Beefeater London Dry Gin: The Ultimate Bottle Guide

As the cocktail boom surges on, gin is slowly catching up and perhaps taking the lead. While gin's popularity remained stagnant throughout recent years, the juniper spirit is beginning to hit its stride. Consumption of gin is expected to rise by over 4.4% by next year, according to market analysis by IWSR. In London, the world's leading exporter of gin, there are now over 300 gin distilleries, more than double the amount just five years prior, increasing the amount of gin consumed from six million nine-liter cases in 2018 to an estimated ten million cases by 2023. 

Gin is the quintessential spirit of the classic cocktail and has lent itself to modern revelations. Of all the hundreds of gins contributing to this surge, Beefeater London Dry Gin is the bottle that has set, sustained, and continues to push its foundation. Here is everything you need to know about the original London gin.

History of Beefeater London Dry Gin

The story of Beefeater goes all the way back to 1820, when the Taylor family first opened the Chelsea Distillery. In 1835, Beefeater's eventual founder, James Burrough, was born in Devon. Burrough originally entered the field of pharmaceuticals, which brought him to Toronto, Canada, before returning home to London in 1863. Then, Burrough purchased the Chelsea Distillery for £400.

Initially, the only exports from the distillery were liqueurs, fruited gins, and punches. Production remained and thrived at the Chelsea Distillery for another 35 years until 1908. After switching locations to Lambeth, Beefeater finally settled in its current home in Kennington in 1958. By then, Beefeater had turned its focus to its original London Dry Gin, now over a century old. From there, the brand boomed globally, accounting for over three-quarters of gin sales in the United States throughout the 1960s.

Beefeater has sustained and prospered since rightfully branding itself as "the gin of England," as it's the only international gin brand still operating in London, per The Spirits Business. This status of tradition, originality, and quality caught the attention of Pernod-Ricard, who purchased Beefeater in 2005 to reinvigorate the brand and maintain that status.

Today, Beefeater sells over 3.3 million nine-liter cases of their London Dry annually. From James Burrough to current Master Distiller Desmond Payne, it's the same original London dry recipe leading the way.

Beefeater has the most experienced gin distiller in the world

A brand as rooted in tradition as Beefeater is the rightful home of Desmond Payne, a gin distiller with over 50 years in the business. After first entering the field in 1967, Payne became an employee at Plymouth Gin two years later, via Pernod Ricard. He eventually became Distillery Manager, the cap of his 25 years at Plymouth. In 1995, Beefeater's head distiller decided to retire, and Payne was the obvious first-choice replacement.

Since Payne arrived at Beefeater, the brand has expanded even further, and he is directly responsible for developing multiple new gins for the market. In 2013, Burrough's Reserve, a sipping gin, was introduced. This classic recipe gin is distilled inside the original 19th-century copper still. After distillation, the gin is matured in French wine casks for multiple weeks. Burrough's Reserve was so successful that a second edition was released in 2014.

Payne's most prideful export, however, is his Beefeater 24, which is made with Japanese sencha and Chinese green tea. Payne considers this the peak of his career, as his original recipe was awarded a Gold Medal at the Wine and Spirits Competition one year after its 2014 launch.

Nowadays, Payne uses his expertly trained nose and palate to maintain the consistency of every gin Beefeater has to offer. Every batch of Beefeater gin passes through the approval of Desmond Payne, and when you enjoy the spirit yourself, his care and expertise are undeniable.

An ongoing relationship with the Yeoman Warders

As stated earlier, the name "beefeater" comes from the nickname given to the Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London. The Yeoman Warders have been guarding the Tower of London since 1485, first instituted by King Henry II, according to BBC. Since then, they have lived and protected the iconic medieval palace and now do so in addition to giving tours to more than three million visitors per year. Their most important responsibility, however, is protecting the Crown Jewels used for the royal coronation, which are held inside the palace.

When Beefeater London Dry Gin first began distribution in 1863, the image of the iconic Beefeater was used on the packaging. Predictably, the Yeoman Warders were not very pleased with the lack of allowance for their image being used and requested they be officially recognized and compensated. Since then, each Yeoman Warder receives a customized bottle of gin from Beefeater on every birthday, thanking them for their service.

Plus, Beefeater hosts a holiday party each December for the Yeoman Warders, where each guard is recognized with their spouse by the brand and given an abundance of gin cocktails.

Beefeater is now an environmentally sustainable bottle

In this era of environmental awareness, ethical and sustainable sourcing should be considered when choosing which brands to support. Beefeater checks this box. Not only does Beefeater make amazingly good gin, but their newly designed bottles are also now saving an estimated 410 tons of plastic annually, per The Spirits Business. The former plastic cap has been replaced with an embossed aluminum one, the PVC label has been switched to paper, and the bottle itself is now made from 100% recycled glass.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the shape of the bottle has been altered with bartenders in mind. The rectangular shape, an ode to London bricks, was chosen and crafted to be more stably held and poured.

Beefeater's global brand director, Murielle Dessenis, said the new design "has performed well with bartenders and consumers alike, and we're proud to have designed this new iteration of Beefeater's iconic bottle with sustainability in mind, taking the brand on to the next step in its journey with a natural evolution for today's gin enthusiasts."

