In 2011 Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin was added to the Hayman’s Portfoilio further diversifying the companys range. Both as part of the wider group of gins Hayman’s produce as well as on its own – the 1850 reserve stands out.
After creating their London Dry and Old Tom Gins, the Hayman’s family decided to produce something that was more akin to the gin that would be served in ‘Gin Palaces’ from Victorian times. Although Gin has never had an age statement, before the 1860′s Gin was sold in barrels rather than in a bottle and was stored, transported and served from barrels directly into jugs and smaller casks. In 1861, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, William Gladstone, introduced the Single Bottle Act which allowed/forced spirits to be sold in individual bottles. Storing gin in this way would have of course imparted a flavour on the liquid, or at the very least, changed the gin in some way. So, armed with historical references and research, the family began to experiment with barrelling spirits.
Hayman’s chose to use a traditional gin recipe (including juniper, coriander, cassia bark, liquorice and five other traditional gin botanicals) to make the 1850 reserve. It is distilled in small batches of 5000 bottles and each bottle is then individually numbered alongside the batch no. Interestingly, they have referred to the aging as resting, most likely due to the limited time the liquid spends in barrels (only 3 or 4 weeks).
A variety of barrels are used, primarily old Scotch Whisky barrels, mostly constituting of American Oak wood. The process results in a very slight straw colour to the liquid and when tasted neat, Hayman’s 1850 Reserve seems like a mellow, rounded gin. Although only really noteable when drank neat, it is also possible to discern some slight tannic qualities left by the wood as well, however this is almost impossible to detect when it is mixed in a G&T. There’s a good juniper backbone with citrus a spice notes complimenting as one would expect from a high quality traditional full flavoured gin. For us, the defining characteristic was that it feels softer in the mouth. It would seem that the wood has smoothed the sharp notes out of the gin and the resulting liquid is silky and approachable because of it.
There is something impressive about the fact that despite only being in the wood for a maximum of 4 weeks, the oak has had a considerable effect on the gin. It may be subtle if comparing to Scotch Whisky and even to Citadelle Reserve Gin (which is aged for 6 months) but the small time Hayman’s 1850 Reserve is rested in the casks clearly has an effect on the liquid and allows a brief glimpse of what might have been served 160 years ago.
The move to create a barrel rested gin is interesting, as once again the Hayman’s family have raided the archives to produce something new. It doesn’t seem as likely that the 1850’s Reserve will prove as popular as the Hayman’s Old Tom, purely as the latter has a ready made niche and a clear demand for it. However, perhaps unwittingly what the family have done, is to show everyone how to create a new gin with authenticity and credibility. By looking to the past, using their heritage (the original company of Hayman Distillers was founded in 1820) and creating a gin that is not only good tasted neat and unexplained, but then enhanced by revealing the ideas behind it is a tour de force.
With the smaller portfolio taster packs due to be released at the end of 2011 (the set contains four 5cl miniatures of different styles of Gin: Hayman’s London Dry Gin, Hayman’s Sloe Gin, Hayman’s Old Tom Gin and Hayman’s 1820 Gin Liqueur) and James Hayman working up and down the country, Hayman’s Distillers are going from strength to strength and 2012 is set to be a fascinating ride for the family, it will be a pleasure to watch and taste our way through for those of us watching in.
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