The Entirely Defensible Fad for Limited-Edition, Barrel-Aged Gin

More

While most of them are limited and very, very local, a host of distilleries have released gins of this variety--and they're all worth trying.

RansomPost.jpg

When it comes to spirits, you don't get much different than whiskey and gin. One relies on oak and time for its flavor, the other on intricate combinations of juniper berries and botanicals. Whiskey is slow and mysterious, almost alchemical -- who knows what goes on in those barrels? -- while gin is quickly efficient and rational. Whiskey is made by wizards; gin comes from scientists.

And I love them both. Which is why I greet the current fad for barrel-aged gin with open arms (and liver). Over the last two years a clutch of small distilleries have been releasing limited-edition brown gins, usually aged for about six months. The result is a rich, oaky flavor, a great alternative for classic gin and whiskey cocktails alike -- and not bad straight, either.

This spring, Roundhouse Spirits, out of Boulder, Colorado, offered a limited-edition Imperial Gin, the result of resting their standard gin in oak barrels for six months. Others, including Corsair, Breukelen, Rusty Blade, and Ransom, have likewise released barrel-aged gins, though the Ransom is the only one you're likely to find in your liquor store: the rest are limited and very, very local.

My favorite so far (and the most widely available) is Lucas Bols's Barrel-Aged Genever. Unlike most gins available in the United States, Bols and other Dutch gins, or genevers, use a maltwine base, a combination of corn, rye, and wheat. They are also less intensely distilled, and usually through pot, rather than column, stills, producing a robust whiskey-like quaff, which connoisseurs prefer to drink chilled and neat. It's thick, like a liqueur; you wouldn't think to mix it with tonic for a summer-day quencher.

Bols then lays up the gin for 18 months in barrels made from French oak from the Limousin region. As wine drinkers know, French oak has a tighter grain than its American cousin, resulting in a slower and more subtle diffusion of flavors. Which may explain why, despite a year and a half on wood, Bols Barrel-Aged Genever has a delicate honey color, while the nose and flavor retain unmistakable juniper notes. But there's also a lot of honey and ginger in there, too, making it a nice choice for an after-dinner drink. Treat it like whiskey, mix it like gin: This liquor plays many roles, and plays them very well.

Image: Ransom.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Clay Risen is an editor at The New York Times, and is the author of A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination. He has written for The New Republic, Smithsonian, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

From This Author

Just In