Given that Tanqueray epitomises the London Dry style, it should come as no surprise that it provides a crisp, dry taste. The recipe is a fiercely guarded secret, though 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, with the loudest moments in its history collected here.
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, though older records can’t be found (presumably lost at some point in the company’s 180 year history!). The unchanging nature of the gin is an astonishing feat given how well balanced it is, and how popular it is – even more so when one considers that Charles was a newbie distiller in his early 20’s.
When Charles died in 1868 his son – at the age of 20 – inherited the distillery and continued his pioneering work. Under his guidance, the company grew in success, soon being 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. 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, Tanqueray & Sons allegedly 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 at Tanqueray’s permanent home in Cameron Bridge, Scotland. Although the brand has been owned by United Distillers from 1986 (now known as Diageo), John Tanqueray, the great great-grandson of Charles Tanqueray, remained involved until his retirement in 1989.
TANQUERAY TO TASTE…
The four botanicals thought to be used are juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and liquorice. They all combine to create a smooth gin, well balanced, juniper dominant taste – something every Gin lover would want. There’s 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 re-ignited Tanqueray’s stake as the established and the most talked about gin in town.
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). More importantly, it is still done in a one shot distilling method. Multiple-shot production is when a gin is made as a concentrate – several times stronger than the original – and is diluted with neutral spirit and water to bring the botanical intensity back in line.
With such heritage there is always room to dig into the archives. In 1937, Tanqueray released two relatively short-lived expressions – Tanqueray Orange Gin and Tanqueray Lemon Gin. Both were phased out by the late 1950’s, but there’s always the chance they would re-emerge as limited editions. One that appeared in 2013 was Tanqueray Malacca, a re-interpretation of their 1997 release, which has a notable sweeter profile and a lovely, rich grapefruit twang to accompany a full mouth feel.
There’s a reason drinkers have been holding Tanqueray close for over a century; it’s delicious, a spirit for nans and hipsters alike, and it’s quietly cool – not changing its ways for anyone, or any trend, for over 180 years. Don’t shun it for being a big boy, embrace it for being one of the most iconic products to flow from the United Kingdom.