Perhaps the single frequently requested gin review is this little number right here. I’ve mostly stayed clear of it out of respect. I know its a great gateway gin, and I give it a lot of credit for helping to show a generation of gin drinkers that gin can be more complex and have notes that are other than just juniper. If someone I meet says “yeah I drink gin,” odds are this gin is among their favorites. I’ve never really felt the need to critique or laud a gin who clearly doesn’t need me to waste type on them. This is the second most widely drank gin in the world today.
But here I am, giving into the call. I’m reviewing that gin which has turned I would guess millions on to gin, and a gin which I honestly will admit to being the first gin behind a bar that I recognized a decade ago as a gin that I could and would want to be seen drinking.
This is a Bombay Gin so of course the botanicals are clearly labeled on the bottle. This is another one of the revolutions in gin to which we owe Bombay some credit. It wasn’t just the final taste that was important. It was what went into it: Juniper, Lemon, Coriander, Angelica, Orris Root, Grains of Paradise, Cubeb Berries, Cassia, Almonds and Liquorice. Nothing particularly unusual. But in Sapphire, it’s the effect to which they work together that has created this widely consumed and widely loved gin.
Strong citrus nose, acidic lemon dominating. Good bit of alcohol notes in there too, along with some juniper. There’s a sweetness and a distinct floral fruity character in the background: bright and strongly aromatic that sets it apart especially from typical London Dry style gins.
The palate is a bit oily and thick, covering the tongue thoroughly and slowly. Though it begins very mild with not a whole lot of flavor. The effect is unleashed when it fully covers the mouth, heat and slightly spicy lemon with a touch of earthy floral notes. There’s some juniper on the edges in here, and it shines best at the close of the taste in the back of the palate. The finish is tight and long, with heat, coriander, juniper and a balanced citrus note. Although there’s a gin like quality in here, with juniper present in all phases of the tasting, it isn’t quite the driver. But not quite the backseat as in some Contemporary gins. I want to call this contemporary, but I think the flavor profile and botanical mix [as well as how the notes come through] that don’t seem radically situated in the contemporary gin movement. But it’s not quite classic.
Although its placement encourages folks to look to Bombay Sapphire as the top shelf, I think its risen to fame on the strength of its Gin and Tonic [and Martini].
First, with Tonic, it brings a subtle citrusy note, and really takes a stand-offish approach to juniper. This is where it’s won over millions. It shows that juniper, when restrained can be a nice counterbalance. Its supremely balanced for this drink. Gin lovers tend to wonder where the juniper’s gone, and would like something a bit more assertive. The point of view is aromatic and citrusy, but somewhat restrained. Nice and very easy to drink. Truly a gateway gin and tonic if there ever was one.
I suppose I might criticize it and say, I’m looking for something a little bit more bold, or something with a tad more perspective. It seems so inoffensive as to appeal to everyone, but it doesn’t really do anything terribly memorable here.
On to the Martini, which I think is Sapphire’s finest work. The restraint isn’t merely a tactic here, it’s actually an exercise which allows the gin to compliment and harmonize with the Vermouth. I suggest a lighter, more strongly herbal Vermouth, but really Bombay Sapphire works with even Martini and Rossi. And I think to its credit, it actually hides some of the more sour notes of Martini and Rossi that other Vermouth’s tend not to have, and the citrus and soft juniper touch actually represents well. It doesn’t feel like restraint here, it feels balanced. If I had to pick a cocktail on which I think Bombay Sapphire truly stands out, it is the Martini.
Now, I have to say that across the gin spectrum, it adds a touch of juniper to cocktails without overpowering them with juniper. The perfect drink with which to ease folks who might like a citrus vodka but do not like a gin, over to what a more balanced botanical mix can bring to a drink. But it does this without ever shouting. This does some good things in an Aviation where restraint allows the violet notes to shine, and does some bad things in a Negroni or Last Word where its cries go unheard, or dwarfed by the racket of noise in the background.
Again, I think this is part of its appeal. It’s gin with all of the notes that make gin so good, but it’s a gin that is comfortable letting itself be part of the background. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t advocate hiding gin. Gin isn’t an acquired taste. It’s just that sometimes gin can be a bit aggressive, and that folks who don’t like gin or say they don’t like gin- it’s not that they genuinely don’t like juniper, or the combination of distilled coriander and orris root. It’s that they don’t like their spirit to be that loud. They want to drink a Tom Collins and taste the Lemon, they want to drink a backyard Tom Collins and taste the Lemonade; they want to drink a Gin and Tonic and have it be sweet and aromatic without it tasting like drinking a pine tree.
And frankly there was a time where there was nowhere else to look for that.
I think that Bombay Sapphire deserves a lot of credit or what it does. Maybe a “lifetime achievement” medal of sorts for important contributions to gin and gin culture, but I do feel that it’s no longer true that Bombay Sapphire is the only gin that does this. In a sense, the craft revolution [and the marketing departments of the big guys, anxious to be passed in sales by sapphire] has out Bombay-Sapphired Bombay Sapphire.
