Castles & Cocktails
A Highclere Castle Gin Blog

Feature Contributor: Adam von Gootkin

Co-Founder & CEO of Highclere Castle Gin

Designing the Highclere Castle Barrel Aged Gin – A Spirit Worthy of King Tutankhamen

One story around Highclere Castle that has fascinated my inner romantic was that Lord Carnarvon’s Great Grandfather (the 5th Earl) discovered King Tut’s tomb with archeologist Howard Carter. I do simply adore people that don’t do normal people things.

Then I learned, this year, in the year of our lord 2022, we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of this discovery. Of course, I felt compelled to create something that would be worthy of this archeological masterpiece while also feeling a bit of a pressure to do it a proper justice. The challenge was thus: Create a Highclere Castle Gin based spirit that is worthy of the boy king and would not have him turning in his sarcophagus.

So, two years ago, we embarked on our own little adventure. Since Highclere Castle Gin is so deliciously citrus forward, with its floral hints and rounded out Oat based velvet finish, I did feel it had the base makings of what could evolve into a rather lovely, aged spirit. I pondered and attempted to project out the future flavor profile from the “Whiskification” of our gin. If that isn’t a word yet it damn well should be!

I called my friend, Raj Bhakta, the founder of Whistle Pig and now founder of his glorious collection of Bhakta Armagnacs. I was able to secure some 50 year + old Armagnac casks from his chateau in France. Je n’en reviens pas!

Next, I wanted that salty complex smokey bottom note that only the beautiful Scots can provide – and so we secured spent Scotch whiskey barrels.

To round it all out with a touch of sweetness and a waft of the typical American boldness, we sourced new American oak barrels that would traditionally host new bourbon.

The entire endeavor was a very expensive and real risk; barrel aged gin is not an art yet perfected. My rational was, if it didn’t work out, we would drink it ourselves .

Luckily, the gods were with us once again – or perhaps it was just Heset (the Egyptian God of food and drink.)

Over the last two years we tasted samplings from the various barrels to see where things were heading, then began blending them together in an attempt to see if it would indeed be ready to release and celebrate this all-important centennial year. Back in July, the near final samples came in, whereby we attempted a 33% blend of the 3-barrel types. Et voila, we had very naturally and organically nailed the mark.

I remember tasting the final blend the first time. My mind roams to toasted citrus brulee. Holding the torch gently along a fresh orange peel as the oil gently sizzles, releasing the beautiful aroma and caramelizing its natural sugars. The middle pallet has notes of sweet vanilla from the American oak, this baby is a sipper. And I taste a familiar slight bite on the finish – Scotland with its salty air, smoked peat and harsh weather reminding us that this spirit is not playing around, it’s real and here to be sipped seriously. The resulting color is champagne, a soft gold like the Mediterranean sky at dusk – the painters hour. It doesn’t scream history; it whispers it like an echo of Tut’s time.

I am proud we were able to represent some of the very best of Scotland, France and America in this special spirit. Three great nations known for their mastery of the brown spirit. Not only have we liquified the spirit of Highclere, but in this, also ancient Egypt and Highclere’s role in this great discovery.

It was so important to me that we not allow this to be a gimmick, some commercialization of the 5th Earl’s and Carter’s work. As with everything we do, authenticity is paramount.

Considering the lengths, we’ve gone through to develop this, it isn’t really reproducible again and in my life I don’t believe it should be. Our final yield, about 2,000 cases. We might be convinced to make it again, in 100 years. But I will warn you that the full recipe will be buried with me….and someone would have to find me….

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