The most distinctive thing about gin is the fresh, herbal flavor. This is true whether you prefer a heavy juniper London Dry or one of the New American Styles. In my use, barrel aging any gin cocktail flattens those herbal notes. They are still there, but the bright, fresh aspect is gone. What is added by the barrel aging process depends almost entirely on what was previously in the barrel and how long the gin is aged. The process works very well for a Negroni – not so much for any type of Martini.
I have seen Sherry Aged Gin on the market, so I wanted to try this with my 1 liter Sherry barrel. I chose Ford’s Gin, one of my favorite London Dry’s. The barrel had been used to age Sherry, several Manhattans, including a Tequila Manhattan and bourbon. The Sherry went back into the barrel between each Manhattan and before and after the bourbon. So, it had last been used for Sherry just prior to the Gin. Of note, this barrel was reaching the end of its life. Ultimately, you extract all of the flavors – just like a tea bag. After the Gin, I put the Sherry back in the barrel for 4 weeks, then followed it with Bourbon. The Bourbon required 8-10 weeks to achieve the flavors that previously had taken only 4 weeks. After that, the barrel was done!
The Gin was aged for 4 weeks. What came out was straw colored. As noted earlier, the gin loses some of the brightness of the botanicals but gains a touch of charred oak, a bit of bitterness, clove, cinnamon, dried fruit and herbs from the vermouth in the Manhattans along with a bit of spice from the Bourbon. There is a definite touch of Sherry. All in all, aging the Ford’s Gin in the Sherry/Manhattan/Bourbon Barrel was one of our best outcomes. Definitely worthy of a repeat!
I wanted to enhance all of the flavors of the aged Gin and you’ll notice that this recipe goes very light on the sweet vermouth. The overall nose is Gin with a touch of oak. Flavors are London Dry Gin with a flattening of the herbal notes and a bittersweet background of Sherry/Charred Oak. The barrels previous Manhattan occupants add some dried fruit, herbs and spice. I tried this with and without expressing a lemon peel, but couldn’t decide which I liked better. So, I’ll leave the garnish to you!
- 1 1/2 Sherry Barrel Aged Gin
- 1/4 oz. Dolin Sweet Vermouth
- 4 drops Regan’s Orange Bitters
- Lemon peel for garnish – optional
- Chill a cocktail glass with ice and water
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with the lemon peel if using
For more DIY Barrel Aged Cocktails, click here