The gin tradition of Charles Tanqueray began on Vine Street in Bloomsbury in 1830. A pastor’s son who broke with tradition, his creation would certainly be a first ballot Gin-Hall-Of-Fame entrant (if ever there was such a thing). Continuously distilled since its invention, the brand has been owned by several big companies, and while it has been passed around it never lost any of its luster. To many people, Tanqueray is London Dry Gin; its signature green glass is gin.
With such long lasting success (and it’s still among the top 6 selling gins worldwide) comes some of the perils of being seen as “default.” In recent years, Tanqueray has marketed their flagship gin as something of a hyrbid of “prestige brand” (bringing it in competition with Tanqueray’s high end Tanqueray No. 10 Gin) and a “party with your friends gin.”
Today the brand is distilled at the massive Cameronbridge Distiller in Scotland and owned by Diageo. In Europe you’ll find it bottled at 43.1% ABV; in the US it’s a more assertive (and superior taste-wise in my opinion, especially for mixing) 47.3% ABV. In contrast the other gins, the botanicals are distilled immediately and not macerated prior. Secondly, it also does not use a concentrated botanical distillation which is diluted with neutral spirit after distillation. The botanical strength of the distillate is the botanical strength of the gin.
Juniper is the predominant character on the nose. I find that the juniper note in Tanqueray London Dry is perhaps the most signature characteristic of it, no other gin quite has that singular juniper note. There’s an intriguing intimation of citrus zest (intriguing because citrus is not a botanical) along with candied angelica stalk and licorice. Absolutely distinctive and classic. You’ll recognize Tanqueray in a cocktail immediately once you’re acquainted with it.
The palate begins with juniper, but finishes with rich hints of baking spice including angelica root, cinnamon and coriander seed. The finish on the palate captures angelica/coriander in a way that suggests that top note of Bombay Sapphire to me.
The finish is a little warm, with quite a bit of heat evident, especially at the 47.3% ABV. Long and slightly warm, mostly spice-forward on the finish.
If you’re at any bar around the world and you just want a good Gin and Tonic, you can nearly always count on a bar at Tanqueray on the back shelf. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a dive, club, or concert venue, and in search of a good drink called out the Tanqueray that I knew would be back there. It’s really the gin-lovers-hero-when-you-need-it-the-most.
However, one of the drawbacks I find of Tanqueray, especially in cocktail mixing is that it can be a bit too harsh and dominant in drinks. For example, I think that Tanqueray is far inferior to Tanqueray 10 in the Aviation. That being said, it’s almost a completely different drink than with Tanqueray 10, with lots of bold juniper and coriander notes, though some overpower more subtle violet notes (Pro-tip: double the Creme de Violette, but don’t go above 1/2 oz.) Another example of where I think the gin has been superseded is in the Martini. It’s a little heavy-handed and some of he duller ethanol notes on the finish make for an acceptable, but ultimately underwhelming drink.
Tanqueray is a good gin for mixed drinks, but I think that it seems a bit dated when it comes to most modern cocktails.
Tanqueray London Dry Gin is an enduring classic that most drinkers have already formed an opinion on. Fans of gin and classic gin, will appreciate the drier, more juniper-forward profile which stands in contrast to many of its peers which balance juniper with citrus and additional spice botanicals. But fans of more contemporary styles will likely want to look elsewhere. Certainly Tanqueray is an important historical benchmark in the world of gin and worth a look, but there may be more balanced offerings available in a crowded marketplace, no matter what your tastes are.
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