Citadelle Réserve is something of a standard bearer for aged gin. When Citadelle Réserve launched in 2008 it was among a small handful of spirits which were poking at the edges of what gin could— and should— be.
Over the past decade plus, there’s been several iterations. Most notably was the mid 2010’s version which used a solera system to age the gin.
The current version of Citadelle Réserve features twenty-two botanicals, including three unique to Réserve: yuzu, genepy, and blueberry. That gin is then aged in five different kinds of barrels. Starting with the traditional French Oak which you would expect to find at a Cognac distillery, to the unusual— acacia, mulberry, chestnut and cherry. These are then all blended together and rested further in an eight-foot-tall egg-shaped barrel which Maison Ferrand refers to as an “avant-garde technique.“
A little bit of tannin and dry wood on the nose. There’s also notes of pine tar, dry toasted coriander seeds, toasted almond slivers and macadamia nuts. Citadelle Réserve is surprisingly nutty and dry to the nose. The influence of the wood and barrels come through most sharply here, with botanical presence greatly muted.
Though palate of Citadelle Réserve is long and evolving with a lot of botanical presence, in contrast to the nose.
Pine and juniper come through early, with toasted notes suggestive of dried pinecone tossed into an evening fire. Cardamom and nutmeg come through mid-palate, with anise and fennel coming through a bit later. Dried flowers and citrus lend a bit of potpourri note towards the finish, where Citadelle Réserve’s tannic and wood character begins to come back to the fore. Moderately astringent, cognac barrel and cedar plank notes lend it a long and enduring finish.
Citadelle Réserve is nicely designed to be sipped neat— it’s more warming and more a gentle whiskey/cognac-like than some others on the market. There’s very little sweetness coming from the wood and nary a trace of vanillin or caramel, standing in stark contrast to others in the aged gin space.
I found that Citadelle Réserve blossomed over the rocks yielding ever-so-slightly as it cools.
While it’s dryness doesn’t lend itself well to dessert cocktails like the Gin Alexandria, its complexity comes through nicely in an Aged Gin Old Fashioned or a Hot Toddy.
Overall, Citadelle Réserve
Compared to its previous incarnations, the 2018 version of Citadelle Réserve is a bit more about the wood. It’s nicely integrated but the nose and finish are more about the five barrels than about the botanicals. It’s hard to pick out the individual characters of the five woods though, especially as it goes into the egg afterwards.
However, as a sipping gin, Citadelle Réserve is nice and well-made. I think my only critique might be— the solera aged Citadelle was among my favorite aged gins— ever. While, Citadelle Réserve is worthy of note and well made in its own right… for me and others who had the previous versions, you may find it a bit drier than you remember.
Overall, it’s a good gin— but perhaps not the best aged gin to come out of Maison Ferrand. But given their tendency to tinker and iterate, I wouldn’t be surprised if the aged gin of 2018— just as it isn’t the same aged gin of 2008— isn’t the same one of 2028.