Swill: Five Barrel-Aged Gins You Need to Try
Swill is our bi-monthly column dedicated to liquor, wine, beer, and every other delicious dram that falls under the broader umbrella of booze. But it’s more than just tasting notes scribbled on a cocktail napkin — Swill is about getting outside of your comfort zone, trying new things, and exploring the big, wide world of libations. One week you might catch us halfway through a bottle of single-malt scotch, and the week after that we might be buzzing on some Ugandan moonshine made from bananas. This column is just one big boozy adventure, so grab yourself a glass and join us for another round.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of drinking gin that’s been aged in an oak barrel, you’re not living life to the fullest. Just as with other spirits –whiskey, rum, tequila, cognac, wine– barrel aging does something magical to gin. It mellows the spirit’s boozy bite, brings out certain botanicals, and depending on the type of barrel and style of aging, imparts the gin with wonderful new flavor notes you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Lately we’ve been on a bit of a gin kick, and over the past couple months we’ve encountered a few bottles that have blown our socks off. Here’s what you should keep an eye out for during your next trip to the liquor store:
First of all, we’ve got to give props Charleston Distilling for reigniting our love affair with aged gin. They sent us this bottle of this stuff to try out, and it was so good we’ve been “chasing the dragon” for the past two months trying to find something that compares. The gin spends 60 days in a six-year old bourbon barrel — just enough time to mellow and pick up the characteristic sweetness from the barrel’s previous occupant. Floral on the nose with heavy notes of lemongrass and anise, this gin is extremely approachable.
Made in Australia, this one is easily the most exotic of the bunch. Four Pillars makes it’s gin with a unique blend of botanicals, including whole oranges, lemon myrtle, and Tasmanain pepperberry leaf. This highly aromatic concoction is then sent to age in a solera of nine French Oak barrels for about three or four months, which mellows it out and makes it one of the best sipping gin’s we’ve ever encountered. It’s certainly a bit on the spendy side, but totally worth it.
This is probably one of the easiest barrel aged gins to track down, and lucky for you, it’s also one of the best. Citadelle is known for it’s Cognac, so it knows a thing or two about barrel aging. This stuff is aged for six months in French Oak using the solera method — so the barrel is never fully emptied, and un-aged gin is added in periodically. The end result is a wonderfully complex, vanilla-kissed gin with a faint hint of cinnamon.
Made in the Bay Area, this gin is about as hyphy as they come. Unlike some of the others on this list, it’s aged for 13 months in French Oak barrels, so it goes hella big on flavor, yadidimean? It’s bold, spicy, and at 124 proof, will knock you on your ass if you’re not careful. In a lot of ways, it tastes like the missing link between gin and whiskey. Even if you think you “don’t like gin”, you might actually dig this stuff. It’s completely different than the boring, run-of-the-mill gins you’ve probably tried.
Corsair is a distillery full of madmen. They experiment more than any distillery we know of, and as such, regularly come up with wildly unique concoctions that defy categorization. Their barrel aged gin is aged for six months in barrels that once held spiced rum, giving the elixir a creamy, sweet, and sort of peppery flavor. Since this was a limited release, it’s pretty hard to track down a bottle these days but if you’re lucky enough to find one –be it online or in a brick-and-mortar establishment– buy it before somebody else does.