Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Cask: Round 6
Having taken a bit longer than I thought, my gin is finally ready to be removed from my little barrel. If you'll recall, almost 2 months ago I put some Gordon's gin into my barrel that was still dripping wet from its occupant before that, apple brandy. I was hoping to make an apple-kissed aged gin, like the Seagram company does, and my experiment was a huge success.
My apple-brandied gin arrived having left the angels very unsatisfied; adding a bit of high proof grain alcohol has yet again proven itself as a surefire method to prevent liquid loss via evaporation. Even though this aging session was short, the gin loss less than I thought it would. I extracted over 1.5 liters this time around, which is pleasing indeed.
Apple-brandied gin, at-home aged
In the Glass
The color of the stuff is a light gold... darker than light rum, but lighter than a gold rum or whiskey... it's more like the pallor of genever. It swirls cleanly just like a young spirit should.
The smells come to me in stages: juniper, alcohol, and wood... in that order. Inhaling deeply gets more alcohol and the faintest aroma of apples.
Immediately I realize that this tastes less of gin than it did before its time in the barrel. The wood has again imparted a sweetness that's very much like all its previous occupants. After the now muted botanicals die down, the flavor of apples arises, and much more strongly than I anticipated. The swallow ends in a bit of dryness from the wood.
The addition of water to this gin increases its sweetness and dulls its flavor. I could barely taste any of the flavors that I had before.
This apple-brandied gin performs in gin cocktails with style. It's great in a 1:3 Martini, but the vermouth in a "fifty fifty" Martini tends to overpower this tame gin. It also does fine in a gin and tonic, but the amounts of gin and tonic need to be about equal. The drink in which this stuff performed best was my previously-posted unnamed drink, where the gin's dryness and flavor of apples added exactly what the drink seemed to be needing.
This round is really a perfect demonstration in liquor production. The concept of aging spirits was born in order to tame and mellow spirits whose flavor were a little too wily and aggressive. Whether its the grassy pungency of rum, the cereal-like corn of bourbon, the peppery assault of tequila, or the pungent peat and smoke of Scotch... all of these sometimes overbearing flavors can be mellowed and sophisticated during aging. It's no surprise to me that the well-balanced herbs and spices in my beginning gin are barely there in the final aged product. It was simply bound to happen.
As for kissing the gin with apple brandy, I really didn't expect so much of the apple flavor to come through in this final mix. I had previously drained the barrel of apple brandy before pouring in the gin, and so what remained was only perhaps a few drops of brandy, and what brandy that was present in the soaked wood. In the end, this aged brandy claims apples as one of its prominent flavors, and so I'm happy to say that I was completely successful in mimicking Seagram's Apple Twisted Gin product.
I'd like to convey an interesting detail I found on the internets. Here you can find the website of small distiller in the state of Washington called Woodinville Whiskey Co. Among their products they offer an Age Your Own Whiskey Kit, not unlike the one I've been using to drive this Cask series. (Should you want to be like me, pick one up and have at it! A reminder that I'm using a barrel from Wasmund's Copper Fox Distillery of Sperryville, Virginia.)
An interesting note on Woodinville's site says that the small aging barrel can be "refilled and reused 5+ times." Well, I'm about to put my 6th passenger into this little barrel. I wonder if Woodinville knows something I don't about the lifespan of at-home aging vessels. Perhaps mine is on its last legs and I don't know it? It's certainly not showing me any signs of such. ONWARD, THEN!
Next up for the barrel is something about which I'm even less confident than I was about the gin: wine. White wine, to be more specific. I'm using a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand called Nobilo. I've enjoyed this product for quite a while now... its crisp and sour bite is paired with an extreme fruitiness... depending on the day, I can detect hints of grapefruit and pineapple, and sometimes even lime.
I'm going to spike the 1.5L of wine with about 100 mL of grain alcohol, just to punch up the proof, since we know the proof will lessen.
I have no clue how this is going to work. I don't know if anything about a barrel needs to be changed when going from spirits to wine. I hope the wine's sugar doesn't gum up the barrel into a sticky mess. I don't know how well this Sauvignon Blanc takes to aging. I hope the bright fruity flavors don't become disgusting when aged. I have no clue how long this should age. If you have any predictions about any of this, feel free to lay them on me.
With fingers crossed, I bid you farewell until next time.