The spices

Tranquebar Colonial Gin contains a number of special spices, each of which originates from the South India region.

During the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance (14th to 17th centuries) the exotic spices from the East were not only sought after in Europe because of their excellent culinary properties,they were also used for a myriad of purposes ranging from love potions to curing illness – and even to protect against the plague.

Above all else however, the foreign spices were a precious status symbol – shrouded in an aura of wealth and prestige. They were a privilege reserved for only the wealthiest of the upper classes.

In the 1600’s, the exotic spices were worth virtually their weight in gold, and were the direct reason why the Danish colony of Tranquebar was established in Southeast India.

Here is a description of a number of these spices, which help to give Tranquebar Colonial Gin its unique and prize-winning taste:

CARDAMOM

Cardamom is made from the small dark seeds found inside the green pods of the cardamom plant. The taste is strong and lemony and is,to some, reminiscent of eucalyptus.

In the West, cardamom is best known as a holiday spice at Christmas time and almost exclusively used in baking. In India however it is a very common spice used in a great many dishes, and in its ground form is one of the spices that forms the basis of curries.

Cardamom has been ascribed number of health-promoting properties. For example it is said to strengthen the immune system, promote digestion and is used as a remedy for bloating.

CORIANDER

Coriander is an ancient herb, which has been used by people for many centuries. It is mentioned in the Bible and has been found in Ancient Egyptian graves. It grows wild in many parts of Asia and North Africa.

Both the leaves and seeds of the coriander plant can be used as a spice, but they have different tastes. The leaves have an aromatic and slightly bitter taste – while the seeds are reminiscent of a blend of musk and orange.

CINNAMON

The cinnamon tree originates in Sri Lanka, not far from Tranquebar. Here it is the smooth, thin bark that is used for cinnamon.

High-quality cinnamon is light golden brown in colour, with a very strong, yet still soft and rounded, smell. The taste is sweet and rounded, warm and aromatic.

In the West cinnamon is best known as a spice in baking, especially around Christmas time.

ANGELICA ROOT

The angelica plant has been used as a natural medicine for centuries, and is said to be effective against a great many ailments such as coughs and indigestion.

In more recent times it has been used as a spice in gin. The angelica root tastes and smells heavily aromatic.

LEMONS

The lemon tree is very widespread in Southern Europe, but comes originally from India. Lemons are mentioned as far back as the Roman Empire around 200 AD, but it was not until the 1400’s that the lemon tree began to be seriously cultivated in Europe.

It is primarily the juice from the lemon that is used in food and drinks all over the world. The juice contains between 5 and 6 percent citric acid with a pH value as low as 2.2. This is what gives lemons their sour, acidic taste.

VANILLA

Vanilla is a spice used first and foremost for cakes and desserts due to its sweet taste and aroma.

The vanilla plant belongs to the orchid family and vanilla pods are the dried-out beans from the plant. Each bean contains up to 30,000 seeds, which give us the familiar vanilla flavour.

There are around 300 species of vanilla orchids. They originate in Central and South America but for centuries have been cultivated in many different tropical countries, including South India, in the area where Tranquebar is situated.

NUTMEG

Nutmeg, used in a long list of culinary dishes, has a warm, mild, round andsweet taste – with notes of cinnamon and nuts.

In the 1500-1600’s, nutmeg was the world’s most expensive spice. It was highly sought after by the European countries and their trading companies, especially as nutmeg only grew in one place in the entire world: a small archipelago called the Spice Islands (today called the Banda Islands).

Portugal, Britain and the Netherlands fought each other over the right to the islands, with the archipelago changing hands numerous times. Finally, Britain and the Netherlands reached a peace treaty in 1664: the Netherlands were allowed to keep the Spice Islands with their nutmeg in return for handing over a small piece of land in North America to the British, where the Dutch had a colony by the name of New Amsterdam. The British immediately renamed the island New York.

At the beginning of the 1800’s, however, French and British thieves succeeded in sneaking onto the islands and stealing cuttings from the nutmeg trees. The Dutch monopoly was broken and the price of nutmeg plummeted over a period of just a few years. Today, nutmeg trees are cultivated in a wide number of countries, including India.

BITTER ORANGE

Bitter orange originates from India and closely resembles the orange, but the fruit is almost inedible in its raw state. It has a dry, woody texture but a very strong taste and aroma. The flesh is full of pips and is extremely bitter – hence the name.

The British like to cook the fruit with plenty of sugar to obtain a bitter sweet marmalade, which is so thick that it can be almost cut into slices.

ORANGES

The orange tree is the most cultivated fruit tree in the world; more than 70 million tons of oranges are harvested annually on a global level. India is the world’s third-largest producer of oranges.

Oranges were mentioned in Chinese literature as far back as 314 BC.

 

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