Cocktails with the new Barrel Reserve and Peat Barrel BIG Gins – from the USA!

As 2016 approaches, I thought that today I would share with readers two 2015 releases from one of my favourite distilleries; not only do they make delicious, award-winning products, but the owners are a hoot! I speak, of course, of Captive Spirits: Ben Capdeville, Holly Robinson, and the entire Big Gin family.

In 2014, Bourbon-Barreled Big Gin won Best Contemporary Gin at the IWSC and now the folks at Captive Spirits have released two new aged gins.

Barrel Reserve Big Gin is aged for Three Years in Ex-bourbon (Heaven Hill casks).

Peat Barreled Big Gin is rested for 3-4 months in Westland Distillery’s American Single Malt Peated Whiskey barrels (which previously held Wild Turkey) and is bottled at 47% ABV.

Barrel Reserve BIG Gin

BB-BarrelReserve

On its own
Colour: Light gold
Nose: Light fruit and vanilla. This is sweet and inviting, before a hint of pine blossom towards the end.
Taste: Delightfully smooth and sippable, this has a lovely balance of the complex, sweet wood spice and the dryer, piney gin notes. It also has a thick texture that fills the mouth and the menthol pepper of the Tasmanian Pepperberry on the finish.

Frozen
This gin chills down well, adding a lovely viscosity to the texture. Upfront, there are notes of toffee and spice, with some crisp pine and citrus, too. The finish is more floral, with sweet spice and wood; it’s creamy, before a peppery finish.

Gin Soda
Herbaceous and woody; this is quite resinous, but the lengthening of the soda gives the gin a lighter, refreshing character without compromising on intensity or quality.

Sweet Martini
Sweet, fruity, and jammy, with a touch of bitter herbal notes. Then comes some spice and vanilla, and a lovely, creamy finish.

Negroni
Wow! Simply fantastic – there is an excellent synergy between the gin, the wood, and the other ingredients. Smooth, mellow, and relaxed, the gin takes the drink to another level, with beautiful vanilla wood and maple notes in the middle. A must try!

Peat Barreled BIG Gin

BB-PeatBarreled
On its own
Colour: Pale straw
Nose: Light spice with a wisp of dry, smoked wood, then a little citrus and cedar. This is complex and evolving with a few subtleties kept back for the palate.
Taste: The wood creates a very dry, light smoke that lingers and builds as you sip. The dry wood notes work well with the fundamentally dry character of the gin. After the wood comes some juniper, angelica, and a little citrus. The finish is of spice and the slight menthol pepper of the Tasmanian Pepperberry.

From the Freezer
Dry, with flavours of apricot kernels, followed by flavours of fragrant cedar. Excellent, cooling, and sippable.

Gin Soda
The woody notes are dry, adding to the refreshing nature of the drink and complementing the other botanical notes, whilst the spice adds complexity. This is, without a doubt, an aged gin made for soda.

Sweet Martini
Superb – light and dry, almost as if it was made with dry vermouth. Despite that, there’s a lovely sweetness at the end, along with delicious, rich orange notes. This is truly excellent and sets itself apart from other Sweet Martinis.

Negroni
A wonderfully woody Negroni: the smoky wood works really well with the bitterness of the cocktail and here is a touch of very dark chocolate thrown in, too. All of this is balanced by the sweetness of the vermouth and the extra bitterness of the Campari. Another excellent drink.

In Conclusion

It’s great to see the folks at BIG Gin not rest on their laurels after their big win at IWSC with their first Bourbon Barreled Big Gin. These two new additions are no fly-by-nights and have obviously been well thought through before their release.

The Barrel Reserve adds smoothness and complexity to what was already a great gin and really starts to bring aged gin in line with some of the better whiskies that are great to sip and explore neat.

The Peat Barreled Gin achieves a fine balance between gin, wood, and smoke and, whilst the peat is certainly there, it does not overwhelm the gin’s character; in addition, the extra woody, smoky dryness that it adds is – I think – fantastic. I highly recommended trying both.

Aged Gin Update from Master of Malt

Those chaps over at Master of Malt have been at it again with their experimentation, this time in the world of aged gins. If you are looking for a spirit that will please someone who is both a gin and a whisky lover, then definitely check out their range of aged gins. Here are some highlights from 2015.

lightly-peated-cask-aged-bathtub-gin-batshit-mental-ideasLightly Peated Cask Aged (43.1% ABV)

Subtly aged in an ex-Ardbeg Islay whisky cask.

Colour: Champagne gold
Nose: Light, with some deeper herbal notes and a little sticky fruitiness, followed by wisps of wood smoke.
Taste: A full texture that fills the mouth, whilst not being too thick. Strong, herbaceous botanical notes come through, before a light, woody sweetness. The dry wood smoke notes build on the finish and linger for minutes after.

rum-aged-bathtub-gin-10-months-batshit-mental-ideas-ginRum Aged Bathtub Gin (10 Months) (43.1% ABV)

Bathtub gin aged for 10 months in an ex-rum cask.

