While barrel-aged gin is creating quite the buzz these days (pardon the pun), the act of putting the clear spirit in barrels used to be a common task. In the early days of gin, oak casks were the storage vessel of choice for transporting gin, since glass bottles weren’t really a viable option yet. Around the middle of the 20th century, distilleries started to ditch the wood and opted to keep the liquid away from oak.
When it comes to today’s barrel-aged gins, some distilleries are taking a more traditional approach by using new oak barrels in a process similar to how bourbon or rye is aged. Others are opting to impart more complex flavors by filling used spirit barrels with fresh gin. Different types of barrels and casks create different results, so there’s likely something for everyone here, especially lovers of bourbon, rum and whiskey. If you’re looking for a way to switch up that negroni or martini, perhaps one of these barrel-aged gins will do the trick.
Old World Spirits
Old World Spirits was aging gin back in 2005 before a barrel-aged category officially existed for it. Keeping with the traditions of its Croatian heritage, the distillery ages Rusty Blade in French oak to impart flavors of candied citrus, cardamom, nutmeg and clove. The end result is a spice-forward gin that’s a solid option not only for martinis and negronis but all kinds of cocktail experimentation.
Captive Spirits Distilling
Seattle’s Captive Spirits Distilling has two different barreled versions of its Big Gin: Bourbon and Peat. The former is said to blend the traditional Gin botanicals with notes of spice and citrus from time spent in barrels that once aged bourbon. The second option is aged for four months in Westland Distillery Peat Single Malt barrels that also once housed Wild Turkey. Peat Barreled Big Gin is actually Captive Spirits’ flagship aged gin, imparting flavors of bitter orange and spice on the palette.
“What once was clear, is now complex,” reads the label of Few Spirits’ Barrel Gin. The Chicago-based distillery ages its gin for four months to extract a bit of smokiness and amber color from a charred barrel that also adds notes of fennel and pepper spice. As Few puts it, “this barrel-aged spirit tastes like gin, but has the maturity of a bourbon.”
Corsair may be known for its smoked whiskies, but the distillery is also aging gin. Aged in barrels that used to house Corsair’s rum, the distillery uses a citrus-forward mix of botanicals to impart notes of spice, oak and tropical fruit.
Rather than using barrels that once held other spirits, Barr Hill Tom Cat Reserve gin is aged for up to six months in new charred American oak casks. With flavors of wood, spice, honey and juniper, this bottle from Caledonia Spirits is a modern twist on England’s 18th century Old Tom Gin. In fact, this aged gin gets its name from the wooden black cat signs that pub owners would use to let the public know they were still pedaling gin after is was banned by the Spirits Acts of 1750.
Creative Whiskey Company
As you might expect, the Creative Whiskey Company is well-known for its line of aged whiskeys. That being said, it’s not too surprising that the distillery would decide to fill those used barrels with gin to create another spirit. The base gin is made in the London Dry style (think Beefeater) before being laid to rest in Creative Whiskey Company’s Speyside whisky oak casks. The process imparts a scotch-like richness with a sweet oaky finish. Traditional gin botanicals are still there, but they’re complemented by vanilla, toffee and citrus.