Antiseptic Botanicals and the Human Condition

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Lets set some ideas down on paper.

Stephen Harrod Buhner does the greatest job I’ve ever encountered of explaining the relevance of antiseptic botanicals to our human experience in his book Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. Maybe I will elaborate eventually but my immediate goal is to help people in the distilled spirits world get over their botanical myopia so that we can move forward into the 21st century. I need more from my antiseptic experience. Juniper always gives me the same bland fix while hops and their diversity thrills me. I got a taste of the potential of this from the brilliant people at Hitachino who nearly perfected the hopped distillate while no one was looking. You’d think I’d be satisfied but Hitachino’s Kiuchi No Shizuku is so hard to come by and I can’t afford to drink as much as I want. My solution is to figure out how to capture hops, coriander and orange peel for my self.

2 oz. of Palisade hops re-distilled in 1 liter of Appleton white Jamaica rum is a gorgeous olfactory experience but more intense than the standard gin and cutting it won’t be a problem. The half the weight of juniper equals coriander gin formula won’t work either. But I can keep adding more and re-distilling until I get it right or compound a tincture. and I can’t get small amounts of quality orange peel. But no problem, I don’t know how many grams are in a liter of Cointreau but it is about the best bitter orange tincture money can buy. Cointreau’s consistency will help me develop bottle sized batches. Eventually I will be drinking this stuff at $15 a liter.

We are up to 2 oz. Palisades hops in the first distillation which was quite good but probably would need to be diluted with neutral spirits to come down to comparable gin intensity.

Then we re-distilled with 14 g. of coriander merely boiled in the spirit as it heated to distill. The room does fill with hop aroma which shows that lots of our flavor unfortunately leaks during a re-distillation. I never really see botanicals described well by the spirits or cocktail world but beer brewers do an excellent job and the orange character of the coriander botanical they profess is no joke. I can see how a little natural orange can lend a degree of synonymous flavor depth but it should be far more minimal than you would think. My limited experience would say orange is a more noble botanical but here coriander really is the show. Perhaps more than the hops.

Now all I have left to add some Cointreau to taste before I re-distill yet again to achieve my rough draft. I wonder how much it will take.


I had no Cointreau after all so I used Clement’s Creole shrubb as my orange tincture but I was thinking of even giving Fee’s orange bitters a go as my standard for orange. My sample has volumetrically diminished after many tastings, so I’m down to about 600 ml therefore all of my ratio’s so far have become kind of meaningless. (I used 20 grams of shrubb for the 600ml) Maybe next time I need to make a 5x batch so that my sampling will be insignificant enough to not mess up the botanical ratios I’m trying to figure out.

One other thing to note is that I rediscovered how incredible real licorice is in a tea my boss shared with me. I need to figure out how to fit it into one of these simpler more muscled types of formulas.

Botanical aromatized distillates keep becoming more interesting to me from a consumer interest perspective. Consumers seem to accept vodka as an aesthetic goal of neutrality but gin has to contain juniper and be about juniper. If you use the “gin” name even slightly loosely for some reason you get stopped in your tracks with a “then its not gin” comment more often than any curiosity about a new idea. Vodka gets a lot of freedom. It can be made from grapes and not be brandy and made from sugar and not be rum. As long as it is neutral its vodka. Gin gets all the conservatism. People don’t even seem to give coriander any credit, even though its used in huge amounts relative to any other potential supporting botanical. To me, coriander seems less replaceable to the formula than juniper. To help any new products onto the market, gin needs to shift from something very literal to something of a more general aesthetic goal.

So in what direction do I need to move to lock down a solid recipe? Keep distilling everything together or compound fairly potent mono concentrates and spend some time playing with some carefully measured blends?

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