Colour: Pale golden yellow
Nose: Sweet molasses and allspice, somewhat reminiscent of Pimento Dram. There are also the sweet, herbaceous notes that evoke memories of old-time curiosity cola and some hints of Jamaican Ginger Cake, too.
Taste: Sweet and spice, with a little stickiness upfront, followed by woody spice – cassia, cinnamon, and nutmeg – before some bitter, herbal treacle notes and a woody and dry botanical finish.

manhattan-aged-bathtub-gin-aged-9-months-batshit-mental-ideasManhattan Aged Bathtub Gin (9 Months) (42.5% ABV)

Bathtub gin aged for 9 month in a cask that was previously use to barrel-aged a Manhattan cocktail.

Colour: Burnt ochre
Nose: Deep orange marmalade and woody, herbal notes of aromatic bitters, then some light, woody resin and bread notes with just a touch of wormwood.
Taste: Citrus notes of burnt orange upfront, before the dry, mellow, woody breadiness of rye, before a burst of spice and a botanical sweetness. This is followed by juniper and angelica notes, and an exceptionally long and lightly sweet finish of floral rose and turkish delight.

whisky-bitters-cask-aged-bathtub-gin-batch-2Whisky Bitters Cask Aged Bathtub Gin Batch #2 (43.3% ABV)

Bathtub gin aged in an ex-whisky bitters cask.

Colour: Light Chardonnay
Nose: Quite light, with some vanilla spice, moving towards hints of gentian root and the aromatics of cocktail bitters.
Taste: This has mellow aged gin notes to start, followed by a bitter, earthy woodiness, along with a touch of a maple-like sweetness. There is dry juniper on the finish.

very-old-tom-gin-batshit-mental-ideasVery Old Tom  (47.5% ABV)

Based on a blend of both aged and unaged spirits, cold distilled botanicals are then added before a maceration of juniper berries and a light sweetening. The spirit is finished in a 50 litre casks for 5 months.

Botanicals include:

Juniper
Coriander
Angelica
Orris
Liquorice
Cardamom
Fresh Lemon Peel
Fresh Grapefruit Peel
Fresh Lime Peel
Fresh Orange Peel
Fresh clementine Peel
Earl Grey Tea

Colour: Burnt flame orange
Nose: This has a deep complexity, with the notes revealing themselves over time. There are some orange a woody notes to start, followed by a honeyed sweetness and notes of orange blossom, cherry, and other stone fruit. Finally, there’s a dryer, woody nuttiness.
Taste: A lovely texture: thick, like maple syrup. Like on the nose, rich, sweet orange and marmalade notes come forward, before some intense botanical notes: fresh juniper, woody angelica, and then citrus spice. The finish is similar to that of a Highland malt, with burnt citrus and nutty pecan notes. This is very complex and should appeal to whisky drinkers.

 

Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Anglo-Scottish-American Gin (67.5%ABV)

Part of an experimental range released by the professor, this gin takes Scottish malt spirit and re-distills it with botanicals under a vacuum. The spirit is then aged in England in a cask previously used for a batch of FEW Barrel-Aged American Gin.

Color:    Yellow-white.

Nose:    Quite creamy, with vanilla notes followed by a hint of dry spice, reminiscent of homemade custard or crème anglais.

Taste:    Powerful spirit, but also rather smooth and an almost liqueur-like texture to begin with, along     with a creaminess, courtesy of the barley spirit base. There is a fair amount of sweetness, and     the spice of a dry gingerbread cookie. The finish is more gin-like, with citrus and juniper. A very     long, winding finish.

 

Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Old Fashioned Aged Bathtub Gin (43.3% ABV)

The latest addition to the Professor’s range of creatively-aged gins, this has been matured in a 50 liter cask that had previously contained a batch of Old Fashioned cocktail.

Color:    Medium-honey.

Nose:    Honey and orange, with hints of spice and whiskey, much like a good whiskey liqueur.

Taste:    Very soft, velvety, and full-bodied. There are wood notes upfront, with sweetness and spice, as well as a touch of whisky smoke and burnt orange. The flavor then shifts to more traditional gin     notes: juniper, angelica, citrus, and a slightly floral flair, somewhat reminiscent of violets and root beer.

Exciting Developments in the World of Aged Gin

Negroni and Bitters Cask aged Gins

There have been a lot of recent releases and developments in the world of aged/yellow/amber gin and today we feature two more exciting barrel-aged gins. Gone are the days when gin was simply aged in ex-bourbon or wine casks; Herno have launched their Juniper Cask gin last year and today’s featured spirits are just as innovative.

Based on the Master of Malt’s Bathtub Gin, or rather the company’s in-house eccentric Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s bathtub creation, the first gin is aged for 3 months in a 50 litre barrel that had previously held a Negroni cocktail.

Negroni Aged Bathtub Gin

On its own
Colour: Rose gold
Nose: Juniper and strong, herbal, woody notes.
Taste: This is a spicy gin with a little sweetness and the bold bitterness that you’d expect from a Negroni. It’s a mellow flavour overall, but the character of the Negroni really comes through from the barrel. Sipping-wise, it is very balanced and intriguing.

