Cocktails with… Star of Bombay Gin

Star of Bombay marks a busy couple of years for Bombay Sapphire, with the release of Bombay Amber, the relaunching of Bombay Dry, and, of course, the opening of their own Distillery and Visitors’ Centre in Laverstoke, Hampshire.

Star of Bombay takes its name from the precious stone from Sri Lanka – a 182-carat sapphire. I’ve often heard that this was the inspiration for the “sapphire” in Bombay Sapphire. The stone has an interesting history and is thought have been given to Mary Pickford by Douglas Fairbanks (both stars of the silent age of cinema). Upon her death in 1979, Pickford bequeathed the stone to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., where it remains on display to this day.

It is made using the ten classic Bombay Sapphire botanicals and adds to that mix bergamot (a citrus fruit often used in Earl Grey tea) and ambrette seeds (the seeds of yellow hibiscus). It is also worth noting that the vapour infusion distillation process is slowed down, to allow a more intense flavour to be extracted. The gin is bottled at 47.5% ABV.

Star of Bombay Bottle Bombay Sapphire

On its own
Nose: A little citrus upfront, as well as coriander, some lightly briney, herbal, leafy notes, and a touch of chopped nuts. Juniper and angelica come through towards the end as the gin opens up.
Taste: Floral upfront, with the bergamot adding citrus and aromatic floral notes, which are followed by the spicy citrus-florality of coriander. As the flavour develops, more of the classic Bombay Sapphire notes come through, with a slightly oily citrus flavour and then dry juniper and pine, before woody menthol pepper on the finish.

Overall, Star of Bombay is a more intense and complex gin than the classic Bombay Sapphire.

Gin & Soda
This has a good level of flavour and allows lots of refreshing botanical notes to come through. In this drink, the floral citrus of the bergamot is a particularly pleasant addition.

Gin & Tonic
Star of Bombay makes a dry Gin & Tonic with a pleasant citrus freshness, as well as just a touch of sweetness towards the end. With a little ice-melt, it settles into a refreshing and cooling drink.

Smooth, spicy, and citrusy, with peppery juniper on the finish. I think that a lemon twist works well in this cocktail – the oil makes the gin even more aromatic. This is a smooth, but intense Martini with a leafy crispness and bold intensity to it.

Strong flavours come through from the gin, Campari, and the vermouth, with an intense, earthy bitterness on the finish. It is a smooth cocktail, with the floral citrus of the bergamot again coming through well. Bold and intense.

Star of Bombay Intense Gin Tonic Bombay Sapphire

Intense Gin & Tonic
[Equal parts Star of Bombay and tonic water – garnish with orange peel.]
Bright and delicious, oily and fresh, this drink has a wonderful interplay between the dryness of some of the gin’s botanicals and the tonic water, and the sweetness of the orange peel. A lovely drink to kick-off an evening.

In Conclusion
Star of Bombay is a more intense version of the classic Bombay Sapphire, with additional floral citrus from its new botanicals. The gin stands up well to mixing, especially in long, cooling drinks. My favourite, though, was the intense Gin & Tonic, turning a classic from a long drink to a short one.

Star of Bombay is available for around £32 for 700ml from Waitrose

Cocktails with… Bombay Sapphire EAST

This article has been updated since I had a very informative trans-Atlantic conversation with Giles Woodyer, US Brand Manager for Bombay Sapphire.
When writing about Bombay Sapphire, it is tempting for a gin writer to become nostalgic and widely proclaim how it “single-handedly saved the gin world”. I’m not going to dispute its importance in the grand history of this juniper spirit, but today I want to talk about something new: Bombay Sapphire East.

