Summer to us, even when it's late in arriving, is all about gin. Recently we got reacquainted with one of the best, Citadelle Gin from France, and discovered its fascinating story. Citadelle is inspired by a recipe created in the 18th century in the French seaport of Dunkirk. Originally, French distillers Carpeau and Stival took spices from ships returning from the Orient and Africa and distilled them in 12 traditional copper stills at the Citadelle Distillery, one of France's oldest registered genievre (ancient juniper distillate) distilleries. It might have been consigned to the history books had not Cognac Pierre Ferrand dug the recipe out of the archives and adapted it.
The process was ideal for Ferrand, which was determined to create a spirit with a great mouth-feel and the thirst-quenching taste of juniper berries combined with the complexity of a very fine spirit. It also solved the problem of what to do in the distillery's downtime; strict French AOC laws allow the distillation of cognac to occur only from November through March. The breathtaking estate of the Logis d'Angeac where Pierre Ferrand Cognac is made lies in the heart of France's famed Grande Champagne Cognac region and features classic copper stills, works of art in their own right. Citadelle now keeps them busy for the rest of the year.
Few gins are produced in pot stills, and Citadelle is the only gin distilled in a Cognac pot still with a naked flame. Distilling gin on an open flame requires a deft touch and far more attention than a column still or steam distillation which is otherwise used. It also means the gin is made in smaller batches, one cask at a time allowing the master distiller to precisely discard the "heads" and "tails" of the distillation, keeping only the precious, flavorful "heart". This costly distillation method imparts a texture only found in spirits distilled that way. The result is a carefully crafted gin, made from whole grain wheat, natural spring water and infused with 19 botanicals that when intermingled allow the complex flavors to create a subtle bouquet with aromas of juniper and citrus.
Gallery: Citadelle Gin