Highclere Castle Gin’s Release of a Barrel Aged Expression as Celebrated through Gin’s Iconic Cocktail.
3,300 years have gone by since King Tut’s Reign over the New Kingdom. 100 years have passed since the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb by Howard Carter and the 5th Earl of Carnarvon.
Minds much greater than mine (namely Drs John and Colleen Darnell) have brought this grand history to the 21st century through translations, prose, research, and stories. My attempt is to do this rich legacy justice and highlight the release of what I believe is the finest barrel aged expression of gin.
On the Liquid
My philosophy behind spirits and cocktails is to add what’s necessary and leave the rest behind. I always look at barrel aged spirits with a critical eye. Oak is a zero-sum game-whatever it lends to the spirit, something else is taken away. Care must be taken to preserve the soul of the original distillate and not just produce a bottle of Werther’s Original.
With this special bottling, the alchemy is quite high. Citrus is one of gin’s main calling cards. The natural London Dry citrus is accompanied by a hint of brûlée orange from the bourbon barrels. The lavender of the original gets swept away by hints of plum and vanilla imparted by the Armagnac Barrels (if you have never had Armagnac, I highly suggest it. It’s Cognac’s lesser known but equally enthralling relative). The most daring (and successful) note is the slightest aroma of smoke imparted by single malt scotch wood.
After getting over my flummox at our fearless leader for making me contemplate this liquid for hours and miss a dinner party (Adam von Gootkin consistently makes me think, whether I want to or not and I’m grateful for it. My schedule might feel otherwise.) I was inspired to craft a martini which achieved something as magical as the barrel aged gin-a monument to the virtues of the original and something new, unique and pleasantly complex.
The Original Martini
To review, the classic Martini gives us the following:
4-8 parts London Dry Gin, providing juniper, and botanical notes
1-part Dry Vermouth, providing steely white wine notes with subtle herbaceous finish
Orange bitters to give structure and cohesion
Oils of an expressed lemon peel to drive the aromatics and brighten up the nose
The Debut of the Golden Ankh Martini
2.25 ounces Barrel Aged Highclere Castle Gin-Notes of vanilla, burnt orange, and smoky cherry with a classic juniper backbone
0.5 ounce Italicus Rosolio
.5 oz Amaro Nonino
Bar Spoon Orange Oleo Saccharum
Italicus is the stand-in for vermouth, and factually has existed centuries longer. Rosolio is the original Apertivo beverage and fittingly was known as the Drink of Kings. Rosolio means “morning dew”- farmers would harvest the ingredients at dawn where the flavors were most concentrated. Bergamot is perhaps the finest and most pungent citrus in existence, and it provides the base for this complex miracle of liqueurs. The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but a tradition technique of essential oil extraction is blended with neutral spirit and infused with lavender, gentian, yellow roses and Melissa balm.
Amaro, translating to “bitter” is just that-a potable concoction of herbs that render a bittersweet Italian liqueur. While some are midnight black and aggressive, Nonino (makers of the finest grappa available) is a lesson in a lower key. Bitter notes are there and provide structure to our martini and are followed by allspice, black pepper and honey. It’s less sweet than the average amaro, making it perfect for our martini.
Orange Oleo Saccharum
As discussed in previous posts, the magical oils from citrus rinds are right at our fingertips.
Orange rinds were muddled into sugar and the essential oil strained off. This adds the proper touch of sweetness and absolutely makes the other notes crescendo into a symphonic explosion.
This being a special cocktail, a bit of extra special panache was added.
Frozen lemon wheels are used to chill our glass while we mix.
All ingredients are added to a mixing glass and stirred for a minimum of 20 seconds.
The resulting mixture is strained into a long-stemmed cordial glass that evoked the magic of the Egyptian Empire, to my eye at least.
Garnish is a scored lemon peel upon the side of the glass.
The name of the cocktail has been chosen because the Ankh symbol is an expression of eternal life. The journey of humanity is marked by a never-ending sojourn towards the perfect spirit, the perfect cocktail, the perfect party. I do hope you treat yourself to a bottle of this very special spirit and make your mark on the immortal journey of good living.