*LUPEC Boston’s latest ruminations, in case you missed ‘em in this week’s issue the Dig.
by Pink Lady
Asking the barkeep for gin rather than vodka in your martini is enough to cause heads to swivel at some bars. Requesting Beefeater over a more modern, Western-style gin (one infused with cucumber and rose petals, perhaps?) is sure to raise an eyebrow. But as discriminating imbibers know, all liquor brands are not created equal. Liquor marketers use lots of bells and whistles to make big news of this; sometimes what they hype matters, sometimes it doesn’t. What it comes down to for drinker is this: each spirit brand has a unique flavor profile. As a recent tasting with Beefeater Master Distiller, Desmond Payne reminded us, gin is a particularly relevant example.
Gin is more complex to distill than other spirits, according to Payne, because the flavor profile is affected by both botanicals and distillation. Whereas whiskey distillers just have grain to worry about, and brandy distillers need only fret over grapes, gin distillers are faced with the challenge of integrating juniper plus botanicals into their spirit to produce something balanced and consistent year after year. Most gins consist of 5-20 botanicals, which may be whatever a distiller’s heart desires so long as they use juniper. These often include citrus peel, coriander seed, Angelica root, licorice, orris root, and much, much more.
Desmond Payne wasn’t just in town to visit LUPEC – he was actually here to launch Beefeater 24, the august brand’s new “premium” offering. Payne was a distiller at Plymouth for 25 years before making the move to Beefeater, and 24 is the first gin he’s designed on his own. Tea was his inspiration, which he credits to time spent enjoying gin drinks lengthened with tea in Japan (we can’t help but think it very British to add tea to the mix.) The new spirit features the same botanicals used to make Beefeater, plus additions of Japanese Sencha and aromatic Chinese green tea. The botanicals steep for 24 hours, hence the gin’s numerical moniker, before the spirit is pot-distilled.
Tea changes everything about the gin’s botanical relationship, giving Beefeater 24 a softer, gentler, texture and a longer finished than the original. The distiller’s “cut” is much shorter for this product, too –5% of gin is usually discarded for Beefeater, and 30% is disregarded for 24 – another reason for the gin’s smoother character.
Is it a better option than regular Beefeater? Not necessarily; you’ll have to be the judge, and the only way to do that is to taste. We tried – and enjoyed it – Beefeater 24 in one of our favorite gin drinks, also the cocktail moniker of one of our founding members.
2 oz gin
1 oz Amontillado sherry
.5 oz lemon juice
1 small dash Angostura bitters
Shake in an iced cocktail shaker; strain into a chilled vintage cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.