16 March 2011

Beefeater's master Distiller Desmond Payne

Desmond is the chief distiller at Beefeater gin in London. He is fabled to be able to break down any complex spirit through smell alone. He ha been with beefeater since 1995.

1.What was the first drink/spirit you ever tasted and what was your reaction
- It was sherry – at my Christening! Just a taste on my lips, but I guess that’s what did it!

2.What was the first drink/spirit you really fell in love with and why?
- I really think it was gin. I was intrigued by the exotic taste and it seemed a very sophisticate drink.

3.What is a flavour you have discovered recently?
- I am interested particularly in how flavours combine to create new sensations. The use of pine shoots, for instance, in Beefeater Winter Edition, gives a very different way to how the juniper delivers.

4.If you could give a piece of invaluable advice to someone looking to start distilling / distillery what would it be?
- Take your time. Don’t try to change the world before you know how it works.

5.What does the future hold for yourself/company and the industry?
- Well, after more than 40 years in the distilling business, the future is probably shorter than the past! Having said that, I have no plans to retire yet. The gin industry is on a roll just now and I intend to stay a part of it.

6.what is your greatest satisfaction from working with spirits / in a distillery?
- I have been really fortunate throughout my career to be involved in all aspects of the business from buying the botanical ingredients, through distillation, and on to my involvement with cocktails and the bar trade. The creation of my first gin with Beefeater 24 is probably the greatest highlight.

7.If you were to have a conversation with a spirit (and presuming it could talk back and tell you its past) what would it be?
- When you start to have conversations with your drink, it is probably time to give up drinking.

8.Which to you is the most appealing spirit and why?
- No surprise, it is Gin. Because it is such a versatile spirit it can combine with so many other flavours. This is why I call gin the sociable spirit.

9.What are your 3 favourite cocktails involving spirits you have either worked on or are a fan of?
- Only three? No1. The Negroni. No.2 The Manhattan, and No.3 the Gibson Martini.

10.What prompted you to go into distilling?
- I was working in the wine trade and joined a company called Seager Evans in Deptford.in 1967. As well as dealing in wine, they also had a gin distillery. The rest is history.

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