Ageing spirits in oak is an ancient method for improving flavour. The charred interior of an oak barrel acts as a natural charcoal filter, creating a gentler spirit over time. The wood adds a bit of colour as well as an additional complexity to the flavour. The entire process is made even better when you reuse a cask that previously held another type of spirit. I chose a cask that previously held rich peaty whisky from one of the famous distilleries of Islay. Peat smoke added during the malting process produces a very rich and smoky whisky and a great deal of that flavour is left behind in the wood. My special gin went into this cask at a very high strength of nearly 60% ABV and rested there for over four months.
The result is very interesting. The juniper mellows quite a bit, rounding itself off into a more vegetal note. Any spiciness disappeared into the wood entirely leaving a very smooth spirit. The citrus sprang to the front alongside the peat smoke. With a dose of sweetness from the liquorice root behind it, the result is like a sweet smoky orange in a wide wave of flavour.
Islay Cask Gin is an interesting product, and some people aren’t entirely sure how to serve it. Personally, I like it as a short dram over ice for sipping, perhaps with a scrape of orange peel floating on top. You could make a smoky G&T, but be very mean with the tonic to avoid washing out the richness of the spirit. If you want a bit of fizziness to a cocktail, try a splash of soda water rather than tonic or lemonade. Kirkwood Islay Cask Gin is a true sipping gin, if ever there was one.