Kennington is the Home of Gin – Burnett’s White Satin gin was made in West Kennington from 1750 onwards, and London’s last surviving gin distillery, Beefeater, has been located on Montford Place since 1958 when it left Chelsea in a bid to move upmarket.
As part of their ongoing commitment to Kennington, Beefeater recently opened a visitors’ centre, so naturally we went along for a tour.
The museum part of the tour has plenty about the dark history of gin in London, when it was known as mother’s ruin.
Here are some different eras of Beefeater bottles:
Only four people know the recipe for the Beefeater blend – the master brewer Desmond and his three stillmen, Keith, Maxim and Leeroy. They all have to have their noses insured and under no circumstances are they allowed to visit Walworth. The visitors centre are happy to tell you the flavourings anyway, and let you sniff them: Seville orange peel, lemon peel, bitter almond, liquorice, orris root, angelica seed, angelica root, coriander, and of course juniper:
Then you step through into the distillery itself:
Beefeater are aiming to make 36 million bottles this year, all of it distilled here, although then they transport the highly alcoholic distilled liquid to Scotland to mix it with water there.
Naturally the tour begins and ends in the gift shop, which plays heavily on the patriotism:
They have a new brew called London Garden which is inspired by the flower garden in Kennington Park, and is only available from the distillery.
The visitors centre is open every day except Christmas Day, and costs £12 for adults, £10.80 for concessions, and is free for under 18s, although they miss out on the free gin and tonic at the end. From mother’s ruin to kid’s day out.