This bottle of vintage Beefeater Gin at minimum dates back to the 1980’s. We can tell because it was bottled for the U.S. market by the Kobrand Corporation. In 1988 they sold their interest in the brand, which they began importing shortly after World War II. At the earliest, this bottle could date back to 1976, because it features The Queen’s Award for Export Achievement, which Beefeater Gin received in 1976.
Of all vintage gins, vintage Beefeater seems to be the most commonly available gin on the market. Many of the available bottles date back to this similar era. If you’re interested in trying one yourself, you can probably score one for somewhere between $170 and $200 U.S. dollars.
A little bit harsh on the nose. There’s a bit of acetone with some slightly metallic notes. Citrus and oily juniper present as well. The top notes initially reminded me exactly of Beefeater gin, but once those dissipated the vintage Beefeater Gin’s other character emerged. The oily lemon and juniper notes reminded me distinctly of the same notes that I had in a Vintage Gordon’s Gin from the same era.
The palate was distinctly better. Although harsher than the Beefeater Gin was drink today, amidst some ethanol and general harshness, you can still pick out a hint of lemon zest and a slightly more pronounced late licorice note.
Vintage Beefeater’s finish is harsh with a slight metallic note, ethanol, licorice and juniper.
In general, the taste was far better than the nose.
Side by side, when compared to contemporary Beefeater Gin, you can detect some of the similarities on the nose. The modern bottling is notably lighter.
The palate is smoother texturally, but also brighter in terms of the botanicals. There’s much more citrus and much more depth; the juniper is cleaner and the finish is medium length with no metallic or ethanol notes.
Vintage Beefeater Gin is probably best suited for collectors only. There’s an impressive consistency across time here. You can tell the 1980’s vintage Beefeater Gin is a vintage Beefeater in. And for that fact, there’s little worth exploring here for the average drinker. If you offered me a Martini of vintage Beefeater alongside a Martini of modern Beefeater, I’d go for the modern every time.
But the good news for collectors, this bottle has held up and is definitely drinkable.
Special thanks to David T. Smith, creator of Summer Fruit Cup and author of Forgotten Spirits & Long Lost Liqueurs has been a friend of The Gin Is In for nearly as long as we’ve been around. David shares samples of curious and rare spirits from his travels that might be difficult to obtain stateside. Thanks to David for picking up this gem while he was in San Francisco for us to check out.
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