Review: Bombay Sapphire Gin
Should I ever find myself partaking in an episode of ‘Family Fortunes’ and required to suggest a gin, I’d be banking on a decent amount of points for Bombay Sapphire. As one of the first ‘premium’ gins to be successful in the mass, it has certainly established itself as a big name in the gin category, and been credited for it’s leading the revival of the now thriving gin industry. But with so many gins to choose from now, I wondered whether a product launched at a time when vodka ruled the roost could still deliver the goods.
Although launched in 1987, Bombay Sapphire actually has its roots way back in 1761 when a chap by the name of Thomas Dakin created ‘Warrington Gin’. Fast forward to the 1950’s and a second chap by the name of Alain Subin relaunched the product under the name of ‘Bombay Dry’ which is still available today, albeit nowhere near as widely as Bombay Sapphire. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when a third chap by the name of Michel Roux decided to fiddle around with the original recipe and create a new ‘sister’ product in Bombay Sapphire.
Bombay Sapphire uses an uncommon distillation method called vapour infusion. This process is conducted in a Carterhead still which, rather than heating the botanicals in with the base spirit like most gins, instead suspends them above the spirit so the vapours flow past them as it is heated. There are ten botanicals used; almond, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia, cubeb and grains of paradise.
Nose – The contribution of the vapour infusion process is evident immediately. It is light and fresh with just the right amount of citrus and the odd hint at the earthier botanicals as well. The juniper is present, but moderated by the other aromas to create a pleasing balance that is hard to dislike.
Neat – There is a brief delay before a surprising sweetness appears that never fully disappears. Shortly after the juniper flirts with the tastebuds but conversely doesn’t hang around too long. The rest of the botanicals sing in perfect harmony, but far too quietly for my liking, and in an uncomfortable contrast to a relatively spicy heat from the alcohol. It certainly doesn’t burn, but it’s out of kilter with the delicate flavouring from the botanicals. I appreciate this gin is not designed to be a full-on attack of ginny flavours, but it is all just a bit limp, like someone scrimped on the measurements.
Unfortunately it does not live up to it’s reputation as ‘premium’ gin when mixing either. By no means is this a bad spirit, it’s just that I really can’t get excited by it. Classics such as a G+T or a Negroni are easy-drinking enough but the gin doesn’t bring much to the party. In other cocktails including two of my favourites, the Pink Lady and Last Word, the results are even less impressive; not only do they lack in interest but there is a persisting artificial aftertaste that I can’t quite place my finger on. It’s not all bad news however, a couple of longer, fruity/spicy concoctions such as the Gin Gin Mule and variations on fruit-based collins’ (see below) were pleasant enough, and would no doubt be happily sipped by many a consumer looking for something that’s not too challenging.
Signature Cocktail – Tangerine and Mint Collins
50ml Bombay Sapphire
25ml lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
5 tangerine segments
6 mint leaves
Clap mint and place at bottom of highball glass. Add tangerine segments on top and lightly muddle. Add rest ingredients and fill 3/4 with crushed ice. Churn well and top with soda water.
Bombay Sapphire is a veteran of the gin world and is deserving of recognition for its contribution to the reinvigoration of the category. However, the very same brands it paved the way for are now the real stars in the gin world. Bombay is light and fresh but ultimately unexciting and short on flavour. It does occupy a unique position in market but it’s not one that I can recommend.
Bombay Sapphire is available to buy from Master of Malt
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.