When someone mentions gin to you, I am going to guess that the first thing you think of is probably a light, clear, dry alcohol that is characterized by a wonderful mixture of citrusy and herbal flavors. While this fabulous alcohol is one that pairs so wonderfully with tonic water, there is a lesser-known gin that deserves just as much recognition and its chance to shine. Many may find it a complete surprise, and I for one could not blame you one bit if you did, but there is a delicious, almost mysteriously mature version of gin that simply goes by dark gins.
Much like dark liquor such as whiskey, dark gin is the product of maturing the drink if oak barrels. Because of the barrel aging, dark gin shares a lot of the subtle sweetness and spice that you would associate and find within whiskey. Dark gin is still distilled in the same way as the more known clear gin, but once distilled the gin is placed into oak barrels to age and mature just like a whiskey or wine.
The time spent in the barrel, which can range from a couple of months to years, allows the gin to develop a complex array of flavors. While maintaining some of the original flavors found in gin, the wood lessens the intense juniper flavor and adds more of the warm baking flavors of vanilla and caramel, found in whiskey and bourbon.
This list is going to help you weed through this not so new novelty drink of dark gin, to find the gems within this growing area. Sticking with gins that have been aged in barrels for longer then two months, we will work through a list of the five best dark gins to start your journey down this path. Each gin picked will be less then $50, and while that is still a bit pricey for some things, these gins are definitely worth the splurge. So without further ado, lets get to this list of wonderful firsts for so many of us.
1) Citadelle Réserve 2013 Gin – $39.99
The process used to age this gin is extremely special and worth the little bit of time to explain it. This process makes this gin that much more special and worth the price. This is the first gin to be aged in the solera process. The solera process is normally only used for cognacs and ports.
The solera process is done by filling three different kinds of barrels with different intervals through out the entire aging process, creating a cascading affect. The first barrel is an American oak that lends vanilla and caramel to the flavors. The next barrel is an ex-Pineau de Charente that gives the gin a flowery flavor. The last barrel is ex-cognac that fills the gin with the flavors of fresh grapes and citrus.
The whole process is where the oldest barrel is used to fill up the bottles and then gin from the middle-aged barrel is used to fill the oldest back up. Gin from the youngest barrel is then used to fill up the middle aged barrel, leaving the youngest barrel to empty out first, the middle to empty out next, and the oldest to empty out last before a new batch is used to fill the barrels up again.
2) Bourbon Barreled Big Gin – $40.99
The name pretty much says it all for this gem. Spending six months in old Kentucky bourbon barrels, this gin is filled with flavor. The bourbon barrels lends a wonderful mix of oak and spices to the subtle undertone of citrus that comes from the gin. Another great find with in this new world of gin.
3) Spring44 Old Tom Gin – $41.99
This dark gin has more then just the barrel that makes it special, and believe it or not, this extra thing actually makes a pretty big difference in taste. This gin is full of complexity from the very beginning with a hint of the traditional juniper berries, followed up by toasted coriander, lemon grass, fresh grapefruit and rosemary, and ending with a warm popcorn and butterscotch flavor thinks to the toasted oak barrels that this gin spends at least two months aging in.
The extra special aspect about this gin comes from the fact that the water used through out the process and at the end in being brought to proof is sourced from a spring that is never touched by chemicals and uses solar power to draw the water up. So not only is this gin a must try for the flavors, it is also on the hipster side because of the process and methods used in making it. Making this a crowd pleaser no matter who is there.
4) Corsair Barrel Aged Gin – $45.99
Jumping straight to the flavors of this wonderful find, you will be met with a bold aroma of sweet spices, anise, and cola. The flavors start strong with a mixture of tropical fruits, citrus, and vanilla, ending beautifully with a hint of licorice and ginger. Now that I have gotten the most important questions answered for you, you are probably wondering what gives this dark gin those wonderful attributes. The answer would be that this particular gin is aged in a charred oak barrel that was once used before to age spiced rum.
5) Ransom Old Tom Gin – $49.99
Spending three to six months aging in a barrel makes this dark gin a nice starting place for venturing into this new world. Being in the barrel long enough to start to pick up some of the sweeter and more malty flavor of a whiskey or bourbon, but not spending so much time that it looses some of the more quintessential flavors found in traditional gin. This particular dark gin is a thrill ride starting off with subtle hints of orange and lemon. With herbal undertones, the flavor rounds out with the traditional juniper mixed with a new hint of oak. In my opinion this gin is definitely worth the money.