Gin & Tonic
There’s a lot going on in this drink and it is almost reminiscent of a pink Gin & Tonic, however some how it seems a bit too sweet without a garnish. However, with a slice of ruby or pink grapefruit, the drinks transforms, achieves balance, and is a lot more palatable. I’d stick to drinking this gin in other ways, though.

Martini
A very intense and flavourful Martini, with elements that you would expect from a Negoni (namely, herbal bitterness and spice) mingling with the more traditional Martini flavours. This reminds me somewhat of a sweet Martini and would be excellent as an aperitif.

Negroni
A very smooth and slightly sweet Negroni, with layers and layers of intense flavour. There is citrus sweetness, followed by a more spicy sweetness, as well as hints of oak and vanilla. There is then a dry, herbal bitterness. Despite the intensity of flavour, the bitterness is a matured, mellow flavour. Unlike anything else you’ll try.

So a gin aged in a Negroni Barrel is pretty unique right? Well, what about one aged in a barrel that used to hold aromatic bitters? Well, the folks at Master of Malt, again led by the good Professor, have gone there and the result is their Bathtub Bitters-Aged Gin.

Batshit Mental Bitters-aged Bathtub Gin (43.3% ABV)

This time, Master of Malt took a batch of their Bathtub Gin and aged it for three months in a 20 liter cask that had previously held cask-aged bitters.

Bitters Aged Bathtub Gin

Own
Color: Warm gold
Nose: Lots of spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and cassia.
Taste: Sweetness upfront, then plenty of confectionery cinnamon and cassia, reminiscent of Christmas spiced cookies and pumpkin pie. Finally, there is a more intense bitterness and the juniper comes through. Extremely intense in flavour, this has plenty of mixing potential.

Gin & Tonic
A rather spicy Gin & Tonic, packed with flavour. But unlike some spicy gins, the sweetness is balanced by dry and bitter flavours, which stops it from tasting like a Christmas pudding. I particularly like how the gentian-like bitterness from the spirit pairs well with the quinine of the tonic water on the finish.

Martini
This is a more spicy Martini than most, with unusual confectionery notes, lots of vanilla, raisin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, like a simnel cake or Christmas fruit slice. This certainly reveals the softer side of the spirit, but, nonetheless, it’s rather good and quite smooth. More of an after-dinner than than a pre-dinner drink.

Negroni
Exceptionally intense and flavoursome; beyond the aromatic spices that you may expect (nutmeg, cinnamon, cassia, clove), there are some deep, bitter, earthy herbal notes that strike a chord between the gin and the Campari. This bold drink is excellent; definitely one for the Negroni fan who thinks that they’ve seen it all. Just don’t have it before a tasting – the flavour lingers on and on and on!

In Conclusion
I really like both gins, but, for me, the Negroni-cask just eeks out the lead; it is superb on its own, from the freezer, or even mixed with extra Campari and vermouth for a sort of turbo Negroni. For me, the Bitters-aged Gin has great digestif properties and I particularly liked the Martini and Negroni.

Cocktails with… Bombay Amber – Gin finished in French vermouth Barrels

Bombay aMber Gin TITLE

Today, we are reviewing something exceptionally exciting: Bombay Amber, Bombay Spirits first foray into aged spirits. For my upcoming book, “Forgotten Spirits & Long-lost Liqueurs”, I’ve been writing a lot on aged or yellow gin, so I was very excited to learn that another large brand is bringing out a spirit in this long-lost sub-category.

Bombay Amber follows the release of the high-end Burrough’s Reserve from Beefeater, which retails at around £70 a bottle and, as such, the focus tends to be on sipping the spirit neat. Now, I am a fan of Beefeater’s offering, but it is a shame that the price is a little inaccessible and it hasn’t reignited the interest in yellow gin cocktails that once existed.

Bombay Amber Bottle GIN MAIN

Bombay Amber (47.0%ABV) is made using the classic 8 botanical mix of Bombay Dry (click here): juniper, coriander, angelica, lemon, orris, liquorice and almond. To this original mix, they add black cardamom, nutmeg and bitter orange. The gin is then distilled using vapour infusion.

After distillation, the gin is finished in French vermouth barrels. My educated guess would be that these were Noilly Prat barrels, as Noilly Prat is both French, aged in wood, and owned by Bacardi-Martini, the parent company of Bombay Sapphire.

