Barrel-aged gin has been around for years. In fact, Genever was often aged in casks, but many are still a bit unsure about how to put it to proper use. More and more brands are bringing out new gins aged in various barrels, which all contribute to the final flavour of the spirit. The type of wood used, its age, size and the previous liquid in the cask all matter. Usually when it comes to gin, the ageing time is short to still allow the botanicals to shine through. We are talking about months rather than years. Barrel-ageing is used to add just enough influence to complement the gin.
Types of wood and previous liquid
Many distilleries are using virgin oak, which means the cask is new and has not been influenced by any previous liquid. When it comes to whisky, most casks are made from either American white oak or European oak. American oak gives a softer, sweeter taste with notes of vanilla and caramel, while European oak is spicier and has a stronger wood input. European oak grows in northern Spain and Portugal. French oak is used to age wine and cognac. It will bring notes of vanilla, pepper and subtle spiciness.
Gin distillers can use the same casks as whisky makers, but often they are choosing bespoke casks, which can be smaller and more inventive. Makar Gin, for example, uses virgin mulberry wood casks, and Citadelle Réserve is aged in five casks, acacia, mulberry, cherry, chestnut and French oak, before being blended together in a unique egg-shaped oak barrel. Other wood types used are cherrywood, juniper and chestnut.
Oloroso, PX or sherry casks in general are also popular where gin ageing is concerned. Other previous liquids include bourbon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Irish whiskey, cognac, beer, rum, Pinot Noir, vermouth, Rioja, peaty scotch, ginger beer and so on… It all sounds very intriguing, don’t you think? With the range of flavours you can get from the wood and the wide array of previous liquids, we should be more excited about this ever-growing gin category.
If you’d like to know more about what types of flavour different casks have to offer or would like to have a better understanding of cask influence in whisky, see my previous article here.
How to serve it
Personally, I never like barrel-aged gin with tonic, but perhaps I haven’t found the right combination yet. For me they work best served over ice with orange peel, or even neat. Barrel-aged gins are surprisingly versatile when it comes to cocktails. They add a lot of depth to classic drinks like Martinez and Negroni (try with Cynar). Or use them as a whisky replacement in drinks such as Old Fashioned and Manhattan.
Barrel-aged gins are often nice served with honey. You could simply make a hot toddy with barrel-aged gin, honey, orange and rosemary or stir a good measure of gin with a touch of honey syrup and sip over ice. If you would like to make a long drink with barrel-aged gin, try ginger ale instead of tonic.
Barrel-aged gins to try
They have two main barrel-aged expressions: Kyrö Dark Gin and Koskue Sherry Cask. Their Dark Gin is made using Finnish rye and 17 botanicals. The gin is then aged in American oak from three months to a year. Koskue is aged in both Oloroso and PX casks.
Kyrö did a limited-edition collaboration with Teeling Whiskey, which is still available on the Master of Malt website. Kyrö x Teeling Aged Gin has the classic Kyrö Gin base, which was distilled with Guinness and blackberries before being matured in ex-Teeling whiskey casks.
Citadelle has a range of barrel-aged gins, all equally exciting! As mentioned above, Citadelle Réserve is aged in five different casks before it all gets blended together. Citadelle No Mistake is an Old Tom Gin made using their Réserve with added Caribbean brown sugar, which has been turned into alcohol and aged in oak. Once combined, the spirit is left to mature for several months. This is an exciting gin made with time and care. And that’s not all from Citadelle – there’s also a limited-edition Citadelle Wild Blossom Gin. This is a floral gin aged in cherrywood casks for five months.
Glasgow Distillery has two barrel-aged gins: virgin European oak and mulberry wood. Makar Cask Aged Gin has been matured in new European oak for ten weeks. It makes a great pairing with strong dark chocolate (Negroni garnished with chocolate, anyone?).
Makar Mulberry Aged Gin has won many awards, and no wonder. It is pleasant on the palate with a lovely balance of earthiness, oak and vanilla. The distillery recommends pairing it with a nutty manchego cheese. I’m sold!
