There’s a fine line between marrying and muddying flavors with trendy barrel-aged gins. The vibrant botanicals that make gin can be dulled by the barrel. And frankly, we want our oak and juniper, too.

Following Vikre Distillery’ cedar chip Boreal gin, Waconia newcomers J. Carver Distillery recently unleashed a “barrel-rested” gin (less time than “barrel-aged”) and the oak-kissed spirit thankfully retains its botanical brightness. “The delicacy of the gin is what we don’t want to lose by leaving it in too long,” said distiller Matt Miller.

Distillates containing everlasting clover, baking spices and citrus peels spent three to 11 weeks in mostly 30-gallon barrels before blending. The trick is pulling each after extracting vanillins and tannins from the barrel, but before entering what’s called the reaction phase. “Those botanicals that are so beautiful that we work to create start to esterify or oxidate and change completely,” Miller said.

Nevertheless, J. Carver’s Barrel Gin is a pleasantly sharp change of pace.

 

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Winterfest

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild’s 14th annual Winterfest hits St. Paul’s Union Depot this weekend. This year, the intimate beer festival, which usually sells out in nanoseconds, is spread over two nights, with different brewery lineups each session (though 10 popular breweries pour both nights). Because of the two-night stand, tickets for both sessions were still available at press time. (7-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. $75-$135. 214 E. 4th St., St. Paul. www.mncraftbrew.org.) M.R.