Gin Lazarus – The Return of Tanqueray Malacca Gin

TanquerayMalaccaGinTitle

Gin Lazerus – The Return of Tanqueray Malacca

Yesterday saw the launch of a gin Lazerus – a juniper spirit brought back from the dead: Tanqueray Malacca. I have reviewed and written about the original Tanqueray Malacca here. This original gin, designed to be slightly wetter in style, was released in 1997 and discontinued in 2000.

There are a few different suggested reasons for why Malacca was discontinued; one that is often touted is that it meant something rude in Greek*. As with most business decisions, I think that it was about the economics: demand was not high enough and production facilities at Tanqueray’s distillery are limited. In particular, with Tanqueray No:10 about to be launched in 2000, all of their capacity was needed.

I have theorised previously that if Tanqueray Malacca had been released in the second half of the last decade, it would have been a roaring success, as the more contemporary style of gin was, by then, in vogue – it was a product before its time. The spirit’s revival in 2013 will tell me if I was right or not.

Tanqueray Malacca is a limited run of 100,000 bottles; 80,000 of which are for the USA and 20,000 for the rest of the world. It is aimed exclusively at the on-trade market and is available only in litre bottles.

The man himself Master Distiller Tom Nichol

The man himself Master Distiller Tom Nichol

Tanqueray Malacca was famous (perhaps notorious) for the prices that were being paid for unopened bottles years after it had been discontinued ($150+ for a full 750ml bottle) and the quantities of the gin that were hoarded by speculators. The view of the Master Distiller of Tanqueray Gin, Tom Nichol, is that the gin is for drinking and he hopes that most of the 100,000 bottles will be enjoyed rather than displayed – true sentiment indeed.

But Why Bring It Back Now?

I put the question to Master Distiller Tom, who told me of the pleading and many requests that he’d received from bartenders to bring Malacca back and, eventually, Diageo felt they had to; this was a way for them to give something back to bartenders.

Tom also hopes that the attention Malacca will bring to Tanqueray will help people rediscover and remember what excellent products the original Tanqueray and No:10 are.

The finer technical details are a little mysterious, but we do know that it uses the same recipe as the original Malacca and so, for most practical purposes, it is the same spirit. The botanical mix is made up of a simple set of additions to the classic four-botanical selection of the original Tanqueray gin.

These extra botanicals are inspired by Charles Tanqueray’s trip through the Malacca straits to the Dutch spice islands. It also worth noting that Tanqueray Malacca is not a London Dry Gin; to find out what that means [click here.]

The Taste

On its own
Nose: Juniper to start, then some citrus notes such as grapefruit and creamy lemon and lime. It reminds Mrs. B of Key Lime Pie with juniper berries (an intriguing combination).

Taste: What I think is most notable about Tanqueray Malacca is its texture, which is richer and fuller than original Tanqueray. It is silky and clean on the finish. After the initial juniper and coriander, notes of vanilla with sweetness and some liquorice appear, followed by citrus and hints of spice such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The dry start gives way to a more liqueur-like sweetness, although I don’t think that the gin is too sugary.

I think this gin is very easy to sip and enjoy doing so. When comparing it to my notes and memory of tasting the previous batch, I would say that it’s pretty spot-on, only more vibrant and intense.

To quote one taster, “That’s a lovely little delicate treat, that is.”.

The Cocktail Menu

The Cocktail Menu

In addition to being able to sip the gin neat, Tanqueray had arranged for some top bartenders around the world to come up with some cocktails for the gin’s launch.

1) Let It Be
Created by Erik Lorincz, The American Bar at The Savoy.

45ml Tanqueray Malacca,
15ml Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur,
10ml Bitter Truth Pimento Dram,
30ml Lime juice, 15ml sugar syrup 2:1
Shake all ingredients and strain into coupette glass

My first drink of the evening, this was a fresh and fruity start. The Pimento Dram brings out the spiciness of the gin. The rather sweet, spicy elements are balanced by the citrus lime, with the balance of the cocktail really going through a transition as you drink. Finally, a little, jammy sweetness from the Apricot Liqueur comes through at the end.