The Taste

1) On its own

i) At room temperature
Colour: Straw gold
Nose: Reminds me of a Martini: there are the dry, juniper elements from the gin, but there’s also a slightly sweet spiciness and herbal note, as well as a hint of oxidised citrus, reminiscent of a white vermouth.
Taste: Smooth, but with a strong flavour: the additional herbal and spiced notes come through, along with a touch of pepper/menthol from the black cardamom, so, although this is not made using the peppers found in Bombay Sapphire (cubeb berries and Grains of Paradise), a similar character remains. There is then some jammy, zesty flavours from the orange, followed by a more plump, herbal impression with juniper, coriander, and then some woody notes. It is amazing just how much of the character of the vermouth seems to come through in the spirit, but it gives the gin a great complexity that is there all the way through to the finish.

ii) From the refrigerator
Nose: Sour cherry and zesty orange, as well as some dry, tangy notes.
Taste: In my opinion, a light chill isn’t the best way to enjoy this spirit: you miss out on the best world of the spirit at room temperature and from the freezer. Interestingly, the bitter notes seem to be more concentrated and it tastes much dryer, although there is still a hint of a marmalade-like sweetness. I think that some people would really like this serve, but, for me, I prefer the other two.

iii) From the freezer
Nose: Pine sap, orange and sauterne.
Taste: Some of the fruity and citrus flavours that you would expect from a sauterne wine come through, along with a sweetness and fragrant, zesty orange, too. This is followed by a dry portion of juniper and angelica, then some bitter, earthy notes with liquorice root, some menthol, salt and wormwood. The low temperature seems to concentrate the contrast between the sweet and bitter notes, as well as provide a silky mouthfeel. This is an usual spirit that is both engaging and takes a little time to fully appreciate. If it had been served to me in a Martini glass, I may have mistaken it for a medium-dry Martini.

2) Gin & Tonic
This makes a dry Gin & Tonic that doesn’t have the overbearing sweet spice and oak that you usually get when mixing an aged gin with tonic water. There are quite a lot of herbal notes and a dry, woody bitterness at the end, which is not just from the quinine, but reminds me of wormwood, too. This may just be the power of suggestion, given that the vermouth barrels used, but, either way, it is a pleasant surprise and a refreshing drink.

3) Martini
A great way to enjoy this gin – the spirit is dry enough that it doesn’t overtake the cocktail, but the woody, herbal notes integrate well with the flavours from the dry vermouth. If you use Noilly Prat (the vermouth that’s barrels I – unofficially – think that this has been aged in), the integration is even more perfect. This is more like a classic Martini, rather than the ultra-dry variations of the late 20th Century – sophisticated, flavoursome and superb.

5) Negroni
Lovely – the woody, herbal notes and the black cardamom work well with the Campari and red vermouth. Usually, you might expect an aged gin Negroni to have slightly sweeter, vanilla-oak elements come though, which tend to mellow out the drink, but also make it less bitter. However, with Bombay Amber, the drink is as bold as ever and, for those that like their Negroni with bite, I suggest trying this. Superb.

In Conclusion
Bombay Amber is a great addition to the aged gin category. I find it interesting that the term “amber gin” has been received favourably when I’ve been discussing a catch-all term for “gin that has interacted with wood” with colleagues and contemporaries. Of course, for Bombay, it not only describes the colour, but also links into the use of names of precious stones, such as Sapphire. What’s next? Perhaps Bombay Emerald or Bombay Ruby are on the cards.

Flavour-wise, the spirit is unique, complex and engaging, with plenty of scope for innovation in mixing. And, with its price point expected to be around £30-35, I think Bombay Amber can help to put yellow gin back into the bartenders toolkit.

Watch out for the second part of my Bombay Amber post, where I try it out in some classic yellow gin cocktails.

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Cocktails with… Filliers Barrel Aged Gin

I have written a fair bit about yellow gin recently and I’m very excited that more varieties seem to be coming to the market. Followers of the site may also recollect my article on Filliers Dry Gin from Belgium, including my rave review of it mixed in a Negroni with Martini Gran Lusso – a simply superb drink.

As such, it was wonderful to see the two subjects – yellow gin and Filliers – come together in Filliers Barrel Aged Gin. Bottled at 43.7% ABV, this is made using the same recipe as the Filliers Dry Gin 28, but it is aged for around 4 months in ex-Cognac
barrels.

Filliers Barrel Aged Gin Bottle - Yellow Gin

The Taste

On its own
Colour: Very pale straw yellow.
Nose: Juniper, citrus, coriander and a little cinnamon and wood; quite light.
Taste: A lovely, thick texture with the classic gin flavours such as juniper, angelica,
coriander and citrus upfront, followed by more mellow notes of vanilla, nutmeg
and oak. The finish is long and dry. This is a great example of a classic
yellow/aged gin, with a good balance between the gin and the wood.

Dry Martini
A good, bold-flavoured Martini with crisp juniper and citrus and then a more mellow finish of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla from the wood. This is an excellent example of what a traditional yellow gin Martini should be.

Sweet Martini
A lovely flavour, with a great mix of sweetness, herbal and spiced notes. The finish is good and dry, with just a little citrus. My suggested garnish would be a cherry or orange twist.

Frozen
The chill improves the texture without the gin losing its character; very viscous and silky. There are some good, crisp notes to start, a warm and comforting middle with a little light spice – like cinnamon sugar – and some light wood notes, followed by a long, dry, slightly bitter finish.

Negroni
Full of strong, bold flavours, with some very bitter, woody, herbal notes, too. The aged gin works really well with the vermouth,
which brings a rich mouthfeel and complexity. An excellent aperitif after a long day.

