Astute observations, a 150-year-old still and a French apéritif come together in the inception of a unique spirit
by Evan Orensten in Food + Drink on 20 August 2014
On a recent trip to London, we caught up with our friend Desmond Payne, Beefeater Gin's Master Distiller of 20 years (check out our video with him). With 45 years of gin-making under his belt, he’s one of the industry’s most accomplished distillers and arguably one of the spirit’s most enthusiastic ambassadors. He’s also one of its most inquisitive and clever; consistently experimenting and pushing gin’s boundaries.
Inspired by a glass of tea he enjoyed while in Asia, Payne developed Beefeater 24. He’s created various limited editions too: the Summer Edition, The London Market Edition and the new Garden Edition (a check-your-bags-worthy variation that adds lemon verbena and thyme to the botanical mix and is only available for purchase at the Beefeater Distillery).
This visit was more than a catch up over a drink, however. Payne was kind enough to take CH through their brand new Beefeater London: The Home of Gin experience—a self-guided tour that walks visitors through the history of gin with a well-designed series of installations. It’s in the actual distillery where all Beefeater gins are made and, if you’re in London and looking for something authentically local to do, check it out—and not only for the G&T that's served at the end.
The primary reason for our visit was to learn more about Burrough’s Reserve the latest permanent addition to the Beefeater portfolio. Launched in 2013, it has quickly become a favorite of ours. It came about when Payne was visiting Portland and had a bar-aged Negroni. As he noticed more and more bartenders finishing gin in interesting ways and seeing brands—new and old—doing the same, he wondered about people’s interest in having yet another variation to drink. He was also mulling over two other opportunities and looking for the right way to leverage both of them.
I wanted to challenge the way that people drink gin and the occasion on which people drink gin because that’s where there’s room for something different.
First, he was frustrated by the corner that most people put gin into; "The majority of gin around the world lives as a gin and tonic between finishing work and having dinner," he says. What could he conceive that would get people to consider drinking a good gin in a different way? Perhaps on its own? The second opportunity he was trying to work through was one that literally stared him in the face every day at the distillery—James Burrough's (the founder and distiller of Beefeater) original 268 liter copper still from the 1860s, which sat honorably yet unused, dwarfed by the much larger stills that today to make all of Beefeater’s gins.
Payne explains his thoughts back then, “Do we really need another gin right now? There are so many gins out there I can’t keep up. But I wanted to challenge the way that people drink gin and the occasion on which people drink gin because that’s where there’s room for something different." And that’s the story of how Burrough’s Reserve came to be. A confluence of a resurgence in craft cocktails, an observation of how people were limiting gin to a specific place in their consumption, and the still that made Beefeater gin for decades but had long-since been retired. This is why so many in the business have come to admire Payne—and most certainly his friends in the sales department.
He set to work firing up the old still into which he put in the standard recipe for Beefeater London Dry gin. The shape and size of the still altered the taste of the liquid a little; “It was really intriguing to see how different the gin was,” Payne says. “I know that a tiny change can make a big difference… It’s like putting a drop of lemon juice in a cocktail—you suddenly have a different drink entirely. I thought, 'Well, OK, let’s see what happens if we put it in wood.” Others had developed gins that were aged in plentiful bourbon barrels or cognac barrels, but to Payne, they didn’t really lift up the botanicals in the liquid. “Gin is about being fresh and clean and now, and an aged spirit is about more—it’s a different thing,” he explains.
He continued experimenting with several different types of barrels and aged the gin inside them for various amounts of time, but he wasn’t getting the gin where he wanted it to be. And that’s when the fourth element in creating Burrough’s Reserve hit him on the head. “We knew about Lillet, this wonderful French apéritif from Bordeaux. I went down to visit them purely out of interest and it’s a wonderful experience to go down there. We discovered that they do a Réserve Jean de Lillet, which is a sort of specialty there and they age it in French oak casks. And in Réserve Jean de Lillet there is bitter orange peel, there’s quinine—all the things that make a connection with gin. So I managed to get some gin in a cask of it and did some trials and—yeah, that’s the one that really works,” he says. And so Burrough’s Reserve was born. It is also convenient that the two products are owned by the same parent company, Pernod-Ricard, which keeps the story all in the family.
I don’t know what handcrafted means exactly, but this is as handcrafted as you get.
The gin is distilled and then placed in the Lillet casks. “We then rest it. We don’t say age because people will think rum or whiskey, and 12 years, 14 years. It’s just a few weeks but [it’s enough to] give that additional character for that style. We manage to fill the casks twice. The first fill we get quite a contribution from the residual flavors in there, and then I get a second fill which yields a decent contribution. [After it’s rested] I make a batch—a blend of maybe three casks, a combination of first and second fill, and that's about 1,800 bottles. Each one has a batch number and a bottle number," he explains of the process. Production of Burrough's Reserve will always be limited given the small size of the still, only adding to its charm.
