By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson
It’s fun keeping secrets, especially when you finally get to share them. Only two short weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be the guest of Pernod Ricard for a week-long sojourn to the Beefeater and Plymouth Distilleries. (Tune in this week for details of my gin-soaked escapades.) While at Beefeater, Master Distiller Desmond Payne hinted at what would soon be Beefeater’s newest offering. You, dear readers, are some of the first to hear of this exciting development, a true labor of love for Mr. Payne: Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve Oak Rested Gin.
The new Burrough’s Reserve will be rested in oak barrels that formerly contained Lillet, the delightfully herbal/citrus aperitif wine made from a blend of Bordeaux grapes and fruit liqueurs that is exquisite by itself and in cocktails as well. For Mr. Payne, the botanical element of Lillet made for a perfect marriage with the essential character of gin and, thus, a new chapter of Beefeater history was born. Mr. Payne was almost giddy with excitement, in a restrained British manner of course, as he explained how he had spent many long hours trying to decide what sort of barrel to use, what sort of barrel would have particular relevance to gin. The answer was a long time coming, but beautifully logical when Mr. Payne hit upon it.
Although it won’t reach U.S. shores until October 2013 (Spain will get this beauty first), Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve is set for release. Distilled by hand in one of James Burrough’s original copper pot stills — lovely little #12 with its miniature 268 liter capacity — this gin, based on the original Beefeater recipe, will then be rested in the Lillet casks. To get technical, each cask is filled three times for a single batch of the Reserve. “First fill” casks hold the gin for several weeks, while the gin in “third fill” casks sit longer to fully extract flavor and color (the gin is pale gold). As with all Beefeater gin, the bottling only commences when Mr. Payne feels that the product is consistent in character with other batches.
As I haven’t tasted it (yet), I can only offer up the provided tasting notes, which mention a spicy floral and vanilla nose, and a flavor that evokes “soft, complex spice. Subtle citrus flavours lead to a distinctive juniper middle-taste, returning to gentle spice on the finish.” What differentiates this bottling from other Beefeater products is the emphasis that this gin should be sipped neat. This is something we 12BB-ers find incredibly exciting, as gin has spent years – decades, in truth – in the shadow of spirits like single malt Scotch and Cognac, never drunk for its own subtle pleasures, always mixed. Don’t get us wrong, cocktails are one of life’s great pleasures, but the spirits from whence they came are the true alchemy.
Perhaps what makes it even more intriguing is that Beefeater and Payne want this to be a niche product or, as Payne says, a new chapter in gin that will appeal to “free thinking individuals”. Since we at 12 Bottle Bar like to think of ourselves in said manner, we hope to be sipping the Reserve in the nearest possible future.