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Citadelle Reserve 2013 Edition

Review: Citadelle Reserve Gin (2013 Edition)  93/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on January 08, 2015

Citadelle Gin has a history which stretches back to 1775 when King Louis XVI authorized two Frenchmen, Carpeau and Stival, to open a genievre distillery at the Citadelle in Dunkirk, which would serve as the Royal Distillery with an exclusive 20 year privilege. The Citadelle Distillery produced about 1000 litres of genievre per day which was predominantly shipped in small casks for sale in England, where gin was very popular.

About 200 years later in 1989, Alexandre Gabriel of Cognac Ferrand, recognized that in France, gin had become more of an industrial spirit with much of the heritage and refinement lessened by time. He decided to create a handcrafted gin using small copper pots in the style and tradition of the Citadelle Distillery of old. Fortunately records existed of the old gin making techniques at the Citadelle Distillery, and after several years of research Alexandre Gabriel was successful in distilling an old style handcrafted gin under the Citadelle name. The Gin is produced at the Cognac Ferrand facilities in Cognac, France, and according to the Citadelle Gin website, it is produced under naked flame in small copper pot stills using a complex array of botanicals.

While most gins are not matured in oak casks, Citadelle Reserve 2013 Edition Gin is not only aged in small oak casks, it is the first gin to be aged using a solera style maturation. According to the information provided on the Citadelle Gin website:

“The Solera aging method used for Citadelle is a very intensive process of putting Citadelle into different type casks for a anywhere from 2 to 5 months and will include American oak cask (to impart a touch of vanilla sweetness) and casks that once held Pineau de Charente (for a full-bodied, flowery roundness) and also Brandy (which imparts elegance). Once the gin has spent some time in casks, a portion of the gin from each cask will be moved into a large vat for blending, and new gin will be added to the remaining gin in the cask. Again, after aging for a specified period, the process of taking some of the aged gin out to be blended and adding new to the casks starts all over again.”

I was given a bottle of the 2013 Citadelle Reserve Gin directly from River Valley Beverages (the distributor for Cognac Ferrand spirits here in Alberta) for the purpose of a review here on my website.

Citadelle 2013 SAM_1363In the Bottle 4.5/5

The Reserve Gin arrives in a tall frosted bottle with attractive labeling, and sealed with a pressed on metallic closure. As you can see by my snapshot to the left, although the bottle is frosted, it still shows the mellow colouration derived from its time in oak. Near the bottom of the bottle is a thin black band which wraps around the bottle, and upon it are small labelled diagrams of 19 of the botanicals which are found within this solera aged gin.

The back of the bottle indicates that only 60 small casks of the gin were released in 2013. My particular bottle is also numbered as follows:

Edition:  2013
Bottle No:  24616

This is also a facsimile signature of Master Distiller, Alexander Gabriel.

The only detraction from the presentation is that pressed on metallic cap which is flimsy and cheapens an otherwise splendid presentation.

In the Glass 9/10

Once poured into the glass, the gin shows a very pale beige colour which represents its short time spent in the various oak casks as it traveled through the Citadelle Solera system. The aroma which drifts upwards is juniper forward. The piny notes drifting upwards into the breezes are accented with lightly spiced with oak accents. Although the impression of oak is not severe, it does seem to have a stronger presence than I remember from the 2011 edition (see 2011 review here). Reading through the information provided to me, this seems to make sense as the spirit appears to be spending a few more months in oak than it did previously.

The fine oak spices which I am receiving mingle with scents of coriander and cardamom giving me impressions of ginger and rye spices which build up as the glass sits. There is also a light floral characteristic to the nose which reminds me of white lilies which bloom in the summer. If you sniff carefully you can sense lightly pungent spices under the dominant aromas of juniper, citrus and oak. Images of cinnamon and nutmeg seem to drift in and out of the breezes adding more complexity to the air above the glass. Bits of orange peel and lemongrass also come forward, and the result is a very nicely balanced nose which is very appealing.

In the Mouth 56/60

The 2013 Citadelle Reserve Gin has a lightly sweet and moderately spicy flavour profile with dominant flavours of juniper, oak, coriander, cardamom, and lemony citrus zest forming its backbone. Although the gin has a moderate but firm spiciness, it is nevertheless easy to sip (especially with an added ice-cube).

After a few minutes the Citadelle Gin mellows in the glass, and I begin to taste a light earthiness which I have come to identify as angelica root (with hints of black licorice) underneath the spice and juniper. As well warm pungent spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and soft black pepper seem to play with the juniper and licorice in my mouth. If you search through your imagination as you sip, you may find indications of fennel, savory and thyme within the pungent spiciness.

Comparing my impressions between the 2011 Citadelle Reserve Gin and the 2013 Solera version, I believe that there is a considered difference in style between the two expressions. Whereas I found the 2011 version very elegance and almost feminine. There is more masculine robustness within the gin that I perceive in the 2013 version. The oak and spice are more forward in the flavour profile demanding more attention as I sip.

In the Throat 14/15

The solera gin leaves the palate with firm impressions of cardamom, coriander and ginger trailing behind the lightly bitter, piny notes of juniper. More citrus flavours of lemon and orange are revealed in the finish, accented nicely by the earthiness of angelica and black licorice.

The gin exits with no burn, however the spiciness of oak, coriander and cardamom bring forward a heated warmth which covers the palate and back of the mouth after the gin is consumed.

The Afterburn  9.5/10

The 2013 Edition of Citadelle Reserve Gin is a spectacular gin! It is marvelously complex, and the oak forward spiciness is extremely appealing set beside the juniper forward flavour profile. The moderate spiciness within the gin which gives me an impression of robust masculinity; however there is more than enough other nuances of flavour found which make the gin extremely interesting to sip.

Although I found I preferred to sip this Citadelle Gin over ice rather than to mix cocktails (it really is that good); when I did mix a few cocktails, I found I preferred to embrace the light oak spiciness within the cocktail rather than to hide it. Therefore martinis, and short cocktails without soda would be my recommendation to you (see recipe below).

You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Citadelle Lime martini SAM_1464Lime Martini

2 1/2 oz Citadelle Reserve Gin (2013)
1/2 oz of fresh Lime Juice
1/3 oz of sugar syrup
Thin curl of lime peel

Rinse a chilled Martini glass with a dash of vermouth
Pour the other three ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost
Strain into the cocktail glass

Add a thin curl of lime peel to the cocktail.

And of course… enjoy!

Note: If  you are interested in more original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing spirit.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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