Beefeater 24 gin comes is an stylish bottle. With its red and black design, the red inset in the bottom of the bottle and vegetative mouldings in the glass, it exudes sophistication; I felt rather proud to be buying it at the checkout.
I have heard great things about this gin and couldn’t wait to get some quiet-time to sample all it has to offer.
Beefeater has a tradition of being typically British. Named after the Yeoman Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London, it conjures up stereotypical images of London tourism. Beefeater 24 gin takes this to another level by basing its unique selling point on tea – two of its botanicals being different types of tea – what better way to reflect the great British Empire?
It full botanical list is as follows…
- Japanese sencha tea
- Chinese green tea
- Seville orange peel
- Grapefruit peel
- Lemon peel
- Juniper berries
- Coriander seeds
- Angelica root
- Angelica seeds
- Orris root
The bottle has a plastic screw cap and a little flow-restricting insert which was all a little novel. The nose of this gin is a bit of a let-down as it had that alcohol smell that vodka has and little else.
Trying it neat was also a surprise. It is not a big juniper-carrier and it has a very vodka-like quality; not what I expect from a premium gin. It is a little aggressive on the way down, but this should be expected from a 45% spirit.
The addition of tonic water drove off a little juniper aroma, but it was nothing to really inspire.
Tasting the G&T was also a little disappointing. There was a slightly peppery spice to the initial attack but all-in-all I was left wanting there to be more to this drink, a lot more. In fact, I think the angelica was the strongest component of this G&T.
I sincerely wanted to like this gin – I have read mountains of glowing reviews about Beefeater 24 but it just left me unsatisfied and disappointed. At £21.59 a bottle, it was an expensive let-down too; if only they put as much into creating the gin as the did designing the bottle.
Today I bought two new bottles of gin. I discovered that Waitrose stocked a selection of rather good gins, three of which were on my “to try” list; so off I popped in the car to join the middle classes in their supermarket experience.
Whitley Neill gin is a batch distilled gin that is produced in an antique copper pot still and its USP is that it was “inspired by Africa”. Whitley Neill uses the fruit of the Baobab tree and the Cape Gooseberry among its botanicals. The full list is as follows…
- Baobab fruit
- Cape gooseberry
- Juniper berries
- Coriander seed
- Lemon peel
- orange peel
- angelica root
- cassia bark
- Orris root powder
Sampled neat, it is a smooth gin with a middling juniper hit. There is an initial warmth of spiciness that is swiftly followed by a very complex citrus and floral avalanche. Once all this subsides, one is left with a slightly spicy, earthy taste that lingers pleasantly.
For the G&T tasting I chose Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water; the aromas driven off by the effervescence of the tonic water were distinctly floral and complex.
The G&T itself was phenomenal. The citrus complexity of the Whitley Neill was like nothing I have experienced to date and it was underpinned by complex floral notes of geranium, rose and a hint of violet. The quinine and juniper combine excellently to override the initial floral sweetness with just enough bitterness to perfectly swing the sweet/sour balance comfortably into that expected of a G&T; this is all followed-up with a slightly spicy after-taste. The Whitley Neill makes a cracking G&T that serves a two-stage, sweet then bitter, roller-coaster ride, but at no point does it deliver too much of anything.
To my mind, Whitley Neill gin and Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water make the best G&T I have tried to date. At £18.19 a bottle you do pay for its greatness, but it is well worth it. To top is all off, you don’t need a slice of lime as the gin contains all the citrus you need.
Having tried Whitley Neill gin with a more standard tonic water (Schweppes) I have realised that the Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water provides a fair chunk of the floral notes described above. With a blander tonic, it is still a full of the complex citrus flavours with a slight floral follow-up. But the combination of the Fever-Tree Med and the Whitley Neill is an awesome one.
During a recent trip to London for a work summer party, I drank a ruinous quantity of Bombay Sapphire gin. The venue was Brick Lane and the end-result was not a single bottle of Bombay Sapphire left on sale in the off licenses of the area (I did have help).
We started around 16:00 while waiting to get our faces painted. People suddenly became interested when I produced a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, some tonic, three limes and a pen-knife – we eventually set up out own little gin palace on the roof-terrace of the Atlantis Building which had a steady stream of visitors seeking refuge from the standard offering of wine and beer being served and begging glasses of G&T all through the night.
I had to keep nipping out for more bottles and eventually emptied the off licenses of Brick Lane completely of Bombay Sapphire (no mean feat). In the end we resorted to buying Beefeater (which I was too drunk to appreciate at the time, so will not be sharing any insights on that front).
The party ended when the police came around to close the venue due to public complaints and we had to decamp back to the hotel to continue the gin-drinking marathon (this was also the location of the backup bottle of Greenall’s).
Short of having to make polite conversation with some people I would rather have avoided, I had a grand night out and showed a whole bunch of Londoners how partying is really done (the Scots seemed to have a pretty good grasp already).
Anyway, on with the review.
Bombay Sapphire was one of my mainstay gins for over a year. I found it pleasant enough and a lot of people had told me how good it was. It was also one of the gins that lead me to the discovery of gin & tonic in the first place. However, revisiting the Sapphire after exposing my palette to such a wide range of gin has given me a new perspective on it.
Bombay Sapphire lists all 10 botanicals on the bottle and is reputed to be based on a “secret” gin recipe dating back to 1761. These botanicals are…
Grains of paradise
The botanicals are steam infused rather than being boiled which preserves a higher degree of flavours from the botanicals and is produced by Greenall’s, under contract from Bacardi.
Alone, Bombay Sapphire is a fresh and subtle gin with citrus and a gentle spiciness coming through. It is a slightly oily gin with only a hint of juniper.
Bombay Sapphire is what many call a vodka-gin and is not a gin that is oozing strength and character. It is pleasant enough, but it is not a big juniper carrier like Juniper Green and left me slightly disappointed.
With tonic it is pleasing with bog-standard tonic water, but I imagine a lot of its qualities would be lost to a more powerful tonic like the Fever-Tree.
So, while Bombay Sapphire may not find a place in my drinks cabinet in the long term, it will likely visit from time-to-time and certainly be the gin of choice in pubs; Gordon’s is the mainstay, but Sapphire is probably the second-most common in drinking establishments.