BEEFEATER 24—Because the market can bear more gin

My Fellow Inebriates,

Don’t tell Julia Gale, but I’m cheating on her with another gin.

I couldn’t help it. I’ve been waiting and waiting for BROKER’S GIN to make an appearance at my local government booze shop, but the last time I checked, it wasn’t there, and…well…the sun was shining, which means G&T time. The stars were lining up: we even had limes and tonic water ready in the fridge.

It wasn’t intentional. My dad had bought the tonic for his sore stomach and my mum had earmarked the limes for some sort of peanut-lime chicken abomination. They had no plans to buy gin, but…well, the stars lined up.

Faced with a paralyzing selection of beer and an even more overwhelming array of wine, my mum hit the gin aisle, where she would have to cope with only 14 brands.

Those 14 brands divide into 34 gin variations, however, posing less confusion than the wine and beer sections, but certainly enough for my addlepated mother. Whereas weirdo gin producers such as Hendrick’s sport only one style and size, brands such as TANQUERAY and BEEFEATER not only come in multiple sizes; they also boast premium versions that cost an arm and a leg. Tanqueray 10 is particularly pricey ($42.99 per 750mL versus $24.99 for the original). And if gin goes the way of vodka, the liquor store will have to build a new shelf for a host of new dipshit flavors.

What’s the history behind this? I suspect it goes like this: Charles Tanqueray creates a perfect London gin in 1830, predating Beefeater but not Plymouth and besting both, and these “establishment” brands then elbow out all the cheap gin joints in England, alleviating the social problems you’d expect from turpentine-flavored moonshine. But the market is quickly crowded by other gin manufacturers offering both mainstream gin flavorings and bizarre variants such as cucumber essence, and next thing you know my easily puzzled parent is staring at a massive selection and wondering if early Alzheimer’s is kicking in.

The marketing intelligence goes like this. The main decent contenders with any history are Tanqueray and Beefeater. Put Tanqueray on the shelf beside Beefeater and you’ve got a shoot-out. With Tanqueray costing only a dollar more than Beefeater, the choice comes down to how subtle you like your gin—flirting at you with juniper or belting you with it. If you haven’t tried either product, the odds are probably 50/50 you’ll pick either one.

Now put Tanq 10 beside Tanqueray and Beefeater. Sixty percent higher in price, this exorbitant sibling tastes cleaner, lighter, and arguably more refined. If anything it argues for diminishing returns—how good does gin really get, and do you have to refine the character right out of it to hit this price point?

But it doesn’t matter how Tanq 10 tastes. Its very presence on the shelf has accomplished a marketing coup—it’s redirected the dilemma. Instead of considering the merits of two almost equally priced gins, the consumer now sees the choice as between Tanqueray and Tanqueray 10, with Beefeater characterizing the bottom shelf—whether or not it deserves to be relegated to that position. Whereas ordinary Tanqueray, at $1 above Beefeater, didn’t seem like a deal before, now it seems like a steal. Now you can get a steal without being cheap.

Even though Tanqueray figured this out first, Beefeater eventually got into the game with BEEFEATER 24. Launched in 2008, this tea-infused variant, which would probably make founder James Burrough roll over in his grave, dials back the juniper in favor of a more balanced, 12-botanical recipe intended to channel the sensibilities of Burrough’s tea-merchant father. At $6 more than original BEEFEATER for 750mL, BEEFEATER 24 is invoking the same strategy as Tanqueray—creating choice within the brand, thereby satisfying the shopper’s urge to experiment without deserting the brand. Without cheating, that is.

Ahhhh, I never told Julia I wouldn’t cheat, but by now you must realize I’ve gone and made a gin & tonic with BEEFEATER 24. But what’s done is done, so let’s talk taste.

Like Tanq 10, BEEFEATER 24 is a cleaner version of the original, lacking the characteristic juniper burst of its big sibling and infused with specialty teas and grapefruit peel. The scent is heady and inviting—definitely flirtier than the original and admittedly more sophisticated. The tea infusion contributes a noticeable parching tannic quality, slightly distracting in a gin & tonic, especially if it’s a GIN & tonic like mine. As I sip it, I can’t help thinking fondly of the classic juniper clouting you get with the original, and I almost feel robbed of $6.

Which isn’t to say BEEFEATER 24 is bad. Not at all! It’s quite wonderful. It’s just a departure from Beefeater. I bet the founder, who was pretty worked up about achieving the perfect recipe, probably wouldn’t appreciate it. Chances are Beefeater headquarters are experiencing all sorts of bumps in the night from an angry James Burrough lurching around half-cut on celestial Beefeater and knocking people’s teacups off counters. Still better than having a possessed bear in your house, but not by much.

But once again it doesn’t matter what BEEFEATER 24 actually tastes like. It’s made an intelligent marketing maneuver that will keep customers loyal to its brand and probably grab some market share from competitors.

If only Beefeater HQ would learn how to make web pages that don’t take 45 seconds* to load.

*no exaggeration
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6 responses to “BEEFEATER 24—Because the market can bear more gin”

  1. beerbecue says :

    In full disclosure, before you ship yourself via FedEx, we use Bluecoat gin. It’s an American gin (gasp!), and you’ll have to fight our alcoholic, mangy koala for it.

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