While many people have romanticized the process of creating our favorite spirits-the mythical bourbon from the backwoods still or the tasty rum from an obscure island- the reality of making booze is rooted in basic science. Precise proportions of ingredients are distilled under a controlled environment for an exact amount of time, and the resulting liquid is then either aged or bottled. So, it’s only logical that three Cambridge science PhDs have channeled their collective knowledge to create a gin and vodka that dives down to the molecular level to unleash the best flavors.
Linden Leaf has been attracting attention across the UK for several years, where it is based, and is now available in the United States. While its spirits have won numerous accolades, the company’s roots were planted several years ago when its three food-loving founders began debating over meals about isolating certain flavors they loved for cooking. Like any good chemist, they headed into the laboratory to search for answers.
Working with a wide array of devices, they sought to isolate a wide variety of flavors, from the “lemoniest” lemon to the smell of fresh tamarin. Using organic samples from across the globe, they created a Molecular Atlas of Flavors to satisfy their foodie-obsessed tastebuds. It was a labor of love that you could have taken from an episode of the hit television show “The Big Bang Theory.”
“There are certain molecules which, when you taste or smell, the profile comes seven or eight seconds after the molecule’s gone into your mouth or nose. We realized that we could build taste structures somewhat akin to Gobstopper in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” said Matthew Webster, co-founder of Linden Leaf. “We could create flavors that appear after certain times and precisely blend them to achieve the ideal results. I know this sounds like we are just nerding out, but this is all built on a passion for understanding something we love. If you come into our lab, we have over a hundred thousand samples of all the extracts we have done. We have built up this amazing Molecular Atlas of Flavor that is just a playground for us to create from.”
Using their accumulated knowledge, they turned their attention to their favorite spirit, gin. Thus, Linden Leaf was founded. Experimenting with countless botanicals, all organic and GMO-free- they began to build what they hoped was the perfect gin from the molecular level upwards. Each batch was tinkered with as they sought to create a spirit infused with layers of flavors. Every decision was analyzed and studied to ensure their process was moving forward.
The result of their painstaking process is 88 Molecular Gin and Singularity Organic Molecular Vodka. Both are studies of what meticulous scientific research can bring to an alcoholic beverage. They call their method “Molecular Craftsmanship.”
The gin is called 88 because it features 88 separate flavor molecule notes from 28 different botanicals. It uses five to ten times more flavor-active ingredients than other gins, and they claim that it contains more fresh botanicals than any gin in its category. It includes yuzu, calamansi, grains of paradise, Aztec sweet herb, and the most flavorful juniper they could find. As a Modern English Dry gin, it has won numerous awards at international competitions.
Where their gin is packed full of flavors, their vodka is focused on the mouthfeel. They isolated and identified the exact processes and qualities that deliver smoothness in vodka. By tinkering with the pH levels and mineral content of the spring water they use and distilling it five times, they claim to provide the smoothest vodka known to science.
The trio’s passion for creating new and exciting products isn’t wavering. If anything, the recent expansion into the United States is only the beginning.
“It’s all been great fun. The scientific side of it and the flavor discovery side is what we intended. The company’s commercial side, Linden Leaf, has been a wonderful accident,” says Webster. “One that we are so happy to have had happen. We are continuously expanding our research and creating new products to introduce to people. The sky is the limit, and I think you will see many more exciting things from us.”