How is Beefeater London Dry made?

Before any steeping, distillation, or testing, the botanicals used to make Beefeater must be carefully selected, hand-weighed, and prepped. Of course, juniper berry is the MVP of Beefeater's original recipe. The other eight botanicals utilized are lemon peel, Seville orange peel, almond, angelica root, coriander seed, angelica seed, orris root, and licorice root.

The actual process of making gin is quite simple and not as time-consuming as other spirits. Beefeater is distilled from 100% grain alcohol, in which the nine botanicals are steeped for 24 hours, a process that extracts all their flavor and aroma. After steeping, the flavor-packed grain alcohol is distilled to purify and develop a higher ABV and is then diluted with soft water to bring the alcohol content down to bottling strength.

In Beefeater's case, distillers sample the distillate twice a day and record what they smell and taste to catch the gin in its perfect window of readiness. Being a distiller at Beefeater is an exclusive job, and each distiller is given a blind smell and taste test every year to ensure their senses are still capable of detecting the perfect gin. Once the gin is deemed suitable for Beefeater standards, it is bottled and shipped worldwide.

What does Beefeater taste like?

Beefeater's classic taste and texture are the epitome of London Dry Gin. This spirit is clean with a straightforward flavor profile. The essential ingredient of gin is juniper berry; without juniper, it's not gin. This botanical is not only at the forefront of Beefeater's aroma; the other hand-foraged and hand-selected botanicals do their part to compliment and embolden it. The nine botanicals that go into Beefeater's classic London dry recipe can be detected, isolated, and savored with every sip, creating a beautiful harmony.

This centuries-old, trademark recipe makes for gin with a layered experience, ever-changing between the first sniff and the finish on the palate. The iconic juniper greets the nose first, along with coriander, citrus, and almond. Its clean mouthfeel brings a balance of woody and floral notes from the angelica and licorice root before coming to a sharp, piney finish. Once you taste Beefeater for the first time, it's easy to understand why the recipe hasn't changed since 1863.

How to drink Beefeater London Dry?

Gin really isn't a spirit to be sipped neat, and Beefeater is no exception. There are, however, hundreds of drinks Beefeater London Dry Gin can be enjoyed in. This gin's clean and crisp flavor and texture make it perfect for cocktails, and its botanicals provide a wide range of contributions.

For example, Beefeater recommends its London Dry Gin in classics ranging from the Gin Fizz to modern hits like a Basil Smash or Juniper Mule. According to Punch Drink, Beefeater is, unsurprisingly, one of the most preferred gins of bartenders due to its utility and clean profile. Beefeater is even the number one gin for a Negroni, per Decanter.

However, the perfect home for Beefeater is in a classic gin and tonic, but this simple cocktail doesn't need to be the same every time. There are a variety of tonics to choose from, as Fever-Tree offers variations such as Mediterranean and Elderflower tonic waters. Garnishing your Beefeater G&T is best done with botanicals used in the gin itself, according to The Gin Queen. Instead of going with the regular lime wedge, enhance the citrus notes in the Beefeater with some orange and lemon peel, or strengthen its herbaceous qualities with a sprig of thyme or rosemary. Beefeater London Dry Gin's bold, straightforward profile allows it to stand up to any customization or mixers you prefer.

How much does it cost?

For a gin as storied and high quality as Beefeater, this premium gin does not come at a premium price. According to Wine Searcher, the average price of a Beefeater London Dry Gin bottle is just $19. For all of the tradition, hand-foraged and selected ingredients, and 100% sustainable packaging, all taking place in the last remaining authentic distillery in London, an average price of less than $20 is just another reason your home bar is not complete with it.

While other craft gins and distilleries sell their spirits for double or triple the cost of Beefeater, those price points seem to be reliant on their uniqueness or exclusivity. What makes Beefeater London Dry unique is not that it's the only one of its kind but that it has been that way for nearly 200 years. There is no other gin in the world like Beefeater, and thanks to its global presence and accessibility, almost everyone can enjoy it.

Beefeater vs. Tanqueray

Although Beefeater is the only London Dry Gin that still calls London home, gin maker Tanquerary's's roots and longevity also make this brand worthy of a drink. Founded in 1830 in Bloomsbury by Charles Tanqueray, this London Dry Gin is another straightforward gin with a juniper-forward flavor, per Diageo Bar Academy. Tanqueray is a fine choice for the same variety of cocktails, but the authenticity is lacking.

In 1995, Tanqueray relocated to Cameronbridge, Fife, Scotland, where Tanqueray continues to distill, package, and globally distribute its products, according to The Spirits Business. "London dry" only refers to the gin-making process, but Beefeater actually comes from the heart of London. Plus, Tanqueray London Dry Gin is a few dollars more expensive.

Trying new gins is always encouraged, and discovering a new spirit to enjoy and introduce friends or family to is part of what makes drinking and cocktail culture exciting. But whether enjoyed straight or in a cocktail, Beefeater London Dry Gin will always be your tried and true bottle of gin.