Exploring the history of gin… At the Beefeater distillery.
We arrived at the typically English 1950s factory. The building oozed with the history of gin and formed a perfect setting for the gin tour. We first entered a mini museum detailing the history of gin in Britain. It took us on a journey starting from the birth of the gin craze in the 18th Century, to the current day.
We were then greeted by our lovely tour guide Rosie. She introduced us to the nine different botanicals that go into Beefeater gin: juniper, angelica root, angelica seeds, coriander seeds, liquorice, almonds, orris root, seville oranges, and lemon peel. You get the opportunity to touch and smell each one. My biggest surprise was the addition of fruits and nuts (practically one of your 5 a day!). Rosie then went onto explain the origins of Beefeaters and its name. Beefeaters can be traced back to James Burrough who started the distillery in the 1960s in Chelsea. The Beefeater birth cost a grand total of £400! The Beefeater brand gained its name from the Tower of London guards. To this day, they still send them a bottle every year.
Rosie then led us to the gin production site. As we entered the distillery it was striking how quiet it was. Where were all the workers? Rosie went on to explain that only 4 people made the 10,000 litres a day of Beefeater Gin, with only 4 stills. There gin is distilled for 24 hours with the 9 botanicals. This is where it gets a bit tricky, as each of the botanicals release their flavour at different times. As they can’t have their employees drinking 80% proof throughout the day, the only way they can tell when the botanicals are ready is to smell the gin. This is done by the 4 employees, with the head smeller Desmond (a.k.a the ‘Nose’). The ability to smell the different botanicals takes years to develop. Their sense of smell is also tested every 6 months: so becoming a gin smeller seems to be a little harder than I first thought! With the additional drawback of not getting to taste the gin…
Working within social media, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a little look at what Beefeater is doing here. Globally, over the past year, Beefeater gin has over 9.7K mentions with the US and UK leading the way in terms of volumes. This generates a total of 33.7 million impressions. The conversation is led by using the gin in combination with fruity cocktails, and of course a G&T. The boys seem to be dominating the conversation. There is a popular use of the hashtag 'spoton' – and now I can see why!
Of course no Gin tour would be complete without a gin and tonic. The gin tasted all the better knowing the process and hard work behind it. All in all it was a great trip full of history and gin. The gin craze which first swept 18th century London is re-emerging and I can see why. The complexity in flavour combined with the expertise of master smellers creates the perfect evening drink… or even lunchtime!