As Gin Month at Paste marches proudly past the halfway point, with more gin content still to come this March, we find ourselves diving into yet another new gin review. Bombay Sapphire is of course one of the most instantly recognizable bottles in the gin aisle, and even those who know little about gin as a spirit are likely to recognize its branding. But today we have a new expression to taste under the Bombay Sapphire umbrella: Premier Cru. This expression more vividly celebrates the Spanish lemons of the Murcia region, although lemon is a botanical also found in the original Bombay Sapphire. As the company puts it:
The essence of the Murcian Fino lemons harvested at their ripest moment shines through and is perfectly complemented by mandarins and sweet Navel oranges for a bright, elegant flavor. After allowing the lemons to mature in the Mediterranean sun and ripen during winter, Bombay Sapphire’s dedicated suppliers and farmers handpick and hand-peel each fruit, then allow it to dry naturally to extract only the brightest, most aromatic citrus oils. With each batch precisely prepared by Master Distiller Anne Brock, the bottle is a direct reflection of Murcia’s unique terroir, which sits in a basin between mountain and sea, providing the perfect micro-climate for growing citrus that slowly ripens in the winter months for the best tasting fruit and impactful flavor.
This is a fairly conventional concept for a special edition, given that so many U.S. “New Western” and microdistillery gins have gone so hard in the last decade in highlighting the citrus notes infused in their spirits. This focus on fruit-derived flavors has arguably transformed the entire gin market, pushing it in a sweeter direction that is also often marked by a reduction in the prominence of juniper, something that gin purists will likely lament. Initially, I was concerned that this might imply Bombay Sapphire’s Premier Cru would be more of a New Western gin, abandoning the relative balance of the flagship product, but this proves not to be the case. In tasting it, I found that the additional lemon by no means comes to dominate this flavor profile.
Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru is bottled at the brand’s typical, slightly elevated 47% ABV (94 proof), with an MSRP of $35. So with that said, let’s get to tasting.
On the nose, Premier Cru offers a pronounced lemony top note, suggesting a hint of lemon custard and citrus oils, followed by juniper’s resinous soul and some floral flourishes. I’m also getting a little bit of sweet almond paste, which lends some welcome depth. Peppery spice and something a little bit like jasmine round out the aromatics.
On the palate, Premier Cru is still captivatingly strong in its juniper-backed flavor profile, with deep, resinous and piney notes meeting with the berry fruitiness of juniper and more savory herbal tones. It certainly doesn’t layer on the citrus (or the sweetness) as one finds in so many American microdistillery gins these days, with the Murcian lemon here poking through at various points, especially in the finish, where candied lemon peel (and slightly bitter pith) shine. I’m also getting perfumey florals, resin and hop-like bitterness, with pink peppercorn. Overall, the flavor profile is quite punchy, and the higher proof point absolutely makes itself felt on first inspection, before fading in intensity as you return for repeat sips. The company describes this bottle as being designed for French 75s and the martini in particular, where I’m sure it would easily stand up to whatever you throw at it.
All in all, I quite like the relative restraint with which the company approached a star ingredient such as lemon in this new brand. They’ve crafted a modestly modified version of their classic gin, ready to be consumed in classic cocktails. Nothing wrong with that.
Distillery: Bombay Spirits Co.
City: Laverstoke, England
Style: London dry gin
ABV: 47% (94 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $35 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.