When we first came up with the idea of creating a Whitby Gin we had heard rumblings of the small towns connections to the Gin trade. This prompted us to do some digging into to the history of Gin which we would like to share with you.
Some say that it was the Chinese that first discovered the art of distilling and that they shared their secrets with the Persians, Arabians and Equiptian merchants traded juniper berries, spices and the distilling methods. From this a spirit was born and this spirit evolved over the centuries to the product we all know today. Gin.
In 1495 a wealthy wine merchant had developed his own form of distilling a brandy recipe with wine, thinned with clear hamburg beer. After the distilling process the liquid was re-distilled with sage, clove, cardamom, galangal, ginger, grains of paradise and of course, juniper berries. This produced a liquid that would later be known as genever.
30 Year War (1618 to 1648)
Following the end of the 30 year war in Europe, new distillers became established in Holland and thus began the Dutch Golden Age. English troops fighting alongside Dutch allies against the Spanish where given genever ahead of battle and thus the birth of the saying ‘dutch courage’.
From this, the smuggling trade across the waters to the UK began, with this landing on the shores of our Whitby Town and our tale of the Smugglers wife neatly slots into this piece of history.
The word Gin did not appear in the Oxford English dictionary until 1714 and was described as an ‘Infamous liquor’ and in the early days before had been known as geneva. Initially in the 1700's the consumption of Gin was fairly low key, but this quickly gathered popularity and the over consumption of Gin soon became widespread and was referred to as the social drug consumed by the poor. I am sure you will all be familiar with the title ‘Mother’s Ruin and the famous Gin Lane in London.
In 1751 half of all the British wheat harvest was used to make spirits. Secret Gin shops in London were recorded as over 17,000!
Eventually the Government recognised the effect of this spirit, particularly on the poor between 1720 -1750 Gin changes to legislation were made to slow down consumption and production. This and the prohibition laws in America did eventually see Gin losing popularity.
Whitby Whaling (1750-1837)
The trade was born out of the need for oil. The early whalers consisted of both local fishermen and a number of Dutch specialists who got the Whitby fisherman acquired to the taste of genever, keeping them warm out in the North Sea.
Despite the production of gin being prohibited the Whitby fisherman still got to enjoy the delicious drink.
Gin has always remained a very British drink but has gone in and out of fashion through the years, however I am sure many of us will remember our parents and grandparents enjoying an ice and slice in their G&T.
Gin today is appealing to a whole new generation and there is so much choice out there to enjoy and a raft of mixers and garnishes and not forgetting some amazing cocktails that can be created tooDon't forget to follow us on instagram @whibygin or twitter @ginwhitby for all our latest recipes and suppliers.
So go have some fun with this versatile spirit and start creating some incredible tastes with this historic and famous spirit!
Gin Palace by Tristan Stephenson