Bombay Sapphire is a brand of gin that is distilled by the Bombay Spirits Company, a subsidiary company of Bacardi, at Laverstoke Mill in the village of Laverstoke in the English county of Hampshire.
The brand was first launched in 1986 by English wine-merchant IDV. In 1997 Diageo sold the brand to Bacardi. Its name originates from the gin and tonic popularised by the Royal Indian Armed Forces during the British Raj in colonial India; "Bombay" refers to the Indian city and "Sapphire" refers to the violet-blue Star of Bombay which was mined from British Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution. Bombay Sapphire is marketed in a flat-sided, sapphire-coloured bottle that bears a picture of Queen Victoria on the label.
The flavouring of the drink comes from a recipe of ten ingredients: almond, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia, cubeb, and grains of paradise. Alcohol brought in from another supplier is evaporated three times using a carterhead still, and the alcohol vapours are passed through a mesh/basket containing the ten botanicals to gain flavour and aroma. This is felt to give the gin a lighter, more floral taste compared to gins created using a copper pot still. Water from Lake Vyrnwy is added to bring the strength of Bombay Sapphire down to 40.0% (UK, the Nordics, several continental European markets, Canada and Australia).
The 47.0% version is the standard for sale at duty-free stores in all markets.
Until 2013, production and bottling of Bombay Sapphire was contracted out by Bacardi to G&J Greenall in Warrington, Cheshire. However, in 2011, plans were announced to move the manufacturing process to a new facility at Laverstoke Mill in Laverstoke, Hampshire. These plans included the restoration of the former Portal's paper mill at the proposed site and the construction of a visitor centre.
Planning permission was granted in February 2012, and the centre opened to the public in the autumn of 2014. The visitor centre included a new construction by Thomas Heatherwick of two glasshouses for plants used as botanicals in the production of Bombay Sapphire gin. As part of the transfer of production, two of Greenall's stills were moved from Warrington to Laverstoke.
After production was shifted to Laverstoke, bottling of the drink remained contracted out by G&J Greenall, with the undiluted gin being tankered to Warrington for dilution and bottling. Bottling has subsequently been shifted to Glasgow.
Bacardi also markets Bombay Original London Dry Gin (or Bombay Original Dry). Eight botanical ingredients are used in the production of the Original Dry variety, as opposed to the ten in Bombay Sapphire. Wine Enthusiast preferred it to Bombay Sapphire.
In September 2011, Bombay Sapphire East was launched in test markets in New York and Las Vegas. This variety has another two botanicals, lemongrass and black peppercorns, in addition to the original ten. It is bottled at 42% and was designed to counteract the sweetness of most tonic water.
A special edition of Bombay gin called Star of Bombay was produced in 2015 for the UK market. It is bottled at 47.5% and is distilled from grain. It features bergamot and ambrette seeds in harmony with Bombay's signature botanicals. This version has later been extended to several other markets.
Bombay Bramble is a variety infused with blackberries and raspberries and bottled at 37.5% ABV.
In the summer of 2019, Bacardi launched a limited edition gin called Bombay Sapphire English Estate, which features three additional English-sourced botanicals: Pennyroyal Mint, rosehip and hazelnut. It is bottled at 41%.
The brand started a series of design collaborations. Their first step into the design world was a series of advertisements featuring work from currently popular designers. Their works, varying from martini glasses to tiles and cloth patterns, are labelled as "Inspired by Bombay Sapphire". The campaign featured designers such as Marcel Wanders, Yves Behar, Karim Rashid, Ulla Darni, and Dror Benshetrit and performance artist Jurgen Hahn.
From the success of this campaign, the company began a series of events and sponsored locations. The best known is the Bombay Sapphire Designer Glass Competition, held each year, where design students worldwide can participate by designing their own "inspired" martini cocktail glass. The finalists (one from each participating country) are then invited to the yearly Salone del Mobile, an international design fair in Milano, where the winner is chosen.
Bombay Sapphire also endorses glass artists and designers with the Bombay Sapphire Prize, which is awarded yearly to an outstanding design featuring glass. Bombay Sapphire also showcases the designers' work in the Bombay Sapphire endorsed blue room, a design exhibition touring the world each year.
From 2008 the Bombay Sapphire Designer Glass Competition final will be held at 100% Design in London, UK, and the Bombay Sapphire Prize will take place in Milan at the Salone Del Mobile.
Bombay Sapphire has been reviewed by several outside spirit ratings organizations to various degrees of success. Recently, it was awarded a score of 92 (on a 100-point scale) from the Beverage Testing Institute. Ratings aggregator Proof66.com categorizes the Sapphire as a Tier 2 spirit, indicating highly favourable "expert" reviews.
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