The latest limited-edition gin from the masters at Tanqueray is Bloomsbury, a new (old) twist on their traditional London Dry Gin. The previous two releases, Tanqueray Malacca and Old Tom, were both great successes. Let’s see how this one matches up.
The reason I say the Bloomsbury is both new and old is because it’s based on a recipe dating from 1880 that was originally created by Charles Tanqueray’s son, Charles Waugh Tanqueray, who took over the business after his father’s death.
Tanqueray Bloomsbury is still classified as a London Dry Gin, which means it is a grain neutral spirit flavored predominantly with juniper berries (other botanicals may also be added), with only a limited amount of sugar added. The only other permitted ingredient is water.
Although the company describes this gin as being “juniper-forward,” I found the presence of the pungent berry to be far more muted than in the standard Tanqueray expression. Instead I got a lot of fruit, including sweet berries, in addition to ethanol. (This is bottled at 94.6 proof, 47.3% alcohol.) The juniper is still there, of course, as is a slight herbal quality.
The berry fruit is also present in the taste, along with juniper and spices (coriander and cinnamon, most likely). It is slightly sweet and quite hot on the palate. (It should be pointed out that I tasted this gin neat and at room temperature, a manner in which I would not ordinarily drink gin.) It has a long, lingering finish with some vanilla and anise notes coming in at the end.
Tanqueray Bloomsbury Gin is an interesting variation on the standard London Dry Gin. It has a milder flavor — which might make it more appealing to those who are juniper-averse — but still has promising mixing potential. I don’t see it as an essential gin like the Tanqueray Malacca, but it’s still a worthy addition to the line.
The classic Gin and Tonic is one of the world’s most elegant drinks. Full of flavor and with a bracing kick, it’s the perfect balance of bitter, spicy, tart, and sweet. Although the G&T is thought of by some as primarily a summertime beverage, it’s far too fine to confine to only one season of the year.
And the good news is, you don’t have to! Although the Gin and Tonic is the ideal accompaniment to a warm summer day, it can also be a very welcome quaff for the fall and beyond.
Professor Cocktail and Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water recommend you enjoy your Gin and Tonic all year long. To assist you in your enjoyment, the Professor Cocktail panel tasted 40 different gins to find the best to mix in your drink.
For more details about how the taste test was conducted, please see the supplemental information after the results. But now, let’s unveil the winners!
Unlike the dark days of the past, when high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors ruled the land, we are fortunate today to have several great options for tonic waters and syrups available. For the purposes of this test, we chose to use Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water, which we consider to be the gold standard of tonics and the perfect accompaniment to gin.
Each drink was made with a ratio of 2:1, tonic water to gin. The samples were prepared with 1 ounce of gin, 2 ounces of chilled tonic, and 1 one-ounce ice cube. Due to possible variations in garnish, the drinks were tasted unaccompanied by lime or lemon.
The gins were tasted over the course of two days, with 20 gins tasted at each session. The samples were randomized so that our panel could taste the drinks blind, without regard to brand or other details.
A Quick Word About Gin
Gin is a spirit of both variety and complexity. The only important technical requirement for making gin is that the spirit must be flavored with juniper berries. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the botanical flavors that may be added. Everything from citrus to coriander, cardamom, berries, anise, flowers — you name it.
Despite the ubiquity of the Gin and Tonic as the most popular way to consume the spirit, not all gins lend themselves equally well to this preparation. Therefore, we urge that caution be used when attempting to extrapolate from our results to how the gin would perform when enjoyed on its own or, say, in a Martini.
The fine folks at Fever-Tree supplied the tonic water used in this tasting. Several distilleries, importers, and PR companies kindly provided samples of some of the gins we tasted. Others were taken from Professor Cocktail’s own spirits library. Whether or not a sample of a spirit was provided or we purchased it ourselves had no bearing on the results. The judgments rendered were solely our own.
All prices listed are for a 750ml bottle, extrapolated if necessary. Please enjoy your gin responsibly.
Everybody knows Scotland makes great whiskey. The distillers of Caledonia have been crafting exquisite spirits for generations, becoming the envy of the distilling world. But now my ancestral homeland is starting to earn a reputation for quality gin as well.
It makes sense. Making a good gin requires distilling knowhow, quality botanicals, and pure water — and Scotland certainly has all three of those.
The best known Scottish gin is Hendrick's. Infused with cucumber and rose petals, the unique flavor of Hendrick's Gin has made it one of the most popular of the new wave of gins that have hit the market in recent years.
Now a new Scottish import is starting to get attention. Caorunn (pronounced "ka-roon") Gin is made by Inver House Distillers at their Balmenach whisky distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. It's infused with five Celtic botanicals — including rowan berry, which is called "caorunn" in Gaelic — and six traditional botanicals.
Caorunn has a definite aroma of juniper, just as you'd expect from a gin made in the London Dry style, which this is. But there's also an undercurrent of sweet fruit, along with a little brine. A very pleasant scent overall.
The taste is a bit of a surprise. There's not much juniper there at all. Instead the sweet fruit from the nose is redoubled on the palate. In addition to the rowan berry, the botanical mix includes heather and apple, and that's what I think is jumping out here. It also has a touch of brine and some citrus notes to balance out the sweetness.
Caorunn is a tasty and satisfying gin, with lots of crisp flavor. It meets the classification of a London Dry Gin, but it quite different from the standard Tanqueray and Beefeater. Because of its sweetness, I can see using it in cocktails that originally called for Old Tom Gin (like a Tom Collins) and also drinks that have an herbal character (like a Martini).
And yes, it makes a delicious Gin and Tonic (which the distiller recommends garnishing with a slice of apple).
Aviation Gin American Gin Grade:(Superb) Price: $28 (750ml)
First launched in 2006 as one of the pioneers of the new trend in American gins, Aviation has been repackaged with a striking new look that classes up the bottle to match the contents.
Aviation tastes like gin, but not the gin we're used to. It has the requisite juniper flavor, but it's much more subtle than in London dry gin. (That makes this a nice alternative for those who find gin too piney.) It has pronounced notes of citrus and spice, and an almost briny character that would probably go great in a Martini.
Aviation is softer than most gins. A little more inviting. It's designed to be used in cocktails, especially those from the pre-Prohibition era. But you can certainly drink it straight if you want to, and won't be disappointed.
I didn't make a Martini (or an Aviation, this gin's namesake cocktail), but I did mix it in a Gin and Tonic. I was concerned that the less assertive character of this spirit would get lost in the mix. But no fear. It balanced quite nicely, making for a tasty, refreshing cocktail that is dangerously easy to drink.
Aviation Gin is 84-proof, but never harsh. It's a different style of gin than the norm, but that's a good thing. Tasty alternatives are always welcome, and Aviation Gin matches up quite nicely on that score.