The term vintage sparks thoughts of premier aged wines or maybe some Bourbons and Scotches distilled in a specific year. But gin? Isn't that juniper-flavored spirit supposed to come from the still house with no age and no color? Well, not according to the makers of Citadelle gin, France's Cognac Ferrand.
The producer of the elegant gin also bottles a vintage version (now in its third year) that enjoys six months of aging in wood casks. Alexandre Gabriel, the president of Cognac Ferrand, says his exhaustive research shows a tradition for short aging in oak that dates back as many as 200 years. In the absence of glass and stainless steel storage, gin was shipped in wood containers.
The latest vintage (2010, released in October) is also marked by a reformulation of Citadelle's 19-botanical recipe. For the first time Gabriel and cellar master Frederic Gilbert specifically created the formula with oak aging in mind. The 2010 version emphasizes the violet, iris and grains of paradise in the original Citadelle recipe. The point was to further the roundness that the aging process imparts on the gin.
The effect is a vibrantly floral gin with sweetness and spice and a less dry, less juniper-tasting profile than the standard Citadelle. A wider flavor range suggests it for pairing in a number of cocktails, but also makes it a very interesting gin to sip neat.
The Citadelle vintages (starting in 2008) have also used progressively less-charred barrels from year to year. Not as intensely woody, the latest vintage lets a creamy, vanilla taste shine through.
Both standard Citadelle ($25) and Citadelle Grand Reserve ($40) use a 19-botanical recipe that includes juniper, coriander, orange peel, cardamom, nutmeg, licorice, cubeb pepper, savory, violet, star anise, fennel, iris, cinnamon, almonds, lemon rind, cassia, angelica, grains of paradise and cumin. Both are excellent in Martinis.
A featured cocktail for Grand Reserve that we particularly enjoyed is Silver Gin Fizz (see recipe below).
Citadelle Gin (44 percent alcohol, 88 proof)
Juniper is prominent on the nose, but joined by citrus and floral notes and a slight sugariness. The juniper strides onto the palate, where rock candy, lemon and honey arise. The finish is again informed by juniper and quite dry with hints of nuts.
Citadelle Gin Reserve Vintage 2010 (44 percent alcohol, 88 proof)
Usually we don't note appearance in tasting gin, but this one has a slightly golden hue. The nose is vibrantly floral with hints of orange peel, juniper and sweetness. The juniper is dialed back on the palate compared with the standard version. In the mouth, the gin is quite floral and sweet with cinnamon and other spices. The honey of the standard version is joined by a distinct and very creamy vanilla note. The sweet and floral finish is longer, more delicate and not as dry.
Silver Gin Fizz Cocktail
1 1/2 oz. Citadelle Gin Reserve
3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. simple syrup or 1 tsp. sugar
1 egg white
Shake gin, lemon juice, sugar and egg white with ice. Keep shaking. When you think you're done, shake some more. The point is to shake the egg white into a froth. Pour over rocks in a highball glass. Top with seltzer.