Citadelle Gin

Citadelle Réserve 2013

Solera aging:
It’s not just for sherry anymore

Barrel-aging spirits is certainly nothing new. Unless you’re talking about gin. And if you happen to be talking to Alexandre Gabriel, he’ll passionately explain that barrel aging is what naturally happened to gin hundreds of years ago.

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Nearly every gin sold on the market today is bottled immediately after distilling, but Citadelle Réserve Vintage sleeps for several months in small, seasoned French oak barrels before being bottled. While this is very unusual today, this painstaking and lengthy practice is reminiscent of how gin was stored and transported more than 100 years ago when glass (too fragile and expensive), plastic and stainless steel were not options. Gabriel’s experimentation began in 2008 when he put his Citadelle Gin into a few old French oak casks – and voilà, Citadelle Gin Réserve was born and became the first barrel-aged Citadelle gin. It was a very rounded gin with notes of wood and vanilla while still being very juniper forward. It was such a new and unique gin that it sold out within weeks of its global introduction! Upon tasting Citadelle Réserve 2008, the Spanish press called Gabriel the “master of spirits.”

“Barrel aging tends to tame the flower and citrus feel of the gin and enhances the rounder, softer notes,” says Gabriel. “It is important to know that our goal is not to use as many botanicals as possible but instead, the botanicals are used to bring forward and enhance the classic taste of juniper berries that make a classic gin.”

Since 2008, Gabriel has released a limited edition aged gin each year and has tinkered with the recipe ever so slightly, giving each vintage its own unique taste profile:

  • In 2009, the goal was less wood flavor and more finesse. Citadelle Gin rested in oak casks that had a medium char for five months and produced a gin with subtle flavors of vanilla, flowers and cinnamon. Acclaimed spirits writer F. Paul Pacult named the 2009 Vintage one of the Top 50 Spirits of the Year.
  • In 2010, Gabriel wanted to engineer the perfect ‘aging’ gin with more flower and spices notes, so he produced a special batch of Citadelle with more violet, iris and grains of paradise. The gin was aged for six months in oak casks with a light char. This produced a gin with a perfect roundness, harmony and elegance.
  • In 2011, Citadelle Gin Réserve was made with the same botanicals but distilled at a higher proof (44.7 % ABV).
  • In 2012, Gabriel added three new botanicals – yuzu, génépi and bleuet (cornflower) – to the 19 botanicals already used to make Citadelle Gin – and aged the spirit for six months in oak cases with a light char.

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“I am happy to see that what we started as an experiment almost five years ago has now picked up some speed,” says Gabriel. “We see other companies creating oak-aged gins now and I am pleased that our initial introduction of a few bottles of Citadelle Gin Réserve in 2008 has started a ‘movement’ of sorts.”

Not one to rest on his laurels – or rest ever! – Gabriel has a new surprise in store for the 2013 Réserve. Something never before undertaken in gin aging. Gabriel will use the SOLERA aging technique starting with the 2013 edition of Citadelle Réserve. The Solera aging process is most frequently used for sherry, Madeira, Marsala; balsamic vinegars; Spanish brandy; and rums. And while a few companies are barrel-aging gin now, NONE are using the Solera method. Leave it to Gabriel to find a new trick! The Solera aging method used for Citadelle is a very intensive process of putting Citadelle into different type casks for a anywhere from 2 to 5 months and will include American oak cask (to impart a touch of vanilla sweetness) and casks that once held Pineau de Charente (for a full-bodied, flowery roundness) and also Brandy (which imparts elegance). Once the gin has spent some time in casks, a portion of the gin from each cask will be moved into a large vat for blending, and new gin will be added to the remaining gin in the cask. Again, after aging for a specified period, the process of taking some of the aged gin out to be blended and adding new to the casks starts all over again. This is how the Solera process works. As this will be an ongoing process, the aged Citadelle Réserve will no longer be a ‘vintage’ product – and you know what happens to vintages…once you run out, you run out. By using the Solera process, the taste profile will be more consistent and there will be no fear of not being able to find Citadelle Réserve on your favorite retailer’s shelf. And if this isn’t a good reason to age gracefully, we don’t know what is!

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