With all those botanicals gin must surely be a tonic

Esther Han

How to make a drink taste better

Gin expert and neurogastronomist, Charles Spence, Professor of Experimental Psychology at Oxford, England talks about sensory taste experiences.

Charles Spence sometimes pinches his nose when taking a sip of gin and tonic. Not because it smells, but to heighten the aroma in the spirit as he lets go.

"Suddenly you're getting all the aromatic botanicals - the juniper, the coriander - on the nose," said the professor of experimental psychology at Oxford. "Our sense of flavour mostly comes from the nose. The colour of food, soundscapes, can also influence how we perceive flavour."

Professor Spence, who researches multi-sensory flavour perception, exalted gin and tonic as the perfect palate cleanser, a role long held by wine, in Sydney this week. He said the tipple possessed all the properties to enhance the dining experience.

The squeeze of lime cut through on the tongue and the fizz in the tonic brought the aroma of botanical ingredients from the nose to the palate, the guest of Tanqueray said. "Many of the botanicals in gin [such as coriander, cinnamon and citrus peel] are what chefs will have and use."

Gin is the fastest-growing spirit in the category in Australia, along with tequila, said Dan Murphy's merchandise manager Campbell Stott. The number of gin brands in the liquor store chain's national stock has doubled to 20 within five years.

"Gin sales grew by more than 10 per cent in the past year, driven by premium gin which grew by 25 per cent in the same period," he said.

"Our customers' palates are evolving."

Australians have for years relied on imported brands such as Bombay Sapphire from England and Hendrick's from Scotland. Sales for Tanqueray rose by 41 per cent in the past year.

With 97 per cent of gin downed in Australia coming from foreign distilleries, local makers are launching a revolt.

Cameron Mackenzie from Victoria's Yarra Valley is poised to enter the market, receiving a $150,000 made-to-order still from Germany 10 weeks ago. He, along with Stuart Gregor and Matt Jones, is waiting on a permit from the Australian Tax Office before diving into their basket of native ingredients to throw into the still. They hope to release their Four Pillars rare dry gin by November.