Tarquin’s have a limited-edition barrel-aged gin, which they re-release from time to time. In fact, it will be available again within a few weeks! The Weathered SeaDog is made using Tarquin’s SeaDog Navy Strength Gin, which is left to rest in ex-Pedro Ximénez casks.
Another oaky expression from the distillery is Tan Ha Mor (meaning fire and sea in Cornish), which has not spent any time in oak, but they use oak chips as botanicals. They soak a selection of botanicals, including the oak chips, in seawater, before toasting the lot in a fire pit. These are then left to macerate in the gin. The outcome is smoky, oaky and savoury. Just how I like it!
Nginious! Vermouth Cask
Nginious! Vermouth Cask Finished Gin is made using their Swiss Blended Gin as the base. The gin is then aged about five months in Vermouth di Torino barrels that have previously been used to age Barolo and then Cocchi Vermouth. This adds notes of bitter orange and oriental spices, while still bringing out the herbal notes of the base gin. I once took part in a Nginious! Gin and cheese pairing night (many of their gins make a great pairing), and when the Vermouth Cask Finished Gin is sipped with cheese, you could really taste the liquorice and some oriental spices. A very enjoyable experience!
An Dúláman Santa Ana
An Dúláman Santa Ana Armada Strength Gin is Ireland’s first navy strength gin. Sliabh Liag Distillers age their An Dúláman Irish Maritime Gin (which I love btw) in Rioja barrels and bottle it at 57% ABV. The gin has a lovely rose gold hue, and the barrel-ageing has added floral notes and sweetness to their savoury recipe. You still get that savoury brine, but now with candied orange peel, warming spices and sweet berries.
Hernö Juniper Cask Gin
Hernö Juniper Cask Gin is the first gin in the world matured in juniper wood casks! Yup, not all juniper grows in bushes, it also grows as tall trees. The gin is made using the same recipe as the classic Hernö Gin, which is then diluted to 47% ABV and aged for 30 days in the juniper wood casks.
Blackwater Juniper Wood
At Blackwater Distillery, they age gin in bespoke 50 litre juniper wood casks for 30 days. They use the same 12 botanicals as in Blackwater No.5 Gin but change the ratio. It’s a fragrant gin with cedar and warming spices. It would be nice to compare this to Hernö Juniper Cask Gin side by side.
Koval Barreled Gin
The recipe is the same as for Koval Dry Gin, but by using their own whiskey barrels the Koval Barreled Gin has gained notes of citrus, spice and a light sweetness of butterscotch.
Manly Spirits Barrel-Aged Gin
Manly Spirits Dry Gin is aged in both ex-bourbon barrels and ex-Tasmanian single malt whisky casks, before the spirit is finished off with a splash of the distillery’s own malt spirit (aged for six months). Their Barrel-Aged Gin has light oak and vanilla notes, followed by sweet orange and dried fruits.
Garden Shed Côte-Rôtie Gin
The original Garden Shed Gin has been aged in wine barriques, which has given the gin a lovely blush-pink hue and a unique flavour.
Four Pillars Distillery has experimented with a few variations of barrel-aged gin. As we are heading into the Christmas season, let’s start with their Australian Christmas Gin. They actually distilled proper homemade Christmas puddings along with traditional botanicals to create a gin packed with festive flavours. This gin is aged in ex-Muscat casks for a year. Cherry on the top, the final aged gin is finished off with a splash of Rutherglen Classic Muscat for extra richness.
Four Pillars Sherry Cask Gin is made using the Solera system. They filled 42 sherry and Australian fortified wine casks with their gin, arranged them in Solera and bottled the aged gin from the bottom layer after one year. A small amount of Amontillado sherry is added to the top for extra flavour. They also used the same Solera system to age their Rare Dry Gin in ex-Chardonnay casks.
Have you tried any barrel-aged gins yet? Share your favourite serves with us!
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