Mix: Now that you're introducing this new gin, how would you describe the three Bombay iterations in terms of similarity and differences?
Giles Woodyer: Bombay Dry, Sapphire original and Sapphire East are all London Dry Gins, using purely natural botanicals sourced from around the world. The essences that have been added after distillation (all through the same, unique vapor-infusion process) to create the flavor spike never include artificial sugar additives or artificial flavoring and are added while the spirit is still in vapor form. Most gins are made by boiling botanicals with the spirit in a standard pot still. Bombay Original Dry gin is infused with eight botanicals and is 43% ABV for a more classic, light, crisp and clean flavor. The Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin is slightly higher in alcohol content at 47% ABV to balance out the flavor of 10 botanicals: juniper, almonds, lemon, licorice, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia, cubeb berries and grains of paradise. Sapphire East has a slightly lower alcohol content at 42% ABV and has two additional botanicals: Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorn. These two botanicals provide a distinctly peppery, citrus finish. Each gin is meant to bring a separate dimension to a cocktail. Bombay Original Dry is the most clean and classic option, Sapphire original mixes exceedingly well with more complex cocktails and Sapphire East is an ideal base for more exotic, Asian-inspired cocktails. However, all three possess a subtle smoothness that provide their own unique twist on the most classic gin cocktail.
Mix: What are the core qualities that differentiate Sapphire East from other gins on the market?
Woodyer: Most new gins that have launched on the market over the past several years have been introduced as “flavored gins.” Bombay Sapphire East, however, preserves its identity as a London dry gin while adding two new botanicals to the mix. In 1987, Bombay Sapphire was introduced as a “distinctly smooth gin” with a perfectly balanced taste. Bombay Sapphire was different from the overly juniper-tasting gins that people were used to and presented a super-premium spirit that was perfectly balanced for a Martini. Since then, Bombay Sapphire has become a benchmark in the gin category and we’ve seen many new product introductions since then.
Mix: Gin is undergoing a renaissance in the United States at least, with many new brands gaining cult followings. Is that one of the reasons you've developed this new gin?
Woodyer: Over the last 5 to 10 years, gin has certainly been well supported by the bartending community. More recently, however, consumers have been much more discerning and interested in the flavor nuances and the innovation of the gin brands themselves. Bombay Sapphire East has already been adopted as a muse for mixologists spanning the nation. From cohorts of the classics to inventors of the unusual, cocktail creators as diverse as New York City’s Albert Trummer and San Francisco’s Duggan McDonnell have been inspired by Bombay Sapphire East. It pushes the boundaries of an already booming cocktail culture while still maintaining all of the classic authenticities that reignited an interest in gin in the first place. Essentially, we have introduced Sapphire East in order to provide bartenders a new platform with which to experiment.
Mix: Who's the target customer for this gin — cocktail and on-premise or younger drinkers? How different is the demographic you imagine?
Woodyer: With the launch of East, Bombay is looking to appeal — as they have since the introduction of Sapphire in the 1980s — to a more sophisticated, worldly and cultural consumer. Gin drinkers are by nature “explorers” and tend to be more culturally aware than other white spirit (vodka) drinkers. They are interested in the arts; they love new restaurants, bars and all things culinary. In fact, many chefs love gin (David Chang, Jose Andres and Anthony Bourdain are big Bombay fans), as they have a great appreciation for the ingredients that go into the spirit — those ingredients are suitably paired with food. Bombay Sapphire East is dynamic enough for both sophisticated men and women to enjoy. Today, every gin producer has a different way of reaching consumers — the launch of East is our way of expanding the profile to access both men and women who may not have considered themselves gin drinkers before, rather than targeting a single, limiting demographic.
Mix: Some gins work well as general-purpose spirits, while others are more distinct and need more care in cocktail making — where does East fit in here?
Woodyer: Gin is not a generic spirit, and its character and personality are what allow bartenders to build truly unique cocktails in which the spirit can shine through. While East is certainly dynamic enough to work beautifully in the simplest of cocktails (like a gin and tonic), it is also a spirit that has been created with the skilled mixologist in mind. Because of the complexity of East’s flavor profiles, we are hoping to attract and inspire some of the more talented craftsmen to develop fresh and innovative cocktails. As I mentioned earlier, this is a culture that is rapidly gaining momentum; it is, therefore, imperative to develop a gin that can not only keep up with the current mixology trends, but also define them.
Mix: How do you convince a bartender or restaurant owner to take on a gin from a large company when there are so many new and local or regional products that align with the current trend to use local ingredients?
Woodyer: We are one of the few production companies that employ a full-time botanical specialist to source the finest quality ingredients from around the world. All 11 botanicals in Bombay Sapphire East and the nine botanicals in Bombay Sapphire come from the best local region, they are therefore the finest ingredients, which under no circumstances could be found locally. In addition, the consistency of the quality of our vapor-infusion process means every single distillation leads to the highest quality of London dry gin. If you want to capture the purest, most unadulterated flavor of botanicals, like Thai lemongrass, Moroccan coriander or the extremely rare orris root from Florence, sourcing locally is not an option. Ingredients of this quality could not be found, for example, in the Bay Area of San Francisco.
Mix: What's your favorite drink right now?
Woodyer: For me, Bombay Sapphire original goes exceptionally well in a classic Negroni. My favorite cocktails for Bombay Sapphire East are the East French 75 and an elderflower and lemongrass Collins — drinks of this intricacy are better suited to the pepper and citrus blend.