To understand how Star of Bombay London Dry Gin got its name, you must start at a place somewhat unexpected. The girl with the curls a.k.a. Mary Pickford was one of the most prominent silent Hollywood actresses. In 1909 alone, she appeared in fifty-one films, by 1916 it was said that only Charlie Chaplin was more popular. She starred in fifty two films throughout her career, earning a vast amount of wealth playing an all manner of character. Her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks, whom she married in 1920, was famous in his own right in the same circles. You might recall him as the star of such silent epics as Robin Hood and The Mark of Zorro. As two of of the biggest stars of the silent era, the two were one of Hollywood’s first power couples and both amassed a great deal of money, that is until talkies became a thing.
Hollywood fame and Hollywood money bought things that were out of the reach of most. The 182 carat star-cut sapphire discovered in Sri Lanka, known as the Star of Bombay, was bought be a U.S. jeweler and placed in a Platinum ring. Douglas purchased the ring and gave it to his wife. The stunning sapphire, among the best known named Sapphires [along with the Bombay Sapphire] was given to the Smithsonian Institution by Pickford after she died in 1979. “We want this Sapphire,” their gem man said upon seeing it, “it is much brighter than our others– we will trade them odd.” The money from the purchase of the ring went to the Pickford foundation and is still used today to fund scholarships for kids, and well the Star of Bombay, it’s part of the Smithsonian collection, and a great name for a gin which aims to be an amped up interpretation of Bombay Sapphire with Ambrette Seeds and Bergamot Orange Peel, and distilled extra slow to maximize the flavors of the botanicals.
Star of Bombay London Dry Gin has a loud, highly aromatic nose with coriander and angelica loud and clear just as in standard Bombay Sapphire. Pine and juniper evident a bit lower, as crystalline pine needles on an icy morning with a stiff jolt of bitter citrus. Really quite nice, although not a far cry from your standard Sapphire. Maybe Star of Bombay London Dry Gin is just louder— not that different.
On the palate, the loudness/amplified aromatic character is readily accessible. Hibiscus and a light floral note up front, the mid-palate is angelica and juniper, becoming a bit peppery and earthier on the finish. Coriander certainly, a bit loudly, but also darkened by bitter citrus rind, grains of paradise/cubeb, even a note of anise/licorice and other unresolved spice, finishing in the muddy low notes with an almost aperitif like bitterness.
While Star of Bombay London Dry Gin doesn’t throw away the Bombay Sapphire box (your opinion of this gin is likely going to be the same as your opinion of Bombay Sapphire), it takes the formula for a new gin that it seemed to have perfected with Bombay Sapphire East — that formula being take a successful botanical bill and add two new notes to it— and have created another winner, that while it may not rope in a new audience, it will elevate the expectations for the brand among the choir of already ardent fans.