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, 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.

Cocktails with… Makers Mark

Cocktails with…  



Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky


Occasionally, people very kindly and generously donate whisky (or whiskey) for me to try, for which I am immensely grateful. The world of whisky is, without a doubt, a vast one and so any recommendations and/or suggestions are always gratefully appreciated. I’ve been focusing on Scotch whisky recently, so was intrigued to try Maker’s Mark when a bottle arrived in the mail (dramatically sealed with their distinctive red wax seal).Maker’s Mark is a bourbon that is handmade using corn, malted barley and red winter wheat (added instead of rye) in small batches at their distillery near Loretto, Kentucky. It’s aged in new, charred oak barrels that are routinely moved around during the aging process, so that the effects of different temperatures at different heights of the warehouse are evened out.  It’s not-worth that “Whisky” in their title is spelt with out an “e” which is unlike most American whiskies, I’ve not yet found an authoritative reason as to why, yet.Given that this is handmade, DBS was inspired to try it in a homemade whiskey liqueur recipe and a premixed mint julep. Here are my notes on these, along with those on the whisky itself.

Maker’s Mark

The nose is light and syrupy sweet – like golden syrup, rather than honey – but nonetheless has some evident strong alcohol behind it. There are also hints of corn and oak and, after ten minutes or so, the nose developed so that it was sweeter, with hints of spiced honey.

It was strong on the tongue, too, with a definite tingle from the outset that was followed by a warm, woody note. Given the nose, I was pleased to find that it wasn’t overly
sweet; any sweetness was quickly and neatly balanced by a woody dryness. The most significant aspect of this drink neat, for me, was the wonderful, lasting warmth.

Bourbon and Branch Water

OK so I didn’t actually use branch water but my supply is of the finest quality. The water seemed to accentuate the sweetness on the nose, but also made the drink itself an awful lot smoother. It also opened up the wood notes, introducing something that was almost smoky, but stopped just short of it as a weet, damp, slightly charred woodiness. As much as I preferred it with a few drops of water, I found it all too easy to put too much in, so add only a few drops at a time to avoid weakening your bourbon too much.

Home-made Maker's Mark Liqueur

Maker’s Mark Liqueur (Homemade)

The nose was distinctly sweet, with only faint hints of the original bourbon coming through, to be replaced with a more general nose of fresh, sweet alcohol.

The first iteration of this liqueur was rather bizarre with an oddly “disjointed” flavour: there were two very different flavours, one at the front of the mouth and one at the back. At the front, the sweet alcohol from the nose played alongside a fruitiness, reminding me slightly of sweet medicines from my childhood. At the back and along the top of the mouth, meanwhile, there was a duller, drier flavour.

Obviously, this recipe wasn’t working, so DBS adapted it slightly, adding some water and simple syrup. These straightforward ingredients brought out a strong peach note on both the nose and palate, and generally bridged the “gap” in the middle of the tongue. Definitely an interesting tipple – given the strange combination of sweet and dry at different points – and worth experimenting with.

Premixed Mint Julep (Homemade)

Some days, you just don’t have the time or equipment to mix yourself a mint julep. Inspired by a bottle of Maker’s Mark’s own pre-mixed mint julep, this was the second experiment that DBS set up for me to try. It was, essentially, a mint infusion of the whisky, that had been left for roughly a week.

The very start of the nose reminded me of a fresh mint julep, with the wood mingling with the mint, before it faded into a sweet, slightly vinegary note that reminded me of homemade mint sauce.

Smooth and light, the flavour was fresh and neither sweet, nor dry; I wouldn’t sweeten it at all, personally, because I think it takes away from the freshness. The charred wood is there again and I thought I got the slightest hint of coffee at the end. The mint, following on from the nose, again reminds me of mint sauce and so, whilst I don’t think this would ever replace a mixed julep (especially not a DBS deluxe julep, with at least three shots of bourbon), I thought this was very drinkable nonetheless and an interesting twist on a more traditional julep.

In conclusion…

What I really enjoyed about this tasting was its experimental nature and how we were inspired to try a couple of different ways of drinking bourbon. The liqueur, once tweaked, was lovely, and I look forward to trying a similar recipe with other bourbons. However, the premixed mint julep – which we will definitely be making another batch of – was definitely my favourite and worked particularly well with the Maker’s Mark, because its was so smooth and full of fresh, light flavours.

– Mrs. B