Shortcross Cask Aged Gin
The past 12 months have seen a steady rise in barrel-aged gins and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down in 2016. Following on from a successful year, Northern Irish ginsmiths, Rademon Estate Distillery, have unveiled an aged variant of their award winning gin. Shortcross Cask Aged Gin will be exclusive to Fortnum & Mason as their “spirit of the month” in February.
Using European oak barrels formerly containing Bordeaux wine (Chateau de La Ligne Cuvee Prestige), Shortcross Gin’s Master Distiller, David Boyd-Armstrong aged the distillery’s flagship gin for 3 to 4 months to create this expression. His aim was simple, to create a cask-aged gin that mirrored the vibrant nature of the original, but with a new dimension. He wanted a sister expression that presented the inherent flavours of Shortcross in a new light, alongside it being a gin that showcased the distillery’s skill at producing a range of smooth, incredibly sippable spirits. So, not so simple at all then…! However, with their adventure into distilling whiskey at Rademon Estate in its early stages and gin fan’s continued thirst for aged gins growing throughout the UK, a foray into cask-aged gin territory was almost inevitable.
The result – Shortcross Cask Aged Gin – has an alluring amber hue and has been bottled in custom packaging, with the colours used on the labels especially designed to celebrate the partnership with the iconic British retailer, Fortnum & Mason.
Bottled at 44% ABV, there’s a strong oak presence upfront to taste, closely followed by red berries (both from the wine cask but also, the elderberries used as a botanical when they distil the gin). Familiar Shortcross Gin notes (delicious verdant juniper, clover and soft citrus), also emerge clearly in what is a rounded and complex gin.
The oak influence travels throughout the flavour journey, transforming from being upfront, to lingering in the background long after the gin has been enjoyed. Overall, Shortcross Cask Aged Gin is a little spicier than their original, yet retains many of the similarities that those familiar to the distillery’s flagship gin, know and love.
Crucially for a barrel-aged gin – it doesn’t have the pencil shaving, sappy aromas of American oak on the nose, nor the typical sweetness from the vanilins to taste, which makes for a mellow take on the cask-aged genre. There’s more subtly here in comparison to some of the heavily oaked offerings of some of the US based distilleries, making it a little easier to use across a range of cocktails. In particular, this gin works better than most aged expressions in a G&T. For those looking how best to compliment it – we suggest leaning on the citrusy sweetness of 1724 or Double Dutch Tonic Water.
Typically, Negronis are the default option as the signature serve for barrel-aged gins. The cocktail has even been a popular choice by many bartenders who have aged it in it’s own right. However, we felt that a lot of the rich berry and mellow characteristics of Shortcross’ Cask Aged Gin could get lost in the classic cocktail recipe.
We also felt there was a wider opportunity to reflect on the provenance of the casks used to age the gin and the fact that they were formerly used for Bordeaux wine, not Bourbon or Scotch. In search of something more unique, we delved through our Negroni archives, dabbled in a few trial runs (yep, someone’s got to do it…), did some cross-referencing in books and we rediscovered a recipe originally created by Wayne Collins at VinExpo, Bordeaux in 2001. The drink in question – the White Negroni – was later popularised by Audrey Saunders who listed it in her Pegu Club menu in NYC.
While there are a few bars who serve it today and several cocktail enthusiasts who have written about it, over a decade on from its heyday, it’s now a hugely undervalued cousin in the classic aperitivo family.
With Dry Vermouth standing in for Sweet Vermouth and bittersweet Suze in place of Campari, this is first and foremost a Francophile’s Negroni. We feel the more delicate profile of dry vermouth, along with the bittersweet gentian notes of Suze, really augment Shortcross Cask Aged Gin’s individualities. Both the gin and the cocktail are respectful twists on what most people are accustomed to, while delivering equally unique and memorable flavours. Try it you won’t be disappointed!
Garnish with a grapefruit peel twist
A note for you vermouth fans or those seeking to understand more about the best options. We trialled a few different vermouths and various ratios, arriving at the conclusion that Belsazar White Vermouth combined the best dry yet orangey tones to compliment the gin. The original 2001 cocktail recipe called for Lillet, which also works very well when using Shortcross Gin.
For those seeking to grab a bottle, it costs £45 for 70cl and is exclusively available from Fortnum & Mason throughout February. Don’t miss out!
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