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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Professor Ampleforth's Cask-Aged Gin

Curiouser and curiouser.  The mysterious packages that seem to arrive through the door at Caskstrength towers.  This month we've been exploring some other spirits alongside whisky and this rather unique little number caught our eye.

It is from the burgeoning labs run by the wonderfully eccentric Cornelius Ampleforth (aka Master Of Malt's Ben Ellefsen) and takes the gin category to yet another dimension.  This unusual range of spirits (which included the original Bathtub Gin, an Old Tom gin and the downright crazy Rumbullion.  The Bathtub bottling exuded all manner of wonderful botanicals, compounded, rather than redistilled in spirit.  It gave the gin a slight tint, hinting at times gone by and tasted absolutely tremendous.  There's been some snobbishness about compound gins in the past, but we say b****cks to that, if it's done with all the finesse (and probable irresponsibility) as Mr Ampleforth.

Hot on its heels, comes a Cask Aged Gin.  The lab has obtained some 50 litre octave sized casks, which will have previously held both bourbon and sherry.  Banging the gin in for a little snooze (apparently 6 months) has resulted in this -  certainly the first cask aged gin we've come across - and looking very much like a young whisky.

Those of a nervous white spirit disposition, look away now. We're about to destroy all that you believe in... ;-)

Nose: The great news is that this experiment has whole-heartedly paid off. Notes of juniper, dry, musty cassia bark, coriander and citrus peel burst through, alongside a slightly buttery, sweet vanilla note. Nothing is overpowering. If this has been in a cask for six months, it hasn't dominated the spirit, just given it a nicely rounded note. It seems less spirity than other gins and a bit 'fatter'.  Lovely.

Palate: Oh, this is where all the cask influence has gone - methinks from something that might have held an Oloroso sherry?  Really spicy and meaty, with cloves, some Moroccan lamb (seriously...) lemon peel, some bay notes and lots of rich, oily mouth coating vanilla.  This will make a very unusual Martini, but a great one, none-the-less.

Finish: The juniper notes return to the palate as it dries out, alongside, citrus zest, a touch of cardamon and a whisker of dry wood spice.  

Overall: If you happen to like blended whisky (hmmm, anyone? ;-) ) and a quality gin, then this is going to be right up your street.  It doesn't overstep the gin category totally, still retaining its aromatic balance, but offers something a little more alongside it.