Our beef with one of the world’s best-selling gins –
Back in the 1980s blokes thought they were showing a girl a good time by taking them to one of the Beefeater restaurants, where you could choose between peas or salad with your well-done steak, and the décor featured Tudor style timbering with plasterwork so rustic it looked like it had been trowelled on by an angry orangutan.
I mention this because we’ve reviewed several gins this year – such as Oliver Cromwell and Hampstead – where we conjectured the marketing people were striving to borrow some sense of heritage for contemporary brands. Sadly, although Beefeater London Dry Gin has been around since the 19th century, the experience put me much more in mind of “Ye Olde Steakhouse” than the world famous Guardians of the Crown Jewels.
This wasn’t a Wicked Wolf experience, where a beguiling initial flavour was drowned out by the melting ice before you got half way down the glass: in fact I found the 40% distillation disappointing from the first mouthful.
Once again though, there is plenty of evidence to contradict my view, with drinks giant Pernod Ricard selling huge quantities of Beefeater worldwide every year, especially in America. And the brand has also earned critical acclaim in various competitions, with a Silver Outstanding in 2017 at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. It gained the heraldic argent colour again at the International Spirits Challenge the following year, as well as having other medals to its name.
Produced at a Kensington distillery and dating back to the1870s, through its longevity and the iconic Yeoman Warder on the label, Beefeater has become synonymous with the history of London Dry Gin. In fact it is considered by many to be the ideal base for a Martini, with the botanicals recipe employing a classic mix of orange and lemon peel, as well as the juniper, blended with angelica root (and seed), liquorice, coriander, Orriss root and almonds. Yet it lacks the oomph of gins such as Caorunn which sample a similar botanicals mix. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the Burroughs’ Reserve – a tribute to the founder – or the beefier 50% Crown Jewels blend; both of which are apparently discontinued.
For anyone who hasn’t visited the Tower of London, I can recommend the experience – mainly enjoyed by foreign tourists and school parties – where the Beefeaters act as highly knowledgeable guides. I have seen American tourists – moved by the historical insight they’ve been given – press £10 or £20 notes into the hands of the brightly dressed former servicemen as they depart the White Tower. That’s nearly enough to buy a bottle of the Beefeater from Waitrose which supplied ours. I think, though, they’d be better spending the money on some other London Gin like the latest entrant to our Top Ten, G-Gin, or even the upmarket supermarket’s own capital concoction.
“In fact I found the 40% distillation disappointing from the first mouthful.”