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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.

Angus Winchester, Tom Nichol & Steve Olson

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.

Tanqueray Malacca

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.

Tanqueray Malacca Old Fashioned

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

Tanqueray Malacca Cocktail Menu

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.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2013 1:57 pm

    So it’s yet another limited run?

    Yeah.. I won’t get to try it this time either. Hah.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      February 5, 2013 1:59 pm

      You’ll have to go to a bar to taste it, essentially. I’m sure some bottles will be re-sold, but they’re discouraging that as much as they are able. Cheers.

  2. February 5, 2013 3:35 pm

    Brilliant and informative review, left us drooling…

  3. February 11, 2013 7:39 am

    It’s really too bad that its so limited edition. There’s so much cocktail culture in this city, that I didn’t even make the radar for the launch/tasting. Great review though, looks like a great event.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      February 11, 2013 7:42 am

      Thank you kindly. Someone at the tasting asked the obvious question: “Are you telling me that if Malacca is really popular this time around, Diageo still won’t make it again?” Tom Nichol answered that one by saying he didn’t have the time or space to make it. It was distilled in Tiny Ten, and it was a bit of a pain in the arse according to him.

  4. Kevin Upthegrove permalink
    February 18, 2013 8:16 pm

    A bit of a bittersweet review in a way. It sounds great, but with a limited run it’d be a drag to really enjoy it. 🙂

  5. Josh Miller permalink*
    March 27, 2013 7:13 pm

    Just got word that Gary at Blackwell’s in San Francisco has Malacca in stock for $35/liter. He also sells online, but not sure what states they ship to. Here’s the link:


  6. Jim permalink
    May 27, 2013 5:19 am

    ISH Limed. Another limited gin.

  7. August 9, 2013 9:20 pm

    For what it’s worth, Total Wine in my area (Southern California) has it on the shelf. I bought some tonight but I’ll try to not get too attached since it’s a limited run.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      August 29, 2013 1:16 pm

      Makes a great gin Old Fashioned, Kevin. A dash of Peychaud’s and a drop of simple does the trick. Cheers


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