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Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin

Gin Review: Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin  87.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Updated June 30. 2012

Bombay Sapphire Gin is distributed by Bacardi. It was launched in 1987 and draws its unusual name from a competition where several marketing agencies were asked to submit possible names and bottle designs for the new Gin. Bombay Sapphire, the chosen name, refers to the British Empire and India heritage for the spirit in India, as gin was an extremely popular spirit during the time of the British Raj. The Star of Bombay (featured on the label) is a famous Indian Sapphire now on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

Bombay Sapphire Gin is a London Dry Gin. This style of gin is produced through a double distillation of a neutral grain spirit with botanicals added during the second distillation. The botanicals in Bombay Sapphire Gin which are listed on the company website are as follows:

Spanish almonds and lemon peel, West African grains of paradise, Chinese licorice, juniper berries from Tuscany, orris root from Italy, angelica root from Saxony, coriander seed from Morocco, cassia bark from Indo China, and cubeb berries from Java.

In the Bottle 4/5

Bombay Sapphire Gin is presented in a square-shaped blue sapphire coloured bottle. There is a likeness of Queen Victoria on the label hinting at the heritage of the British Empire in India from which the gin has drawn its name. The bottle is eye-catching and attractive. It is unfortunate that my bottle is capped with a metal pressed on screw cap. These caps give me nothing but problems and they are extremely flimsy and prone to stripping of the threads.

In the Glass 9/10

I was a naive son of a gun the first time I poured this gin as I actually expected a light blue coloured spirit to flow out of the bottle. Alas, the bottle is blue, not the gin. It is a clear colourless liquid which imparts just a very light sheen of oil on the side of my glass. The aroma from the glass is a clean aroma with a piny (juniper) citrus note. A well-defined floral character sits with the juniper, but it will take a better nose than I have to distinguish the effects of each of the ten botanicals used to produce the gin. What I detect most clearly is a hint of lilac and mint, and a light likeness of orange liqueur. I also seem to catch an aroma reminiscent of sweet grass, and a vague humus like scent in the glass which is not unappealing.

In the Mouth 53/60

The flavours of juniper berries and citrus zest leads out as they should. Oranges, maraschino cherries, and lemons seem to dance amongst these berries. Definite floral tones and an earthy character weaves through the palate, but distinguishing anything but vague impressions of individual flavours from the botanicals is very hard. I desperately want to tell you that I can taste the cinnamon from the cassia bark, or a nutty flair from the oils of the Spanish almonds, but alas the tastes are mingled so well together that I fail to identify the individual constituents. To me, this is an indication that the spirit is very well-balanced and extremely complex.

In the Throat 13/15

The Bombay Sapphire gin is surprisingly smooth in the throat. This is surprising as I do not believe that this particular gin is meant to be sipped straight. In addition to the piny trails in the throat, it does leave a nice dry floral impression in the back of the palate which I believe will be great in a martini.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I sipped a little of the gin straight during my tasting session; but I found that the flavour was not entirely approachable in that format. I did not penalize the spirit in my scoring for this as I believe gin really isn’t meant to be sipped straight. Gin is primarily a cocktail spirit made for short and tall bar drinks. In this regard the Bombay Sapphire is a great spirit with a bevy of complexity. This makes it ideal for simple and fancy drinks like martinis and gimlets where the complexity can be showcased.

You may read some of my other Gin Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

I am going to start with my standard Gin Martini where the complex flavour of Bombay Sapphire shines through the cocktail and its wonderful complexity can be appreciated. My recipe for the martini is fairly straightforward. I like to omit the standard olive in the recipe in favour of a slice of lemon or lime. Lime especially seems to work well with the Bombay Sapphire gin.

I also prefer my martini stirred, not shaken, (as the original James Bond in the books did).

Dry Gin Martini

2 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
1/8 oz Dry Vermouth
Slice of Lemon or Lime

Add the first two ingredients in a mixing glass with ice
Stir and strain into a cocktail glass

Add a thin slice of lime to the glass


I also have had success with Bombay Sapphire Gin in big boozy bar drinks:

Mean Streets
a cocktail by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

1 1/2 oz Cask Strength well aged scotch whisky
3/4 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
3/8 oz Grand Curacao (you may substitute Triple Sec)
Juice from 1/2 Grapefruit

Build on ice in a tumbler
Garnish with a slice of lime



My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret that score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing spirit.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


7 Responses to “Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin”

  1. Jeanne Blumberg said

    I struggled for 20 minutes to remove the pressed metal seal. No screw-on cap, just a plastic plug

    • A pressed on metal seal?? It sounds like something went horribly wrong with the production of that one. I would take it back to the store for a new bottle with a proper cap!

  2. Reid V. Rapport said

    Great review. Bombay Sapphire is the absolute (no pun intended) best for Martinis. I do without the vermouth. And the ONLY thing Ian Fleming (as James Bond) was wrong about you picked up on – stirred is best. I have also conducted experiments: putting the gin in the freezer is detrimental to the taste and distrurbs the icy balance of the drink. Great call.
    As you are, I am also a fan of Pusser’s rums – although my favorite was “the original receipe” at 95.5 proof. It is obvious “thou art a gentleman and a scholar and a judge of fine spirits and wines, and there are damn few of us left”

    Reid V, Rapport “Keeper of the Qaich”.

    • Thank You very much Reid!

      I particularly appreciated that you named me a gentleman first, as that is the true starting point, and if one begins there… the rest will follow.

  3. Jason said

    re: the colour of the gin

    Put it under a black light. Gin will glow a bright blue. 🙂

    • I’ll have to try that. I wonder what else glows a bright blue under a black light?

    • jellydonut said

      What? No. A Gin & Tonic drink will glow blue due to the quinine in the tonic. Gin itself does *not* glow blue, there is no reason for it to do so. It is merely neutral spirit with flavors imparted from botanicals in the alcohol. It’s ethanol and water. No UV reactants.

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