With the rise of craft spirits, established brands are finding themselves under attack by an army of Lilliputians, all touting their small batch, artisanal, hand-crafted credentials to great effect in influencing the buying public. The big players like Tanqueray aren’t all standing still, however. In addition to their standard lineup (Tanqueray, Tanqueray Rangpur, and Tanqueray 10), they’ve released a string of limited editions over the last three years, the most recent being Tanqueray Bloomsbury, which I received a bottle of for review here.
My first reaction when hearing about “Bloomsbury” was wondering if it was a mashup of Bloom County and Doonesbury. Opus the Penguin and Uncle Duke crafting a gin? Yes! Yes!!! What’s not to love?! (Mrs. Wonk inserts eye-rolling here.) Sadly, that’s not the source of the Bloomsbury. Rather, Bloomsbury refers to an upscale London neighborhood where you’ll find the British Museum and lots of prestigious colleges. (Turns out I’d been tot the Bloomsbury neighborhood a few years back and didn’t realize it.) The gin is based on a recipe created in the 1880s by Charles Waugh Tanqueray while working in the Bloomsbury neighborhood.
The Bloomsbury packaging follows the same pattern as the prior limited edition Malacca and Old Tom
gin releases – a one-liter bottle with the classic cocktail shaker silhouette that unmistakably identifies it as a Tanqueray product. The usual “wax seal” found near the top on every Tanqueray bottle is there as well. The color theme this time around is a more royal purple, extending to the seal, the stamped metal cap, and front label text.
The front label design is striking; it’s the one element that differs substantially across the three limited editions. Look closely at the bottom third of the front label and you’ll find a replica of the original handwritten Bloomsbury recipe. It’s difficult to make out all the wording but my best guess is: “Six tubs of Italian Berries, Coriander, Angelica, 18 ½ lbs crushed cassis, 2 lbs savory.” Luckily, the Bloomsbury press release provides a more readable and modernized version of the recipe:
…featuring prominent notes of Tuscan juniper along with coriander, angelica, winter savoury and cassia bark.
We can reasonably assume that “Italian Berries” translates to Tuscan juniper, and that “crushed cassis” is cassia bark. Compared to the traditional Tanqueray London Dry recipe of juniper, coriander, angelica root, and licorice, the Bloomsbury recipe replaces the licorice with winter savory. To be honest, I’d never heard of winter savory until I wrote this – every day’s a school day here in Wonk-land.
The Bloomsbury comes in at 94.6 proof, in line with other Tanqueray special-edition gins, and a healthy bit above the all-too-boring 80 proof we’re commonly afflicted with. Some initial write-ups indicated it would come in at 80 proof, but thankfully that wasn’t the case.
The Bloomsbury nose is very similar to the original London Dry. Taste-wise, the Bloomsbury downplays the citrus notes a bit while cranking up the juniper, making for a more aggressive but warmer initial impression. The finish is very long and dry – a serious gin for sure. If you enjoy a good dose of juniper, the Bloomsbury should be right up your alley. (Mrs. Wonk, a gin lover from way back, gives it the thumbs-up as well.)
Given that the Bloomsbury accentuates the juniper, my first instinct for a cocktail pairing was the classic gimlet – gin, lime, and simple syrup, so as to not bury the essential flavors in an avalanche of other ingredients. Even though the gimlet is a classic cocktail, the gin-lime-sugar ratios are all over the map out there in cocktail-land. For my money, I found the following arrangement to be very crisp and refreshing, while allowing the gin to take center stage:
- 2 oz Tanqueray Bloomsbury Gin
- 0.25 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 0.25 oz 1:1 simple syrup
Shake over crushed ice, double strain into chilled coupe.
The Bloomsbury is priced at around $33 – more expensive than base model Tanqueray, but in the same ballpark as the other Tanqueray limited editions. Like the prior limited offerings, only 100,000 bottles were made, so if you’re a gin collector or are especially intrigued by its flavor profile, grab a bottle soon!