In 2020, Beefeater Gin was reformulated and bottled for sale at a lower proof than it had been previously. Previously, Beefeater Gin was bottled for the states at 47% ABV. For historical purposes, our review of the pre-2020 strength remains. This review is for Beefeater Gin 44% ABV, which is the new strength for the American market.
When James Burrough bought out the Cale Street Distillery in Chelsea in the 1860’s, he essentially bought forty years. That is, he bought a date that now preceded the launch of Charles Tanqueray’s eponymous gin; putting Burrough’s spirits in rarefied Regency Era territory, earning a historicity more akin to Gordon’s than Seagram’s. Though the gin bottle says 1820, the Beefeater Gin recipe we know today is an 1860’s creation.
Since its launch, Beefeater has gone on to become one of the world’s best selling and most iconic gins.
The botanicals are macerated for a full 24 hours, just as it was in Burrough’s original recipe, and then distilled. Beefeater is among a small handful which essentially defined the “London Dry” flavor profile. Unsweetened, juniper led, and crystal clear. When you think London Dry, this may well be the gin that comes to mind.
Nose: Even at the lower proof, robust pine-forward juniper with hints of Seville Orange, angelica, and a touch of licorice. Beefeater Gin 44% isn’t too different from its 47% ABV sister at first nose.
Flavor: Mild lemon with pine facets builds into an aggressive, but not overpowering pine-forward juniper heart. Spice builds towards the end with swells of gentle coriander, chewy licorice root, and a bit of bitter orange.
It is well established that proofing your spirit down can have dramatic changes in flavor profile. At different ratios of ethanol to water, different volatiles stay in solution. Beefeater Gin 44% is rather hard to tell apart from Beefeater Gin 47%, especially without tasting the two strengths side-by-side. It is mildly less warm on the finish, but with slightly more citrus coming through. Differences are present, but not enough for me to suggest that the lower proof makes Beefeater a “different” gin.
A lower strength cocktail gin does mean less flavor (in the absence of a tweaked botanical recipe, which I have no evidence has occurred) when mixing.
I stand by many of my initial recommendations. It’s great in a gin and tonic. The lower proof might even be superior and make a more accessible Martini. However, it is worth stating that Beefeater is compromising one of its formerly greatest assets by bottling at a lower ABV. It is less bold and therefor less present in cocktails.
Further, and although marginally, it does mean less bang for your dollar at both the bar and the store.
Overall, Beefeater 44% ABV
In terms of value, the change is a downer.
For bartenders who are used to mixing with Beefeater as their house pour, the change may warrant a closer look at the cocktails built around it to ensure they still hold up. My bet is that they will.
While the change has been met with generally negative reception by the cocktail community and gin community writ large, in terms of the spirit— Beefeater 44% ABV is still a good gin. The differences are small and unless you are doing a side-by-side you likely might not even notice.
Beefeater at 44% ABV is still the same Beefeater Gin you loved before, just with less bang-for-your-buck. While that’s not something to celebrate on its own, as a spirit it still holds up.