The rather fabulous Bombay Sapphire East bottle

It’s nearly 25 years since Bombay Sapphire was launched, turning scores of vodka drinkers onto gin and this is the first variation that the team at BS have created since then. This new creation is a bit tricky to get hold of at the moment, as it is currently only available in its test markets of New York and Las Vegas.*
Giles Woodyer told me that the idea of a new gin came from the recognition that in the last few decades the gin market has change substantially with more gins on the market and a wider appreciation of gin, they wanted to create something that would reflect the growing understanding of the gin consumer. In short, the time was right.
Initially Giles and a team of leading US chefs and bartenders sat down with a range of botanical flavours to see what would compliment Bombay Sapphire. Their aim was not to be too outlandish but simply to create a subtle but noticeable change. After much experimentation Black Peppercorn and Lemongrass became the flavours favoured by the panel.
But what about the name?
Bombay Sapphire pride themselves on sourcing the very best botanicals for their gins; they felt that the best lemongrass and black peppercorns came from countries in East Asia. Given Victorian interest and trade in the Far East it seemed to fit in nicely with the slightly colonial tone of the brand. The subtlety in the name change reflect that of the packaging and the spirit inside.
Regarding the difference with Bombay Sapphire, it’s a quiet change; Bombay Sapphire East is bottled at 42%ABV** and has the addition of lemongrass (Thailand) and black peppercorns (Vietnam) to the standard, ten botanical recipe. These themselves are relatively underwhelming botanicals, but I think that that actually says a lot about their approach to the spirit. Even the bottle is an understated reflection of the original (I happen to think it a very fine one at that), but, in the end, all this is irrelevant; what really matters is how it tastes.Before that, for the sake of completeness, here is a list of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire East:

1) Own
On the nose, there are initial notes of grassy juniper and herbal citrus. There are also some salady notes, reminding me a little of a couscous salad or something similar. More juniper and a slight spicy note develops as time goes on; the pepper soon develops to the extent that you wonder how you missed it the first time round.
To taste, it is initially quite smooth, with some sweetness, but this gives way to a lightly creamy citrus and a little soapy coriander, before the black peppercorns appear on the finish. It’s pretty spicy and intense, but I like it.***

I was speaking to a gentleman from Bombay Sapphire at an event yesterday, who explained that there is a natural flavour progression between Bombay Dry, Sapphire and Sapphire East, with Bombay Sapphire sitting between the other two.

He also noted that one of their considerations when making Sapphire East was the fact that American Tonic Water is typically much sweeter than UK or European varieties and so the gin flavours were adjusted accordingly. The UK Bombay Sapphire tasting had some US Tonic Water sent over for their in-house briefing tasting team; as I sadly don’t have any, I’ve decided to try a range.

2) Gin & Tonic
i) with Britvic
As a Gin & Tonic, it still seems quite sweet, but there are some spicy notes that bring it back down slightly. It’s quite lemony, with a growing dryness at the end.

ii) with Schweppes
Quite clean relatively crisp, slight peppiness come through, very refreshing.

iii) with Fentimans
A little vanilla on the nose, I was sondering how the lmeongrass in the Bombay east with go with the lemongrass in the Fentimans. Sadly the mixer completely masks the gin, even at a 2:1 ration. Not a great combination.

3) Martini
It was Bombay Sapphire that initially switched me from vodka to gin martinis, so I’m keen to try this. I used Dolin in a 5:1 mix, which was stirred and served naked. ***
Pretty classic but perhaps a little more dry and savoury then many martinis. A slightly hot spiciness at the end. Really rather enjoyable.

4) Aviation
I was inspired to try this by an excellent Aviation I had last night, made with Bombay sapphire. Sadly the east version does not live up to it’s Big Sister. The spice and extra citrus seemed to take away from the potential accord**** of the drink and too me it seemed a bit too dry.

5) Negroni
I thought this was rather nice: it had a good balance of bitter sweet; starting with a spicy sweetness that gradually grows to a more herbaceous bitterness. The finish is a lingering combination of bitter and spice, although, overall, the flavour it is not too heavy as Negronis go.

6) GT Turbo
Top notch, the lemon grass in the gin works well with the herbal elements (including lemongrass) of John’s Premium tonic Syrup. Very fresh and pleasantly bitter. The quinine and the pepper spice seem to partner well together. Crisp and invigorating.
Final thoughts, I enjoyed trying this and I think it’s a good addition to the range. My favourite drink was the GT Turbo and my favourite Gin & tonic was with Schweppes. I like the fact that it retains the character of the original in the same way that the Beefeater Variations use the same standard 9 botanicals and just add 3 new ones to the mix (see here for a pretty diagram).
* In my ignorance I though Las Vegas an odd choice but Giles informed me that their is quite strong bar culture there but in the same way it is quite different to New York and so the two different test markets featured a cross-section of drinkers.
** In the UK, Bombay Sapphire is bottled at 40%ABV and in the US it is bottled at 47%ABV. Giles Woodyer told me that the reason for this was that after trying Bombay Sapphire East at various strengths this was the sweet spot.
*** I found that, as time went on, the peppery spiciness of the gin became more and more pronounced.
**** Accord basically means that the combination of the ingredients in a cocktail is greater than the sum of their parts.

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