Today, I have spent the majority of my day just south of Godalming at an airfield, judging the International Wine and Spirits Competition Gin Panel, where we judged 87 spirits in just over 4 hours. Today’s article, however, is about something rather interesting that I tried yesterday; namely, Beefeater’s Burrough’s Reserve.
Now, you know that here at Summer Fruit Cup and at our US counterpart’s blog, The Gin Is In, we are big fans of yellow gin. Essentially, this is any gin that has had contact with wood to impact the flavour.
Up until a few weeks ago, there were just over a dozen yellow gins available, with Citadelle and Hayman’s leading the charge in Europe and Seagram’s and a host of US craft distillers waving the flag for the good old US of A. But, until now, no major UK distiller has ventured into aged gin.
On the face of it, you may think, “Sure, Burrough’s Reserve is just aged Beefeater.”, but it goes a little deeper than that. The gin that is subsequently aged is made in still number 12, an original still from James Burrough’s Chelsea Distillery (Beefeater is currently made in Kennington). So, although the gin is made to the same recipe and with the same botanical mix as regular Beefeater, the fact that the still is a different style and much smaller than the modern stills, means that the resultant distillate is rather different. In essence, this spirit, before the aging process, is a close approximation of the spirit that the founder of Beefeater would have made in his Chelsea Distillery.
Not content with this trip down memory lane, Beefeater, led by their (not yet knighted) Master Distiller Desmond Payne, decided to age it in Jean de Lillet casks. Jean de Lillet is a high-end, rarer version of the classic Lillet Blanc. The gin is generally aged for around 3 months, but, in reality, it is a case of when it’s ready, it is ready.
Burrough’s Reserve is retailing at around £70 a bottle and, as such, Beefeater recommend that it is not used for mixed drinks. I understand this to an extent, given the complexity of the product, but, as a result, I was surprised to discover that Beefeater had enlisted the help of world renowned mixologist, Tony Conigliaro, for their launch. It turned out, however, that they didn’t want Tony to mix with the spirit, but to design the right glassware to go with it.
For the global launch, we were able to try out the specially designed Conigliaro glassware, which consisted of a non-stemmed tasting glass, upon which sits a stemless martini glass. The idea behind this is that, depending upon the width of the glass, the amount of evaporation and, hence, the aromas that are given off changes. Tony wanted to illustrate this. He also spoke to us about serving the gin at different temperatures, which I’ve incorporated into my tasting notes below.
Now the part that you’ve all been waiting for…
At room temperature
Nose: Juniper, orange, dark caramel and woody spice.
Taste: Soft texture, with plenty of vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg up front. Whilst quite sweet to start, this moves on to a dryer, slightly tannin-like flavour, then the classic juniper and angelica gin flavours with a little citrus, before finishing with some vanilla oaky notes.
From the fridge
Nose: The notes of the wood are more pronounced at this temperature; some floral notes, like grape flower, orange blossom and camomile come through, as well as a resin-y juniper.
Taste: The lower temperature starts to increase the viscosity of the gin, which gives it a thicker texture. The flavours are still strong, but some of the citrus and floral elements are more dominant, such as orange peel and orange blossom. There’s also a little creamy toffee up front and a dry finish.
From the freezer
Nose: The strength of the nose is reduced when it’s this cold, but the citrus still manages to come through, accompanied by a dry spiciness.
Taste: This has an excellent, thick, rich and smooth – almost velvety – texture, which really adds depth and character to the spirit. There’s juniper to start, followed by some vanilla, spice and hints of Simnel cake, then a very long, lingering and incredibly dry finish that stays for well over a minute.
It seems clear that aged/rested/matured/yellow gins are here to stay; once one of the big bosses moves towards a trend, you know that it has legs. I liked the balance of Burrough’s Reserve and it certainly highlights Beefeater’s underlying botanicals and the impact of the Jean de Lillet wood. It’s a sipping gin and that’s reflected in its £70 price tag, which, by my estimate, makes it the third most expensive gin in the world*.
* After Nolet’s Reserve ($700) and Adler’s Reserve (500 Euros).
Burrough’s Reserve is available from The Whisky Exchange for around £63 for 70cl.