The Islay distillery Bruichladdich is known for its terroir-driven whiskies and the annual Octomore series, which consists of some of the smokiest single malt scotch you can find. But the distillery is also the source of The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, made with 22 locally sourced botanicals and nine classic botanicals. And today it just added two barrel-aged gins to the lineup, Cask Rested and Cask Aged.
Barrel-aged gin can be a confounding spirit when it comes to figuring out how to use it. It’s often too oaky and vanilla-forward to use in a Martini or gin and tonic, and it can also be too fragrant and floral to really work as a whiskey substitute in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan (a Negroni is the cocktail that usually works). I had a chance to try both of these new gins, and despite my misgivings I really enjoyed both of them, particularly the Cask Aged expression.
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Both start out as regular the Botanist Islay Gin that is then put into Bruichladdich whisky barrels for different periods of time. Cask Rested spent a minimum of six months in 16 different American and European oak casks previously used to age red wine, bourbon, and sherry, softening the botanical profile and darkening the color but leaving it still very recognizable as gin. Cask Aged spends at least three years in six different American and European oak barrels used to age rum and sauternes, and this has really transformed the spirit. This is a true sipping gin, and has almost moved into its own category—not quite a whisky, but not really a true gin anymore with deep notes of leather, vanilla, and dark fruit.
“In 2010 we first distilled The Botanist, and in 2011 we filled our first cask with gin to see what would happen,” said head distiller Adam Hannett on a recent Zoom call. “Over the years we’ve been filling and trying different things but we’ve never released anything. On the 10th anniversary, we released a single cask of nine years aged gin which sold out.” He said that there is some gin aging in peated whisky casks, and that may come out as a future release at some point. “There’s no regulation or framework like you see in scotch whisky,” he said. “So we created our own rules for aging gin. We can use different types of wood than are allowed for whisky.”
Cask Rested ($50) is available in the U.S. to purchase from The Botanist website now, as well as at select retailers. Cask Aged ($80) will only be available at bars and restaurants for the time being, and both should be more available by March 1. And you can find classic The Botanist Gin from websites like Total Wine.
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