The Golden Star

The Golden Star

2) The Golden Star
Created by Alberto Pizarro from Bobby Gin – Barcelona
Tanqueray Malacca, Parfait Amour, Roobios Syrup*, Kamm & Sons, Lemon Juice & Egg white.

This reminded me of a Gin Daisy; it was luscious and creamy, and slightly dessert-like. The spice and vanilla notes of the gin worked well alongside the fruity flavours, as well as the coriander from the Parfait Amour. Although it contained none, I also got some hints of pineapple at the end.

Be Kind and Unwind

Be Kind and Unwind

3) Be Kind Unwind
Created by Timo Janse from Door 74 – Amsterdam
Tanqueray Malacca, Maraschino, Dale DeGroff Pimento Bitters, Toschi Nocello Liqueur**, St. Raphael Liqueur.

A rather intense drink and, from my straw poll, a clear favourite of the evening. Deep, herbal notes complement the sweet spiciness of the gin and there was also some malty biscuit-iness on the finish. I thought this was a drink to contemplate things over, which was right up my street.

A busy night for the Bartenders as they made a huge batch of Tonico Sprengers

A busy night for the Bartenders as they made a huge batch of Tonico Sprengers

4) Tonico Sprenger
Created by Diego Cabrera from Le Cabrera – Madrid
Cinnamon and cardamom infused Tanqueray Malacca, Lemon Juice, Sugar and Ginger Beer.

A fun, spritzy drink served in some rather fine glassware. This was Mrs. B’s favourite, with some crisp, spicy notes and a citrus freshness; great for a summer’s day. Although I really like the drink, I felt that it was perhaps not the best way to appreciate the gin.

5) Royal Purl Stock Cube
Created by Tristan Stephenson from Purl – London
Described as:

“It’s a cup of Purl, but all of the ingredients are compressed into a gelatine stock cube. The cube is comprised of 35ml of Tanqueray Malacca, malt extract, wormwood, grapefruit zest and honey. Hot water is poured over the dried ingredients and the cube melts, flavouring the drink (like a stock cube). This is served in a tea cup with a slice of dehydrated orange, cinnamon flakes, tarragon leaf and a white sugar cube.”

Alas! I never got a chance to try this one.

DTS Modelling the New Gin

DTS Modelling the New Gin

In Conclusion
I really enjoyed being part of the Tanqueray Malacca launch and the return of this gin is a very welcome one. I think that it has a good versatility and look forward to seeing more innovation from bartenders using the spirit.

At the moment, I think my favourite way to drink Malacca is simply by itself – a departure from my previous thoughts on the gin, but perhaps a reflection on how a gin that’s been left in a bottle for many years can lose a little of its life and vibrancy.

With only 100,000 bottles available, it won’t be long, I fear, before Tanqueray Malacca once again disappears, so I’d recommend trying it while you can.

Tanqueray Malacca is available for around £47 for One Litre from The Whisky Exchange.

* Although, with no disrespect intended at all, I’m not sure how much influence the Greek gin drinkers in the USA have.

