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Gin Reviews

Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin, 40% ABV: A Gem of a Gin?

Does Bombay Sapphire really need an introduction? Probably not, but imma do one anyway.

Bombay Sapphire is a best-selling gin-brand that is known for its iconic pillar-shaped, sleek blue bottle. The gin brand is produced in Laverstoke Mill in England, under the supervision of Master of Botanicals Ivano Tonutti. The classic recipe draws on ten different botanicals, including: almond, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia, cubeb and grains of paradise.

A key point of differentiation for Bombay Sapphire is its use of vapor infusion to distill its gin, a process that the brand credits for giving its gins a characteristically light and delicate profile, with a citrusy and spicy balance. Vapour infusion involves a distiller adding their chosen botanicals into a gin basket that hangs over the spirit within the distillation still - rather than distilling the gin with the botanicals directly steeped in the spirit. This way, the essences and the flavours of the botanicals are absorbed through the steam that rises and passes through the gin basket during distillation, before being gently introduced into the gin when the steam condensed back into the spirit.

Many wonder why the brand is called Bombay Sapphire... Well, “Bombay” – referring to the Indian city - was inspired by the days of the British Raj in India, during which the gin and tonic was popularized by the Royal Indian Armed Forces. Meanwhile, “Sapphire” was a reference to the extremely rare and extremely valuable Star of Bombay, a 182-carat violet-blue sapphire that was mined from Sri Lanka. The creator of Bombay Sapphire, Allan Subin wanted his gin to exude aspirational 1920s refinement, and hence combined these two inspirations in the naming of the brand.  

| Read more: A Deepdive into Bombay Sapphire - How It Began and How Its Made

Given it's popularity as one of those staple gins to have on any bartenders shelf or home bar cart, it seems long overdue that we review this classic London Dry Style gin. Thus, I purchased a bottle recently and poured it out for a spin... Let's go!

Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin, 40% ABV - Tasting Notes

Appearance: Clear liquid. The bottle is iconic for a reason though - I do enjoy the elegant appearance of the sleek, blue bottle, aptly modelled after the gem it was inspired by. 

Aroma:  This opens fresh and bright with a strong hit of citrus notes - lemon juice and orange zest. You do get sharp whiffs of alcohol notes there, punctuated by accents of fresh juniper berries and light sweetness of caster sugar.

Palate: Coats the tongue with a gentle oiliness. The flavour isn't immediately apparent, and the alcohol notes do take some time to settle. Once it does, some spiciness come to the fore - cinnamon, white pepper and coriander. I was a bit surprised that the dominant citrus profile of the nose didn't immediately carry over into the palate, but after a slight moment, the notes of lemon grow in prominence as expected, intermingling with the spiciness in a way that reminds me of lemon herb spice blends. There's also some mild earthy background notes of almond. 

Finish: Long, with some apparent prickly heat here - I get notes of black pepper, chilli seeds, and coriander. This gradually evolves into a lingering sweetness of citrus (kind of like a carbonated Sprite canned drink) and liquorice.  

My Thoughts:

The alcohol notes was a tad bit harsh when drunk neat, and while I enjoyed the bold and straightforward citrus and spice flavours, I do wish there was a stronger influence of the earthy juniper and bittersweet liquorice to add complexity. To be honest, I was a little surprised that this gin didn't seem to have as much juniper influence as one would expect, especially considering the brand's reputation as one of the stalwarts of the London Dry style of gins. 

That said, I can see why this gin is so popular! It's high proof makes it a breeze to use in cocktails, while the uncomplicated spicy-citrus combo gives the gin a very distinct brightness that is likely to withstand the addition of other ingredients without being dulled.

In a Gin & Tonic: 

Mixed in with a gin and tonic, I'm finally able to discern a bit more of a punchier juniper character! The spiciness has completely left the chat though - and what remains in the strong citrus notes of lemon zest complemented by the newly resurgent notes of earthy juniper berries and light oaky pine.

It's refreshing, I'll give it that! In a G&T, Bombay Sapphire makes for an uncomplicated sipper, though a tad bit one-dimensional. Lots of online sources recommend garnishing a Bombay Sapphire G&T with a lemon wedge, but I actually think garnishing this with basil leaves or some ginger might dimensionalize this G&T a bit more - reintroducing some nice, contrasting (but not clashing!) notes of herbality or spice.

 

With juniper and joy,

@lotusroot518