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Citrus blossom’s sweet freshness is one of the most evocative scents of spring. It’s also a phenomenal gin botanical. If your trees are bursting with flowers right now, creating a citrus blossom gin is a wonderful way to capture some of the scent and memory of your spring garden.
Because of their fleeting nature, some seasonal botanicals are often off the menu for commercial distillers. With their small window of perfection – you really must be there, to pluck them out of your garden and use them at the just right time. This suits the small, artisan gin-maker perfectly.
Alembics NZ teaches people how to make their own, bespoke gin at home, on traditional copper stills. Here’s a taste of what you’ll be able to do, when you learn how to distil.
To make your citrus blossom blend, begin by gathering the remaining fruits, often they may be on the ground under your trees. Citrus skins are packed with terpenes – sitting in the pores – which protects them from rot. Although they may be a little soft at this time of year, the peels are rich in aromatic oils.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel, taking as little of the white pith as possible. Lay the skins out in the sunshine where plenty of air can circulate, and cover them with some fine cloth to protect the peel from fruit fly.
Make sure they are completely dried – this will take 2 to 3 days. When they are thoroughly dried, store them in brown paper bags in a dry spot, away from direct sunlight.
The blossoms of the different citrus varieties all smell glorious and have their own unique character. The essential oil neroli is distilled from the bitter orange Citrus aurantium var, also known as Seville orange.
Grapefruit flowers are bright with a sweet, crisp lightness, while lemon and lime are both fresh and sparking. Use what you have to hand, and don’t be shy to experiment with combinations.
To harvest, pick when the blossoms form clusters. There may be some tiny fruits starting to form and some tender, new leaf growth. You absolutely can include this! This gives the blends a note of petitgrain, and green citrus scent which cuts through the florality of the blossoms.
Just a hint of leaf and fruit with your blossom is enough – don’t go mad as it will overpower the blend. Add them to a well-structured base blend, wrap in muslin, and place the botanical pouch in the basket or column of your still, ready for distilling.
Here’s the recipe for the full blend (the amount is per 1L of neutral spirit, you can easily scale this up for larger stills).
The Alembics Lab Citrus Blossom Gin Blend
12g juniper (Macedonian)
6g coriander (NZ)
2g angelica root
1.5g liquorice root
1.5g cassia bark
1.5g lemon peel (dried)
2g bitter orange peel (dried)
0.5g orris root
2g fresh citrus flowers
We hope you enjoy this sparkling blend. Making your own gin is a deeply rewarding and surprisingly accessible project.
Alembics has been teaching people how to distil at home on their beautiful copper stills for many years now.
And this summer we’ll be launching our courses online, through The Alembics Lab. You can visit the website and sign up to find out exactly when we go live.
Happy distilling everyone.