Licorice (alternatively spelled liquorice) comes from the root of a perennial plant native to a large swath of Eurasia. It takes nearly three years for a licorice root to be ready for harvesting, requiring several years of growth. It’s popular in its native regions as both a sweetener and component of natural medicine.
It’s particularly of interest in gin, because the root itself is thought to have been widely used as a sweetening agent in early gins, including some Old Tom styles. Licorice has a distinctive flavor, similar to anise or fennel, but with a pronounced additional sweetness. It’s used in gins for both its flavor and for the sweetening effect.