There once was a time in my life where gin at the bar was limited to the standards. The junipers. The burning sensation of a foreign beverage. One I didn’t quite understand. It may have been my predilection for the color blue. It may have been pure chance, that my eye, wandered to that shelf in the back and saw the blue bottle- faintly illuminated from the back-bar lights. It was Bombay Sapphire. and it was my first true taste of a gin that made me want to come back for more. I did learn to appreciate, and yes even love, the other colors, the other names and other brands. But Bombay Sapphire does hold a special place in my gin loving heart. And that is why when I heard that Bombay Sapphire East was going to be test-launched here in New York City (along with Las Vegas) I knew I had to try it immediately.
Back to the Present
I saw the bottle at Astor Place Wines and Spirits last Friday and bough it. However the bottle I bought was not to be my first taste. With the bag in my bag, my wife and I went to Madame Geneva’s on Bleeker for some Friday night refreshments. The first drink I ordered (the name be damned! It escapes me) had Bombay Sapphire East in it, along with lemon juice and a couple of other things that naturally escaped my memory as it was a Friday night and I was in relaxation (and not blogger) mode. Anyway, the first thing I noticed was the taste of black pepper. It rose immediately to the surface, I didn’t detect the lemongrass at first. But the flavor tasted unmistakably of Bombay Sapphire.
On to a Proper Tasting
At home, I sipped a bit of it neat. Black pepper feels almost like the primary flavor in it. I don’t know if I was trained to look for it because of the marketing or what. But it’s there, and I have to be honest- it compliments juniper fantastically. I think that black peppercorn is the spice and compliment that brings the juniper out in this gin.
Chilled, but still not mixed, you begin to get a bit more of the lemongrass and the herbals underneath. It’s here that Bombay Sapphire East begins to taste a lot like its older brother Bombay Sapphire. The lemon/citrus notes are a little more muted here. There’s a nutty sweetness, I think its a combination of the almond and the cassia bark that come together to create a flavor that I think is both, but neither simultaneously. It may be the addition of the two new botanicals, but I feel that East is more balanced and a bit more complex.
And Finally some Mixing
I couldn’t resist making a gin and tonic with it. It seemed a perfect-match for the tonic water that I had declared as “lemongrass central” just last week. With Fentiman’s, you have a delicious gin and tonic that is decidedly more herbal than it is when drank neat. Conversely, use some Q-tonic and you have a peppery and sharp gin and tonic. This is a gin that rewards those who may be inclined to experiment with their tonics. There’s a few competing angles here. Add some extra lime and you have a citrus East and Tonic that is very similar to classic Bombay Sapphire.
It has a nice profile that makes for an interesting heavy gin:vermouth (> 5:1) martini, but overall I’m hesitant to recommend it for a 2:1 martini. It felt like the best notes of it were overwhelmed.
It makes for a shining Negroni. The spicy brightness of the pepper again stars here, and it rises to the surface. I strongly endorse the East Negroni. The lemon notes have always made Bombay Sapphire a go-to gin that does its thing well with lemon juice, so Tom Collins and the citrus juice + gin family are excellent choices for this gin.
And perhaps beyond?
One thing I’ve become quite interested in is how gin works in cooking and the kitchen. I’ve been tweeting recipes I see that use gin, the juniper being a key characteristic in a lot of northern European cuisines, and a nice compliment for many Asian dishes. But a gin that accentuates black pepper? Something which I put into every dish? There’s a potential in here that I think could be very creatively explored.
Best consumed: Gin and Tonic, Negroni, or heavy-citrus cocktail. Neat/On the rocks also brings out some interesting flavors.
Rating: A gin that goes in a direction that other gins haven’t gone, and comes out a winner.
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Made a martini with East the way I normally like them - different and interesting, but not quite to my taste. Next time, never made a "perfect martini" before, but decided to try one with East and quite liked it.