Cocktails with… Tanqueray Malacca

~~~UPDATE~~~
On 12/12/12 it was announced that Tanqueray Malacca was being relaunched (in the US) in February 2013. It has also been confirmed it is the same recipe and the spirit tasted here so soon you can find out for yourself.
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I can’t remember when I first heard of Tanqueray Malacca, but it must have been quite soon after I got interested in Gin and it has always been accompanied by a wistful sense of nostalgia of a lost gem.
Tanqueray Malacca was based on an 1839 recipe from Charles Tanqueray. Malacca was released as a “wetter” version of Tanqueray Gin (rather akin to Beefeater Wet, which was around for a bit longer approx. 1999-2005). The name comes from the Malacca Straits which is where Charles Tanqueray is thought to have first encountered the spices that were a key ingredient for this particular gin recipe.

From what I understand, the modern, Tanqueray Malacca was based on the standard four-botanical Tanqueray, cinnamon and some additional “secret spice” botanicals.* Tanqueray Malacca had a short life, mostly in the US market, from 1997 until 2000/2001. As you can see the usual red seal of Tanqueray was replaced with a gold one and the faded map and colour scheme gave the bottle a rather imperial look, not unlike the rather excellent Old Raj Gin.

There is a lot of intrigue around the product and I’ve even seen reference to it being used (when slightly sweetened) as an alternative to Old Tom Gin. But the important question is what does it taste like?

#1) Own
Some juniper but relatively subdued in comparison to usually Tanqueray. Still quite a lot of citrus and coriander and a little spice, after a few attempts I think I identified this as at least cinnamon and nutmeg. Remarkably smooth but still quite warming. With a drop of water it really opened up, in particular the non-juniper aspects of the gin.

#2) Gin & Tonic
Very soft and quite fruity and fresh. Silky and with less bite than many similar drinks. If you find most Gin & Tonic too bitters this may be a nice solution to that problem. Easy to drink and rather moreish.

#3) Martini (5:1 Dolin Dry)
Exceptionally smooth, the gin really let the vermouth through and there is minimal burn. Slips down very easy indeed, may not have the more intense juniper notes some Martini drinkers enjoy and not as crisp. I gave this to my buddy Phil (who is not usually a Martini fan) and he loved it.

#4) Pink Gin
This was recommended by Ted Haigh in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (2009) who suggests that the best two Gins to use in a Pink Gin were Plymouth and Tanqueray Malacca. I recently wrote an article on the Pink Gin for The James Bond Dossier Website (the drink features in the book The Man With The Golden Gun, where Bond specifies “Beefeater & plenty of bitters”) and so I did a three-way taste off  of Plymouth, Beefeater (47%) and Tanqueray Malacca. I’ll have to respectfully disagree with Mr Haigh on this point as Malacca came last; it just didn’t have the same strength of flavour as the other two. If you have a bottle, I wouldn’t recommend using it in this drink.

#5) White Lady
Another really smooth drink, crisp and very drinkable. It was slightly over-powered by the lemon juice but a very nice drink nonetheless. It was this drink that converted a friend of mine to White Ladies.

In Conclusion
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it. I think that the mysterious Tanqueray Malacca is clearly a very smooth gin and although I didn’t think it had any stunning characteristics drunk neat it does have this unique ability to smooth out the cocktails it was mixed in. As much as a gin can be, it was a real team-player of an ingredient. It seems to be the catalyst of a good drink and I do think it’s a shame it was discontinued, but who knows what the future will hold?

RIP Tanqueray Malacca (1997-2001)

Epilogue
The fact that Tanqueray Malacca is not really Juniper-lead, as well as the suggested similarities to Old Tom, starts to make me think about New Western Gins (NWG) (typically defined as “non-juniper-lead” ). It also makes me question whether they are that “new” at all (this in no way takes away from some of the excellent quality New Western Gins out there). There is even some evidence, really, really scant evidence though, that there may have been a variety of Malacca Gins available at one time and that it could have once been considered a separate gin category.**

* After doing a bit of digging, there were three main spices that would have certainly come through the Malacca Straits (circa 1839) on the Spice Routes; nutmeg, cinnamon (now confirmed)***  vanilla and maybe cloves. Based on the history and another nosing and tasting of the gin neat I would guess that at least the first two spices were part of the “secret botanical mix”.
** credit for the inspiration of this line of thinking has to go to my good friend Mr. Harltey who is quite keen on the NWG = Old Tom idea.

*** I have found, from another source that cinnamon is a likely botanical but more likely Chinese cinnamon (also known as cassia). This is highlighted in some text by a former Tanqueray distiller.

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