Bombay Sapphire East was launched in 2011. It was the first time since Bombay Sapphire’s 1987 launch that the line was expanded upon.
There’s not much different about Bombay Sapphire East save two new botanicals— at the time in 2011, note that these were still somewhat adventurous— lemongrass and Vietnamese peppercorn. The things that are the same are the core set of botanicals, the distillation through vapor infusion in their signature Carterhead still.
But it’s also worth noting that East set the stage for a whole host of Asian inspired brand extensions that would happen in the following decade.
Just as in 1987 when Sapphire pushed the boundaries of classic-style gin; Bombay Sapphire East was on the cutting edge in 2011 and predicted a bit where the category was heading.
Black pepper feels almost like the primary flavor in Bombay Sapphire East when sipped neat. It compliments the mellow juniper backbone fantastically.
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.
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.
Overall, Bombay Sapphire East
By pushing the boundaries at a time when the Gin Renaissance was only beginning, the Bombay product line eerily predicted the direction of the gin market.
History aside, Bombay Sapphire East still stands up as a solid, well made gin. The focus of the botanicals, the delightful black pepper notes— it makes a good G&T, but also is versatile enough behind the bar to be a go-to pour or a swap and try for fans of the original Bombay Sapphire.
Recommended in its category.