Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Taste: Beefeater 24

Gin is blossoming among the cocktail cognoscenti, as bartenders turn to old favorites for drink inspiration or experiment with newly created gins crafted with a mix of botanicals previously unknown. Some I've tried are difficult to imagine in a drink; others have good qualities, but don't differ enough from the established brands to make a mark.

The standard Beefeater, I found years ago in a blind tasting, is my favorite G and T gin, its robust juniper punch and 47 abv exactly what I'm looking for at the end of a sweltering day. It's also a fine Martini gin, and for me the benchmark Negroni gin. But its prominent flavor profile may be keeping it from more drink experimentation.

Recently, Desmond Payne, Beefeater's master distiller, found inspiration in tea during an Asian trip, and has tinkered with the classic formula by adding sencha and green tea and grapefruit peel to the steeping mix for 24 hours. The result: Beefeater 24, a smooth, assertive, but rounder and less angular gin, with a slightly muted juniper quality. The tea brings in a slightly tannic pucker but with a paradoxically softer mouthfeel tied together by the zip of grapefruit. The characteristic anisey-orrisy Beefeater finish is mellowed but lengthened; in fact, this finishes longer than the original. If the mellow Payne was looking to give bartenders a new version of an old favorite, with fewer sharp edges and more adaptability - juniper, after all, dominates every conversation in which it takes part - then he has succeeded. Currently limited U.S. availability, 45% alcohol by volume. (Imported by Pernod-Ricard USA)

My score: 7


  1. Jack, have you ever tried Hendrick's in a g&t? I did a bit of blind experimenting a couple of years ago and found to my surprise that it does the job extremely well, although lately I've been using Tanqueray Rangpur.

  2. I love Hendrick's and Plymouth for summer cocktailing, especially once the fresh peaches, melons and other fruits come in - last summer, my fave was 1/2 fully ripe white peach muddled with 1/4 lime and 2 sprigs fresh tarragon, add ice, 3 ounces Plymouth gin, 1 ounce Cointreau, 2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters, 2 dashes Manzanilla sherry. But for G and T, Beefeater first, Tank second, regular or Rangpur.