Beefeater is a London-centric brand by name, location, and definition. Its name conveys classic British history, a nod to the guards at the Tower of London.
On a recent press trip to London, I had the chance to tour the Beefeater Distillery with master distiller Desmond Payne. He taught us a bit of gin history, showed us the difference between Beefeater and the newer brand, Beefeater 24, and let us peek our heads into the copper stills.
Besides juniper, Beefeater adds Seville orange peel, coriander seed, almond, licorice, angelica root, lemon peel, orris root, and angelica seed.
Last year, Beefeater went through 200 samples of juniper berries, gin’s favorite botanical, selecting five to create its custom blend. This room holds between 4 and 5 months worth of berries: that’s 10-15 tons!
Desmond Payne launched Beefeater 24 in 2009. His lightbulb idea: tea as a botanical. Since there’s so much tannin in black teas, Desmond instead chose Japanese sencha tea and Chinese green tea to combine with more traditional botanicals. His final addition: grapefruit peel.
The botanicals, along with the neutral grain spirit, steep inside the copper pot still for 24 hours, elevating the complexity of the gin. Desmond’s the only person alive who knows the exact formula.
As the spirit comes through the safes post-distillation, cuts are taken to determine perfection. Beefeater collects the middle cut, known as the heart.