Cocktails with… Bathtub Cask Aged Gin (Navy Strength)

This week will feature a variety of article focused on yellow gin/aged gin, in 2011, I made a prediction that 2012 would be the year of aged/yellow/matured gin but although there were a few new products 2013 has really been the year of yellow gin and my predictions seem to have been 12 months early.

This article will feature Bathtub Navy Gin, which by my reckoning is the first aged gin commercial available.* This is an aged version of the navy strength Bathtub gin we tasted at out navy strength tasting.

BathtubCask-agedGinNavystrengthbottle

On its own
Colour: Dark, rich gold.
Nose: Dry Christmas spice: cinnamon, cassia, nutmeg and cloves, but a little woody vanilla, too. Softer than the nose for the regular Bathtub Navy.
Taste: Superb – has a texture that just expands in your mouth; something that’s really rather different. It’s also rather smooth for 57% ABV. There’s lots of spice upfront, with a slight confectionery quality, too, reminding me of Easter cake or a Tiffin Slice (essentially, light Christmas pudding). Finally, there’s an unusual finish of sarsaparilla, cherry and almond, with just a hint of pine sap.

Gin Tonic
Looks like fizzy pastis, but has a rather nice flavour. I’m reminded again of pastis, as the spice flavour comes through: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and a little anise. There are notes of vanilla, too, as well as a dry finish. In terms of flavour and appearance, this is a very unusual and herbal Gin & Tonic, but it definitely has something going for it and I’ll certainly have another. Mrs. B found it delightful, too.

Martini
A beautiful Martini, golden in colour and very intense and fragrant. There’s dry juniper, then some sweet vanilla and cardamom, followed by oak vanilla notes and some winter spice, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is green, herbal and slightly leafy. Very, very flavourful and really rather lovely – invigorating, even.

Negroni
To start, there’s an intriguing rosemary nose, but then when to taste it, boy! does this make a super Negroni. You get the woody vanilla notes upfront, followed by the nutmeg and cassia spice. Then there are some more herbal notes, the dry juniper and – finally – the deep, dark, more intensely bitter herbal notes that are normally associated with the Negroni. This drink certainly has impact and is one for the Negroni fan.

Cask-Aged Gin Navy-Strength is available from Master of Malt for around £35 for 50cl.

*NY DIstilling Barrel-aged their Perry’s Tot but do not sell it by the bottle.

World Exclusive! – Cocktails with Herno Juniper Cask Gin

hernojunipercasktitle

Today, we have an exceptionally exciting product to work and we’re proud to say we were given the first bottle to review, too. That product is Hernö Juniper Cask Gin from the Hernö Distillery, the world’s Northernmost distillery in the small village of Dala, just outside the City of Härnösand in North Sweden. This spirit follows on from the great success of their Swedish Excellence Gin and their Navy Strength Gin.

A few Craft Distillers have already experimented with aged/rested/yellow gin, but most use ex-bourbon casks; other examples include Cognac and ex Jean de Lillet casks (the latter is used by Burrough’s Reserve), but, as yet, no-one has integrated that vital component of gin into their use of wood: juniper.

Until now…

JC bild 20130805

Hernö Juniper Cask has been matured in barrels made from Juniper wood. The barrels are Ankare in size, which is a traditional Swedish measurement dating from the 1600s that equates to 39.25 litres. After its time in the barrels, the gin is diluted with water from the distillery well to 47.0% ABV. It is purposefully not chill-filtered, in order to retain maximum character.

On its own
Colour: Light lemon/straw yellow.
Nose: Some lemon and orange, followed by a progression of crisp pine notes, woody notes of juniper and a little sappiness. Intense, inviting and engaging.
Taste: A rich, smooth and silky – almost honey-like – texture. There’s a herbal sweetness to start, before moving onto a light, green juniper note, followed by a darker, heavy flavour of juniper and rich, bold pine notes. Finally, there’s some citrus peel and a little woody sappiness.
Finish: Resinous pine, a hint of beeswax, citrus peel and a touch of coriander – long and harmonious.

Frozen
Very thick, with a silky texture. Big, full and bold flavours of green juniper, pine, and hints of sappiness, followed by citrus, coriander, and some herbs and spices, such as fennel. The flavour then progresses on to notes of vanilla and wood, before a long, dry finish of pine with a hint of beeswax. Intense, superb and a great way to enjoy the spirit.

Bees Knees
A great long drink: the piney, woody juniper notes work really well with honey, as opposed to sugar. This is a great way to appreciate the gin in a long, refreshing drink.

Herno Juniper Cask - The Barrel

Gin & Tonic
Some savoury spice notes come through on the nose, such as cumin and caraway. The flavour is mainly strong juniper and coriander, with a little sweetness to start, followed by a dry finish, which is long and lingering.

Martini
Looks superb – a very light gold in colour. This is a clean and crisp Martini, but, although it makes a good drink, I can’t help but feel that the vermouth detracts from the flavours of the gin at the ratio that I used (5:1). I think the solution to this problem would be to go dryer, i.e. use less vermouth. Also, mixing it with Lillet may have some potential.

