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The Origins of Gin

Over the past few years, Gin has been celebrated as something of a revival. Pop into any city centre bar and there is no denying that it has become a trendy drink enjoyed in style and luxury. But this hasn’t always been the case.

Gin has originated from a somewhat colourful history. Associated as a bedraggled drink when it first came to existence, gin transformed over the decades into a glistening and punctilious drink enjoyed by the mahatmas of the society.

Here is a quick glimpse of its brief origins:


1689 – King William of Orange

After ascending the throne, William of Orange’s first act as King was to reduce the licensing and taxes on British distillation. This decree was followed by an increase in the taxes on imported spirits, which consequently led to a boost in the British distilling industry.


1731 – The London Frost Fairs

Gin and gingerbread became a lifesaver for Londoners trying to cope with the Frost Fairs on the frozen River Thames. Many hot gin tents and gingerbread stalls owned by enterprising Londoners became a gathering spot for locals each time the weather became unbearable.


1736 – The Fifty Pound Act

By mid-1730s, gin consumption had risen considerably with the average weekly intake of residents in the capital hitting 2 pints. In an attempt to cut down on people’s dependence on gin, the government imposed a licensing act on all London distilleries. Each distiller was required to obtain a license of £50, which at the time was a huge sum. This had an immediate impact on the liquor industry and many distilleries went out of business within weeks.


1751 – The Gin Act

Back in the 1750s, it was a battle for supremacy between beer and gin. The beer came out on top. Breweries behind the Hogarth’s famous etching of Gin Lane decided to wage war on the distilleries by demonstrating that beer is better for society than gin. Following their success, the Gin Act was passed in 1751 prohibiting distillers from selling to unlicensed merchants. They restricted retail licenses to substantial property owners and charged high fees to merchants who were eligible for retail licenses.


1850 – Gin and Tonic Era

After India had become a colony of Britain, malaria became predominant amongst the immigrants. The quinine, which comes from the tree bark of the cinchona tree, was used as a local cure for malaria. The only problem being that quinine is notorious for its bitter taste. Thus gin and other sweeteners were added to make the combination palatable. This was the birth of G&T.


1860 – 1953 – The Gin Revolution

In 1860, gin was used as a payment option by the British Navy to pay some officers. A minimum of 57.7% ABV was decreed as the accepted alcohol ration on board.

In 1888, a new era of gin began where, for the first time, gin was seen as a social drink consumed for pleasure. It came in the form of a classic gin cocktail, referred to as the ‘the Elixir of Quietude’.

In 1920, it was the prohibition era for gin which saw unemployed bartenders and thirsty Americans descend on London.

Jump forward to 1953 and the now famous 007 ‘Vesper Cocktail’ by Ian Fleming stole the show.


1990 – The Cocktail is reborn

Inspired by David Embury’s “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks”, Dick Bradsell began training a wave of young bartenders. It led to a revival of the nightlife cocktail into sophisticated and elegant art. Many more distillers continue to modify gin with their unique tastes and style.


2016 – Nelson’s Gin No7 joins the action

Nelson’s Gin takes gin distillery to the borders of Derbyshire and Staffordshire. It is the first distillery to be located in between Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Created by Neil Harrison, Nelson’s Gin is an exceptional spirit created by a man with the perfect vision and palate.

As a chef, Neil Harrison uses just the right blend of flavours, tastes, and presentation to produce Nelson’s Gin. Made in an ultra-modern distillery in a self-contained area, it is no surprise that Nelson’s gin is one-of-a-kind.

The story has just begun.

The start of a new gin era…

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Nelson’s Distillery & School
Unit 5a, Grindley Business Village,
Uttoxeter, Staffordshire ST18 OLR
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