In Praise Of Well Liquor #1—Gin

You don’t need me to tell you that premium liquor’s all the rage. All those sexy bottles, disporting themselves, flashing their labels, revelling in their shelf presence. Time to spare a thought for some of the others. The stuff hidden in the well. What you get if you just order a gin and tonic, and forget to specify your premium desires.

The contents of the well, or what’s lurking on the optics, tells you a lot about a joint awfully fast. If you walk in and they try to serve you Gordon’s, you know that they either know nothing about gin or they don’t care about their drinks, and you should leave at once. Gordon’s is a product responsible for more crimes against drinking than the 1980s. More on this soon.

The fact of it is that there is enormous quality lurking at the cheaper end of the market, often hiding right under your nose. And when it comes to gin, that means one thing: Beefeater.

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Beefeater is a premium gin hiding behind a very reasonable price. So reasonable, in fact, that I think some people have a snobby tendency to turn up their noses at it.

Bear in mind the following:

  1. It’s made by Desmond Payne, a master distiller who weighs out each botanical by hand for every distillation. His gin is as handmade as anyone else’s.
  2. Desmond oversaw the distilling aspects of MD Charles Rolls (now of Fever-Tree)’s transformation of Plymouth Gin from also-ran to PGI prestige.
  3. Desmond taught the guys behind gin premium-isation trend-setter Sipsmith how to make gin.

This is a man who really knows what he’s doing. If you need a convincer, you need to pop by the Beefeater Distillery, the only place where you can buy Desmond’s limited edition experiments in gin, my favourite of which is the subtly spectacular London Garden, which makes the most delicate martini I have ever had.

Some people out there are doing fascinating things with gin, interesting things with florals, spice, citrus, tea, you name it. (Someone—and you know who you are—is even doing hideous things with pine to create a gin which makes a martini that tastes like Toilet Duck, so let’s step away from that while we still can.)

You’re welcome to them.

Beefeater’s my buddy, and I can see no earthly reason why anyone would order anything else.

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