Barrel ageing spirits is a technique mostly associated with whisky, brandy, or rum production. However, you can age many different spirits and plenty of distillers have seen the benefit of creating cask-aged gin

What is aged gin?

Aged gin, also known as barrel-aged or cask-aged gin, is a gin aged in wooden barrels for a certain period. This process matures the spirit, adding flavour and colour that differentiates it from the more common unaged (or ‘white’) gin.


Gin can be filled into barrels, just like whisky

A short history of aged gin

Barrels have been used to transport spirits for centuries, so cask-aged gin isn’t anything new. The precursor of gin, jenever, was originally a medicinal drink created by Benedictine monks, who distilled juniper berry-infused wine which was moved in barrels. While that process wasn’t used initially as a deliberate means to improve or alter the spirit, people observed the impact the barrel had on it – taking on colour and qualities from the wood. By the 1500s, jenever had become a popular drink often deliberately aged in oak barrels. Today, some distillers still mature jenever in oak casks.

English soldiers brought jenever home with them and it evolved into gin. As the empire grew, British gin was exported around the world and oak barrels were used to store and transport the spirit. This spirit became known as “yellow gin”. Before the Single Bottle Act of 1861, which allowed distillers to sell products in glass bottles and containers, gin was typically sold in barrels. 

In the modern day, new flavours and styles are all the rage as the market becomes more crowded. A feature of the current gin boom is the rise in flavoured gin, particularly pink gin, but cask-aged gin has become increasingly popular too. 

How gin is aged

Aged gin is stored in wooden barrels. Typically this means oak, but it can also be varieties like cherry wood, ash, mulberry, chestnut, acacia, and even juniper. American oak and European oak are different in nature and will bring unique characteristics. Usually, gin is aged in barrels previously used to mature other drinks, from bourbon to sherry. The ageing process is rarely longer than a few months, so as not to overwhelm the botanical nature of the gin, but there’s no legal restriction on how long you can age gin so in theory you could do it for years. 

Here’s our own Ben Ellefsen, creator of the delicious cask-aged gins Master of Malt bottles, to give his expertise on how to age gin successfully. 

At a commercial level, it’s (comparatively) straightforward. We’ve historically filled casks at a similar ABV to Scotch new-make (63.5%) on the basis that they’ve got a massive research centre, and probably know a thing or two about optimal extraction profiles with regards to ABV. The choice of cask to botanical constituency is obviously a huge consideration if you’re aiming for a specific flavour profile, but if I’m being brutally honest we’ve yet to find a flavour combination which doesn’t work. Gin + Wood is always good, as the famous rhyme goes”. 

Ageing can add all kinds of benefits to gin

Is gin better with age? 

So, why would you cask age gin? We’ll let Ellefsen take this one too. 

“Why would you cask-age anything? New-make whisky is lovely in a carefully crafted cocktail, Tabasco is a perfectly serviceable hot sauce without all that bubbly-barrel nonsense going on, and as for those chumps over in Burgundy with a penchant for ruining their lovely crisp Chardonnays… 

Joking aside – depending on the choice of cask, it can lend softness, richness, and an undeniable ‘whisky-ish’ character, which can work wonders in the right application”.

Ageing gin in casks fundamentally creates an array and depth of flavours not usually found in the spirit. It’s a point of difference. Plus, it makes a great cocktail ingredient. For example, a gin aged in rye casks will taste spicy and would be particularly good in a Negroni, whereas a gin aged in barrels that held Islay whisky will taste smoky and would be good in a Martini.

Why you don’t typically age gin

Just ask Ellefsen. We teasingly put it to him that gin is a white spirit and that cask ageing takes away its ‘ginny’ character. His response was:

“I reject your reality. Whisky, brandy, rum… These are all ‘white spirits’ when they come off the still. Cask ageing is additive in each instance, you just need to know what you’re doing with the resultant juice. Cocktail choice is key here – I’ve found that more back-bar heavy drinks work best with cask-aged products”. 

He continues: “Negronis are (obviously – given that Boulevardiers are awesome) incredibly low-hanging fruit, but I’ve had great results with Last Words, Martinezzes, and Aviations. Even Martinis can work if you’re using the right Vermouth and garnish (blue cheese-stuffed olives impaled on a rosemary stick FTW)”.

Cask-aged gin is one of the smaller gin categories. Gin is traditionally a white spirit that draws its flavour from its botanicals. A gin purist may turn up their nose at an aged gin. London dry gin reflects the botanicals used and how those flavours are balanced and blended is often deemed the height of gin production. However, there are many varieties of gin. 

Jaffa Cake Gin

Gin has moved into all kinds of avenues in recent years

From the explosion of flavoured gins in the last decade – everything from rhubarb to Jaffa Cakes – to the historic sweetened Old Tom Gin where sugar or honey is added and the boisterous Navy Strength category (57% ABV is the sweet spot). Every style of gin has a place in the world. Cask-aged gin is part of the tapestry. 

In the US, The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) doesn’t recognize the cask-aged gin category. There are three basic types of gin according to its definitions: distilled gin, redistilled gin, and compound gin. Producers are free to mature gin in wooden casks, but they can’t call it aged. Because of this, barrel-aged gin is often referred to as barrel-finished, barrel-rested, or simply barreled gin. 

Meanwhile in Europe, according to EU Regulation No 110/2008 and the subsequent updates, cask-aged gin must adhere to general gin production standards while clearly indicating the ageing process on the label. This includes the fact that it has been aged in casks, for how long, and the producer must also ensure the wood adheres to general food safety and spirit ageing standards.

You’ll need one of these

Can I age my own gin?

Yes! We have 1-litre mini-casks which are awesome and fun to use at home. Henry has lots of sage advice on how to use these casks in a recent How do you cask-age your own cocktails article and the principles are essentially the same: it’s a small, thirsty cask so it will add colour and flavour very quickly. Season and monitor your casks, people.

Ellefsen also has a fascinating recommendation. “We designed a Boutique-y project called aGeINg – complete with a stick of charred oak for you to age your own gin in the bottle. This is an unspeakably awesome thing, and I’d encourage everyone to try it at least once”.

Sounds ideal. As are all these tasty cask-aged gins below!

An array of cask aged gins

Check out our recommended cask-aged gins

Examples of aged gin

Bathtub Gin – Cask-Aged 50cl

Tiny ‘octave’ casks filled with the multi-award-winning Bathtub Gin, the spirit is then aged for between three to six months before bottling.

Kyrö Dark Gin 50cl

Built upon a base of Finnish wholegrain rye and featuring 17 botanicals, this expression spends up to 12 months maturing in American oak barrels.

In The Welsh Wind Palo Cortado Cask Aged Gin 70cl

Starting with a base of its superb Signature Dry Gin, the distillers then filled the spirit into casks that previously held Palo Cortado sherry

Port-Barrelled Pink Gin – Salcombe Distilling Co. (That Boutique-y Gin Company) 50cl

Pink gin here from Salcombe Distilling Co., independently bottled by That Boutique-y Gin Company after it was aged in a 1997 vintage Niepoort Colheita tawny Port cask.

Seventy One Gin 70cl

From famed Turkish fashion photographer Mert Atlas, Seventy One Gin takes inspiration from the world of perfumers, individually distilling botanicals and blending them back. The gin is then rested in oak casks for “71 nights”.