It's time to reconsider what we know about gin, starting with the color.
Disregard any rules about the spirit being exclusively clear, because distillers around the country are putting their gins in barrels, resulting in tawny beauties that marry botanical nuances with warm and round notes akin to whiskey. With the best of both worlds in a single bottle, the mixing opportunities are endless.
Oregon-based Tad Seestedt put the wheels in motion two years ago when he first released his Ransom Old Tom gin. Meant to replicate the Old Toms of the 18th and 19th centuries (when all liquor was stored in barrels), the gin spends six to seven months in neutral French oak.
In San Francisco, distiller Davorin Kuchan will release his second batch of Rusty Blade gin this fall, and we can't wait. He ages it for just under two years in the same French oak barrels that he uses to age Zinfandel wine for his eaux-de-vie (which, in a full-circle effect, form the base of the gin). The resulting liquor has alpine notes with the mellow, honeyed tickle of a Cognac.
Colorado-based distiller Ted Talmer was inspired to barrel his gin after tasting an aged genever in Holland. After several months in new American oak, his Imperial gin channels bourbon. And in Nashville, the folks at Corsair Artisan Distillery increase the juniper levels in their traditional gin before putting it into barrels that previously held spiced rum.
Brown gin in hand, start your mixing with a Martinez. The kissing cousin of the Manhattan, it's the ideal platform for a gin with whiskey envy.
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