goes into the world's most altitude-infused gin? Well, we get juniper, coriander, chamomile flowers, ardamom, fresh lemon peel, dried bitter orange peel, cinnamon, cubeb pepper, liquorice root, angelica - and of course, moon rock. That Boutique-y Gin Company balanced the flavour profile to make a cool, refreshing gin with a strong citrusy flavour backed up by undertones of spice and a peppery tang.
Working with That Boutique-y Gin Company is a refreshing challenge. We have to produce a result within days to ensure the freshness and potency of the botanicals reamin uncompromised. We split the botanicals they send into evenly weighted packages to comply with the legal restrictions on Near Space balloon flight from the Civil Aviation Authority. Each package is balanced to within 10g difference to ensure each load of botanical cargo is guaranteed to cross the boundary into Near Space.
This collaboration is a whole lot of fun. TBGC put a whole lot of personality into all of their gins, from botanicals to names to labelling. Moonshot has won a Masters award from Gin Masters 2018 and an Outstanding rating from the International Wine & Spirit competition 2017. Not only that, but the label won Best Design & Packaging at The Drinks Business Awards 2017.
For our part, we're really excited to see a product we helped create on supermarket shelves. If you can't wait to get your hands on a bottle, though, you can always pick one up here in time for Christmas!