Gin’s resurgence since 2005 has brought with it many new brands, styles and finishes to gin, often looking to historical references as starting points for modern adaptations. It was with this in mind that Alexandre Gabriel of Cognac Ferrand decided to age Citadelle’s regular offering in oak barrels nodding towards the origins of gin – when much of it was transported in wood, not glass or plastic or stainless steel.
Gabriel’s research into the Citadelle Gin’s archives (the producers Cognac Ferrand got the name and recipe from an old distillery set up in a citadel in Dunkirk in 1771, at the time, an important port for the spice trade) unearthed documents that showed that in 1775 some of the distillery’s genievre production was being smuggled from France to England in small oak barrels, by royal decree of the French King Louis XVI. The current distillation and ageing occurs in Château de Bonbonnet in Congnac, France.
The first aged Citadelle Gin Reserve was born in 2008, when Gabriel and cellar master Frederic Gilbert began to experiment with ageing gin. They placed their Citadelle Gin in used oak casks that had a strong char for six months. The result was good enough for them to test the market and they decided to bottle and sell it in extremely small quantities. In 2009, they wanted less wood flavour and more of the finesse that ageing in wood can provide, so they placed Citadelle Gin in oak casks that had a medium char for five months. This produced more subtle flavours and although only 8,000 bottles were released it caused quite a stir – gaining critics choice awards and crucial word of mouth.
The production of Citadelle Reserve 2010, the third vintage aged gin from the company (bottled at 44% ABV) is limited to less than 12,000 units. While this is the third year that Citadelle Gin Reserve has been created, this is the first time that the cellar master has changed the actual recipe for the gin itself with a specific combination of botanicals intentionally designed for oak ageing.
Gabriel and Gilbert decided to develop more floral and spiced notes during the distillation of the “special” Citadelle Gin, emphasizing notes of violet and iris for the flower aromatics and grains of paradise for spice. They believed that the emphasis on these botanicals would create a gin with a better harmony and elegance. The gin was aged for 6 months in used 12-year old oak casks that had a light char. The result is a pale gold gin that retains the aromatic palette of the original Citadelle Gin, although the citrus and cinnamon notes are less prominent. The ageing has clearly enriched the gin with a soft fullness, with vanilla notes seeping through. As with the original Citadelle, the juniper presence is mild but present nonetheless, however the Reserve has a fuller spicier nose. The gin is not necessarily one for the purists but worth a try- particularly if you are fond of genever style spirits and are keen to have a look at what gin might have been like in yesteryear.
“Ageing in oak gives more roundness to our gin and we felt that using older casks would impart a level of elegance and finesse that we were looking for. This is truly a gin of another era.” Alexandre Gabriel (via PRWEB December 8, 2010)