I used to ignore the gin shelf, possibly because of an all-too-familiar equation: Teenager + mom out of town - bottle of Tanqueray = super grounded. But in my adult life, gin rarely makes it into my cocktails. But bourbon, yes, give me a bourbon in any form and I'm happy.
Lately more distilleries are applying bourbon's barrel-aging practices to gin. Last month, I took part in the judging the Seattle Gin Society's second Ginvitational, as part of a panel blind-tasting close to 20 gins. Due to this year's influx of brown-hued, barrel-aged gin entries, and postive feedback from the group, founder Gene Shook created a specific category for the barrel-aged variety. There’s something about the nutty-spice mixing with the herbaceous juniper and other infused flavors that combine into a complex quaff. It’s a creation that a bourbon lover can understand, and gin drinkers can appreciate.
Here are four Washington distilleries that are barreling up the gin:
Owner Ben Capdevielle's Big Gin took best Northwest gin last year at the Ginvitational. He wanted to barrel-age his Big Gin because, “There’s a beautiful thing that happens in the barrel and it’s a bit of a mystery.” Captive Spirit's bourbon barrels hail from Heaven Hill distillery, the company behind Evan Williams, and the largest independent bourbon producer in the US. Barrel-aged Big Gin, Capdevielle prefers to call it “rested” or “finished,” sits for six months in oak. It has no added sweeteners, so the spice and warm tones come from the barrel, adding layers of woody flavor.
Dry Fly Distilling
From the other side of the mountains in Spokane, the mighty Dry Fly has its own barrel-aged gin. And it’s an award winner too, taking the silver medal in the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits competition. The gin is part of the Creel Collection, which also includes four whiskeys in 375ml bottles released once a year. The next round will be available in July. Kent Fleischmann, owner of Dry Fly says their barrel-aged version has hints of oatmeal, caramel, and apple.
This Capitol Hill distillery’s barrel-aged gin took first place this year at the Ginvitational in the new barrel-aged category, and it’s not even ready yet. The award-winning gin had only been aging for about five weeks, but for the final product the distillery is planning more like two months. Oola is still in the testing phases on proof for the final product, and the label is in the creation process. Managing director and part owner Jeana Harrington says it’s a combination of two of their best products, “It’s like if the prom queen and the quarterback had a baby.”
This distillery, the first legal enterprise in Seattle since Prohibition, is also a rare Washington still making an Old Tom gin. Old Toms aren't always aged, but are usually sweeter side than a traditional London Dry–style gin Sound founder Steven Stone barrel-ages his Old Tom-style gin for a month in oak, giving it a tawny tint and spicy nose.