The Botany of Gin
by Chris Thorogood and Simon Hiscock
Bodleian Libraries in association with Oxford Botanic Garden
£15. ISBN 978-1851245536
I had the pleasure of reading this lovely book one hot afternoon in a shady spot of the garden. Naturally, I mixed myself a large G&T to enhance the experience and the more I read, the more I appreciated each sip. The introduction takes us through the fascinating history of gin that begins with its use as a medicine in Ancient Greece, then takes us through its introduction to England from the Netherlands in the 16th century and the ‘gin craze’ of the 18th century, which reduced London to ‘the most lawless and drunken city in Europe’, to its subsequent prohibition. Later gin saw a renaissance in the 19th century and its increasing popularity today. Methods of making gin are also discussed, resulting in the vast range of classical, contemporary and artisan gins we have today.
The majority of this book is dedicated to the botanicals, a huge and diverse range of aromatic plants. These are sourced from all over the world and are the plants that truly tell the story of this complex drink. Each plant has a page of its own, with detailed description, geographical distribution and information on its use. Chris Thorogood’s exquisite botanical illustrations are almost reason enough to buy this book. Each one is a beautiful work of art. However, this is far more than a pretty picture book. Chris and Simon’s deep knowledge, understanding and appreciation of both gin and the plants, opens our eyes to the subtleties and complexities of the blending of this range of plant-based flavours.
Anyone who enjoys a good gin and tonic will enjoy this book, and its concise information about the extraordinary range of botanicals now used is likely to inspire further exploration of the many exciting varieties of this well loved spirit. The Botany of Gin will make a very welcome addition to the bookshelf in our bar at Gravetye Manor.