This week, I’ll be posting something new on gin every day, starting the week with a question I’ve been wondering about for years: what’s the difference between the Bombay in the blue bottle and the one in the clear?
Besides a few extra bucks and millions in marketing, there actually is a difference between the two Bombays. The regular Bombay, which is quite good, is 86 proof (43% alcohol) and contains a mere eight botanicals to the 97 proof (47% alc.) Sapphire’s ten (the eight are: Spanish almonds, lemon peel, liquorice, juniper berries, orris root, angelica, coriander, cassia bark; Sapphire adds grains of paradise and cubeb berries). But who among us can tell the difference between that slight boost in alcohol content and two additional ingredients?
Lest the labels give you the impression that both brands are steeped in British history, Sapphire dates back to 1987—though Bacardi, which owns the brand, says that the recipe is based on “a long-forgotten 1761 recipe.” The regular Bombay was brought to the U.S. in the 1950s, and may or may not date back any further.
As I scan the internet for more information about the two Bombays (Sapphire has its own website and Wikipedia entry, and regular Bombay has neither), I begin to wonder why Bacardi still sells the regular stuff at all. I’m glad they do. If I didn’t think it would confuse bartenders, I might ask for regular Bombay. But does a typical bar even stock it?
Maybe it’s just the cheapskate in me, but I’ve always bought the regular Bombay. It’s good, it’s strong, and it doesn’t have the high juniper content that turns so many of us off of Tanqueray. It may not be in a blue bottle, but I save a few bucks and still get a fine gin.