Having visited Sipsmith Distillery, the first gin distillery in London for 180 years, I had to visit Beefeater Distillery, the oldest continuously distilling gin producer in London.
Beefeater Gin is one of the most recognisable gin brands in the world, and is synonymous with London. Master distiller, Desmond Payne is one of the most respected distillers in the UK, unfortunately for me, Desmond was off in New York when I visited, but Tim Stones, Global Brand Ambassador was on hand to show me around.
I began my visit with the excellent self-guided tour!
The detailed history of the origins of gin, James Burroughs (who founded Beefeater) and London has all put together by well-known drinks historian (and Sipsmith Master Distiller) Jared Brown. It was fascinating.
I loved reading about the innovative ways people came by their gin. See the Black Cat above and the blurb below.
This might be why a black cat appears on some ‘Old Tom’ gin labels.
After completing my tour Tim caught up with me (actually he jumped out and scared me to death!) and took me through to the working part of the distillery.
The building has a distinctly 1960’s feel, (Beefeater moved from Lambeth to the current distillery in 1958) and most of the stills are from that era. They were all produced by John Dore & Co Ltd, one of the oldest still-makers in the world.
The stills were on a scale I hadn’t seen before and weren’t the usual shiny copper pots I’m used to seeing. And there were so many! Tim explained that they weren’t all running at the same time and that different stills produce different gins. Beefeater currently has 4 gins in its portfolio; Beefeater Dry, Beefeater 24, Burrough’s Reserve (a barrel-rested gin) and Beefeater Garden (limited edition, only available from the distillery.
They were producing gin while I was visiting and it was an impressive sight to see the gin gushing into the spirit safe. For some reason, I’d assumed the gin dripped through slowly!
Tim then showed me the variations of gin produced at different times of day. 10am, midday and 3pm. All different visually and also on the palate, with different botanical notes more pronounced in each variant.
We then moved to where the botanicals are stored. The smell was incredible and the quantities were huge!
The distilled gin is stored in massive vats before heading up to Scotland for bottling. Tim pointed out that there has to be a short time where the gin ‘rests’, allowing all the botanicals to marry together.
It was eye-opening to see gin being produced on this scale. Whatever the size of distillery, the distillers are all similar methods and core ingredients dating back hundreds of years, but with differing results. Isn’t it amazing?
I could have spent much longer chatting to Tim (he has the most amazing office bar) but had to head off to visit Hayman’s which fittingly has family connections to Beefeater (more on that in another post). I’ll also be sharing my interview with Tim at a later date as well as delving into the Beefeater gin portfolio in more detail.
Beefeater Distillery 20 Montford Place London SE11 5DE