Tanqueray N° Ten.
Gin is different from most other spirits in that it’s essentially a mixing spirit. It’s pretty unthinkable to have just a glass of neat gin – although I’m sure there must be some people who do. So while spirits such as whisky, cognac, tequila, mezcal and rum were adapted to mixing, gin has mixability in its very blood. Which is why gin is the cocktailista’s favourite spirit. Indeed gin had a long golden age in mixology from about 1900 until the usurper vodka sucker-punched it out of mainstream mixology somewhere in the late 1960s. Yes, the Dark Ages were particularly cruel to dear old gin. But those days are happily gone and you’d have to have been living under a rock for the last decade and a half not to have noticed a veritable gin renaissance. The selection of both big brand and “boutique” (or “craft”) gin is nothing short of bewildering so what should the budding home bartender stock? My approach is to have an affordable (but quality) mixing gin for the likes of a Singapore Sling where the gin is a minor component and a high quality gin for drinks where the gin is a key player, such as the Martini. I’ve been a bit mercurial with my choices in both of those categories and I’m looking to settle on something that will be my “house” gin in each. Which brings us to this review. Can Tanqueray N° Ten fit the bill in the high quality category on my cocktail shelf? Let’s find out!
Straight off the bat Tanqueray N° Ten looks the part; while the regular Tanqueray bottle is styled to look vaguely like a cocktail shaker T#10 elevates that aesthetic further to mimic some kind of fancy mid-century crystal shaker. Its fluted sides catch the light beautifully and also provide a pretty reliable grip. The closure looks and feels like a knurled steel cap and, even though it’s just cunningly disguised plastic, it gives a reliable seal and is easy to open and close. I’m a fan. The red wax seal (again plastic but convincing) and black-on-silver label completes the picture. Classy all round. The only thing that bothers me is the name; it feels to me that it should either be Tanqueray N° 10 or Tanqueray Ten, the combination they chose doesn’t sit quite right but that really is a pretty minor complaint. Notably Tanqueray N° Ten is bottled at 47.3% ABV*. In my view a gin bottled at above the typical 40% (or even 38% gawd-help-us) is a sign that the makers have not cut any corners in their quest for a superior spirit. A quick sniff in my sherry copita confirms this at once; this gin smells like it means business. Citrus and juniper (well, duh!) waft up convincingly. The first sip is curiously oily – in a good way – and once it settles it’s clear to me that this is a wonderfully balanced gin. Not too bitter, nor too sweet with juniper and citrus in equal measure, a touch of pepper and the merest hint of brine. I could sip this happily on its own – and remember this is north of 47%. When I compare it to other gins it effortlessly holds its own each time. Clearly a cut above the standard issue Tanqueray – which is a pretty decent gin in its own right – the T#10 strikes me as an extremely versatile gin at its price point. In a head to head with the similarly positioned Beefeater 24 the Tanqueray, at least to my taste, was streets ahead, leaving the B24 tasting somewhat flat by comparison. There are certainly gins with more complexity and left-field flavours but those gins would be niche products that wouldn’t necessarily shine in a wide range of different cocktails. Tanqueray N° Ten does again and again but what I did find was that it – rather strangely – failed to express itself in a Gin & Tonic quite as much as I had expected. But G&Ts are their own thing and we have other gins** that are available for such use anyway so I feel I can forgive it on that point. It does show, however, that no one gin can cover every base. Around these parts Tanqueray N° Ten sells for €25-30 per 700ml but often crops up on sale for under €23 which I think is cracking value for money.
It will come as little surprise than Tanqueray N° Ten finds a permanent place on my shelf and also earns itself a laudable:
* Indeed even regular Tanqueray is bottled at a healthy 43.1%.
**A few favourites being Blackwood’s, Drumshanbo Gunpowder and Plymouth.