What is barrel aged gin?

The concept of ageing alcohol is not unfamiliar to most. From red wines sitting in barrels for decades, scotch legally needing to be aged for 3 years and a day, down to beer breweries who let their beer sit for a week; but gins are not at all renowned for ageing, with most being bottled and dispatched as quickly as the same day.

However, this has not always been the case. Genever, the malt spirit which was the precursor to gin, was quite often aged in wooden barrels. Before bottling, barrels were a cost effective and robust way of transporting gin and oak was traditionally used for its sturdiness. Inside the barrel, the gin would change colour and take on a yellow hue and the oak would also slightly soften and sweeten the gin.

The Single Bottle Act of 1861 changed everything and allowed distilleries to distribute in glass bottles, giving them much more control and flexibility in the flavour and colour of their gin and barrels in the gin industry died for nearly 150 years.

Since the gin-naissance of the late 2000s, barrel aged gin has slowly become a craft in itself and distilleries have used it to create new and often more complex flavours. They don’t sit in barrels for as long as scotch or whisky, usually just a couple of months, but sipped neat they are similar to a whisky, so if you like a fine whisky, try a barrel aged gin neat.

We have 5 barrel aged gins in The Leafy Elephant, all with very different ageing processes and results. These are our top 3 barrel aged gins on the market right now:

2. Dictator Treasure Colombian gin

South America may be known for rums rather than gins, so it should be no surprise that this gin comes from a rum distillery. This gin is aged for 35 weeks in barrels that have been previously used to age their rum and the wood, along with the heavy use of citrus as their key botanicals, gives this gin a gold hue.

On the nose you will immediately get the key citrus fruits, lemon, tangerine, lime and bitter orange. It is sweeter on the palate than you might expect on the nose and it is incredibly smooth. The rum from the barrel gives this gin a sweet character and you will also get some lively peppercorns and sage near the end.

3. Eden Mill Oak

Eden Mill are a brewery and a distillery so combined their two practices to make a barrel aged gin. This gin is aged in old oak beer barrels giving the gin a rich oaked spiced gin with some notes of vanilla, caramel and even the slightest whiff of fudge. It describes itself as warming, and with those characteristics we tend to agree.

The oak barrel delivers a warm finish of brown honey and sugarcane with the ginger botanical really bringing through the spiced fruits and spices.

We also have a sherry barrel aged gin from Norway, Kimerud hillside aged gin, which is similar to Eden Mill Oak but you will also get some dark chocolate and inevitably some sherry coming through.

Our last notable mention goes to Brentingby which is distilled here in the UK in old Tennessee Whisky barrels. This gin is beautifully aromatic with some lovely woody fruit undertones but still bringing the juniper to the fore to the finish.

These barrel aged gins are just 5 of over 200 we have in the bar. If you would like to taste them, then what better way than with one of our gin tasting experiences. You can create your own experience, choosing 4 gins from our entire range to try, with the expert guidance of our in house mixologists. Find out more about our gin experiences here.