Negroni
Very intense; perhaps a little too sweet with Martini Rosso (which adds a slight note of coconut), so I would recommend using a more bitter vermouth, such as Antica Formula or Sacred Sweet Vermouth. There’s a great, long finish of piney juniper with just a hint of sap. With the more bitter vermouth, this is simply superb.

Juniper Cask French ‘75
An intense French ’75, but nonetheless very good, indeed. This is full of excellent, strong pine notes, a little sappiness and a hint of raw honey. Complex and unusual. Superb.

In Conclusion
Hernö Juniper Cask is a superb spirit and certainly one of the highlights of 2013’s gin releases so far; I’ve not had anything as exciting and engaging and with such bold juniper flavours since I tasted Barr Hill from Vermont – coincidentally, fans of this gin are sure to be fond of Hernö Juniper Cask.

The gin is excellent on its own, but I enjoy it even more from the freezer. As mixed drinks go, I think the Bees Knees (a variation on a Collins) was my favourite.

A special thanks to Jon and the Herno Team for giving this exciting preview.

Burrough’s Reserve

Today, I have spent the majority of my day just south of Godalming at an airfield, judging the International Wine and Spirits Competition Gin Panel, where we judged 87 spirits in just over 4 hours. Today’s article, however, is about something rather interesting that I tried yesterday; namely, Beefeater’s Burrough’s Reserve.

Now, you know that here at Summer Fruit Cup and at our US counterpart’s blog, The Gin Is In, we are big fans of yellow gin. Essentially, this is any gin that has had contact with wood to impact the flavour.

Up until a few weeks ago, there were just over a dozen yellow gins available, with Citadelle and Hayman’s leading the charge in Europe and Seagram’s and a host of US craft distillers waving the flag for the good old US of A. But, until now, no major UK distiller has ventured into aged gin.

On the face of it, you may think, “Sure, Burrough’s Reserve is just aged Beefeater.”, but it goes a little deeper than that. The gin that is subsequently aged is made in still number 12, an original still from James Burrough’s Chelsea Distillery (Beefeater is currently made in Kennington). So, although the gin is made to the same recipe and with the same botanical mix as regular Beefeater, the fact that the still is a different style and much smaller than the modern stills, means that the resultant distillate is rather different. In essence, this spirit, before the aging process, is a close approximation of the spirit that the founder of Beefeater would have made in his Chelsea Distillery.

BurroughsReserveBottleFINAL

Not content with this trip down memory lane, Beefeater, led by their (not yet knighted) Master Distiller Desmond Payne, decided to age it in Jean de Lillet casks. Jean de Lillet is a high-end, rarer version of the classic Lillet Blanc. The gin is generally aged for around 3 months, but, in reality, it is a case of when it’s ready, it is ready.

Burrough’s Reserve is retailing at around £70 a bottle and, as such, Beefeater recommend that it is not used for mixed drinks. I understand this to an extent, given the complexity of the product, but, as a result, I was surprised to discover that Beefeater had enlisted the help of world renowned mixologist, Tony Conigliaro, for their launch. It turned out, however, that they didn’t want Tony to mix with the spirit, but to design the right glassware to go with it.

For the global launch, we were able to try out the specially designed Conigliaro glassware, which consisted of a non-stemmed tasting glass, upon which sits a stemless martini glass. The idea behind this is that, depending upon the width of the glass, the amount of evaporation and, hence, the aromas that are given off changes. Tony wanted to illustrate this. He also spoke to us about serving the gin at different temperatures, which I’ve incorporated into my tasting notes below.

BurroughsReserveGlassFINAL

Now the part that you’ve all been waiting for…

The Taste
At room temperature
Nose: Juniper, orange, dark caramel and woody spice.
Taste: Soft texture, with plenty of vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg up front. Whilst quite sweet to start, this moves on to a dryer, slightly tannin-like flavour, then the classic juniper and angelica gin flavours with a little citrus, before finishing with some vanilla oaky notes.

From the fridge

Nose: The notes of the wood are more pronounced at this temperature; some floral notes, like grape flower, orange blossom and camomile come through, as well as a resin-y juniper.

Taste:  The lower temperature starts to increase the viscosity of the gin, which gives it a thicker texture. The flavours are still strong, but some of the citrus and floral elements are more dominant, such as orange peel and orange blossom. There’s also a little creamy toffee up front and a dry finish.

From the freezer

Nose: The strength of the nose is reduced when it’s this cold, but the citrus still manages to come through, accompanied by a dry spiciness.
Taste: This has an excellent, thick, rich and smooth – almost velvety – texture, which really adds depth and character to the spirit. There’s juniper to start, followed by some vanilla, spice and hints of Simnel cake, then a very long, lingering and incredibly dry finish that stays for well over a minute.