It’s not like Bombay Sapphire is going anywhere. And at a bar where there’s few alternatives, I’ll gladly order a drink with it. But I happen to think that there’s so many gins out there that are doing this well that it’s hard to see Bombay Sapphire in the near vacuum where it existed a short ten years ago.
A restrained style that is a proto-contemporary look at gin. Great for people who like a restrained perspective to their gin. Mixes well and does a lot of things nicely, but does very few things great. It’s hard to look at this gin outside of the culture it exists in: it’s incredibly popular and is probably the most common ‘favorite’ gin there is. While I think some have done what Bombay Sapphire envisioned better in the years since it launched, its hard to not give credit for being one of the first widely available gins that appealed to a palate and sensibility in gin that once went completely ignored.
22 thoughts on “Bombay Sapphire”
I love a well made Bombay Sapphire martini with olives. You can really taste the flavors. Blows away a vodka martini in my opinion. But go easy. It’s 90 proof and will knock you for a loop pretty quick.
Is this a review or a critique of something cultural, beyond the gin? Sapphire is the gin that gin lovers love to hate. It’s soft, light, elegant. It’s the “little black dress” of the gin world — cliched, sexy, light, alluring, and not particularly unique. But it works and despite all the criticism, Sapphire has an elegance of it that belies its popularity. This isn’t the Budweiser of gins. This isn’t the Heineken of gins. It is a hugely popular product, at a good price, made with consistency and quality.
I used to swing back and forth almost with a mania between Tanqueray and Blue Sapphire. Then I realized there are balanced gins with the juniper virture of Tanqueray and the subtleness of Blue Sapphire. Now my go to is Bombay Dry.
By the way: Bombay Sapphire is the most widely drunk gin, not “drank” (except perhaps in rural Arkansas…).
For the 5:1 stirred martinis I enjoy: Bombay Sapphire, the humble Martini & Rossi Extra Dry, a dash of Angostura orange bitters and a lemon zest twist…nuanced, balanced and delicious! Also great with 15:1 shaken “Montgomery’s” served with an orange zest twist. Contrary to most gin journeys I have arrived at Bombay Sapphire vs. taking it as a starting point. Here to stay.
I have to agree 100%. Bombay Sapphire brought me back to gin. I was a Tanqueray. Boodles and Beefeater person, with none quite knocking me out and all eventually becoming a bit boring. Then along came Sapphire, Citadelle and Tanqueray 10, all different; all refreshing my to my taste buds. Now, I rarely drink any of those brands, having settled in on Martin Millers Westbourne, Green Hook Ginsmith and Distillery 209. Who knows what’s next. However, my senses owe a great debt to Bombay Sapphire and when I’m someplace with a limited gin selection, it’s always there for me .
I don’t care much for this because I feel like it doesn’t taste much like gin. It’s just a.. vague spirit.
I honestly prefer Gordon’s, because at least there’s no denying what I am drinking. It’s way cheaper to boot. I find that Bombay Sapphire is priced in a premium fashion and doesn’t really warrant it.
Bombay Sapphire was our gateway gin and our first loved gin, which led us to make our own Back River Gin.
This is a good review, although my mileage with this gin definitely varied. I’d had it a decade ago and then moved onto other gins, and only this past weekend went back and tried it again. It was much sweeter and more flowery (not floral, mind you, but flowery) than I remembered.
It’s true that I like a dry sip with a juniper kick and so I did wonder “where it had gone”, but I also like a good botanical-forward gin as well (from Hendricks to Port of Barcelona), and for me the Bombay Sapphire just didn’t excel on either end of that spectrum. Ironically, it was the G&T which disappointed me the most, and I would take almost anything over this — even New Amsterdam, which has no real character at all, and is at least not distracting.
I used to buy the cheap gins and then decided that if I was going to drink I should drink the good stuff so I switched to Bombay.
I started trying other gins including my current favorite BLUE COAT and didn’t buy Bombay in a long time till I got a bottle as a gift.
I was stunned at how low quality it was compared to Blue Coat. It was VERY “alcoholy” tasting and not the deep gin flavor I remembered for it.
Really stunned but it made me relize I had been getting great gins and would never go back to Bombay after this bottle.
I’m afraid it doesn’t quite cut it for me. I’m a purist when it comes to my Gin. Just ice and soda, none of those sweet and sickly mixes to adulterate the taste. Straight soda allows the subtle flavors to make themselves felt. Sapphire’s hint of pepper and liquorice comes through on my palate as the taste of dust. Ah well.
Whaaaat only a 3/5? This a pure drink mate! Fresh out of the river. I quit smoking just to taste it better. I give it a 4/5 and the reason for that being is that it still tastes like spirit. However, it is all about how you learn to drink this bastard I tell ya! Obviously, I have a great association to Bombay and that’s why I am so passionate about it.
This 1 definitely gets hardwired to your tastes, so I don’t blame some of you that don’t like it. But, it is less hard than vodka and the hangover is less dreadful than rum. So, therefore, I say this is a gem that is waiting to be discovered!
Slaps Captain Morgan, hands down.
