By Michael W. Harris
Type: London Dry
ABV: 47% (though outside the US the ABV is 40%)
Base: 100% grain neutral spirit
Botanicals: juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander seeds, liquorice, almonds, orris root, seville oranges, lemon peel
Unique Processes: The botanicals are steeped for a full 24 hours prior to distillation to allow for the extraction of more natural oils.
I had never bought a bottle of Beefeater Gin prior to beginning my gin reviews, though it is probably among the gins that I have drank the most. The reason for this is that my go-to bar back in Boulder, CO—the No Name Bar—had Beefeater as their well gin. Their WELL gin. While Beefeater is certainly not in the same class as most higher end gins, it is certainly better than your run of the mill well spirits—i.e. Gordon’s or Seagram’s. It is simply one more reason why I miss that bar dearly…
Anyway, so it was that when I began tasting Beefeater’s standard gin (they have three other gins that I do not have ready access to), I almost immediately recognized it. Like an old friend I had not seen in a very long time.
I first sat down to try Beefeater straight last Saturday (4/21). Spring had finally decided to arrive in Williamsburg and stick around for more than a few hours. As such, it was high time for me to make use of my apartment’s deck. So, new patio furniture in hand, I sat down to enjoy Beefeater au natural while inching ever closer to the end of David Mitchell’s 2004 novel Cloud Atlas (which I am reading as part of my other blogging project). Despite the cool temperatures (mid-50s) and setting sun, it was a pleasant evening spent outdoors reading, sipping, and listening to vinyl.
On the nose, I immediately noticed Beefeater’s 47% ABV that the American version sports. It hits the nose with some force and mostly overwhelms anything else you might try and pick out. However, if you can find your way through it, you can begin to ascertain the citrus notes Beefeater contains thanks to its orange and lemon botanicals.
Once the gin hits your tongue, though, all the botanicals really come to the fore. The citrus is most prominent, giving the gin a sweetness that cuts through the alcohol and is complimented quite nicely by the liquorice (it almost tastes like the black liquorice at times). Overall, the sweeter notes are the most forward ones on the palate.
Afterwards, though, the lingering taste is that of the burn of alcohol and a slightly oily texture. It is not the most pleasant in terms of drinking straight, and the 47% ABV really overwhelms a lot of the drinking experience, but is not without its highlights when it is on your tongue.
Gin & Tonic
The day after (4/21), I poured myself a Beefeater and Tonic and was immediately transported back to those evenings spent at No Name. The citrus notes of the gin balance quite well with tonic and lime. It was a bit tart on the tongue, but was a pleasant mixture of sweet, bitter, and citrus flavors. It also goes down quite nicely, with very little of the alcohol burn and oily linger that I experienced with the straight gin.
Overall, Beefeater in a gin and tonic is a pleasant sipping companion to whatever one might be doing—at a bar with friends, or watching an episode of Black Mirror, as I was on Sunday (finally into season 4). It also makes me appreciate just how unique No Name was in having Beefeater as their well gin. It is a great example of what the proper gin for an G’nT should be: balanced, varied notes of juniper and the other botanicals, and pleasant. I could seriously have had two more of them if it weren’t for the fact that I used 3 oz. of gin.
On Tuesday (4/24), I poured myself the pink gin with Angostura bitters and sat down to do some writing. While the drink was not unpleasant, I feel like the bitters completely overwhelmed the gin and obliterated any of the unique notes that it possessed. It could be that I added too many bitters to my glass, but I felt like I was using no more or less than I normally do. The upside of the bitters, though, is that it cuts through the alcohol burn of straight gin and really does smooth out the taste on the palate. It likewise provides relief from the burn on the drink’s finish…but at what cost?
While the drink did a lot of fuel a spurt of writing for an upcoming blog post, and it was a fine way to drink gin, it was nothing exciting. I have a feeling that the gin’s sweeter notes will survive more when using Peychaud’s Bitters. I have not had a chance to try this, but will update my thoughts accordingly when I do.
I tried the Pink Gin with Peychaud’s and it didn’t make a huge difference except that it actually left more of the alcohol burn. More of the gin taste was still present, but the bitters still did not complement the gin well. Overall, Beefeater does not lend itself to a Pink Gin, in my estimation. I hope that this is not a trend with this particular cocktail, though if it continues I might have to consider swapping the Pink Gin out for a different drink.
I choose Beefeater to be my first review for a reason: it is a solid, balanced gin which is probably as close to the platonic ideal of a London dry gin as you can find. And while I will always think of Beefeater as a well gin thanks to No Name, I know that it is much better than your typical well spirit. But it isn’t quite as transcendent or interesting as other gins I have had. As such, I would put Beefeater Gin squarely on my Middle Shelf.