Tasting Several Aged Gins

I was very happy today when my new bottle of St. George Spirits Dry Rye Reposado Gin arrived on my doorstep. Aging gin has become trendy in the last year or so among many microdistilleries and this aged version of St. George’s Dry Rye gin, which is much like a genever, is one of the latest to be released. This seemed like a fun occasion to write another blog entry, for the first time in awhile, and to break out some of the other aged gins from my collection.

Here’s what I tried out:

  • The aforementioned St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin (49.5 abv)
  • Rusty Blade Gin (K&L exclusive batch KL1112, 62% abv)
  • Peterman Platinum Graanjenever Special Reserve (40% abv)
  • Ransom Old Tom Gin (44% abv)

These are all bottles that I purchased at one time or another.  The Rusty Blade Gin is from the first K&L Wines exclusive release, of which there have been several since, and obviously is quite a beast at cask strength. The Peterman Graanjenever is something that I picked up when visiting the Nationaal Jenevermuseum in Hasselt, Belgium in 2011.

I started with the Ransom Old Tom Gin, which is probably the most commonly available of the gins in this collection of products. Ransom is a great gin, which has a clear scent of juniper and tastes of juniper muted by wood and with noticeable sweetness.  The sweetness is expected, since this is an Old Tom gin, which is traditionally sweeter than other types of gin.

The Peterman Graanjenever is my favorite of a few genevers that I purchased while in Belgium a couple years ago. I was immediately struck by how different it is from the Random Old Tom. It smells strongly of sweet caramel with perhaps a hint of yeast but no botanicals. The flavor follows from the taste, though I detected a slight sourness in the aftertaste that was not unpleasant. Overall, this is noticeably sweeter than the Ransom and not particularly reminiscent of gin as we typically think of it in the US. It remains one of my favorite spirits to drink straight.

Compared to the first two, the nose on the Rusty Blade Gin is notably muted, probably because of its much higher alcohol content. I first smell juniper when bringing the glass to my nose but this quickly gives way to an intense aroma of cinnamon. Sipping this gin also reveals botanicals initially, such as juniper, but again the baking spices come to forefront on the finish, but here I detect cloves rather than cinnamon. It finishes quickly with an intense burn due to the high proof of this spirit. Adding a few drops of water seems to intensify the baking spices.

Finally, the St. George gin. The aroma contains some muted botanicals, perhaps with a touch of stone fruit. I had a hard time describing this aroma, so I compared it more closely with the other gins. It did not have any of strong spices of the Rusty Blade or the caramel sweetness of the Peterman genever. The Ransom has a strong pinesol aroma when juxtaposed with the St. George, which I had not noticed before and found quite surprising. In the flavor, there is a clear maltiness that is unsurprisingly shared with the unaged version of this gin. There is additional complexity though and I had a difficult time trying to describe these flavors in a meaningful way other than to say there is some sort of fruity sweetness. Upon reading the label, I discovered that this gin was aged in a combination of previously used syrah and grenache casks. Clearly the influence of these wines is adding a very interesting complexity not found in the other aged gins that I tasted.

In summary, all of these gins are great but each is substantially different from the others. I think it’s really exciting to see more exploration of gin as an aged spirit with all of the varied complexities of other aged spirits, like whiskey, and I’m really looking forward to other releases that follow this trend. I expect we’ll see a lot of variation fairly quickly, as none of these products require the multiple years of aging that is common to many whiskey products. The St. George gin, for example, is aged only 18 months (note: I find this surprising since “reposado” typically indicates aging of 2 months to 1 year), and I suspect aging can have an interesting effect on gin in even shorter timeframes.

I’ll finish this post with a recipe for a Negroni variation using Random Old Tom that I particularly like. I haven’t made this with St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Aged Gin Negroni

1 oz Aged Gin (Ransom Old Tom)
1 oz Gran Classico Bitter
1 oz Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

Combine in a stirring glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

As with any Negroni variation, make sure to express the orange oils from the twist on top of the drink. It’s not a proper Negroni otherwise.

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