Gin tasting with Desmond Payne from Beefeater

28 01 2013

Fantastic evening conducted by Desmond Payne who has been distilling gin for 40 years or more. First of all we smelt a neutral spirit while Desmond told us about the history of gin and how it is made. Then we started to tackle the ten gins laid out in front of us which we diluted with a splash of water as this brings out the volatile aroma compounds.

Let’s start with the weird gins: Hoxton 43%abv with grapefruit and coconut used as botanicals. The only thing I could really see myself doing with this is mixing it with pineapple juice in a cocktail – not a gin and tonic-type gin!

G’Vine Gin from France 43.9% abv made from grape spirit – amazing how this showed through actually. The botanicals include Ugni blanc grape flower buds and the result is very floral. Again, not a G&T contender, more reminiscent of honey and lemon linctus.

Chase Williams 48% abv made from apple spirit and you could see echoes of Calvados. Quite a fiery finish. Apparently good with hot apple juice, but not a gin to my taste.

Hendricks 40% abv. Can’t be called a London gin because rose and cucumber flavourings are added after the distillation with the other botanicals. It reminded me of wedding cake icing, perhaps it was the rose petal scent. Cool cucumber on the palate and I am told this is lovely with cucumber instead of lemon or lime.

Now for some gins much more up my street…

Beefeater London 40% abv. Classic pine-scented juniper with hints of angelica, quite citrus on the palate. A good all-rounder.

Plymouth 41.2% abv (the export strength would have been better). Soft and gentle. More lemon than orange. An elegant gin which I preferred to Beefeater.

Bombay Sapphire 40% abv. I expected to like this but found it rather bland. Quite floral but disappointing.

Tanqueray 43.1% abv. Very juniper (no citrus botanicals used). Quite masculine in that it is a very straight-down-the-line no nonsense gin. I think it would make a very decent G&T.

Seagram’s Distiller’s Reserve, Indiana, USA 51% (not sure this is commercially available here). Juniper and slight citrus. Very clean, crisp with a full-on finish. Good – my second favourite.

Beefeater 24, 45% abv. Different texture, fuller body. The same botanicals are used as in Beefeater but with the important addition of green teas from Japan and China together with grapefruit. Lovely balance, really good length. Definite hint of grapefruit. My favourite of the night.

Afterwards we mixed our own gin and tonics with Schweppes versus Fevertree versus Fevertree Light and using lemon or lime, but I have to admit that my palate was shot by then. Also what is it with Fevertree – is it an acquired taste as I wasn’t keen?

The next day we did try the Beefeater 24 and Seagram’s Distiller’s Reserve again and although I tend to use slimline tonic and lime, when I tasted them blind I have to admit that normal Schweppes and lemon gave a crisper, more refreshing drink.

If you are interested in learning more about gin, there is a book called The Bartender’s Gin Compendium by Gaz Regan.

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