Beefeater London Distillery- The Home of Gin
Earlier this month, amidst the tourists snapping away at the shouting street performers, visitors to Covent Garden clapped their eyes on a massive mechanical installation, right slap bang in the middle of the cobbles all to celebrate one the greatest inventions ever to grace this fair and mighty planet.
My phone started going nuts as loyal pals who are familiar with my penchant for Mother’s Ruin started tweeting and texting me this glorious nuggest of 3-D mechanical murally beauty. Capturing and charting the stories and events of how gin came to be what we know and love and SUP WITH HEARTY ENTHUSIASM today, the mural was actually there to celebrate the launch of Beefeater London: The Home of Gin, the capital’s first dedicated gin distillery visitor centre in Kennington. LITERALLY LOOK!
I mean A GIN MUSEUM GUYS. A GIN MUSEUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was so psyched I nearly cried on the bus. WITH JOY! (Didn’t I…?) I felt it was my duty to attend with absolute haste, to visit my Mecca. So I grabbed a pal and on my birthday last week (thanks for the birthday love by the way all. You’re all super hot.) we trololololled down to Kennington say a huge HOORAY at the folk from Beefeater for some Juniper-based Joy.
First distilled in the 1800s, Beefeater Gin is still one of the most popular brands of gin today, and the beautiful new distillery vistors centre is housed underneath the actual distillery. With my latest birthday swag dangling about my neck and bouncing off my breast we made a short stroll from Vauxhall to the beautiful Edwardian fronted building.
Upon arrival we had spangly new iPads thrust into our hands in order to make the most of the technology that’s interwoven with the exhibits. On each exhibit, there’s a little icon that looks a bit like this:
Once you’ve focused your camera on the picture, it automatically scans it and pops up with a whole host of other little gems of extra info, with interactive touchy bits. SO COOL GUYS. Even though it did take me a good five minutes of jabbing at the screen before I got it right. HEY I’M 27 NOW OKAY I’M SO OLD.
The iPads really came into their own when we were examing a couple of Hogarth prints which are typically intricate and detailed with tonnes of satirical symbols and figures. One little wee swipe of the trusty pad and we had all the information we could possibly want on the inhabitants of the respectable ‘Beer Street’ and the pit of sin, ‘Gin Lane’. Apparently when Hogarth was knocking about town, beer was respectable and he painted the hoppy delight being swigged by happy and healthy British tradesmen. A wander down Gin Lane is quite the opposite- whores, crooks and a dead baby on a spike (sure) have all fallen foul of the naughty foreign spirit.
The fact that the wonderful mural was planted in Covent Garden was actually pretty fitting as we next learnt how gin developed from being dirrtier than Christina Aguilera in red leather chaps to the well balanced blend of botanicals we know and love today which would have been sold in markets JUST LIKE Covent Garden.
The mural promised a real journey through the key moments in gin’s colourful history including the origins from genever to gin, the gin craze, the gin act, the roaring twenties, swinging 60’s – right through to the present day. I’m pretty much going to steal this beautiful Art Deco Bar to install in my house. (Once I am actually a billionaire and only then actually able to buy a house obviously because houses are about one bazillion trillion pounds these days.)
We learnt all about the Evolution of the Cocktail (which is clearly a DEEPLY IMPORTANT PART OF OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE) all the way through to prohibition (to which I sang ‘Fat Sam’s Grand Slam’ on repeat which didn’t get annoying for those around me AT ALL) landing on how the Beefeater brand is distilled and marketed today. Also did you know that gingerbread was the first food to ever be paired with gin? GINgerbread if you will. (Secretly thrilled with that one.)
After we’d meandered to our hearts content, we were met by our lovely guide who took us up to learn more about the actual ingredients of Beefeater Gin. The Master Distiller keeps the original recipe devised by James Burrough under lock and key in his office, but we had a sensory experience of each botanical that makes up Beefeater gin. We crushed juniper berries, snapped dried orange peel, inhaled the scent of coriander seeds and cooed at how Angelica Root smells just like the last rain of Summer.
Gazing up through big ceiling windows we could see the working stills above us and could hear the pump and creaks of the working distillery. Feeling thoroughly learned about my favourite tipple, there was only one thing left to do:
As we supped on potentially the most delicious gin and tonic I’ve ever had (knowledge tastes SO good you know), we were paid a visit by Master Distiller DESMOND PAYNE himself. DESMOND PAYNE IS HIS NAME, DISTILLING IS HIS GAME. He’d heard on the grapevine (or should I say ‘junipervine’) that it was my birthday and despite my necklace being charming, it was the wrong brand of gin, so presented me with a beautiful little golden Beefeater to wear with pride.
Sigh. The best birthday ever? Bloody Hell, it’s ever so likely Brennan.
bloodyhellbrennan was a guest of the Beefeater Distillery.
Beefeater London: The Home of Gin
20 Montford Place,
Tel: 020 7587 0034
Nearest Tubes: Kennington/Vauxhall/Oval
Tickets are on sale here at t £12, (concessions available)- 10% discount when you book online! GREAT!
Give them a tweet of the good stuff at @BeefeaterLondon using the hashtag #TheHomeofGin