Aging gin the new time and cost-saving way: Hout Bay Harbour Distillery and Black Horse Distillery experiment with options

Aging gin the new time and cost-saving way: Hout Bay Harbour Distillery and Black Horse Distillery experiment with options

Looking back at the history of spirits production, barrel ageing is nothing new to brandy, whisky and rum distillation. Barrel-aged gin, however, is relatively new to the South African industry with Durban-based Distillery031 claiming their Barrel Aged Gin to be a South African first as recently as 2019.

Barrel-aged gin has been around for decades in most other countries around the world, and in South Africa gin distillers are increasingly successfully creating unique and innovative barrel-aged spirits.

Traditionally, however, barrel-aging means months in wood, rather than years. It therefor makes sense that smaller blocks, added to the spirits, impart the warmth of oak to spirits at a fraction of the cost and time it would take to achieve the same results. Here TNCoopers Viniblocks have a solution.

But when it comes to gin, the ageing time is usually short, as the wood should complement the botanicals rather than overwhelm the botanicals.

South Africa’s distillers try their hand at barrel-aged gin

At Hout Bay Harbour Distillery, head distiller Mike Schmidt is currently experimenting with the possibilities of aging gin in wood.

“We have selected TNCoopers’ Sweet American Oak Viniblocks, as I believe the oak qualities add a well-rounded finish to the gin,” he says. 

“We do not age for very long as we look to retain the profile of our gin whilst adding some of the additional character notes that one can only achieve through a wood aging process”.

At the Black Horse Brewery & Distillery in the Magaliesburg, distiller Marius Bezuidenhout explains how their venturing into aging gin came about: “Our Morality Gin was made with the vision of employing a whiskey process to gin making, which meant that we use cereals such as barley to make our wash. Once distilled and infused, the gin is barrelled in oak casks.

Marius Bezuidenhout, distiller at Black Horse Brewery & Distillery

“We started using TN Coopers’ Viniblocks to create a consistent oak character between batches. Being able to specify the oak and the toast levels made a big impact as we have far better control over the end product,” he says.

Morality Gin is made in a Dutch Jenever style with a fuller bouquet than an average gin, with a distinct oak finish.

Marius adds that their popular Damnation Rum is aged in used bourbon barrels for at least six months and infused with vanilla. “With its rich dark colour and slight sweetness this rum is perfect to be enjoyed neat or on the rocks,” he says.

South Africa’s first Barrel Aged Gin

Claimed to be a first for South Africa,Durban-based Distillery031’s Barrel Aged Gin was launched in 2019. D’Urban Barrel Aged Gin is a hand crafted London Dry style gin, distilled with a blend of botanicals and aged in French oak barrels.

Andrew Rall, distiller at Durban’s Distillery031

The gin is aged for a limited time to retain the freshness which characterises a good gin,” says founder and master distiller, Andrew Rall.  “The oak mellows the spirit, generating tannins that transmit a light sweetness combined with vanillins and fruity flavours. It adds a hint of toasted almond flavour to the finish,” he explains.

With the range of flavours one can get from the wood and the wide array of distilled, juniper-infused liquor, there is reason to get excited about the ever-growing gin category.

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