Barrel Aged Gin is the most recent Gin class, and it brings together the gins that undergo an ageing process post-distillation. Also known as Yellow Gins, for their resultant amber colour, they are Gins with a complex aromatic profile, quite smooth and rounded. The contact with the wood of the barrel takes down the intensity of the juniper and the same time as conferring aromas of warm spices, vanilla and caramel.
The barrels in which Gin is stored define the type of aroma profile of the finished product. Thus the choice of barrel is especially important for the entire process. Casks in which Port, Lillet or Bourbon were kept are just some examples, though some brands prefer newly made barrels.
The most recent Gin class, Barrel Aged Gins is also the one most filled with history. Despite the appearance of aged gins being fairly recent, the phenomenon can be understood as a return to its roots, a step back in time to when Gin was warehoused and transported in wooden barrels.
On the shelves in bars, supermarkets and off-licences Gin always appears in a bottle but it wasn’t always thus. Bottled Gin is relatively recent when compared to the entire history of this spirit. Effectively, it was only in the 20th Century that all Gin was bottled. Until then, the product was transferred to barrels once made. These barrels acted as warehousing and then for transportation and retail, door to door.
The inevitable contact of the Gin with the wood of the barrel made the Gin drunk by the end consumer a different product to that which left the distillery. This involuntary ageing process had greater effect the longer the Gin was in the barrel, and while some Gin was sold close by the distillery, some of it made long journeys, even across the Atlantic.
It was this Gin, the one that the client drank, and not the Gin straight out of the factory, that some Master Distillers wanted to reproduce. Resorting to new barrels or, mostly, barrels previously used to store and age other beverages, they submit Gin to an ageing process resulting from its contact with the wood.
The contact darkens the Gin, giving it an amber tone to a greater or lesser degree. Apart from colour, the wood influences the aromas of the Gins, conferring a greater complexity of aromas and warm notes, such as spices, vanilla and caramel.
The resulting aromas and colours are heavily influenced by what was previously stored in the barrels. Barrels of Port, Lillet, Bourbon or Sherry are just some example used in the aromatisation of the Barrel Aged Gins. For an more neutral, smoother, ageing some also use newly built barrels.