Beefeater’s new “super-premium” offering, 24, shows that gin as a category is one companies feel is worth investing time, effort and no small amount on money in – a great sign for anyone who is a fan of this juniper-heavy distillate. However, while big fancy launch parties are all very well and good ultimately what matters to me is the liquor inside the bottle. With the party over and the product now available in the shops does it live up the hype, or is it simply an exercise of style over substance?
Beefeater 24 was created by their master distiller Desmond Payne, a man with forty years experience with gin and previous master distiller for Plymouth before he moved to Beefeater in 1995. Taking inspiration from the father of Beefeater founder James Burrough, who was a prominent tea merchant in the nineteenth-century, the gin features Chinese green and Japanese Sencha teas plus grapefruit peel alongside more traditional Beefeater botanicals like orange peel, juniper, angelica and coriander.
The gin comes in a handsomely designed bottle inspired by the arts and crafts movement of the late nineteenth century, though it frustratingly features the plastic lid enclosure that seems to be more and more popular these days. It takes its name from the 24-hour steeping process the botanicals go through prior to distillation. Curiously I’ve read interviews where this same 24-hour process is described for the regular Beefeater product, so it appears this process is unique to Beefeater in general rather than Beefeater 24 specifically.
On the nose Beefeater 24 has a clear citrus aroma, with grapefruit dominant, hints of juniper, and a mild aromatic suggestion from the tea in the background. On the mouth an initial citrus burst leads in to a long aromatic finish full of teas, juniper and liquorice. At 45% it remains remarkably smooth, though the finish does contain a slightly astringent bite to it that I imagine comes from the tannins in the tea.
At the tasting I attended last week Desmond was keen to point out that he treated the teas simply as another botanical element, rather than using them heavily to create a tea-flavoured gin. To my tastes this has been achieved nicely, with a distinctive gin that has definite tea notes without them becoming dominant, and without moving too far away from what a London gin should be like.
In a Gin and Tonic, the litmus test of any good gin, the Beefeater 24 stands up well to the tonic allowing the tea aromas to subtly show through. Similarly in a Martini it provides an enjoyable extra element over a regular London dry, resulting in a cocktail that is both classic but with a twist of something new. Beefeater recommends using Lillet Blanc for the Martini and I’m inclined to agree, its lighter, sweeter nature better contrasting the tannic quality of the gin.
- 1¼ shots / 35 ml / 1¼ oz Beefeater 24 gin
- 1¼ shots / 35 ml / 1¼ oz Dubonnet Rouge
- 1 bar-spoon maraschino
- 1 dash Angostura Aromatic bitters
- 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
- 1 Earl Grey tea bag
- Infuse gin with Earl Grey for a few minutes. Remove tea bag and add all other ingredients, then stir well over ice. Strain in to a cocktail glass and garnish with a grapefruit zest twist.
Beefeater have commissioned some of the finest mixologists from around the globe, including Gary Regan, Charles Vexenat and Sasha Petraske, to create some cocktails to complement their new gin. I had a chance to try a few of these at the launch party, and look forward to trying others soon, but so far the cocktail I’ve enjoyed the most is the Mar-tea-nez, somewhat predictably, perhaps, given my love of the Martinez.
The Mar-tea-nez is not perhaps the best cocktail to showcase the subtle properties of Beefeater 24, but it does represent a delicious drink that I’m not sure would work in the same way with a different gin. A deeply aromatic drink with a lovely mixture of teas coming through on the palate, this cocktail really does live up to its name. The recipe originally calls for a cherry as garnish, however I found a twist of grapefruit zest added a bit of extra brightness which worked well in the drink.
Overall I am pretty impressed with Beefeater 24. It is an interesting gin that is fairly different to most other offerings on the market, and I look forward to experimenting as it has a lot of potential in cocktails. My only reservation is the rather high price it seems to be commanding (nearly twice as much as regular Beefeater in one online shop here in the UK). Given that, whether it remains in regular stock in my liquor cabinet remains to be seen.
Beefeater 24 is available now in UK, Spain and World Duty Free. It will launch in the US early 2009.
Note: In the interests of full disclosure, the Beefeater 24 gin reviewed here was supplied to me by Beefeater.
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