Barrel ageing seems to have become a hot potato in the drinks world. Some enjoy the game, others are keen to avoid participating at all dismissing it as nonsense and there are some who simply observe how and where it is all taken. Curious as to what could happen to the flavour of gins, the possible combinations made achievable and a general innate love for tinkering for no particular reason – we are firmly in this last camp and are intrigued to see just what barrel ageing can do.
And so, we have decided to take a journey down the pit falls and benefits of this niche area of the drinks world to try and discover just what is going on already, why anyone would do it and what the resulting liquids gain as a result of time spent in a cask. We want to learn through experimentation, testing and tasting with the sole purpose of enjoying the ride and to come to some conclusions of our own as to what the benefits might be.
The plan is simple…
Do a comprehensive tasting of aged gins to gain an understanding of what is out there.
Age an off-the-shelf gin in a miniature cask and compare the liquids before and after to get a better understanding of the transformation.
Barrel age a gin cocktail (Negroni) and compare it to the original.
Barrel age a gin in the cask that previously held the aged Negroni to see if the cask imparts some of the flavours of the previous inhabitant in order to create the ultimate Negroni gin.
Will all of these experiments be flawed in some way? Probably. Is it possible to improve an off the shelf gin by resting it in a barrel? Perhaps, it will certainly be different. Will the cocktail ageing work to create a more complex flavour that improves the drink? Maybe. Will the “finished” gin be the best to use when recreating the cocktail “fresh”? Doubtful but definitely worth trying.
It will be an interesting journey ahead and if doing this can shed some insight into what the potential benefits and drawbacks are then it will be a success. More importantly, if it exposes some of the brilliant work by truly creative and adventurous bartenders, distillers and gin fans who are tinkering about with the limits what gin can be – then it will have been worthwhile.
We’ll post the links here as and when we write them, as well as in the links column (under features) on the right.
Step one: The great barrel-aged tasting