Someone going by the moniker Gin-Lover posted a comment on my about page back in September, telling me about an offer that Sainsbury’s was running on their Taste the Difference range of gin, Blackfriars. I never managed to get there in time as I was awash with other gins at the time, but I have some now. So this one is for you Gin-Lover; sorry it took so long.
The Blackfriars bottle looks suspiciously like the Greenall’s bottle with a different label. It comes as no surprise that Blackfriars is distilled by G & J Greenall (as is most supermarket gin). The label claims ten botanicals but lists only the following five…
- Juniper berries
- Coriander seeds
- Angelica root
- Orange peel
- Lemon peel
The full botanical list is hard to come by, but I would love to know the full list, as it is a surprisingly complex gin. Blackfriars is not only a quadruple-distilled London Dry, but also weighs in at a hefty 43% export strength. It also picked up a silver award from the IWSC in 2010 (the same year as Oliver Cromwell gin from Aldi).
Removing the metal screw-cap and sticking my nose in the top of the bottle revealed a decent juniper aroma. It was less alcoholly (if that is a real word) than many, in spite of export strength. There were also tiny hints of citrus about it (note: my nose is just recovering from a cold and isn’t at its most receptive right now).
Sampled neat Blackfriars gin is fairly smooth; it has a good, solid junipery taste and carries a sweetness that surprised me. It is a warm and spicy gin with earthy undertones and a certain oily character. The addition of water added to this with the spiciness really coming through.
Mixing the Blackfriars with Fever-Tree tonic water produced a very rewarding G&T. Its spiciness is maintained and I thought I could taste angelica peeking through. The slice of lime complimented the earthy-spicy notes and the tonic and juniper made for a crisp, refreshing drink.
I also tried it with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic water. The added floral notes of the tonic made for a tremendously complex drink with all you expect from a G&T, just amplified.
It has been a while since I have tried such a spicy gin, and by Jove, I love it.
This review of Beefeater gin has been a long time coming. I bought a bottle from Sainsbury’s toward the end of last year. However, disaster struck on the way home when the bottom of the cheapo carrier bag fell out and the bottle smashed upon the ground. I was availed with tremendous waft of gin as the rain began to wash away the spilled three-quarters of a litre of my favoured tipple toward the gutters. I even cut myself recovering the smashed remnants of the bottle from the pavement.
Anyway, after a constructive, but unimpressed, email to Sainsbury’s, I became the proud owner of a gift-card with just enough credit to buy another bottle of Beefeater. I used a stronger carrier-bag the second time around and managed to get it home in one piece.
This was all before Christmas and I have been imbibing Sipsmith and Whitley Neill ever since. Now the Neill is gone and the Sipsmith is near to running dry, I thought I would open the bottle of Beefeater that had been gathering dust over the last month.
What is more iconic in the gin world than Beefeater? A favourite of generations, Beefeater was the only gin available on the maiden voyage of the QE2 in 1969 and is the top-selling gin in the US, as well as many other countries around the globe.
Beefeater is a London Dry Gin and claims nine botanicals; these are…
- Seville orange peel
- Lemon peel
- Angelica root
- Angelica seed
- Orris root
- Coriander seed
These ingredients are steeped for 24 hours in pure grain alcohol before being distilled into the (almost) final product. A week’s output is blended together to create the Beefeater we find on the shelves – this is done because the steeping that is started on Friday is not distilled until the following Monday; this results in Monday’s batch being very flavour-heavy compared with the rest of the week’s production. The blending process ensures a uniform product that is bottled and sold. All of this is conducted under the watchful eye of Desmond Payne, Beefeater’s Master Distiller.
Anyway, enough of the detail, on with the tasting…
Sniffing the bottle-opening rewarded my nose with juniper and faint hints of citrus and spice. Nothing too striking but reassuringly gin.
Sampled neat, this is definitely gin, but I found it rather harsh with little character to speak of. Adding water to the mix did little to mitigate the harshness of this gin and bought-out little extra in the way of flavour or scent.
The addition of tonic water (and lime) brought this gin alive though. It is definitely a gin with Juniper being fairly heavily present and it carried a clear citrus element. There was a faint, lingering spiciness in the after-taste, but it had to be looked for.
In many ways Beefeater was a surprise to me; I was expecting something more akin to Gordon’s, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a distinct cut above its cousin. Its botanicals dictate that it is a very traditional gin, and it does deliver this – there are few frills or unique selling points, but it fulfils the role of a stock-gin very well. Nothing to write home about but certainly nothing to complain about either.
One last point of interest. Beefeater gin depicts, what one might reasonably assume, a Beefeater on the bottle. However, the predominately red uniform would mark this figure out as a Yeoman of the Guard rather than a Yeoman Warder (which are popularly known as Beefeaters). Saying that, I doubt many would care for the difference and this is a mistake that Gilbert and Sullivan made in their opera, The Yeomen of the Guard.