Think of the great fortified muscats of our nearby Rutherglen region. Each year the winery puts its youngest fortified stocks into the barrels at the top of the solera. Every once in a while the top barrels are drained to a level below, and so on, and the oldest material comes out of the bottom.
The older and bigger the system, the more profoundly aged the resultant fortified wine. And we decided that we want to create a similarly complex, and consistent, barrel aged product with our new Barrel Aged Gin. So we set about creating a solera of barrels in early 2014.
But we wanted to have a modified solera system at Four Pillars, because (as with fortified wines) it is not always the case that older is better and it would be easy to over-age the gin. The art comes from blending the right combinations of the new with the old.
The difference between using old and new became obvious in February 2014 when we purchased a brand new barrique from Mercurey, one of the great coopers of France. Within a mere two weeks the gin in the new barrel had gained a golden colour and taken on some sweet vanillin oak characters. A terrific blending option, but we wanted our barrel-aged product to taste of gin, not wood.
In March 2014 we purchased three five-year-old former Chardonnay barriques from Dargue & Jaegle. D&J barrels are famous in the world of wine as the staves are steamed rather than toasted. Thus they lend very subtle, fine oak characters without overt toastiness. We have always had a soft spot for D&J barrels with wine and we reckon they are as good with our gin.
So when we came to blend in late October 2014 we had nine barrels to choose from – some resting for almost a year, and the newer barrels were getting toastier by the minute...
This Solera No_2 was released in late 2014, and went on to win a Gold Medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Solera No_3 and No_4 were a step up again in character and intensity. Solera No_5 was released in July 2016, and Cam reckons it is the best yet - a little darker, and with preserved ginger notes.