Bombay Sapphire in Tuscany
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Bombay Sapphire in Tuscany

Thu 15 Dec 2011 1:00 AM


Everyone is familiar with the black rooster label, which has come to
symbolize one of Tuscany‘s most famous areas and products, the Chianti Classico
and its full-bodied red wine. Not many people, however, would associate the
iconic vivid blue bottle of Bombay Sapphire London Gin with the fields of
Tuscany, let alone link it to a select few local producers in the rural
countryside of Arezzo. However, only a short drive into the wilderness near
Michelangelo’s birthplace, Caprese Michelangelo, TF discovered one of Bombay
Sapphire’s secrets: their juniper berries are all grown, farmed, harvested and
selected right here in Tuscany.


Juniper is just one of the 10 ‘exotic botanicals’
distilled by vapor infusion in Bombay Sapphire. Take a close look at the bottle
to see each listed with its country of origin, including coriander from
Morocco, lemon peel and bitter almonds from Spain, angelica root from Germany
and cassia bark from North Vietnam. Tuscany is the source not only of the gin’s
juniper berry but also its orrisroot, from the iris flower, farmed in the Arno
valley and, at three years, has the longest cultivation period of the 10 ingredients.


Bacardi, which distributes Bombay Sapphire,
regularly host trips for select industry representatives, offering them the
chance to visit the origins of the raw materials used in making the company’s
products so they can learn about and better appreciate them. This past November
the location was Tuscany, and 10 top barmen from the United Kingdom, including
the manager of one of London’s newest hotspots, Bunga Bunga (, were accompanied by Bombay Sapphire’s
global brand ambassador, Raj Nagra, and its master of Botanicals, Ivano
Tonutti, for a three-day experience of picking, mixing, tasting and drinking.


I was lucky enough to join them for welcome
drinks preceding a presentation by Tonutti, and was immediately greeted with an
expertly crafted Bombay Sapphire gin & tonic (naturally) followed by a
Floral Bee-a Bees Knees Bombay Sapphire cocktail with a Tuscan twist: lavender
honey and a fresh sprig of lavender garnish. These people know their drinks,
but I watched while they all sat, captivated, as the master of botanicals
himself invited them on the Bombay Sapphire journey, revealing why the contents
of the brilliant blue bottle are so special.


In the living room of the private Tuscan villa
rented for the occasion, the table in front of me resembled a display in an
apothecary. Powders, roots, berries and peels were passed around, and I was
soon nibbling on a Chinese licorice root, sniffing West African grains of paradise
and crunching on an Indonesian cubeb berry as we listened to Tonutti and
learned the marvels of Bombay Sapphire’s botanicals, which start in the hands
of the farmers.


The relationships with the farmers who cultivate
each botanical are a precious and fundamental part of Bombay Sapphire’s ethos,
which is ‘Care, Skills, Relationship and Passion.’ Tonutti showed us footage
from one of his recent trips to North Vietnam: local farmers peeling bark from
15-metre high, 10-year-old cassia trees in perfectly formed crescents. The
footage included the manual harvest of the Spanish lemons in Murcia, where each
fruit (not the tree) is selected individually, hand-peeled by local families
and the peel is then dried under the sun for an average of two weeks.


The attention then shifted to Tuscany. At 80
years old, Alessandro and his wife still harvest juniper berries at their
family farm in Arezzo, and they are one of Bombay Sapphire’s biggest juniper


After an early start, following a late night of
swapping cocktail hints, the band of bartenders where whisked into the hills to
meet Alessandro and visit his farm, situated in a microclimate between the sea
and the Apennines. ‘It’s so refreshing,’ commented one of the barmen, ‘to
appreciate the process of production in so much detail and understand the
quality of what is being created.’

If Alessandro detects a bad crop, Tonutti is the
first to know, as he understands the importance of the selection process.
Indeed, an average of 50 percent of raw harvested material is rejected through
rigorous quality controls. It is interesting to note that an impressive five
tonnes of juniper constitutes just one sample for quality checks.


Not only does he hold a doctorate in pharmacy and
counts 20 years experience in the industry, previously working as a herbalist
for Martini, but Tonutti’s sense of smell and taste rank among the most finely
tuned in the business. He explains that despite all the advanced computer
testing and electronic-nose techniques, the human nose simply can’t be beaten
in terms of accuracy. 


Professional tasters are hence the last of the
five different stages of testing of the final product, after scrupulous visual,
physical, analytical (gas chromatic) and sensorial tests. Being a 100-percent
natural product, quality is paramount, and if the professional taster is not
100 percent satisfied, a re-evaluation of the entire testing process could be


Every single ingredient has an important part to
play in the ‘symphony of flavours’ that Bombay Sapphire creates in every
bottle. The bright freshness of the two Tuscan ingredients hit the high notes
every time!


One sensory test I especially enjoyed was a
simple shot of Bombay Sapphire gin accompanied by a pure dark chocolate
segment, one of Tonutti’s food pairing suggestions, and a marvelous one at


As the festive lights bring up the party mood in
the lead-up to the holidays, why not discover an alternative Tuscan tipple from
the three Bombay cocktails that have a very Florentine flair.



Happy Holidays and remember to drink responsibly
this Christmas!



Alfonso Sassolini

Bombay Sapphire, Martini Rosso,
Sugar, Angostura Bitters, Prosecco


The Italian Job

Bombay Sapphire, Martini Bianco


Bombay Sapphire Negroni

Bombay Sapphire, Martini Bitters,
Martini Rosso



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