Pickering’s Cask Aged Collection
Though founders Marcus Pickering and Matthew Gammell found a common interest in gin after years spent concocting shooting gins, like sloe and blackberry, so far the offerings from their distillery have been fairly straight laced: Pickering’s Gin, Pickering’s Navy Strength, Pickering’s Sloe and Pickering’s 1947.
Happy news for gin geeks is that this has all been changed with one swoop: the distillery has released a collection of oak aged gins, muddling gin and whisky flavours together in one great, palate tingling adventure. We had a quick chat with Pickering’s to find out why they’d gone in a cask aged direction, and Matt Gammell was only to happy to explain: “We wanted to explore how the oak cask soaked in Whisky would flavour the gin. It’s this distinctive character in our finished product which marries Scotland’s two greatest spirits.”
We’ve already written up Pickering’s Gin over here, but to understand the aged version it’s important to have an understanding of what botanicals are involved so we’ll summarise: The distillery’s gins are based on an old recipe from Bombay (the city not the brand), which was written down on the 17th July 1947 and passed on by a friend of Marcus’s father named Gopal. The recipe was a treasured family secret, passed on to the budding distillers when Gopal heard they were setting up a distillery.
Pickering’s Gin and Pickering’s Navy Strength are earthy and dry, with star anise and clove bringing a spiciness which is far more pronounced in the higher ABV edition. Other botanicals used are juniper, coriander, cardamom, angelica, fennel, lemon and lime.
To make the cask aged gin releases, Summerhall Distillery cut Pickering’s Navy Strength Gin to 47% ABV after resting it in five separate barrels, each sought from distilleries across the country’s five distinct whisky producing regions. Around 200 bottles worth of liquid was placed into each barrel and left to mature for between three and six months.
Finding the correct casks was no mean feat –Scotland has a vast amount of whisky to offer so it took a great deal of traipsing and over six months to choose the correct casks. In fact, this exploration has been a long time coming. “We discussed the idea with the Scottish Malt Whisky Society back in early 2014 and we began to source the casks in 2015.” said Matt, “It took over six months to handpick all five casks and bring them back to Summerhall Distillery in Edinburgh.”
Each gin is an extremely rare, never-to-be-repeated venture and are designed to be treated like whisky – drunk using water or ice or in a dark, smoky cocktail.
Lowland Cask Aged Gin
The Lowland aged gin is the lightest in colour of all five, with only a faintly woody glow. To nose there is a faint whisky smell and a sweet citrus. The gin is still very much king in the Lowland expression, though the wood’s influence is present. To taste, there’s a sweetness that we’d happily accuse of belonging to liquourice, if only there was liquourice in it… There’s a real green, lime citrus taste to the spirit and a full mouthfeel. Holding it in the mouth for a long time isn’t particularly recommended, as the clove and anise really work together at the back to heat your tongue. It’s an enjoyable sip and would serve as a great – and very gentle indeed – introduction to whisky.
Speyside Cask Aged Gin
The Speyside is a little darker in colour than the Lowland but still a light drink, not the amber tones of a classic Scotch. It has a very clean smell and is not particularly identifiable as a gin. To taste, there is an almost floral oakiness which is only hinted to at first but which shines through in the aftertaste. There’s a strong citrus and a lasting spice, but compared to the Lowland bottling the spice is not anywhere near as prominent. The cask has subdued the gin here, rather than enriched it, taking it from adulterated gin territory and into weird whisky territory. This is a hybrid through and through but seemingly, delivering both at the same time isn’t a effective as picking a side…
Highland Cask Aged Gin
To nose, there is a dry sweetness here – almost hay like. This gives way to a sugary scent that is reminiscent of flat cola. To taste, that woody sweetness comes right through, though spice doesn’t lag far behind. There is a stewed fruit taste to this bottling, and a higher juniper presence than in the others. In our opinion, Highland strikes the perfect balance here – the botanicals used in Pickering’s still shine and are beautifully matched to the oakiness the gin has leached out from the cask.
Island Cask Aged Gin
To nose, there is a strong, peaty hit. It’s mellow in the context of a “peaty whisky”, but far removed from gin. There is a drier mouthfeel and a faint saline quality to taste. In the context of whisky this would be a fairly mellow spirit, but for gin it’s smokiness is quite brutal, overwhelming – but not dominating – the gin. The lime and star anise hold steady in the glass, fighting through the smoke to stake a gin claim on the overall flavour, and when mixed with a little water the juniper pushes through. The peat, however, gives an overarching medicinal quality to the dink.
Islay Cask Aged Gin
Peat positively jumps up the nostrils here, wrestling your senses away from juniper and only onto smoke. This is an amber coloured liquid, too, so it’s both whisky to look at and to smell. There is a mineralic quality to taste, and a slight citrus hint. In our opinion, the cask completely overwhelms the gin and those peaty, medicinal qualities are prevalent. It would work well in a gin twist on a whisky cocktail however, like the Penicillin.
We’d serve all on the rocks, but if you’d prefer to go long – top up with soda and garnish with a dehydrated lime.
All five drinks are interesting in their own right and truly exciting examples of what can be done with a little bit of a gin and a little bit of imagination. Whisky fans would be enamoured with the complexity the gin lends to the Island and Islay gins, whereas gin fans would appreciate the flavours lent to gin by the wood in the Lowland. The Highland is a great example of both spirit styles fitting together as comfortably as the last piece in a jigsaw, and is without doubt the one we’d advise seeking out should you get the chance. As a set, it makes for a fascinating glimpse into how gin and barrels interact together, and how certain elements of oak, smoke and sweetness affect the overall perception in the glass, even when the liquid going into maturation is identical.
The quintuple release also marks a confident step for the ever expanding distillery and ties in nicely with Pickering’s continued accent to becoming the dominant name in the new wave of small batch Scottish distillers. With barrel aged releases becoming more and more frequent – we applaud them for taking a risk and venturing into the unknown.
For more information about the distillery and where to buy the limited edition Cask Aged releases:
They are also on Twitter: @PickeringsGin
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