Gin Review: Tanqueray Malacca
Tanqueray Malacca Review
The Monday after the Superbowl is known for epic hangovers and missed shifts, but fortunately for me I hadn’t over-indulged. And good thing, too, as I was about to taste a fair amount of gin with some of the most knowledgeable gin scholars on the planet. The occasion was the re-release of Tanqueray Malacca—the most sought after discontinued gin of the modern era.
Originally released in 1997, Malacca was based on a recipe from Charles Tanqueray’s personal diary. The name was not Charles’, it was a nod to the Straits of Malacca—the waterway separating the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra; a place Charles visited to purchase botanicals.
Marketed as a softer gin alternative to the Tanqueray London Dry, Malacca was a hit with bartenders who appreciated its unique qualities, but insufficient demand for the gin led to its withdrawl from the market in 2001. Tanqueray’s marketing might have had a hand its downfall, as I understand the big push back then was “Malacca and Cran”.
Since then, Malacca has attained somewhat of a mythical status in booze nerd and mixology circles. Much of the hype could be attributed to David Wondrich’s assertion that Malacca was the closest thing to Old Tom gin available at the time. Of course this was before the release of Ransom’s or Hayman’s Old Tom gins.
The “unicornity” of Tanqueray Malacca is probably best typified by Bobby Huegel’s now famous brokerage of the elusive spirit. Upon realizing the demand for Malacca, Bobby began driving around Texas buying old stock off random liquor store shelves and back rooms around the state. He was able to amass many cases of the spirit, and by selling them on eBay (back when it was allowed) he was able to finance the purchase of his now iconic Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston. With single bottles reportedly going for as much as $300, it seems Bobby bought low and sold quite high—well played, sir.
Seeing the pent-up demand for Malacca, Tanqueray Global Brand Ambassador Angus Winchester and veteran industry consultant (and Tanqueray Ten co-creator) Steve Olson began a campaign to bring the spirit back to market. Tanqueray eventually agreed (relented?) and they asked Tanqueray Master Distiller Tom Nichol to produce a limited run of 100,000 bottles for sale exclusively to the on-premise market.
Tanqueray tapped Lindsey Johnson of Lush Life Productions to orchestrate launch parties and educational events across the country along with Angus, Steve and Tom, and I was fortunate enough to attend the tasting event at the Fifth Floor in San Francisco yesterday.
It’s terribly cliché but safe to say these guys have forgotten more about gin than I’ll ever know. Steve Olson (aka wine geek) led us through the tasting of Tanqueray LDG, Malacca and Ten. Here are my brief tasting notes on the Malacca:
Grape first on the nose, quickly followed by tropical fruit—mango primarily. The fruit cart imagery continues with orange, grapefruit, dark cherry, and plum. There is a hint of vanilla that suggests a creaminess akin to root beer, and a bit of spice.
The mouthfeel is soft, round and leaves the palate well-coated. The grape and tropical fruit flavors persist on the tongue, and now the creamy aroma has translated well into taste. The flavors are simultaneously upfront and delicate—the fruit giving way ever-so-slightly to the impression of juniper and then herbs from the tea garden: mint and chamomile among them.
Subsequent sips are even more delightful as the palate is now conditioned to the elixir. The finish is long, smooth, and persistent.
In addition to the gin tasting, we were provided with three cocktails in which to try the Malacca: a Tom Collins, a gin Old Fashioned, and a Pegu Club. I didn’t find the Collins to be particularly special, but the Pegu Club worked quite well, and the Malacca Old Fashioned was a great twist on a classic, with Peychaud’s bitters providing a bright pink hue.
As great as the cocktails were, I have to say that I enjoyed the Malacca most on its own. I could easily see myself drinking a few of these on the rocks.
While I left with a lovely Tanqueray notebook, I did not leave with a bottle of Malacca. I will of course try to obtain a bottle or two for the bar, because it is simply delightful. And while I will cherish the Malacca, I will be sure to drink it, because as Master Distiller Tom Nichol warned us: “If you hoard a bottle, I’ll shove it up your @&$”. As you wish, Tom!
Here are my scores:
- Appearance 1/1
- Aroma 2/2
- Mouth feel 1/1
- Taste 3.5/4
- Aftertaste 2/2
- Total 9.5/10
Have you had the chance to taste Tanqueray Malacca? Let us know what you thought below.
PS. For a cool video of Tom Nichol talking about his craft, check out the video here.