Visiting Beefeater Distillery in London with Master Distiller Desmond Payne

Desmond tastes us through the three additional ingredients added to the elegant Beefeater 24: Japanese sencha tea, grapefruit peel, Chinese green tea

One jumps at the chance to spend a day at London’s Beefeater Distillery, particularly when given a personal tour by Beefeater’s master distiller Desmond Payne. Gracious and mannered, Payne has been making gin for over 40 years, his early days being at Plymouth Gin. An English picnic in Kensington Gardens and a week full of fine food and cocktails at some of London’s top bars made for one unforgettable week.

English picnic in Kensington Gardens w/ the latest issue of Horse & Hound

Join me on a photo tour through the distillery (in operation since 1820) – the longest running London Dry Gin actually made in London.

Outside the distillery – we arrived in Beefeater cabs to the Kennington district of South London where the distillery is located
Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters) guard Her Majesty’s palace and the Tower of London… the memorable, London-centric symbol of Beefeater Gin


Two years’ supply of juniper berries (mostly from Umbria, Italy) are kept in a cool storage room for back-up if there’s ever a bad crop
Giant stills
Distilling at Beefeater

Beefeater’s unique process is that they steep their nine botanicals (juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander, liquorice, almonds, orris root, Seville oranges, lemon peel) for 24-hours in copper pot stills with water and a neutral grain base of English wheat. All this with only five year-round staff? Impressive at over 2 million cases a year.

Payne produces a series of seasonal releases, like Beefeater Winter Gin this past December, a 2010 Summer Gin (floral notes from elderflower and hibiscus), and a brand new London Market Gin (with kaffir lime and cardamom) that sadly we won’t see released in the US.

Desmond discuss gin through ages, including early days where it was occasionally dangerous to drink yet was mistakenly blamed for many societal ills until the 1750’s when licensing of gin production regulated quality
Beefeater’s sexy, comfy in-house lounge/bar
A savory Gary Regan creation, Everest, laden w/ curry & coconut
Dan Warner, Beefeater’s global brand ambassador, mixing up a wide range of Beefeater drinks in the distillery bar
Dan grates fresh nutmeg over the Everest cocktail (he also made a simple, delightful gin classic, Army & Navy)