Star of Bombay is the stronger, premium offering from Bombay Sapphire, with two additional botanicals.
Price: ~ £30
Grains of paradise
With a secret recipe that dates back to 1761, the folks at Laverstoke Mill have plenty of history behind them. The gin is vapour infused, so none of the botanicals actually sit in the liquid during distillation. To make Star of Bombay, not only have the folks at Bombay added two botanicals to the usual line-up (bergamot and ambrette, which is an aromatic, medicinal plant), they’ve also slowed down the vapour infusion process to extract richer flavours from the extended distillation. It’s also a good deal stronger than the 40% of the standard bottling.
Despite the fact that the bottle in the image is only half full, I’ve not had a lot of this gin. At a gin party we held earlier this year for Mrs Raven’s birthday, we asked our guests merely to bring their own tonic: the gin (and other spirits) would be free to sample as they pleased. A couple of friends fell in love with this and basically drank half the bottle between them! I’m actually reviewing it now because we’re having another party in the new year, and I was worried it’d be gone before I had a chance! So… let’s see what they fell in love with!
As you can see, the bottle is a beautiful sapphire colour, like the standard offering, but with additional shaping and cut lines. Tapering outward towards the top, with a shoulder line that looks positively regal, there’s a lovely label around the neck, beneath the dark blue stopper. On the front is the name of the gin, below a jewelled sticker of the Star of Bombay, set in gold. On each side are beautifully illustrated, delicate etchings of the botanicals, each sat above the relevant legal information and barcode. It stands out nicely and looks great.
There’s a lovely warming spice that rises from the glass, along with a refreshing juniper and followed up quickly with citrus and liquorice. Musky notes drift around the edges, sweet and a little smokey which I put down to the cubeb. Considering the strength, there’s no burn whatsoever here. Eventually, after it has sat in the glass for a minute or two, some very interesting aromatics begin to form, mingled with hints of lemon. It’s a familiar smell, which I think comes from the ambrette, but I’m struggling to put my finger on it. It’s almost reminiscent of tequila, that sour, fruity note. I’m loving it.
Neat, it’s incredibly smooth and clean, with some sweet, nutty, almost chocolatey notes. Citrus edges in after a moment, but remains fairly sweet and smooth, eventually giving way to the smokey spice of the cubeb and warmth of cassia. Again, there’s no burn and the flavour profile is really something to behold, ranging from hints of sweet, tangy citrus, to smokey spices and earthy choco-nutty tones. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Water merely enhances the experience further, bringing out even more warmth and sweetness. This is very much a gin that is greater than the sum of its parts. Nothing comes through to me as the ‘star’ botanical, if you’ll forgive the pun. None of the flavours are too bold, none of the profiles (in terms of sweet, sour, spice, bitterness etc.) take lead. It’s an ensemble cast, and it works perfectly.
Finally, a G&T (2:1 Merchant’s Heart Light Tonic) with dried orange to garnish. The sweetness is certainly toned down with the addition of tonic, but the flavour is still superb. If anything, the peppers are enhanced, bringing an amazing smokey flavour out to play with the orange in a way I wasn’t expecting at all. At first I was dubious and thought that the tonic was taking too much away from the flavours I was enjoying so much earlier, and while that’s true in the sense that this tastes very different to drinking it neat, it’s a different experience that’s still incredibly enjoyable!
Well, now I know why half the bottle is gone! What an amazing gin! What surprises me most about this is that it seems at once such a classic gin profile that at first glance could just be seen as a fancier version of one of the ‘bog standard’ offerings, yet also something else. Give it a chance and it’ll really surprise you. It’s like a classic gin that covers all the different ways a gin can be. I absolutely cannot find fault with it.
As far as price goes, what I have put at the beginning of the blog is, especially in this case, a guide only. This gin seems to be all over the place in terms of pricing. Usually there’s only a pound or two in it between suppliers, so I’ll go in the middle, but right now depending where you shop you can get it for anything between £25 and £35, so shop around and you can get yourself an incredible gin for a great price!
Star of Bombay is available online and in shops
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.