- Food & Drink
If an evening of boozy gin cocktails wasn’t enough to persuade me to write about them, the generous gift fairies at Bombay Sapphire also supplied me with a blue bottle of Bombay. And not just any a bottle. They gave me one with my name etched into it.
It’s the most thrilling thing I’ve ever received. I’m completely enchanted by it and give the bottle a pat and a stroke every time I walk past the shelf where it majestically sits, surrounded by votive candles and offerings (currently just scatterings from my kitchen cupboards, but it won’t be long before I start sacrificing chickens to the God Of Personalised Gin). I’m utterly in love.
And it’s appropriate my first personal gin bottle is Bombay Sapphire, as it was the first gin I ever made a conscious decision to drink.
I became a gin drinker at 18 out of sheer contrariness – everyone else drank vodka, or whisky if they were feeling grand. Gin was the stuff maiden aunts and dusty, neglected drinks cabinets were made of. These days all my friends drink G&Ts, but at the time it was a lonely furrow and I ploughed it with whatever was available – Gordon’s in pubs, supermarket own brands at home.
After graduating and getting a job, I wanted to dignify my transition to adulthood with something more than the cheap pinstripe suit and regular morning chant of: “A cappuccino and a croissant, please” that marked my working days.
So I decided to upgrade my gin. Anyone could drink Gordon’s – a green bottle of it squatted in every pub in the country – but Bombay Sapphire was more exotic and harder to find. Ordering a Bombay Sapphire and tonic was much more sophisticated and very urbane. “How worldly wise,” the barman would think. How grown up, how refined.
It fuelled my first knock-kneed steps into maturity and I have a lot of nostalgic affection for it. But I’m laying my misty-eyed memories aside and putting Bombay Sapphire to the test. Fingers crossed it doesn’t break my fragile, old woman’s heart.
Day or night gin? It’s 40%, which puts it comfortably in the evening drinking slot. Maybe after work with your exciting new colleagues, while you eat crisps instead of a proper dinner and argue about whether this new ‘Internet’ thing will take off. (I insisted it wouldn’t, which shows how reliable my opinions are.)
What does it smell of? If ever there was a nail polish remover called Arctic Flower, it would smell like this. Cool and fruity, there’s a sweet hit from the marmaladish lemon peel and a whiff of spices, too – juniper and coriander. It mostly reminds me of cold water swimming. If you went to a lido and jumped in wearing the contents of your spice rack instead of a bathing suit, your experience wouldn’t be dissimilar to sniffing an open bottle of Bombay.
How does it taste? What a soft, caressing gin this is. I can see why it was my next step on the gin ladder after the rough love of Gordon’s. Very smooth and mild at the first sip, it has a citrusy sting and a lingering woody flavour. It’s a bit like chewing fragrant bark without the embarrassing bits that get stuck in your teeth (what? Who hasn’t looked at a silver birch and thought it’d be worth taking a bite?). The aftertaste is peppery and warm.
Buy it? Easy to find and priced between £15 and £20 (Davy’s has it for £15.95), I’d call this a banker of a gin. It’s not too tricky, no difficult flavours or harsh, runaway scraps of alcohol to deal with. I suspect I’d find it slightly dull in my G&T but I had a negroni made with Bombay Sapphire and was astonished to find myself liking it. Negronis are generally endured rather than enjoyed, but the sweetness of Bombay balanced out the campari and made it almost nice. If only for making negronis pleasurable, it’s earned its place on my shelf.