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Review

Bombay Sapphire Gin

Distillery

Made by G & J Greenall International, Risley, Warrington, England, UK on behalf of Bombay Spirits Co. Ltd. (Bacardi Ltd) and distributed by Barcardi USA, Coral Gables, Florida.

Website

G & J Greenall, Barcardi Ltd, Bacardi USA and Bombay Sapphire.

History

Established back in 1761, Greenall’s are the oldest continuously producing London Dry Gin distillery in the world. Thomas Dakin built the distillery initially, Edward Greenall started using it and in 1870 it was purchased completely (The G&J comes from Edward’s younger brothers – Gilbert & John). The previous chairman, Lord Daresbury, was a direct descendent of Edward Greenall. The family motto “Alto Peto” translates as "I Strive Higher". This once cottage based industry is now the second largest gin distillery in Britain, producing over 50% of the UK’s Gin and almost 15% of the world’s Gin. In 2011 the business was bought by Quintessential Brands.

Barcardi was founded in 1862 by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó in Cuba and today is run by Facundo L. Bacardi since 2005. He is the great-great grandson of the company’s founder and a fifth generation family member. Famous for their white colored Barcardi Rum they have gone from strength to strength (despite having had their production plant illegally confiscated by the Cuban government in 1960) and have grown by acquisition across the years.

Bacardi is the third largest spirits company in the world, as well as the world's largest, privately held Spirits Company. The company sells over 200 brands, in more than 150 markets and operates 27 production facilities (for bottling, distilling and manufacturing) in 16 countries. It is headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda.  

Bombay was originally created by Thomas Dakin back in 1761 and called Warrington Gin. In the 1950’s it was relaunched and renamed Bombay Dry Gin by Alain Subin. In the 1980’s Michel Roux experimented with the recipe to create Bombay Sapphire, and Bombay Dry became known as Bombay Original. Bombay Sapphire was launched in 1987 and was acquired by Bacardi in 1998 (along with Dewar’s Whisky and Bombay Original Gin). This is, or close to, the best selling Gin brand in the world. With availability in over 120 countries, it is readily recognizable, and has become a modern icon.

Production

The Gin is made the same way as Bombay Original Gin (the same way since 1761) with ten botanicals being vapor infused during the 3rd and final distillation, using rare Carterhead stills. There is a picture of Queen Victoria set on a background of a Sapphire on the label reflecting the: British heritage and the popularity of Gin during Victorian times and the “Star of Bombay” Sapphire – see “Name” below.

The Gin is sold in a blue sapphire film covered bottle and many wrongly believe it to be blue coloured - in reality it is a clear liquid. The final distillate is blended with water from Lake Vyrnwy in Powys, Wales, UK (near Snowdonia). Interestingly, the lake was created by the building of a gothic style dam in the 1880’s (the first of its kind in the world) to supply Liverpool and Merseyside with water, which it does by way of a 68-mile long aqueduct.

Barcardi are moving the production of Bombay in-house and are currently establishing facilities in the village of Laverstoke, Hampshire, UK for this express purpose. Laverstoke Mill is set to open on 1st October 2014 and the distillery will include a visitors centre with tours, bar, café and shop. Obviously we are disappointed for Greenall’s loss but also excited and impatient to visit Bombay’s new home. Nik Fordham, previously at Chivas Brothers (Beefeater Gin), has been appointed Master Distiller for Bombay at Laverstoke. A digitally produced tour of Laverstoke Mill can be seen on YouTube plus further details can be found on the Laverstoke Mill website.

Category

London Dry Gin.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV)

47% (94 Proof) in USA and other markets; 40% (80 Proof) in the UK and Australia.

Price Range

$$ - $$$. Available online at: Mission Wine and Spirits and Binnys.

Botanicals

The 10 Botanicals are similar to the 8 found in Bombay Original Gin; the two additions being cubeb berries and grains of paradise. Thus the 10 botanicals are: almond (Spain), angelica root (Saxony), cassia bark (Indo-China), coriander seeds (Morocco), cubeb berries (Java), grains of paradise (Africa), juniper berries (Italy), lemon peel (Spain), liquorice (China) and orris root (Italy).

Name

Bombay, called Mumbai since 1995, is on the West coast of India and is the capital of the Indian State of Maharashtra. Originally in the 1500’s this was a settlement by the Portuguese who called it “Born Baim” meaning “Good little bay. In the 1600’s the British gained possession of the city (comprised of 7 different islands) and the name was anglicised to “Bombay”. Using the name for this Gin is a salute to the popularity of Gin with the British Raj in India during their period of colonial rule.

The Sapphire part of the name was inspired by the 182-carat sapphire found in Sri Lanka and called the "Star of Bombay". Famous actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. bought it as a gift for his wife movie actress, Mary Pickford. She bequeathed it to the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC in 1981.

In certain circles the drink’s name is shortened to “bomsaph”, as an affectionate nickname.

Tasting Notes

On the nose are citrus, juniper and light spice notes. On the palate this slightly oily, smooth, medium bodied spirit continues with the citrus and juniper, whilst displaying layers of herbal and floral notes. There is a slight sweetness (liquorice), which pervades throughout and the finish is slightly peppery. All in all, this is a light and bright drink, albeit the palate has to work hard to specify the botanicals beyond the citrus and juniper. We have tried both 40% and 47% ABV versions and prefer the 40%; the 47% has a slight alcohol burn which is out of balance with its delicate flavors.

It is a well-known and well-liked Gin and this, we suspect, is down to its versatility. This is good in a Gin and Tonic, Gimlet, Martini (more wet than dry, with a lemon garnish), and Aviation drinks. Put it in any Gin based mixed drink and it makes for an enjoyable experience for non-gin drinkers and light gin drinkers alike. For Gin lovers though, it might just lack a certain level of interesting character. Famous bartender Dick Bradsell created the Bramble especially for Bombay Sapphire and it is a delightful summer cocktail.

Overall it has the standard Gin like character but is mild enough to be liked by less ardent Gin drinkers. For the hard and fast Gin lovers this may be a little bland due to the flavor subtlety, and we put this down to the vapor infusion – which is why many Gin lovers prefer Bombay Original instead. Our conclusion is the mild flavor is why there is mass appeal for this drink (it is hard to dislike); plus given it has had at least a whole generation head start on many other “modern” Gins, it has managed to cement itself into society as a whole – and at this price it makes itself readily accessible to most people.

Awards & Accolades

92 Points, Wine Enthusiast.

92 Points Beverage Testing Institute.

Silver Medal, International Spirits Challenge, 2013.

Silver Medal, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2012.



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