Beefeater has a new product, called Beefeater 24, which is rolling out here in United States pretty much as I write this. It does not appear that the State of Ohio in its infinite wisdom has added 24 to its May 2009 price list, so I guess the good news is that there unaccountably remains room for improvement in my state’s available liquor offerings. However, the good folks at Beefeater had sufficient faith in their product to submit two bottles to the harsh and demanding standards of the Pegu Blog for review.
Let’s start with the bottle. The silhouette has the same square shape of the classic Beefeater bottle, and the color scheme is the same red and black and gold. But the 24 bottle is embossed all over with lovely designs that suggest the botanicals of gin. The label is smaller and missing the eponymous protector of the Tower of London. The square divot under the bottle is colored a brilliant red and practically seems to glow, even when not lit from underneath. It is a gorgeous bottle, and I stuck one up on my display pillar, rather than stowing it down in the cabinet.
The 24 in Beefeater 24 comes from an additional step in their distilling process. They first steep the aromatics to be used in the base spirits for 24 hours before redistilling them in the more traditional gin fashion. The blend of aromatics is also modified. Distiller Desmond Payne takes his foot off the juniper pedal a tad, while adding in a touch of tea. The idea, I believe, is to produce a fuller, more integrated set of flavors.
So, do they succeed?
Yes. On several levels.
Beefeater 24 is a rich, delicious gin that succeeds in having both big flavor and a mild edge in the same bottle. From the pricing, Beefeater seems to want 24 to compete heads up with Tank Ten and Sapphire as a premium, mainline gin. From the taste, I’d say they will succeed. Unlike a lot of other recently introduced premium gins, 24 is a gin first and foremost. Products like Hendrick’s and Whitley Neill, both of which I love and buy regularly, are oddball gins. Whether you call them infused (perhaps a redundancy) or exotics, they are special purpose liquors, and you can’t count on them working in just any general gin recipe you pull from a hat.
I could tell from the beginning that 24 would be the kind of gin that you can safely, indeed happily, apply to any recipe that just says
gin. My experiments with it from the first try (and I have enjoyed those experiments) have borne out this assumption. While some with better palates than me can identify them, to me the teas in the 24 do not announce themselves as,
Hey! We’ve got some tea in here! They seem to me to simply enhance the essential gin-ness of the liquor. But not the ginny-ness, if you understand me. If you don’t I can’t figure out a better way to say it.
Of course, for me the most important test of any gin is how it works in a Pegu, and how it compares to my baseline favorite in that cocktail, Bombay Sapphire. 24 is a great Pegu gin. The Pegu rubs a lot of the edges off any gin, of course, which gives you a better feel for the subtler flavors, if any, the gin you are using brings to the table. A Sapphire Pegu is the bigger, more floral of the two, while the 24 Pegu is crisper, more citrusy, and just plain fresh. It has been forever since I’ve posted the basic Pegu recipe here, so I’ll use the occasion of reviewing this super gin to correct that:
- 3 parts Beefeater 24
- 1 part Cointreau
- 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
- 2-3 dashes Angustora Bitters
Combine ingredients is a shaker with ice and agitate vigorously, until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a wheel of lime.
If Pegus aren’t your thing, consider getting treatment. But in the mean time, I can tell you that the 24 has been very successful for me in such varied cocktails as the absinthe heavy version of the Corpse Reviver #2, my own berry-rific Blue Beetle #2, and the classic Vesper. Also, while I don’t much drink the basic Martini myself, I can report that a guest of mine this weekend who has been a Tanqueray Ten fan since its introduction was very taken with the 24 Martini I served her.
The general conclusion is this: Beefeater 24 will absolutely replace basic Beefeater as my go to gin when I need a
plain (in the best sense of that word) gin. It is a worthy competitor to Bombay Sapphire, and I would suggest that once 24 is available where you are, you should keep it on hand as part of your arsenal of essentials.