Drink Spirits

Beefeater – A Look At The Iconic London Dry Gin

Desmond Payne Making Beefeater Gin
Desmond Payne Making Beefeater Gin

When it comes to gin, there are few brands as iconic as Beefeater. This definitive London Dry Gin is one of the few London Dry Gins actually distilled in London. Producing over 2.5 million cases of gin a year, the Beefeater distillery is surprisingly staffed by only five people. At the helm of this operation is Master Distiller Desmond Payne, one of the most experienced distillers in the world with over 46 years of distilling experience.

With Beefeater London Dry Gin, Desmond continues producing a spirit which has seen very little change since its creation in 1820 by James Burrough, a chemist who created the gin for its medicinal properties. While the predominate flavor note in Beefeater is juniper, the gin contains nine different botanicals: juniper berries, orange peel, lemon peel, orris root, liquorice, angelica root, angelica seed, coriander seed, and almond. These botanicals are soaked in a pot still with neutral grain spirit for twenty four hours before they are distilled. It’s this steeping process that gives Beefeater its signature flavors and complexity.

Beefeater Botanicals

As the predominate flavor in the gin, juniper berries are so important to the creation of Beefeater that a two year supply – forty tons of the berries – is stored at the distillery. Every year Desmond and company test over 200 different samples of juniper berries and over the course of three months painstakingly select which ones will be combined to make the signature Beefeater flavor profile

Two of the stills at Beefeater

All 2.5 million cases of Beefeater are produced using just four stills, each of which are constantly in one phase of the steeping or distilling process. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring that the final product always tastes the same, and so a complex process of mingling and balancing the spirit as well as adding spirit or water to bring it to the correct proof finishes the distilling process.

Beefeater has spent much of its existence preserving the original gin recipe created by James Burrough, but recently Desmond Payne was given the opportunity to create a new expression of Beefeater. Still done in the London Dry style, Beefeater 24 is an interesting riff on the traditional Beefeater flavor profile. Using many of the same botanicals as the London Dry Beefeater, Desmond adjusted the recipe and added both Chinese green tea and Japanese sencha tea along with grapefruit peel to produce a unique and modern London Dry Gin.

Beefeater 24

It’s pretty amazing for a company that has been producing a single product for hundreds of years to launch a new major product. Whereas the Beefeater London Dry is the gold standard for many classic gin cocktails, Beefeater 24 is aimed at a new generation of cocktails. With the soft tannins from the tea and the grapefruit notes added to the traditional Beefeater flavor notes, there are a lot of new and interesting ways that Beefeater 24 can be used.

One of the more inventive uses of Beefeater 24 is in cocktails which feature tea as a key ingredient. Beefeater 24 was actually inspired by tea. On a trip to Japan, Desmond ordered a gin and tonic only to discover that the Japanese don’t permit quanine (a key ingredient in tonic) in their beverages. Instead, the gin was mixed with tea. This combination inspired Beefeater 24 as well as a number of Beefeater 24 cocktails featuring tea as an ingredient. One of the best examples of this is the English Breakfast Cocktail, created by Beefeater brand ambassador Dan Warner. Beefeater 24 is combined with breakfast tea, marmalade, egg white, sugar and lemon juice, resulting an exceptional and unique cocktail.

Beefeater 24 English Breakfast Cocktail
2 oz Beefeater 24 infused with English Breakfast Tea
1oz lemon juice
0.5oz sugar syrup
1 egg white
1 barspoon marmalade

Shake all ingredients hard & strain in to tea cup.
Garnish with and orange zest

Beefeater London Market Gin

While Beefeater London Dry and Beefeater 24 are the core focus, Beefeater also produces a number of limited edition gins. These gins are designed to be produced in short runs and be available for a limited time. Two of these limited edition gins, the Summer Edition and Winter Edition, have been very well received in the market. The Summer Edition Gin adds hibiscus, elderflower and blackcurrant leaf to the botanical mix, while the Winter Edition adds pine shoots, cinnamon, nutmeg and additional Seville orange.

The next limited edition gin is called London Market, inspired by James Burrough’s frequent trips to the London markets in search of ingredients for his spirits. Burrough actually had a number of recipes for gins and whiskey which were produced for local bars. London Market was created after Desmond traveled to the modern London market and brought back such items as kaffir lime leaves, pomegranate and cardamom. The London Market Gin will be available in Europe in limited quantities and may not make its way to the US.

Beefeater Gin Through The Generations

Beefeater has the unique position of maintaining a classic brand that has seen very little change over the years and yet has managed to remain relevant. For many years I considered Beefeater to be the gin of my grandfather and father, and now I find that it’s become my preferred gin. It’s a rare product that can span generations like Beefeater and still be as fresh and vibrant of a brand today as when it was created in the 1800’s.

For more Beefeater cocktail recipes and info visit Beefeater’s new gin site Gin & Tales.

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