Beefeater Master Distiller Desmond Payne is something of a purist. According to English Gins Brand Ambassador Trevor Easter, known for his tongue-in cheek delivery, Desmond "believes that a kitten dies when someone uses Burrough's gin in a cocktail."
The gin in question is not the brand's familiar Beefeater, but rather Beefeater Burrough's Reserve Barrel Finished Gin, a labor of love for Payne - who sought to create a spirit not for cocktails, but for savoring like a fine whiskey.
"We released a sipping gin," Easter told a group of bartenders last month, "which is totally out of context for gin ... it's Beefeater with the corners cut off." What he means is that, while Beefeater itself is an infinitely drinkable and exacting spirit, it is still basically a mixing gin made in large batches in commercial stills.
Burrough's Reserve is distilled in James Burrough's original 268-liter straight-side copper Still #12, whose diminutive size only allows for small-batch bottling. But the real secret to Burrough's complexity lies in the aging. After the botanical process, the gin is rested for three weeks in Lillet (the French aperitif wine) barrels. Not your standard Lillet barrels though. They are Jean de Lillet casks, which hold the highest expression of Lillet, produced only in years when the grapes are perfect.
Payne spent many years agonizing to some degree about exactly how to craft - and particularly how to age - the spirit he envisioned. The main reason for this is that Payne has a staunch belief in respecting the past, so much so that he keeps a portrait of James Burrough in his office, quietly but intensely surveying the room and reminding Payne to stick to the rules, so to speak.
Mr. Payne is so dedicated to making Beefeater the same way it was made in the 19th century that he uses the original minuscule scale on which botanicals were measured, lest he mess things up with the wonders - and pitfalls - of automation. At the same time, Payne wanted to make a gin that would step into the future. A sipping gin seemed the way to go, using the original Beefeater recipe but amping up the intensity and botanical layers.
The final product is a gin that still holds onto its Beefeater past, but presents itself as a modern addition to the spirits universe. If you're wondering whether you could use Burrough's in a martini or perhaps even a gin and tonic, well, the answer is, yes. It would indeed make a damn fine cocktail - but that isn't how it was intended.
This is a sipping gin. So, whether you buy it at a local liquor store or order it at a bar, please drink it neat - perhaps with some water to open it up - and save the kittens of the world.
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Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book "Gin: A Global History." Her upcoming book "The 12 Bottle Bar" will be released later this year. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.