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In Conclusion
It seems clear that aged/rested/matured/yellow gins are here to stay; once one of the big bosses moves towards a trend, you know that it has legs. I liked the balance of Burrough’s Reserve and it certainly highlights Beefeater’s underlying botanicals and the impact of the Jean de Lillet wood. It’s a sipping gin and that’s reflected in its £70 price tag, which, by my estimate, makes it the third most expensive gin in the world*.

* After Nolet’s Reserve ($700) and Adler’s Reserve (500 Euros).

Burrough’s Reserve is available from The Whisky Exchange for around £63 for 70cl.

Derby Day! – Mint Juleps Made with Aged Gin

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.

Gin Julep with Myrtle 10 Yr Old Gin

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.

In Conclusion
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.

Yellow/Aged Gin Tasting – 8 Varieties Compared

At the end of last year, I posted a short introduction to Yellow Gin; this was a prelude to an event that took place this week: a Yellow Gin tasting.

Yellow Gin is the collective term for aged, matured or rested gin, i.e. any gin that has had contact with wood in order to modify its character. These terms will be used interchangeably in this article.

Aged gin is not something new; it’s almost as old as gin itself. In the early days of London Dry Gin, the spirit was not shipped in bottles or stainless steel tanks, but in wooden casks. Now most gin would have been drunk so quickly that the wood would have had little impact, but, of an occasion, some batches would be left for longer than others, giving the wood time to affect the gin. In particular, any gin being shipped a great distance in barrels would be affected in this way.

At some point, someone realised that this serendipitous approach to ageing imparted some pleasant and desirable characteristics on gin and so brands such as Booth’s began to deliberately “mature” their gin by storing it in casks for 6-12 weeks. In doing so, they created a more sophisticated product that they could charge more for.

Since the demise of Booth’s Gin, few others have bothered to set up this interaction between the spirit and wood, with the exception of Seagram’s, who have always rested or matured their gin for 3-4 weeks.

Things began to change in 2008 with the release of Citadelle Reserve, an gin that had been aged for 6 months. Since then, over 20 varieties of Yellow Gin have appeared on the market. These range from Hayman’s 1850, which is “cask rested” for 3-4 weeks, to Alembics 13yr Old Gin, which is “aged” for 11 years in whisky barrels and finished off in a Caribbean Rum Cask for two years.

A lot of innovation comes from the USA, where a lot of the stand-alone small distilleries make whisky as well as gin and so are used to the aging process. That said, the majority of Yellow Gins are only aged for less than 18 months. The general consensus from producers is that, after this time, the character of the gin – its juniper – is overwhelmed by that of the wood.

In part, we intended to see if this was genuinely the case during our tasting.

The Tasting

1) Seagram’s Extra Dry

This is the first of two gins in this tasting from the Canadian Brand, Seagram’s. Both are made in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA. Seagram’s Original was introduced in 1939 and is mellowed for 3 months in charred white oak whiskey (ex-bourbon) barrels. It is bottled at 40%ABV.

Colour: very light straw yellow
Nose: Quite light, juniper with coriander and citrus.
Taste: Quite smooth, with juniper, coriander and a touch of orange. Quite similar to a normal London Dry Gin with a slight mellow note of cream/vanilla/oak but it seems like the wood has more of an effect on the texture than the flavour.

Some of the panel didn’t think they Would have recognised the wood interaction if they hadn’t been told.

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2) Seagram’s Distiller’s Reserve

This was introduced in 2006 and is bottled at 51%ABV. It’s a blend of the best gins from Seagram’s Extra Dry, post-mellowing and bottled at cask-strength.

Colour: very light straw yellow
Nose: the nose seems less intense than the original with some juniper and citrus
Taste: Firstly the texture is quite different, viscous, silky and smooth. Most of the panel agreed that this was unusually smooth for a gin at 51%ABV. As well as juniper there was sweet liquorice and floral and citrus flavours.

Although other Seagram’s are aged for the same period of time the oak notes were far more pronounced in this version.

The oaky flavour became even more pronounced when a drop of water was added to both of the Seagrams Gins.

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3) Citadelle Reserve 2008 & 2010

Launched in 2008, this was the first in a new wave of Yellow Gins to come to market. The vintage released in the first year (2008) was a straightforward aging of the original 19-botanical gin. The gin is aged in French white oak, ex-Grand Champagne cognac casks; the exact length of the aging varies, as it is not bottled until it is deemed to be ready. Typically, the length of time lies between 5 and 9 months.

The botanical mix of the original gin for the 2009 vintage was tweaked to increase the floral notes of the spirit and likewise with the 2010 but this was in favour of more floral notes.

ii) 2008 Vintage
Colour: straw yellow – like Lillet Blanc
Nose: thick, floral anise and juniper, with some sweetness
Taste: oak and vanilla came through; this almost seemed halfway between whisky and gin. Very nice indeed

ii) 2010 Vintage
Colour: As above
Nose: perfumed, juniper and lemongrass
Taste: juniper and then some more floral notes, lavender violet and some rose, much more perfumed with high notes than in the 2008. Very discernible difference.

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4) Hayman’s 1850

This was created by the Hayman’s Family, who also make a variety of other gins, including Old Tom and London Dry.

