Drinks from the Vault – A look at Beefeater Crown Jewel and Beefeater Wet

I recently came into the possession of two bottles discontinued of Beefeater Gin.

Beefeater Crown Jewel

The first was Beefeater Crown Jewel, this gin was launched in 1993 for the Duty Free market, although some specialist shops in the UK occasionally sold it. It was based on Beefeater’s standard mix of 9 botanicals, plus grapefruit.  Additionally, it was bottled at 50% ABV.

With introduction of Beefeater 24 in 2009, Beefeater Crown Jewel was discontinued. It is worth noting that Beefeater 24 still contains grapefruit as an additional botanical, as well as two types of tea.

On its own
Nose: Pine, initially, then some savoury notes, a hint of orange and some other zesty citrus.
Taste: Powerful in flavour and alcoholic strength, this is pretty classic start, but, in addition to its sheer intensity, the main difference between this and original Beefeater is the long finish of grapefruit; this is a simple variation, but a great one and one that should add a new dimension to cocktails.

Frozen
Very thick and viscous; very smooth, but the flavours remain intense: juniper, citrus, angelica, coriander and then a zesty finish with some marmalade sweetness. Very, very pleasant to sip.

Gin & Tonic
This has a zesty nose and is very dry, indeed. It’s refreshing, with plenty of citrus and the grapefruit coming through at the very end. I quite like it; served ice-cold, it is rather delightful.

Martini
Very intense and exceptionally cold; simply, excellent. It has a marvellous, sweet and citrusy finish. This is one of the best Martinis out there and I’m surprised that I have only just discovered it. Brilliant.

Negroni
An exceedingly intense Negroni; for some, this will be absolute bliss. The extra citrus from the grapefruit comes through the drink like a knife and gives you a pow in the kisser. The hard-core Negroni fan will love this, as it turns the bitter-sweet balance and intensity up to 11. Superb.

In Conclusion
Beefeater Crown Jewel was made using only a small variation on the original Beefeater botanical mix, but it was a welcome feature of duty free for many years and a bartenders’ favourite. Now discontinued – and I have it on good authority that it won’t come back – it’s over; time to move on. Sad, but we’ll always have the memories.

Beefeater WET

Beefeater Wet, released in 1999 (and discontinued 2005), was designed to be a different style of gin – slightly sweeter and more fruity – than Classic Beefeater and, along with Tanqueray Mallaca (1997), they laid the groundwork for the new way of thinking about gin that eventually led to the rise of Contemporary-style gin. Interestingly, both of these gins were marketed in the US and, today, this is where this style of gin is most popular.

Beefeater Wet departed from the classic recipe with the addition of extra spice, pear essence and a little sugar. It is also bottled at 37.5%ABV, rather than the usual 40%ABV for the UK or 47%ABV for the USA.

On its own
Nose: Juniper upfront, and then some earthy notes that are followed by notes of freshly cut pear, with just a hint of oxidation. Unusual, but inviting.
Taste: Quite smooth and sweet, with the pear coming through again. This is particularly unusual and, given when it was released, I can see how it can be considered as one of the gins that paved the way to the wave of New Western or Contemporary style of gins.
With a little water, more coriander comes through and makes the drink fresher and the pear even more prominent with a final, soft, creamy citrus flavour.

Frozen
Sweet and silky, silky smooth. There are hints of marzipan and pear, as well as some vanilla creaminess and a finish of piney juniper. Pretty good and rather liqueur-like.

Gin & Tonic
Beefeater Wet was created for the US market, where Gin & Tonics take a backseat to other gin drinks, and, as such, this doesn’t work that well. I used Schweppes EU, which is typically more generous to a gin than the UK version or the even sweeter US variety, and it still pretty much overpowered the gin, even at a 2:1 ratio. The gin comes through more on the finish with notes of pear drops and marzipan. That said, after a little ice melt it does become more refreshing (as long as you like the taste of tonic).

Martini
Good, but, even with my standard amount of vermouth, it is a rather wet Martini with a fair bit of sweetness and the flavour of fruity, spiced pear. This is very different, and not at all classic in style, but it will appeal to some.

Negroni
Beefeater Wet makes quite a sweet Negroni, but one that is particularly smooth. The fruity pear comes through on the finish, especially. Whilst this isn’t as intense or powerful flavour-wise as many Negroni fans would like, it is, by no means, a bad drink.

In Conclusion
I had tried Beefeater Wet before (in 2007) and, to the best of my recollection, it was “not that great”.  Five years on, my palette has developed and I thought I’d give it another go.

I was surprised at how much of the pear came through and that the flavour seemed pretty genuine. The gin is smooth, but you would expect that, given the lower %ABV and slight sweetening. Its freshness makes it great for long mixed drinks such as the Gin Collins.

