The very first bottle of gin I remember buying was a bottle of Bombay Sapphire when it was just about the smartest thing around. It was 1992, I was on a first year art visit to the Scottish national gallery, and found myself in Justerini and Brooks on George St (sadly no longer there after rents climbed sky high) dazzled by the blue bottle. It would have been a huge extravagance back then and is probably, in hindsight, one of those moments which set me on a path. Blue ruin indeed. And what was I even doing in Justerini and Brooks?
Bombay Sapphire was a game changer for the gin market, when it came along in the late 1980's gin's popularity and fortunes were at low ebb - dark days - but Bombay did two important things. One they created a lighter, crisper, more floral product - something that both tasted fresh, and was more likely to appeal to vodka drinkers, and made a damn good job of it too. Secondly they really went to town on the design aspect, creating an iconic bottle in the process - appearances do sometimes matter.
Truthfully Bombay is a lighter, more floral, gin than I generally prefer (I drift towards the more juniper forward styles for preference) but Star of Bombay, a newish addition to the range, is something else. The bottle is a thing of beauty, still that pretty blue, but also managing to simultaneously suggest a Victorian grandeur and jazz age elegance - maybe it's the suggestion of cut gem stones about it?
The gin inside is bottled at a healthy 47.5% (broadly speaking, higher alcohol content means better flavour delivery, especially when a mixer has been added). The idea was to create a gin where all the botanicals were fully integrated (there are 2 more than in standard Bombay) rather than it being a twist on the old recipe. It works for me. The best way I can describe it is as intense, rich, and perfectly balanced. It's a lovely gin to drink, one that absolutely feels like a treat to pour, and something to be savoured.
Beyond its flavour one of the things that attracts me to gin is its history. It's a drink that keeps cropping up, from Georgian gin shops, to Victorian gin palaces, into the cocktail shakers of the bright young things, and into the current boom there's no shortage of imagery to play with (a gift that marketing teams rightall make the most of).
The perfectly constructed quality of Star of Bombay Seems Victorian in its ambitions to me though (if Isambard Kingdom Brunel made gin...) and though the Star of Bombay was a sapphire, and The Moonstone was a diamond it's close enough. There's just something that feels right about the combination of a very good gin with a sensation novel, especially one by Wilkie Collins - maybe it's the sense that neither have always been quite as respectable as they are now.