Below is an excerpt from GINNED! Magazine about East London Liquor Company's Batch 1, our December Gin of the Month. Every month, Craft Gin Club members receive a bottle of amazing small-batch gins accompanied by GINNED! Magazine which is full of features about the gin, the distillery and loads of fascinating features.
Visiting the beautifully refurbished compound in which the East London Liquor Company is stabled, one may be able to envision a time when the buildings instead housed horses. The unaided eye could confuse some of the brick structures with horse homes but would be hard pressed to determine what the building actually harboured: a glue factory. And glue, as any adhesives expert will tell you, is historically not a horse’s friend.
Does that mean a lot of horses were slaughtered where today gin is born? Perhaps many decades ago. But horses or a lack there of aren’t the reason that ELLC’s predecesor tenant went out of business. Contrary to conventional beliefs amplified by common phrases such as “dead horses are sent to the glue factory,” few glue producers use horses or their byproducts today. Overall, few animal glues remain in existence with a large proportion of everyday glues being created synthetically.
Elmer’s, the US’ most recognized brand settles the minds of Animal Rights activists by announcing on its website that its glues are made with chemicals “originally obtained from petroleum, natural gas, and other raw materials found in Nature.” In the UK, the “Manufactured Adhesives” company Starloc displays tongue-twisting science-speak such as “cyanoacrylate” and “aliphatic resin” to advertise its glues.
But, despite their cleansing powers, chemicals can’t wash away history. The fact of the matter remains that humans have made glue with animals for millennia. The oldest glue on record dates back over 8,000 years. Found in the Nahal Hemar Cave, carved in a cliff near the Dead Sea on the Israeli side, the glue acted as a protective coating for rope baskets and to maintaining the integrity of utensils. Scientists determined that the substance found on these artifacts is collagen from animal skins. And it’s collagen that puts the “glutinous” in glue.
Collagen makes up anywhere between 25% and 35% of all the proteins found in mammals. So yes - feasibly you could make human glue as we human beings are loaded with collagen although there are obvious reasons why horses as opposed to people have traditionally met a gummy fate. Collagen is a protein found in our connective tissues, ie, tendons, ligaments and skin. The protein even takes its name from the Greek word for “glue”, kolla.
The animal skins, or hides, found in Israel remained a staple ingredient of glues for millennia. Written hide glue recipes date back 4,000 years and the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs dating between 1,000 to 1,500 B.C. carry gelatinous animal adhesives.
But skins are not the only part of animal bodies used and horses were far from the only animals to hold human endeavours together. From the hooves of cows to the bladders of fish, all sorts of animal body parts have made glue.
So as you open your bottle of East London Liquor Company’s Batch No. 1 this December, pay certain heed to the label. Perhaps it was stuck on their with some left over animal collagen from the once thriving glue factory.