You used to know where you were with spirits: whisky and brandy were brown, gin tasted of juniper and vodka of nothing at all. Now things are not so simple. I tried an oak-aged Polish potato vodka made by Vestal. Creamy and peppery, with layers of caramel, it was more like a rye whiskey than a vodka. Pickering’s, a gin manufacturer from Edinburgh, has released a range of gins aged in whisky barrels. In the Highland version, the sweetness of the whisky-infused wood accentuated the citrus notes in the gin.
While gin and vodka distillers try ageing, whisky and brandy distillers are releasing unaged spirits. The spicy Domaine du Tariquet armagnac blanche makes a stunning martini with Noilly Prat vermouth; in Cognac, G’Vine produces a delicate gin from grape spirit called Floraison. The juniper is so slight that you might not realise it’s a gin.
Categorising distillers is now difficult: Adnams makes gin, vodka and whisky alongside beer. This fluidity may seem modern but it is a return to the early 19th century, when whisky distillers would flavour their spirits with juniper and herbs, and Highland malts were sold unaged. These are interesting times to be a spirit drinker; just try to keep an open mind if your G&T arrives with a yellow tinge.