When it launched in 2013, Pickering’s Gin’s Summerhall Distillery was one of the first new gin distillery to open in Edinburgh in 150 years.
Though founders Marcus Pickering and Matthew Gammellfound a common interest in gin after years spent concocting shooting gins, like sloe and blackberry, so far the offerings from their distillery have been fairly straight laced: Pickering’s Gin, Pickering’s Navy Strength, Pickering’s Sloe and Pickering’s 1947.
Happy news for gin geeks is that this has all been changed with one swoop: the distillery has released a collection of oak aged gins, muddling gin and whisky flavours together in one great, palate tingling adventure. We had a quick chat with Pickering’s to find out why they’d gone in a cask aged direction, and Matt Gammell was only to happy to explain: “We wanted to explore how the oak cask soaked in Whisky would flavour the gin. It’s this distinctive character in our finished product which marries Scotland’s two greatest spirits.”
We’ve already written up Pickering’s Gin over here, but to understand the aged version it’s important to have an understanding of what botanicals are involved so we’ll summarise: The distillery’s gins are based on an old recipe from Bombay (the city not the brand), which was written down on the 17th July 1947 and passed on by a friend of Marcus’s father named Gopal. The recipe was a treasured family secret, passed on to the budding distillers when Gopal heard they were setting up a distillery.
Pickering’s Gin and Pickering’s Navy Strength are earthy and dry, with star anise and clove bringing a spiciness which is far more pronounced in the higher ABV edition. Other botanicals used are juniper, coriander, cardamom, angelica, fennel, lemon and lime.
To make the cask aged gin releases, Summerhall Distillery cut Pickering’s Navy Strength Gin to 47% ABV after resting it in five separate barrels, each sought from distilleries across the country’s five distinct whisky producing regions. Around 200 bottles worth of liquid was placed into each barrel and left to mature for between three and six months.
Finding the correct casks was no mean feat –Scotland has a vast amount of whisky to offer so it took a great deal of traipsing and over six months to choose the correct casks. In fact, this exploration has been a long time coming. “We discussed the idea with the Scottish Malt Whisky Society back in early 2014 and we began to source the casks in 2015.” said Matt, “It took over six months to handpick all five casks and bring them back to Summerhall Distillery in Edinburgh.”
Each gin is an extremely rare, never-to-be-repeated venture and are designed to be treated like whisky – drunk using water or ice or in a dark, smoky cocktail.
The Speyside is a little darker in colour than the Lowland but still a light drink, not the amber tones of a classic Scotch. It has a very clean smell and is not particularly identifiable as a gin. To taste, there is an almost floral oakiness which is only hinted to at first but which shines through in the aftertaste. There’s a strong citrus and a lasting spice, but compared to the Lowland bottling the spice is not anywhere near as prominent. The cask has subdued the gin here, rather than enriched it, taking it from adulterated gin territory and into weird whisky territory. This is a hybrid through and through but seemingly, delivering both at the same time isn’t a effective as picking a side…