So, pretty much, this is the Gin equivalent of Fat Tire amber ale. A gateway to higherr alcohol, rather than a pinnacle, that remains in the minds of drinkers as a reasonably high quality, reasonably priced beverage. Not the absolute best, by far, but a starting point to usher us peebles into a new eschelon of alcoholic enjoyment.
Great review. Much appreciated and couldn’t have said it better. I’ll always keep a bottle of Bombay on my shelf. First cocktail I ever had was a Bombay and tonic and I fell in love instantly. Later tried lessser gins especially at bars that didn’t have Bombay, and hated it, which started me on my path to vodka. But then I came back to Bombay. (Keep in mind this was in the early 90’s, in Las Vegas, so gin selections were few, and Oscar Goodman, mayor, was openly endorsing Bombay. Lol)
Yes, I have found gins I may appreciate more with the boom in new gin options, but when I’m at a bar that doesn’t carry one of my other favorites, I know I can always count on Bombay.
I loved Bombay Sapphire from the very first Martini that I had made. It was far superior to the “garden variety’ gins which I’d been drinking. Sapphire stands alone to me as the gin of choice in a martini as does Absolut in a vodka martini! I can no longer drink alcohol due to a stroke and my meds but allowed in a limited way some wine. I will be forever grateful for those times I enjoyed a Bombay Sapphire martini. Those were the days my friend! I am 75.
Using this stuff for years as aftershave. The 47% airport store variant creates some freshness on the skin, smells good and is cheaper than a cheap aftershave. Also, when traveling, I have always some emergency booze in my bag.
Firstly, thank you for your review, and excellent website.
Let me just say that there are probably many other gins in the market that shine in Aviations, Negronis and G&T’s and I wouldn’t know. The only cocktail I drink with gin, is a Martini, which I’ve been having every evening for the last 35 years.
I have tried to find a better substitute in that time. From the lowly Gordon’s, to the exotic Gin Mare, and countless in between. I always come back to Bombay Sapphire.
I know that taste is a personal matter, but I truly believe that it deserves at least 4 stars, as it absolutely shines in a well made Martini. Why 4 and not 5, because I have not tasted ALL gins, and there may be a better one out there that I don’t know about.
I’ll give you my recipe, you try it, and tell me if it doesn’t merit an extra star.
Dry Martini 6:1 ratio
3 oz. (30 ml) Bombay Sapphire
1/2 oz. (15 ml) Miró Extra Dry vermouth from Spain (the best!) if you can find it.
Stir 20 secs. and pour into chilled Martini glasses.
Garnish with lemon twist or, one Castelvetrano olive and 4 drops of brine.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Bombay Sapphire , and I’ve had my share of it with martinis. But for my taste its not gin. In my mind there’s a continuum from gin to vodka. On one side the continuum there is Beefeater, Tanqueray, Boodles, etc…, and on the other side there’s vodka. Like so many contemporary gins, Sapphire is somewhere in between. More banal than a proper gin, but certainly not a vodka. The people who extol the virtues of a Sapphire martini really don’t like gin. They like a touch of very pleasant botanicals in their vodka.
Hmm, what to say about Bombay Sapphire? I like the acknowledgement of what Sapphire has done, especially muscling it’s way onto the top shelf of American bars for the gin offering. It’s the one gin most folks distinguish from their grandfather’s gin as being better. Millennials order a Sapphire and tonic to demonstrate to bartenders and others that they know gin. So, thank you for the nod, but frankly, how could you not do so?
What disappointments me is there seems to be no explanation of why in the actual review. The reason it is the ubiquitous choice of faux snobbery in the gin world is because it makes for an absolutely delicious gin and tonic. Aside from going to an actual, and very rare, gin bar, it is the port in a storm of bad gin drinks in a public watering hole. The sweeter undercurrent and broader bouquet that it has In a gin and tonic, compared to say, the original Tangueray (also underrated here) or even Beefeater, is what makes your vodka guzzling friends stand up and acknowledge there is a better gin and tonic than they are used to. Sapphire and tonic is iconic… because it deserves to be. Full disclosure: gunpowder is my favorite Irish gin is my favorite gin, but just by a smidgeon
The best Negroni according to Punch the Online Magazine.
1 ounce gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire
3/4 ounce Campari
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, preferably Martini & Rossi
I’ve been drinking Bombay Sapphire martinis for over 25 years. Straight up no vermouth in a chilled martini glass. It’s the best gin I’ve had. Yes I’ve tried others when bars only serve craft gin. However Bombay Sapphire is my mainstay.
I bought it as the weak-ass store I went to has weak gin selection. Now I remember why I don’t buy it, never liked it, and still don’t. Skanky ciggy smell when unscrewing the cap. For cheap gin that’s real gin Tanguray can’t be matched, tho I am a Beefeater man, and if I feel slightly rich (though rarely, just asi can never find it) I like the Japanese Roku. While I’m watching my Roku
I’ve been a gin drinker for a long, long time. This review is quite puzzling. It seems to come from someone who isn’t a pure London gin guru but one that is in love with all the pseudo gins out there now. Bombay sapphire is brilliant and top-shelf.