Review: Hayman’s 1850 Gin
It really is quite amazing what a few (or a lot!) of years spent inside a wooden barrel can do to a spirit. Indeed the idea of barrel-ageing has been extended to cocktails themselves to an increasing extent in recent years, as many bars have experimented with the effect wood has on their creations. Although typically considered to be an unaged spirit, before 1861 gin was actually transported and sold in barrels rather than bottles. It is this long-lost tradition that has inspired the release of Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin.
I shall find myself reprimanded if I refer to the 1850 as an ‘aged’ gin, because in fact it only spends 3-4 weeks in the oak barrels previously used to age Scotch whisky. Compared with the many years that most aged spirits spend in barrel, this no time at all and is intended to impart a much more subtle effect on the gin than would be the case were it to be properly ‘aged’.
I’m first struck by how light in colour this gin is; whilst there is certainly an orange hue, at first glance it is hardly obvious that this gin has spent time inside a barrel. The effect of the oak is not all that obvious on the nose either, which is juniper led but softened with sweet orange, cream soda and earthy/spicy notes rounding things off. On the palate this gin at first follows the house style of being relatively sweet and with the juniper leading the flavour procession. The oak lends a spicy and slightly tannic edge to what is otherwise quite a classic and full flavoured gin. These spice notes come through more prominently when served frozen but so does a slightly ‘muddy’ taste reminiscent of a dirty martini. Overall it’s ‘nice’ but I’m not certain the time in barrel is improving matters.
My initial attempts at mixing only serve to bolster my thoughts that I’m not immediately sold on the barrel-resting ‘thing’, particularly given the fact that I am a big fan of the rest of the range (check out my review here). For example, aromatic cocktails seemed to magnify the astringent element of the oak finish one hundred-fold and what was quite a pleasant subtle edge to the gin becomes a little unpalatable. Perseverance however pays off and I find myself warming to this gin the more I play around with it. Adding sweet, and sour flavours help to freshen up the palate, and in return the oak adds a complexity that might be lacking in other lighter gins. Likewise it also benefits from a little length in a G+T where some surprising berry flavours bounce around in my mouth.
All in all, the 1850 manages quite a turnaround. Tasted neat, I find the oak influence sits somewhat awkwardly, neither allowing the fresh Hayman’s style to come through, nor offering a definitively ‘aged’ taste. Get it wrong when mixing, and this effect is only exaggerated. Get it right however and you are rewarded with a tasty and surprisingly complex libation where the gin stands proud as an ingredient in it’s own right. All things considered, I like it but perhaps not as much as I hoped I would.
“Hayman’s 1850 reserve gin is a classically-styled gin with the added twist of having been barrel-rested. It is clearly a well-made gin, and one that will be on the ‘to try’ list for any gin fan. However, the contribution of the barrel is more negative than positive, resulting in a slightly confused flavour that neither showcases the beauty of the gin, nor the ageing process.”
Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.