London has had a long and torturous relationship with gin, which perhaps explains why we’ve been so slow to openly celebrate the juniper-infused spirit in any way other than glugging loads of it and then having a cry. Which is obviously the best way to celebrate it. Nonetheless, Edinburgh has its Scotch Whisky Experience, Dublin has the Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Brewery; while there are a couple of specialist bars and smaller distilleries where gin-loving Londoners can learn a little more, a major attraction is well overdue.
Step forward the venerable Beefeater. This week its Kennington distillery opens a small on-site ‘experience’.The distillery is not a big building: the self-guided tour will take maybe half an hour, a bit longer if you borrow an iPad laden with additional supporting information.
The best section is the first, a replica of a Hogarthian street in which you learn about the heady days of the eighteenth-century Gin Craze, as the government tried desperately to rein in an unregulated industry that threatened to swamp London.
There’s fun facts and figures throughout, even if some of the themed areas feel a bit tenuous – the thing I’ll take away from the Prohibition section is that gin didn’t have much to do with Prohibition.
But as a light, slick overview of the history of Mother’s Ruin it’s very respectable, and refrains from really hammering home the Beefeater propaganda until the final stretch (where we also get to take a brief but interesting peek into the distillery itself). And, of course, there’s a crisp and not ungenerous G&T to finish with – worth a good chunk of your £12 ticket, and the perfect way to wind up this modest but worthwhile attraction. Andrzej Lukowski
Find out more about the Beefeater Distillery.