Bombay Sapphire East
A legend in its field, Bombay Sapphire was the first to market itself as a premium product when it was introduced in 1987. In a world where vodka was king, the attraction, then and now, was the brand's nuanced blend of 10 botanicals, whose names are embossed right on the bottle. A quarter-century later, in a gin market overflowing with options, Bombay Sapphire remains one of the top sellers worldwide. The House of Bombay has been undoubtedly resting on its laurels ever since, but now it aims to spice things up with the introduction of an intriguing new spin on gin, Bombay Sapphire East.
Bombay Sapphire East looks just like the original with its familiar blue-tinted bottle and a label featuring Queen Victoria's portrait hovering above the namesake jewel*. The difference, of course, is in the taste. And it's an interesting, bold update. Two new Eastern botanicals, Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorn, have been added to the mix, lending the gin even more citrus and spice than the original Bombay. It's all the more of a departure because Bombay is typically a fairly neutral gin – the kind you expect to find in a straight gin martini.
Understandably, Bombay won't disclose its secret recipe, but we'd go so far as to guess it may have been sampling its own product while it was figuring out the mix, as the spice is a little heavy-handed. And we dig it. It'll shine through a gin and tonic, but we almost prefer it in a martini, where the absence of other flavors allows the pepper and lemongrass to show off. [$23; bombaysapphire.com]
*Fun fact: The actual Star of Bombay sapphire was mined in Sri Lanka, not India. It was given as a present to silent-film star Mary Pickford by husband and star Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. She bequeathed it to the Smithsonian in 1979, and it's now on public display at the National Museum of Natural History.