Beefeater Distillery Tour

Posted By Kerri


I don’t know much about gin, apart from that I like the occasional gin and tonic and I really don’t like Bombay Sapphire, so was really looking forward to visiting the Beefeater distillery and learning a bit more about how gin is made.  The distillery isn’t open to the public and is based in a beautiful old building in Kennington where it’s been made since 1957, the opportunity to wander around somewhere that would normally be off-limits was something else to get excited about.


The tour was run by the master distiller, Desmond Payne, who has been with Beefeater for 15 years.  Before that he was at Plymouth gin for 25 years so he really knows his stuff.  He took us on a short tour of the distillery where he explained how they make Beefeater gin before guiding us through a comparative tasting.

During the distillery tour, Desmond explained that the definition of gin is something along the lines of “predominately flavoured with juniper”, the juniper is therefore (obviously!) one of the most important ingredients.  Desmond tests 150 varieties each autumn to ensure quality is maintained in the Beefeater gin.  Aside from the juniper it’s really up to the distiller what other botanicals they add, Beefeater use the original recipe which is x years old and contains: juniper, orange, lemon, almond, orris root, licquorice, coriander and angelica seed root. They make 2.4 million cases of the stuff a year.

The comparative tasting was one of the most enjoyable parts of the afternoon for me, we tasted six different types of gin and I was surprised at just how different they were.  We’ve been drinking Tanqueray and Hendricks at home lately but not at the same time so I haven’t really been able to compare the two, apart from recognising the distinctive cucumber note in the Hendricks.  Tasting the gin without tonic to confuse the flavours was also something new to me and allowed us to really understand what the different botanicals add.  Initially, I found the Beefeater to be slightly rougher than the other examples and really enjoyed the Plymouth gin we tasted directly after the Bombay Sapphire.  Coming back to the Beefeater having tasted all six varieties, I was aware of how punchy the botanicals were and just what they added to the overall flavour; the Beefeater was definitely more subtle that the showy, upfront Bombay Sapphire and generally had a lot more character than the Tanqueray.  The Plymouth was my favourite though, well balanced with complex layers of flavour, smooth and with a long finish.


After we’d finished our tasting, we enjoyed a Beefeater Gin and Tonic in the bar which was wonderfully refreshing on what was a hot afternoon.  The addition of orange to the glass was unusual but really helped to bring out the orange note in the Beefeater gin without overpowering the other flavours.

Jun 25th, 2009

4 Comments to 'Beefeater Distillery Tour'

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  1. Jeanne said,

    Who knew – Beefeater comes from Kennington!! I am definitely going to try some orange in my next G&T…
    .-= Jeanne´s last blog ..Saturday Snapshots #44 =-.

  2. Dug said,

    Wow, 40 years in the gin trade? He must know his onions. I would love to do a distillery tour – Blackfriars distillery is not far from where I live, so I really should go and see the place where Plymouth gin is made.
    .-= Dug´s last blog ..Sapphire Revelation =-.

  3. Jimmy said,

    Gin tastes like shit

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