I think that if this gin was released today, then it would enjoy a lot more success than it did, as palates have changed or, more precisely, a whole new generation of gin drinkers with different tastes have “joined the party” and with them comes a demand for the more contemporary products.

My favourite way of drinking the Beefeater Wet was either straight from the freezer or in a Gin & Tonic.

Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Beefeater Gin’s Master Distiller Desmond Payne and DTS

Cocktails with… Tanqueray Malacca

~~~UPDATE~~~
On 12/12/12 it was announced that Tanqueray Malacca was being relaunched (in the US) in February 2013. It has also been confirmed it is the same recipe and the spirit tasted here so soon you can find out for yourself.
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I can’t remember when I first heard of Tanqueray Malacca, but it must have been quite soon after I got interested in Gin and it has always been accompanied by a wistful sense of nostalgia of a lost gem.
Tanqueray Malacca was based on an 1839 recipe from Charles Tanqueray. Malacca was released as a “wetter” version of Tanqueray Gin (rather akin to Beefeater Wet, which was around for a bit longer approx. 1999-2005). The name comes from the Malacca Straits which is where Charles Tanqueray is thought to have first encountered the spices that were a key ingredient for this particular gin recipe.

From what I understand, the modern, Tanqueray Malacca was based on the standard four-botanical Tanqueray, cinnamon and some additional “secret spice” botanicals.* Tanqueray Malacca had a short life, mostly in the US market, from 1997 until 2000/2001. As you can see the usual red seal of Tanqueray was replaced with a gold one and the faded map and colour scheme gave the bottle a rather imperial look, not unlike the rather excellent Old Raj Gin.

There is a lot of intrigue around the product and I’ve even seen reference to it being used (when slightly sweetened) as an alternative to Old Tom Gin. But the important question is what does it taste like?

#1) Own
Some juniper but relatively subdued in comparison to usually Tanqueray. Still quite a lot of citrus and coriander and a little spice, after a few attempts I think I identified this as at least cinnamon and nutmeg. Remarkably smooth but still quite warming. With a drop of water it really opened up, in particular the non-juniper aspects of the gin.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Very soft and quite fruity and fresh. Silky and with less bite than many similar drinks. If you find most Gin & Tonic too bitters this may be a nice solution to that problem. Easy to drink and rather moreish.

#3) Martini (5:1 Dolin Dry)
Exceptionally smooth, the gin really let the vermouth through and there is minimal burn. Slips down very easy indeed, may not have the more intense juniper notes some Martini drinkers enjoy and not as crisp. I gave this to my buddy Phil (who is not usually a Martini fan) and he loved it.

#4) Pink Gin
This was recommended by Ted Haigh in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (2009) who suggests that the best two Gins to use in a Pink Gin were Plymouth and Tanqueray Malacca. I recently wrote an article on the Pink Gin for The James Bond Dossier Website (the drink features in the book The Man With The Golden Gun, where Bond specifies “Beefeater & plenty of bitters”) and so I did a three-way taste off  of Plymouth, Beefeater (47%) and Tanqueray Malacca. I’ll have to respectfully disagree with Mr Haigh on this point as Malacca came last; it just didn’t have the same strength of flavour as the other two. If you have a bottle, I wouldn’t recommend using it in this drink.

#5) White Lady
Another really smooth drink, crisp and very drinkable. It was slightly over-powered by the lemon juice but a very nice drink nonetheless. It was this drink that converted a friend of mine to White Ladies.

In Conclusion
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it. I think that the mysterious Tanqueray Malacca is clearly a very smooth gin and although I didn’t think it had any stunning characteristics drunk neat it does have this unique ability to smooth out the cocktails it was mixed in. As much as a gin can be, it was a real team-player of an ingredient. It seems to be the catalyst of a good drink and I do think it’s a shame it was discontinued, but who knows what the future will hold?

RIP Tanqueray Malacca (1997-2001)

Epilogue
The fact that Tanqueray Malacca is not really Juniper-lead, as well as the suggested similarities to Old Tom, starts to make me think about New Western Gins (NWG) (typically defined as “non-juniper-lead” ). It also makes me question whether they are that “new” at all (this in no way takes away from some of the excellent quality New Western Gins out there). There is even some evidence, really, really scant evidence though, that there may have been a variety of Malacca Gins available at one time and that it could have once been considered a separate gin category.**

* After doing a bit of digging, there were three main spices that would have certainly come through the Malacca Straits (circa 1839) on the Spice Routes; nutmeg, cinnamon (now confirmed)***  vanilla and maybe cloves. Based on the history and another nosing and tasting of the gin neat I would guess that at least the first two spices were part of the “secret botanical mix”.
** credit for the inspiration of this line of thinking has to go to my good friend Mr. Harltey who is quite keen on the NWG = Old Tom idea.

*** I have found, from another source that cinnamon is a likely botanical but more likely Chinese cinnamon (also known as cassia). This is highlighted in some text by a former Tanqueray distiller.

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