Bottled at 40%ABV, Hayman’s 1850 harks back to the style of gin produced before William Gladstone (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) the Single Bottle Act of 1861 legislation was passed when gin was stored and transported in barrels.

As such Hayman’s 1850 is “rested” in barrels for 3-4 weeks.

Colour: clear with a very pale straw yellow
Nose: Juniper, with some spice and a hint of floral notes.
Taste: Juniper, floral, a little bite of citrus and a smooth, mellow finish with a hint of creamy vanilla. Quite smooth and subtle.

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5) Few Barrel-Aged Gin

Bottled at 65.4%ABV, this has been aged for 4 months in New American Oak.

Colour: light amber orange.
Nose: sweet wood and mint – bourbon

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Taste: dark sugar and treacle, minty wood, liquorice too. Good doses of sweet spice and gingerbread and ginger cake were mentioned by some panellists. Others picked up on aspects of candied peel. All round a charming product still reminiscent of some gin character but with the impact of the wood being definitely felt.

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This was enjoyed by all of the panel with the overall feeling that the balance between gin & wood flavours was just about right.

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6) Myrtle Gin

A very unique product, this is produced for the Spirit of the Coquet and is the result of a Scottish Gin, aged for 10 years, and infused with Northumberland Myrtle. It is bottled at 47%ABV

Colour: deep amber-brown, rather like apple juice.
Nose: Initially wood and whisky, then some smokiness (akin to the smoke of smoked salmon) then some vanilla notes and a floral herbal mix.
Taste: Full flavour at the start, woody followed with leafy herbal notes and a growing peaty character towards the end with a dry juniper finish that last for quite a long time.

Overall the panel agreed this was rather whisky like, with the big whisky fan of the group being particularly praiseworthy. One member really likes gin, is not much of a fan of Scotch, but very much liked the Myrtle Gin. Most agreed that it was complex and intriguing although one member dislike the smoky peatiness.

7) Alambics 13yr Old Caribbean Gin

Bottled at 65.6%ABV, this is created in Scotland for a German company using a “well-established” gin. It is distilled, matured and bottled in Scotland, but each run is of just 272 bottles. Uniquely, prior to bottling, it is aged for 11 years in old whisky barrels and then finished for two years in ex-Caribbean Rum casks.

Colour: medium amber
Nose: oak, vanilla, treacle with juniper at the very end
Taste: smooth to start with a slightly almost sticky texture, coriander, citrus with a slight burnt orange biscuityness. Growing strength with a pine/juniper dryness coming at the end and once you’ve swallowed. Long finish.

With a drop of water more of the woody rum elements come out. All the panel agreed that this was surprisingly little burn for a cask strength product.

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8) Ransom

Bottled at 44%ABV, this is made by Ransom Spirits of Oregon, USA. It is described as a historic recreation of the type of gin that was in fashion in mid-1800s America and the recipe was developed in collaboration with David Wondrich.

Colour: medium orange-brown
Nose: Pine, sap, a hint of cedarwood and cardamon.

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Taste: There was a little smooth silkiness at the start, followed by sappy, piney juniper, some vanilla and oak. There were herbal hints, too, and a little tingle towards the end. The wood comes through again, very much like freshly cut wood, rather natural and forest-like.

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Some Reflections

Broadly, the Yellow Gins we tried could be placed into three groups:

#1) Light Wood – In these, the effect of the wood is much lighter and, in some cases, tricky to pick out.

Examples include: Seagram’s Original, Citadelle Reserve and Hayman’s 1850.

#2) Medium Wood – There’s more of a balance between the flavours of the gin and the wood, with each playing almost equal parts in the character of the finished product.

Examples include: Seagram’s Distiller’s Reserve, Few Aged Gin and (possibly) Ransom.

#3) Heavy Wood – This category is heavily impacted by the wood, to the point where some of the gin character is lost. In some cases, it may not be instantly recognisable as gin.

Examples include: Myrtle Gin 10yr Old and Alambic’s 13yr Old Caribbean Cask.

After our tasting, discussion turned to how we would make our “perfect” Yellow Gin. The general consensus was to go with a gin with a pretty classic botanical mix: anything with up to about 8 traditional botanicals, such as: juniper, coriander, orris root, angelica, orange, lemon, liquorice, or almond. We thought that a heavy botanical mix, with a good juniper hit, would be needed to ensure the gin was not lost by the woody notes.

The Results

Unusually, the panel members struggled to pick an overall favourite of the bunch, so everyone picked, in no particular order, their top three. Each choice received a point and the final scores were:

#1 – Few Barrel-Aged Gin
#2 – Myrtle Gin
#3 – Alambics 13yr Old 

But that’s not it; there will be a follow up article feature a rather unusual smoked gin coming soon.

For a list of aged gin that we have not yet tried click here.

A special thanks goes out to: Adam S, Adam P, Paul, Roz, Chris, Few Spirits, Aaron, Matthew, James, Jared, Olivier, Sam, Clayton, Billy, Emma, Sara and of course Zack & his team at Graphic.