Given that Tanqueray epitomises the London Dry style, it comes as no surprise that it provides a crisp, dry taste. The recipe is a fiercely guarded secret, although it is thought to contain as little as four botanicals. The final spirit is bottled at 43.1% ABV in the UK, with strong juniper notes pulling through, along with a hint of spice and a dry finish.
To successfully capture the story of Tanqueray as a brand would require a book, maybe even an archive, so please consider the following an abridged version of history, curated from the moments we felt were interesting.
It all began when Charles Tanqueray launched his distillery in the 1830’s on Vine Street in Bloomsbury. It’s thought that the Tanqueray Gin recipe as we know it today first came about in 1838 – probably even earlier but older records can’t be found (presumably lost at some point in the company’s 180 year history!). It’s an astonishing feat given the balance of the gin and that the same recipe is still in use today, more so when one considers that he was a newbie distiller in his early 20’s.
When Charles died in 1868, his son inherited the distillery at the age of 20 and continued his pioneering work. Under his guidance, the company was successful, soon becoming stocked in up-market grocers and exported to the British Colonies. In 1898, Tanqueray merged with Gordons & Company, cementing their place as the leading force in distilling, and soon after all production was transferred from the Vine Street Distillery to Gordon’s Goswell Road site.
When prohibition began in the United States in 1920, allegedly Tanqueray & Sons continued to ship gin to islands just off the US coast in cases designed to float. Socialites would then obtain the gin via the black market and speakeasies. Given the clandestine nature of these activities – it’s hard to know if there’s any truth in them but we’d certainly like to see a case float ashore the next time we’re at the beach…!
Tanqueray was distilled in the capital until the great air raid of 1941, when the London distillery was almost completely destroyed. Only one of the stills survived the bombing relatively unscathed (repairs had to be made!), and this remaining still, known as “Old Tom”, now resides in Cameron Bridge, Scotland. Although owned by United Distillers from 1986 (now known as Diageo), John Tanqueray, the great great-grandson of Charles Tanqueray, was the last member of the Tanqueray family to work with the Tanqueray brand – retiring in 1989.
The four botanicals thought to be used are juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and liquorice root all combining to create a smooth gin, well balanced, juniper dominant and everything a gin lover would want in a glass. There is a good reason it’s been so popular across the world, it’s a great gin, creamy both at the domestic 43.1% ABV and export strength 47.3% ABV, it’s easily drinkable and makes for a cracking G&T.
The lack of citrus botanical makes it slightly drier than some other gins but coriander adds both piquancy and lemon on the nose. Add a healthy citrus twist in the glass and the gin seems to be made for those who enjoy a G&T with a backbone! It’s an interesting gin to put head to head with Beefeater, as the two both have a similar heritage, price point and are both distinct as the quintessential London Dry gins – we recommend trying both to see which you prefer (yes, any excuse for having two gins at a time… we know!).
According to company legend, Tanqueray was Frank Sinatra’s favourite gin. We also like the story about the crest on the front of the bottle, even though this may not be true. Depicted on the crest are a pineapple and axes. The pineapple is known as a symbol that represented both hospitality and prosperity -in the 1800’s, having them in your home was sign of wealth and power (as they were both expensive and hard to get hold of given they would rot before landing ashore, unless they were part of the cargo of the fastest and best ships the navy had). The two axes are allegedly a symbol of the family having taken part in the third crusade. Folklore perhaps, but it makes for a nice anecdote!
With pressure mounting for shelf space in a resurgent gin market, Tanqueray have (like many others) had to compete hard to remain the house serve in bars. We’re pleased to say that like Beefeater, their efforts are paying off and campaigns like ‘Tonight We Tanqueray’ (2011 to 2013) seem to have sparked the imagination of many consumers and have re-ignited Tanqueray’s stake on being both the established and the most talked about gin in town.
You can see the video here:
Tanqueray sells over 2 million nine litre cases each year, making it comfortably one of the top five selling gins in the world. Surprisingly, given the huge quantities needed to achieve this – all of the gin is still made at Camron Bridge (granted, it’s one of Europe’s largest distilleries – but still it’s impressive) and overseen by master distiller Tom Nichol. More importantly – it is still done in a one shot distilling method. Multiple-shot production is when a recipe is several times stronger than the original is macerated and distilled to produce a super concentrated gin, which is then diluted to bring the botanical intensity using neutral alcohol back in line and tasting like the original recipe.
In 1937, Tanqueray released two relatively short-lived expressions – Tanqueray Orange Gin and Tanqueray Lemon Gin. Unfortunately both would be phased out by the late 1950’s although there have been rumblings of some form of new Limited edition releases due to be unveiled over the coming years. One that appeared in 2013 as a limited edition was Tanqueray Malacca, a re-interpretation of their 1997 release and whose flavour profile is notably sweeter and with a lovely, rich grapefruit twang to accompany a full mouth feel. More on Tanqueray Malacca, Tanqueray Rangpur and Tanqueray No.10 can be found in our separate post HERE.
For more information about Tanqueray, visit their website: www.tanqueray.com
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