Following this rather excellent article on gin drinks for the Kentucky Derby by the Gin MC at TheGinIsIn.com, I was inspired to investigate how well aged gins work in the classic Derby drink, the Mint Julep. Since I had some aged gin left over from our Yellow Gin Tasting and, given that I still needed to write something about aged gin cocktails, I immediately set to work.
For my Gin Juleps, I decided to go down the Julep Glass route (rather than metal cup), as a point of differentiation from the whiskey version. This “presentation” of Julep can be seen in the film Goldfinger.
I also thought that a little extra flavour was warranted and so I added a few drops of Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters from The Bitter Truth. These bitters also help to add some of the warmth that you would expect from the whiskey equivalent.
1) Hayman’s 1850
The fresh mint went well with the crisp, dry juniper of this gin and its light, oaky, creamy flavour worked in harmony with the spicy bitters. As a result, this was a very good drink and a worthy alternative to a whiskey Julep.
2) Myrtle Gin
This gin has been aged for 10 years and so is the most whiskey-like of all that I tried. As such, it made a great, woody Julep. It was actually a little dryer than the bourbon version and, as a result, will really appeal to certain folks; of course, if you prefer your drink sweeter, you can always just add more sugar, so it’s win-win.
3) Seagram’s Distillers Reserve
Really good and greatly improved by the dash of bitters, which seemed to accentuate the oaky notes of the gin. I decided to use the Distiller’s Reserve over the Original “Ancient” Gin, as the effects of the barrel-aging are much more pronounced. Despite the fact that Distillers Reserve is bottled at 51%ABV (almost cask-strength), this was a smooth and easy-to-drink Julep.
4) Sipsmith Smoked
This is a completely different kettle-of-fish to the other Juleps and there’s no worries about the flavour being too subtle! This smoky smash had flavours of smoked salmon and smoked cheese, but kept a strong, dry note of juniper, which worked well alongside the mint. It was more smoky than warm and is more like a Julep made with Islay Scotch whisky than bourbon. That said, I thought it was sublime.
5) Citadelle Reserve 2008
This Julep tasted quite strong, with a good punch of juniper, whilst the crisp, herbal notes of the gin went well with the mint. It was relatively easy to drink, but did have the warming effect of a Mint Julep, along with its ability to really creep up on you if you drink it too fast.
The Myrtle Gin and the Sipsmith Smoked made my favourite Gin Juleps: the Myrtle one being most similar to a whiskey equivalent, and the Smoked being something new, but delicious. Of the lighter, oaked gins that I experimented with, I thought the Hayman’s 1850 also made a delicious drink.
As an alternative to using aged gin, you could conceivably make a Gin Julep with a regular gin and add a dash of oak distillate (if you could happen to get hold of some).
If you want to know more about non-aged gin drinks such as the Cherry Julep and the Derby Cocktail, I would suggest checking out this page here.
Special thanks to Aaron for the inspiration.