Taste | The Gin journey



Gin is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages. Having being revered by the likes of Snoop Dogg in his famous lyrics, "sippin' on Gin & Juice, Laid Back. With my mind on my money and my money on my mind."

Also, Al Neuharth has mentioned his love for gin numerous times in his book, "Definition of an S.O.B". And of course, how can we not mention James Bond and his famous "shaken, not stirred" martini?.. You may want to have a glass of your own while reading this story, and even if not, it will set you in the mood!

The Be-gin-ning

Gin was officially discovered in Antwerp, The Netherlands, as early as the 13th century. The Dutch were producing a spirit, which consisted of a wine base malt, of which they added 'juniper' berries to give a more pleasant taste to it. This was called "Genever."

It was initially sold in pharmacies, and used to relieve gout, kidney stones and gallstones. British soldiers were introduced to this calming liquid while fighting in Antwerp and favoured it so much that they sent it back with them to England. England (The Gin Craze)

The ruler of England, Ireland and Scotland at the time, William III of England, AKA William The Orange (Dutch descendant) fell in love with this drink - perhaps not just for its healing properties. In a bid to make this a beverage of choice under his rule, he introduced a tax levy that would be unfavourable to French products (brandy/wine/cognac.)

Simultaneously, there was a tax reduction on the distillation of gin, and one could make gin without needing a license. The cheap and easy-to-make process meant that Anybody could be producing gin. Another strange fact was that due distillation, alcohol was considered healthier than plain water, as water was usually contaminated, unlike alcohol.

In the early 17th century, more than half of London's alcohol establishments dedicated to solely gin. This is what began to be known as the gin craze. With gin becoming cheap and easily accessible on every corner, the inevitable happened. Drunkenness became an epidemic!

The streets of London became a sight of misery, with countless people roaming the streets in a sombre sight of drunkenness. The short cuts in the process of gin production were having an opposite effect of its once pure medicinal qualities.

The government intervened, with hefty taxes on gin, and rather steep prices on the required special license to distribute gin, under the Gin Act of 1937. Like most laws, this was obviously contravened, as the entire network was moved even further underground, which had even daunting consequences. This was depicted in the infamous William Horgarth's Gin Line picture.

The new Gin Act of 1751 still maintained lower taxes on gin, but enforced that its distribution would only occur in reputable places of credibility and opulence. Overtime, due to government regulations and other factors such as harsh conditions which caused poor harvesting and therefore increasing the price of grain, the unthinkable happened. The ending of the of the gin craze!

The Return

In the 18th century, there were technological advances. The three colum stills made gin production not only cheaper, and more efficient, but more importantly, CLEANER.

This outcome of this process was referred to as 'London Dry.' The kind of pubs dedicated to serving this were more illuminated, cleaner and more sophisticated than its rivals' bases. This encouraged a more elegant and matured type of clientele. And also, in the exotic countries, Quinine, which was used to prevent malaria, was enhanced with carbonated water (tonic water) for a better taste. Gin and Tonic was born!

Vodka had its own position with the younger crowd, and therefore had a larger share of the market, as gin was associated with a more mature crowd, and lost a valuable share in the market, laying low once again. But this tried and tested, well seasoned beverage found a way to reinvent itself and come back stronger yet again.

By the 2000s, more players were coming to the fold and taking their share in the market, finding more innovative ways of creating gin, with different techniques and flavours. In several countries across the world, such as The UK, The US, Japan and even South Africa, gin has become a widely popular choice, even for the younger generation. In the UK, gin became somewhat of a patriotic drink, as it surpassed the popular choices and its rivals from 2015/16.

In South Africa, there are over 50 gin distilleries and counting, and reportedly over 300 brands complemented with just less than 10 000 indigenous leafy species for ingredients, the country has its own buzz! There are gin bars galore. From Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Durban to Johannesburg. Having created several brands and jobs just as it has good vibes, this gin phenomenon is rooted and here to stay!


With its medicinal, political, socio-economic history and technological Innovations attached to its name, this beverage has come a long way from its discovery, to being one of the most highly sought after products known to man.

Gin has been irrepressive in its journey, had a bad reputation, reinvented itself, worked towards being irresistible in taste, and became a leader in the market, irrespective of the odds.

The story of gin, is one of highs and lows all throughout its history. But it is definitely one worth sharing, over and over again - especially over a gin & tonic or a martini, or whichever way you prefer it. Toast to the Gin-credible adventures!

The IllumiNvture Secret Library presents:

The Gin Journey

Written by Tevin NKS

Edited by The Scribes Navy

Sc: Verdict UK; South African Tourism; Vinepair.com

Pics by: SunorWind; Jason Wong; Annie Spratt; Louis Hansel

ISL Publishing