Surprising Barrel-Aged Spirits

BY JENNIFER NALEWICKI / PHOTOGRAPHY BY R.J. HINKLE — Fall 2017

Distillers around the globe are starting to age spirits that typically don’t spend quality time in barrels — but only for months, not for years, as is usually the case with most aged liquors. With this less-is-more philosophy, the floral and botanical notes and flavors of the spirits in their pure distilled form are amplified, not overpowered, with just a subtle whisper of oak. After giving one of these inspired new barrel-aged alternatives a sip — either neat or on the rocks — you may think twice before ordering a 20-year scotch.

Absinthe

ZMAJ, Copper & Kings

In historical literature, absinthe has often been referred to as “the green fairy.” But Louisville, Ky.-based Copper & Kings sought a different mythological creature when it decided to barrel-age its absinthe. Called Zmaj (pronounced “Zm-eye”), after a mythological Balkan dragon, the muscat-brandy-based spirit’s “voluptuous and viscous mouthfeel” develops and deepens after maturing for 18 months in Serbian juniper barrels, says head distiller Brandon O’Daniel. The golden-colored liquid releases aromas of fennel, lemon, and pine, intermixed with the flavors of ginger preserves, salted caramel, honey, and licorice. $60/750 mL; copperandkings.com

Brandy

SUSAN FOR PRESIDENT BARRELED PEACH BRANDY, Koval Distillery

With this vibrant drink, Koval co-founder Sonat Birnecker Hart honors the humor and fortitude of her now-departed Aunt Susan, a free-spirited artist who once casually campaigned to become “President of the World.” Matured for up to six months in barrels previously used to age the Chicago-based distillery’s whiskey, this limited-edition spirit opens with notes of pepper, peach, and butterscotch, with the accompaniment of a “round and fuzzy mouthfeel” — just like a real peach. $49/375 mL; koval-distillery.com

Gin

9 MOONS, Martin Miller’s Gin

It took nine months — or nine moon cycles — of aging gin in bourbon barrels before Andreas Versteegh, co-founder of Martin Miller’s Gin, deemed the liquid ready for bottling. The idea of taking the U.K.-based brand’s gin, made by blending ice-cold Icelandic spring water with gin distilled in England, and aging it in Iceland simply began as an experiment. The result? A balanced spirit that commingles the dried citrus peel and juniper notes of gin with a soft hint of oak. $50/750 mL; martinmillersgin.com

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