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

Still Lemonade Tasting

HISTORY

The original lemonade predating the rise of fizzy pop.

Today, this enjoys much greater popularity in the U.S. than in the U.K. and Europe, where it is more common to see Fizzy Lemonade or Cloudy Lemonade, both of which are sparkling. In fact, in the U.K., Still Lemonade seems to be sold just as much as a healthy juice drink as a recreational soft drink.

TASTING

1. Marks & Spencer

This one had real bits of lemon floating in it! I thought it had an authentic texture, being both smooth and tart; the balance of tartness and sweetness was just right. Pretty good.

2. Tropicana

Still, this was slightly refreshing and very bitter. It started off with the flavour of fresh, cloudy apple juice, followed by a strong pang of grapefruit and a bit of lemon. Despite being 100% fruit juice, this managed to not be too sweet and was – understandably – very fruity. I liked it, but didn’t think it was a typical lemonade**.

3.  Snapple Lemonade

Quite crisp but also very very sharp and also pretty sweet, it really lacks an balance and leaves an unpleasant taste in your mouth. Not refreshing either.

4. Minute Maid

Quite nice initially, with lots of lemon flavour, after a few sips, this became cloying and watery, clinging to the teeth. If served with lots and lots of ice, I thought that this was okay (tasting somewhat like a melted ice lolly), but not on its own.

5. Waitrose Still Lemonade

Not bad; this was quite tart, but in a fresh, crisp way. The primary taste was of lemon and the flavour tastes like it hasn’t been interferred with at all. Not too sweet, this was well-balanced and refreshing. I thought it was rather close to homemade lemonade, actually; what you would expect from a classic style.

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6. Luscombe

Very crisp and quite fresh, pleasantly it is neither to sweet nor harshly tart. I gather that the vanilla helps to soften the flavours. This is very easy to drink and I think has wide-appeal. If you really like a tartness in a lemonade that sucks your cheeks in then this isn’t for you. But as a simple delicious way to cool down on a hot day, here you go.

MAKE-YOUR-OWN

Of all of the types of lemonade, this must be the easiest to make; mostly because no carbonation is necessary. Although additional flavour embellishments can work well, Still Lemonade consists of three fundamental ingredients: lemons, water and sugar.

50ml Sugar 100ml Lemon Juice 500ml Water

Combine ingredients, in  a bottle and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to dissolve sugar. Refrigerate.

Given the importance of the water in this recipe, I suggest giving it some consideration; whilst you might not want to use expensive bottled water, I would advocate filtering your water through a Brita device or some such system before using it. Given that we live in a hard-water area with a high calcium carbonate  content, this is essential for us.

6(a). Homemade – made with tap water

Clean and quite tart, this was fresh and had a long, lemony finish. There was some sweetness to balance out the tartness although ti was quite subdued. I thought that this one was more distinctive and recognisable than the other homemade lemonades, whilst also being more straight-forward.

6(b). Homemade – made with Figi bottled water

This made a much softer lemonade; the edge seemed to be rounded off of the tart lemon flavour, producing a very clean, but less crisp taste. Very, very soft.

6(c). Homemade – made with Highland bottled water

Again, this lemonade was very crisp and clean, but also seemed slightly sweeter and duller than the others. I thought it was refreshing and liked it.

COCKTAILS

1. Lyndnburg Lemonade

[30ml Jack Daniels, 15ml Triple Sec, 100ml Still Lemonade]

Fresh and delicious the tartness of the lemonade contests nicely to the sweetness of the Triple Sec and the sweet oaky elements of the Jack Daniels. Simply superb and very refreshing.

2. London Lemonade

[50ml Dry Gin, 50ml Tonic Water, 50ml Still Lemonade]

3. Lemon-Aid

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* I don’t think that the Tropicana is made in the “classic” style, but I nonetheless think that it’s a good drink and, ultimately, for me, that is what really matters.

** Tropicana has received a bit of flack recently and was even features onthe BBC Watchdog consumer rights programme. Why? Because it contains 67% apple juice, 24% grapefruit juice, and only 9% lemon juice. Whilst I understand the complaints, I can also see how difficult making a 100% fruit juice lemonade with no added sugar would be; it’d be quite a challenge. After all, we wouldn’t just want a bottle of lemon juice!

However, it’s also worthwhile noting that, despite the fact that the Tropicana advertises itself as having no added sugar, it contains only slightly less (albeit natural sugar) than the Waitrose (with sugar); they have 9.5g and 10.3g per 100ml, respectively.