Last month we ran some data into our Cray Y-MP supercomputer to compile our regular trend report and an interesting stat spewed out of the dotmatrix printer: cask-aged gin sales are up dramatically. We sold over four times the amount of cask gin in 2023 than we did in 2022. Which is very exciting because we’ve been banging the drum for woody gin for some time and it seems that people are finally listening.
What is cask-aged gin?
Well, the clue’s in the name, it’s gin that has spent time in an oak barrel. Ageing gin in oak is not a new thing. In the past gin would have often been transported and stored in barrels so it would often pick up flavours from the wood. For much of the 20th century both Beefeater and Booth’s offered oaked gins.
The style disappeared for a while but now it is firmly back with producers utilising bourbon casks, wine barrels and sherry butts to age their gins in. It’s a tricky one to get right as you don’t want the spice and tannin from the wood overwhelming the delicate flavours of juniper and other botanicals.
Why should I buy an oak aged gin?
Because they taste amazing, of course! The best oaked gins sit where gin meets whisky offering the pleasure of both in one handy package. What the cask provides is texture, a certain creamy quality and perhaps just a little grip from wood tannins. You’re also getting sweetness from the caramelised oak and from whatever was in the cask before such as bourbon, PX sherry or Port.
How should I drink an cask-aged gin?
Really any cocktail where you might use gin or whisky, you can swap it for a cask-aged gin. Old Fashioned, Martinez, Dry Martini, or Negroni, an oak fluenced gin will elevate these classics cocktails. It has a particular affinity for other aged drinks like Noilly Prat vermouth or sherry.
The category is a broad one from gin that is just tinged with oak to Port cask expressions that are almost in gin liqueur territory. A good rule of thumb is the darker a cask-aged gin, the more it works like whisky, whereas lighter ones work much like a London dry gin, only better.
5 cask-aged gins to try this year
Whereas some cask-aged gins just spend a few months in oak, this gin was aged in a bourbon barrel for four years between 2017 and 2022, resulting in layers of vanilla, peppery spice, and mellow oak. We think it makes the best Negroni you’ve ever had.
This gets its name as it’s a blend of 50% unaged and 50% aged gin. The aged component is an astonishing 20 years old but the result is smooth and harmonious rather than old and woody. It works brilliantly with vermouth in a juniper-scented take on a Manhattan.
This is made by one of our favourite small producers and fellow Kent dwellers Greensand Ridge. It consists of a special London dry gin which spends ten months in a 250 litre Pedro-Ximenez sherry cask bringing layers of dried fruit sweetness.
This starts with a pink gin made using sloes, damsons, rose, orange peel, and more. After distillation, the gin is left to age in Niepoort colheita tawny Port cask, introducing yet more richness and dark fruit notes. This is superb sipped neat.
Built upon a base of Finnish wholegrain rye and featuring 17 botanicals, this expression spends up to 12 months maturing in American oak barrels before being bottled so the spice component is ramped up to 11.