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Citadelle Reserve Gin (2011 Edition)

Citadelle Reserve Gin (2011 Edition)  95.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on January 22, 2012

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 19 botanicals.

The Citadelle Reserve Gin is additionally matured in oak casks for several months for an extra dimension of flavour. According to cellar master Frederick Gilbert,

“Six generations of expertise at Cognac Ferrand in aging spirits helped us know exactly which aromatics would work best in oak casks. By testing the aging properties of different botanicals, we were able to construct the perfect Citadelle suited for oak cask aging.”

I was given a bottle of Citadelle Reserve Gin directly from Cognac Ferrand, for the purpose of a review here on my website.

In the Bottle 5/5

I consider this to be a perfect presentation. A tall frosted bottle which highly attractive labeling, and a corked topper. Although the bottle is frosted, it still shows the mellow oak  colour of the gin.

The back of the bottle indicates that the Citadelle Reserve Gin is very special indeed, as my bottle has been individually numbered as follows:

Edition 2011
Distilled 04/2011
Cask No. 05/28 Bottle No. 0205
Cellare Master  C. Guerin

This is completed with the signature of Cellar Master C. Guerin . I am tempted to forgo the review and save this bottle for my growing collection of rare distilled spirits.

In the Glass 9.5/10

Once poured into the glass however, I am quite happy that I have opened this particular gin for a review. The aroma which drifts upwards is light and elegant, and very appealing. Mild piny notes of juniper seem to lead into the breezes with scents of lemon and balsam arriving almost as quickly. The oak manifests itself as sandalwood with light rye spices which build up as the glass sits. There is also a soothing floral characteristic to the nose which reminds me of  lilacs in the springtime.

If you sniff carefully you can pick up lightly pungent spices under the triumvirate of juniper, citrus and oak. These light scents of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg seem to drift in and out of the breezes adding even more complexity to the air above the glass.

In the Mouth 57/60

When I took my first sip of the Citadelle Reserve Gin, I admit that I forgot all about keeping tasting notes, and instead I just enjoyed the marvelously light but complex flavour I encountered. Gin is not supposed to be sipped this easily.

When I returned to a new glass, I began to jot down my impressions for the review. The gin has a lightly sweet flavour with that triumvirate of  juniper, oak, and lemony citrus forming the backbone of the its flavour profile. A mild but firm spiciness reminiscent of rye spice and ginger keeps the mouth-feel lively and the palate receptive. An impression similar to mandarin oranges seems to have joined in, and the tasting session is going marvelously well.

After a few minutes the Citadelle Gin mellows just a little, and I begin to taste a light earthiness underneath. Warm spices like allspice, very light cinnamon and soft black pepper seem to play under the main flavours, and they are joined by softer more pungent spices which remind me of  savory and thyme. Just as I discovered on the nose, there is a delicate elegance within this gin which I find completely engaging. Each time I returned to the glass to continue my tasting session, I seemed to find a new nuance of flavour, and the gentle complexity of this Citadelle Reserve Gin has me beguiled.

In the Throat 14/15

The gin finishes with a little soft pepper which trails behind the piny soft notes of juniper. The citrus flavours of lemon and orange are softened in the finish, yet they seem to somehow last far longer than I was expecting. Although the gin exits with no burn, a sort of creeping spicy warmth slowly grows in the back of the mouth and in the throat after the gin is consumed. I find this magnificent.

The Afterburn 10/10

The Citadelle Reserve Gin is absolutely wonderful. It has turned out to be one of those spirits which I like to hoard for myself disliking the thought of sharing its goodness. The gin is marvelously complex, yet it retains a certain elegance in the glass which as I said earlier is very beguiling. The barrel aging (very rare for gin) has been executed in such a manner that the oak is at one with the botanicals within, and there is no competition for attention between the various flavours, rather everything seems to meld together in a display of rare balance.

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

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Suggested Recipe

This is definitely a gin made for sipping, but it is equally outstanding in classic gin cocktails. I chose the classic Martini to showcase its wonderfully complex nature.

Classic Martini

dash Dry Vermouth
1 3/4 ounces Citadelle Reserve Gin
ice
Lemon Peel

Pour the Vermouth and the Citadelle Reserve Gin into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a cocktail glass
Squeeze the lemon peel to release some oil
Add a a few strands of lemon peel to the cocktail.

And of course… enjoy!

______________________________________________________________________________________________

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…. 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+           Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

5 Responses to “Citadelle Reserve Gin (2011 Edition)”

  1. JV said

    I’m wondering if you’ve sampled the normal blue bottle of Citadelle gin? How does it stand up? The Reserve is unavailable, as far as I know, in Ontario.

    Thanks,

    JV

    • I had a chance to sample the regular Citadelle about three weeks ago when the entire line-up was featured at a tasting hosted by Cognac Ferrand (the brand owner). It is very nice, but in my mind not in the same class as the Citadelle Reserve. Of course I had sampled 4 Cognacs prior to the Citadelle sample as so my observations may have been slightly compromised. I am supposed to receive a sample of the citadell for review in the new year so then I will be able to give it a fair taste.

  2. Doug Ford said

    Chip, I’ve been trying to find a bottle of this gin ever since I first saw this review. Your tasting notes make it sound very attractive, and very desirable. Alas! it doesn’t seem to be in my market, but I’m still hoping to come across a bottle. Thanks for giving me something to search out.

    • Hi Doug

      The Citadelle reserve is (IMO) marvelous. I forwarded your comments to Cognac Ferrand to try to help you find some and received this reply:

      Thank you Chip, we are very proud of it. Alberta is one of the only markets in the world to actually get more than 600 btls of it. So you are one of the few to grab some. After this release, it will be gone forever, unfortunately.

      I hope that information was not as discouraging for you as it was for me.

      Chip

      • Doug Ford said

        …sigh…

        Yeah, that’s way discouraging. Anyway, the idea of an oaked gin, that’s pretty intriguing. Given the reception of Ferrand’s offering, perhaps other companies will give this a try. So there’s something to watch for. Thanks for letting me know.

 
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