Payne continues, "It means there’s a slight color variation and it’s very much handcrafted. I don’t know what handcrafted means exactly [laughs] but this is as handcrafted as you get. It’s got this beautiful color, and it’s designed as a sipping gin. You don’t have to make a cocktail. People will, but you don’t have to. It’s very much about the fruit notes from the residual Lillet. I like it chilled," he says. At that, Payne offers a glass to taste before going upstairs in the adjacent distillery to pay homage to James Burrough’s 150-year-old still—and the man who consistently finds new ways to celebrate it.
Burrough’s Reserve is available for around double the cost of Beefeater 24—around $70—at selected retailers.
Images by Cool Hunting
Brazilian architect Guto Requena 3D-prints unique shapes based on participants' emotions
by CH Contributor in Design on 20 August 2014
by Jorge Grimberg
Brazilian architect Guto Requena launched a project that is very close to his heart at Design Weekend São Paulo. Through a special software developed by D3 Studio, personal emotions are captured to define new shapes for everyday objects. "The Love Project is a study in design, science and technology that captures the emotions people feel in relating personal love stories and transforms them into useful objects. The project suggests a future in which unique products will bear personal histories in ways that encourage long life-cycles, thus inherently combining deeply meaningful works with sustainable design," Requena writes on his website.
The design process is peculiar and involves three stages. First, three sensors are applied to the users in order to read their sudden reactions while they tell a love story that defined their lives. "Participants are isolated during this process so that they can more intimately expose their feelings and that data can be more accurately captured," Requena further explains. As users speak, data drawn from their changing emotion is captured by a software specially created for this. This data turns into a special design, that is then printed using a 3D printer.
A special graphic interface was created to read the data collected from the users and transform different inputs into one single language before it hits the printer. “The collected data is sent to Grasshopper parametric software, in which we developed a visual programming language that models three-dimensional objects and each sensor that was put on the users is turned into a new shape,” Requena adds. The sensor for the voice of the user is responsible for particle velocity, while heartbeat controls thickness and neural activities define if the particles will repel or attract each other.
The experimental software has three different grids to help the particles form a functional object, which are all very simple. The materials available for use are ABS, polyamide, glass, ceramics and metal. "To create these grid forces, we sought the simplest and most geometric universal format for these objects. The first version of this experiment modeled three different objects: a vase, a lamp and a fruit bowl," Requena writes.
During the launch at Design Weekend São Paulo, guests were invited to record personal stories on a computer and take home pendants printed on site by Akad 3D printers.
Images courtesy of Studio Guto Requena
A new book that aims to explain why cat videos are so alluring
The ancient Egyptians proclaimed their adoration for cats in hieroglyphics, statues and mummification. Today, many preserve the feline species forever in videos, print publications and even with dedicated television channels. When Coffee House Press' marketing director Caroline Casey and publisher Chris Fischbach attended the first Internet Cat Festival two years ago at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center, they were stunned by the turnout and the crowd's joyous reactions. "We were all doing this private thing (watching cat videos) together," Casey tells CH. "When we left, Chris and I immediately thought there had to be a book in there. What had happened? Why are people drawn to cat videos anyway? Why is it important that this happened on a museum's lawn?" Thus, the idea of a "Catstarter" was developed to commission smart and interesting writers to pen thought-provoking commentary on this near ubiquitous obsession with cat videos.
You could say that cat videos are mindless and disposable and a distraction, but they're also powerfully compelling in a way other animal videos, for instance, aren't.
"Carl Wilson's 'Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste' is one of my favorite books and the way he approached Celine Dion, and being Canadian and badness, and how much people love her, became the early model for how we were thinking about this book," says Casey. "Because you could say that cat videos are mindless and disposable and a distraction, but they're also powerfully compelling in a way other animal videos, for instance, aren't. And Chris and I love really smart laypersons writing about art, so we thought about who we'd want to read on the subject. We asked Carl, who said yes, and then we asked a whole list of our favorite people. Some said no, but a lot of them said yes. It's a really strange, funny, arty curious mix and it is completely un-ironic." The list of writers thus far includes The Atlantic's deputy editor Alexis Madrigal, Hyperallergic's senior editor Jillian Steinhauer, cat video professional Will Braden of Henri, le Chat Noir (the world's first feline philosopher), poet and Harvard professor Stephen Burt and others.
In partnership with Minneapolis neighbor and regular collaborator, Walker Art Center, Coffee House Press' upcoming book, titled "Cat is Art Spelled Wrong," takes the opportunity to examine a seemingly irrelevant subject from new perspectives—from "the line is between reality/self on the internet" to "how cat videos demonstrate either that nothing matters, or that any art matters if anyone thinks it does." Thus, it's an earnest attempt to uncover more about human nature—especially in today's internet-driven world.
"Serendipity is a big part of what we believe in—embracing the weird, the ambitious and the unexpected is why we're a nonprofit. So this was a natural extension of it. How do we take a thing that we love, turn it over to people we admire, and make something to share? And that's Catstarter," finishes Casey.
While readers have to wait until September 2015 for the book to be released, ensure its production by donating to their Kickstarter campaign, where the ultimate prize is getting the book dedicated your very own cat.
Final image courtesy of Paul Schmelzer, all others courtesy of Stacy Ann Schwartz and Walker Art Center