Gin and vodka with some serious chemistry

One brand's quest to extract the best flavors out of your favorite spirits

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Gin and vodka are pretty ubiquitous and mainstays on all bar carts. They’re neutral spirits, which means they can be made from fermenting and distilling natural products like corn, wheat, potatoes, or barley.

What you might not see on all bar carts: vodka and gin created on a molecular level.

Huh? 

That’s exactly what I thought when I heard about Linden Leaf’s vodka and gin. The brand was founded by three Cambridge scientists who say they’re the first distiller to create spirits on a molecular level.

Not only was I intrigued, but I was also confused, so I decided to talk to the innovators behind the brand, Paul Bennett, Mukund Unavane, and Matthew Webster.

They explained how science informs their work in the spirits industry, and said, “Understanding the thermodynamics of distillation and the chemistry of flavor is a great way of pursuing a passion for that perfect flavor or mouthfeel—it provides the toolkit which lets you chase exactly that flavor experience you want.”

My brother is a biomedical engineer and has given me very science-forward answers like this. In liberal-arts degree speak they’re telling me that they are breaking down each flavor to its molecular form, harnessing it, and creating a great product out of it. 

Since we’re getting really nitty and gritty, I wanted them to break down “mouthfeel” for me, since it’s something we always hear when talking about spirits.

“Mouthfeel is how a liquid interacts with your tongue,” the founders said. “It is critical to the experience, not just how you taste and smell the drink, but also whether it burns or leaves your mouth dry.”

They added, “A good mouthfeel makes a drink smooth and lets you experience every nuance of flavour: it is a key part of all our spirits.”

Liberal arts speak: how the tastebuds on your tongue react  to what you’re ingesting. For example, when you’re out, and you see people who say they know a lot about wine — they’re slurping it. They slurp it because it allows the liquid to pour over their tongues and efficiently get the flavor profiles of the liquid over their tongues. 

Linden Leaf’s founders developed what they dub “Molecular Craftsmanship” as their unique way to identify the exact molecules in each ingredient.

“We’re identifying the very best ingredients and then tuning our cold distillation technology to pull exactly the combination of molecules we want, making exactly the flavours and scents that we want.” the founders said. “We can even make sure that subsequent batches are consistent.”

Again, in liberal arts speak – they’re finding the flavors that are the most orange of the oranges or lemoniest of the lemons and harnessing the molecule that makes it so. 

So let’s get to the drinks. 

First, their 88 Molecular Gin. The founders described it as having: “an incredible, multi-layered perfume: from heady high notes of lemon zest and blossoms, through middle notes of pine and juniper and finally a warm, rich base of berries and citrus peppers, with hints of winter spice.”

Photo by: @oldmannewyork

They suggested sipping the gin neat on ice to fully develop the flavor. 

I did that. 

I could for sure smell the pine and juniper. I braced for an intense impact, but was pleasantly surprised that the flavor profile was, to me, lighter than the actual scent, and the impact I thought I was bracing for, was a simple love tap. The taste was much smoother than the aroma. I wasn’t sold that I’d be able to detect hints of winter spice, but I got a nutmeg-ish (not the scientific term) hint upon imbibing it. 

This is so extra, but it would be very cool to try the gin with ice cubes from the actual water the gin was made from, I think it could be next-level. 

Next up: the Singularity Organic Molecular Vodka

How they suggest it: “We like it best out of the freezer—poured neat in a glass and sipped. It is so smooth and ice cold you can trace the delicate flavor profile, sweet cereal notes, citrus hints, a touch of floral scents and a very gentle pepper finish.”

Photo by: @oldmannewyork

I like that for both drinks the founders are respecting the essence of the spirit, and are challenging drinkers to really taste it. Respect. 

I totally got the citrus and pepper on the back end. I didn’t know what I was in for when they said “sweet cereal notes,” but I think I figured it out when I tasted a hint of an oat on the back of my tongue. 

And then I took my own suggestion. I love a dirty martini with olives, so, I made it with the Linden Leaf vodka. It would not be my vodka choice for that martini, but would be great with a citrus twist instead, given those citrus notes. 

Singularity Vodka is 90 proof and retails at $28.99 SRP for a 750ml, while Gin 88 is 86 proof and retails at $38.88 SRP for a 750ml.

My liberal arts verdict: everyone can enjoy the drink and now you have a really unique story to tell people as they point the drinks out on your bar cart!