My latest quest to find the ultimate Gin & Tonic combination for certain Gins brings me to Bombay Sapphire. Quite whys it’s taken me this long to get around to it I don’t know?! I guess over the last few years, I have given it some stick. Not because it tastes horrible or anything, but I guess, well there’s new cool kids on the block and Bombay is a very delicate Gin. It doesn’t have the Gin Punchiness it’s new siblings do. But, never the less, I wanted to see whether there’s still a place for Bombay.
Answer… YES THERE IS.
Of course there is. Jeez, they bottle 2.3 million cases a year! So they’ve got just a teeny weeny market share…
Bombay Sapphire Gin actually started life in 1987 and was originally distributed by Bacardi back in those days. It was part of their small portfolio. When I started Pub work back in 1995, you were a posh Pub if you had it. Normally you had Gordon's as your PREMIUM upsell from the house stuff…as we were Greene King, we had Peatlings Gin!!
Gin in those days was at a low ebb. Nothing had really been done for the category in years….and YEARS. In fact if you asked people to name 5 brands of Gin, you’d be lucky if people actually got past 2…and if they made it to 3, then well, give them a free drink!
People were turned off Gin because of the heavy juniper thump that whacked you around the chops when you drank it. It was a Love Hate thing.
But step forward Bombay Sapphire.
In large part, we can credit the guys to created it as half of the catalyst to Bring Gin to the fore again. I wouldn’t say it was fully responsible for the renaissance now, but without it back in the 90s, I do think Gin would be in a totally different place.
The reason Bombay Sapphire was created was to (as legend has it) appeal to the Vodka Drinkers. You see, as I’ve mentioned before, Bombay is a Very different gin to many, many on the market. For a start, it is one of the very few that the botanicals are vapour infused. Most Gins effectively boil there botanical in the still and collect the vapour that comes off. But instead, Bombay Sapphire distill the Neutral Spirit, then allow the vapours to pass through Botanical Baskets further up the Still. This obviously creates a lighter, more delicate Gin.
So back then, as I said, it was aimed mainly at offering Vodka Drinkers something different. Trying to grow a category. (Gin is just a flavoured Vodka!!!) Because of Marketing channels back then….kids there was no Facebook or YouTube etc, it was a lot harder to get Marketing Messages out. So to create Brand Awareness, they went with their iconic Blue Bottle, then smashed Gordons out of the Water by listing their botanicals on the side of the Bottle. A practice that 95% of the Gin Distilleries with nothing to hide, now practise. Quite why Gordons still doesn’t publicise their botanicals does confuse me, but hey ho…
Now, I can’t go too much further without mentioning Laverstoke Mill. Bombay Sapphire’s new distillery. Have a google, cos it’s proper amazing. And get yourselves booked on to a Distillery tour.
Laverstoke Mill is based half way between Basingstoke and Andover, in Hampshire. But here’s the thing, it only opened in 2014. So, how did Bombay Sapphire start life. Little known fact this…and again, I’m not 100% sure, but I’m 98% sure… It started life at a Distillery I’ve mentioned in virtually every Gin Video on YouTube. Yes, you’ve guessed it. Gin Giants, G&J Distillers, were the guys tasked to create and distill the gin. Like soooo many gins in the UK, they all started life up north in Warrington. Anyway, now I read online that Laverstoke Mill now produces a mere 25 million Litres of Bombay Sapphire a year which equates to some 35 million bottles. That’s some effort! Especially when you realise, that’s just shy of 100,000 bottles a day! I’m not quite sure I believe that to be honest. But, the level that Bombay sells at, it’s possibly plausible.
Bombay Sapphire Botanicals
Lets just have a quick shout out to the Botanicals…
10 in total. And quite a Traditional 10. There is nothing here that you wouldn’t expect to see in the vast majority of Gins distilled today.
Grains of Paradise
And because of the vapour infusing, what this gives is a slight Floral Gin...not to the extent of Bloom or The Botanist though, and when mixed with Tonic, quite a refreshing G&T with slight kick from the Peppery Cubeb Berries.
This is a very smooth Gin and if a Traditionalist Martini drinker got hold of this, perhaps it'd be their favourite Gin to use. For me though, I like the complex bold flavours in Gins for a Martini. That’s why Monkey 47 does it for me every time. I love the fruitiness.
To find out what Tonic I think works best, watch my Video review.