Last Thursday saw the global launch party of Beefeater 24, a brand new gin from the famous brand that remains one of the few gins still distilled in its traditional home, London. Eschewing the current global climate of caution and frugality Beefeater launched their new gin with a grand soirée held at the beautiful Syon Park in West London. Arriving at Syon House to find it lit blue and red by huge flood lights, and being greeted by hostesses dressed as Beefeaters, I could already tell this was going to be quite a party.
After tea, sandwiches and cakes in the Great Hall, served by girls in rather skimpy attire who must have been absolutely freezing in the rather chilly hall, we were shown through several rooms filled with harpists and singers until we reached a drawing room where we were given a short presentation by brand director Nick Blacknell introducing Beefeater 24 and explaining the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens theme for tonight’s events.
Following the presentation we continued on to the Long Gallery for a tasting session hosted by Beefeater master distiller Desmond Payne. Desmond talked us through how he approached the creation of Beefeater 24, as well as where the name comes from (its botanicals are steeped for 24 hours prior to distillation) and what botanicals set it apart. We then had a chance to try Beefeater 24, in addition to regular Beefeater and a small selection of other gins – more on my thoughts on Beefeater 24 in my full review.
Back in the Great Hall Dan Warner demoed the mixing potential of the new gin, and we tried some drinks using Beefeater 24, including the tasty if cheesily named Mar-tea-nez. We were then ushered through the central court yard of the house and in to the grounds of Syon Park. London has been experiencing unusually cold weather lately and it was pretty chilly out, but that was soon forgotten by what greeted us as we wandered along.
Fire juggling women, a haunting chorus of eerie figures, a fire-breathing mechanical horse… I was beginning to wonder exactly what botanicals Beefeater had used in this new gin. Thankfully though I wasn’t hallucinating, and this was merely the beginnings of the vaudevillian-themed entertainment organised by Lost Vagueness, a company famous for its “festival within a festival” they ran at Glastonbury until recently.
Following a path littered by performers of all descriptions I eventually entered the amazing Great Conservatory, only to find a cabaret-style trapeze act taking place above my head. By this stage I was getting pretty hard to surprise and when two people with stilts strapped to their arms and legs wandered past, looking like they strayed from the set of either a Lord of the Rings sequel or a bondage film (depending on your outlook), I barely raised an eyebrow.
What followed included can-can dancers, fire eaters, drag queens, a rock band from LA, and Jesus downing a G&T in one, as well as a huge volley of fireworks that followed the good English tradition of coming dangerously close to setting some of the spectators on fire and/or blinding them. And as if all that wasn’t enough, after proceedings wound up at Syon House a coach relocated the hardy among us over to Sosho in Shoreditch for more Beefeater 24 fuelled fun.
It was quite a night… and as I hazily recalled the events the next morning I was glad I brought a camera with me to document it, or I’m not sure I’d have believed what I saw. Thank you Beefeater, you certainly know how to throw a party!
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