My brother-in-law works in Thailand taking tourists scuba diving, but thanks to the monsoon he ends up spending half the year in the UK. On his most recent return he brought me this glorious curio from Thailand’s Boss Winery. Now, it doesn’t call itself gin and the label bears no resemblance to Bombay Sapphire’s (well, perhaps apart from the script font for “Original Distillation” which is a bit like “Distilled” on the latter), but even if you ignore the highly recognisable square blue bottle, I notice that the inside of the back label has an illustrated list of the botanicals just like the ones that appear on the Bombay Sapphire bottle.
You have to admire someone who releases a product and calls it “White Elephant”, though I assume the British meaning of the phrase is not widely recognised in Thailand—where a white elephant is a symbol of justice, peace and power (it appears on certain naval and diplomatic flags, as well as the old flag of Siam). In fact the whole package is endearingly makeshift, from the dodgy English (why is the label in English anyway? Are they hoping for an export market?) down to what appears to be a blob of Tippex on the back label—do you suppose they spotted a mistake and had someone sit down and Tippex each label by hand? I particularly like the little trophy that appears on the front label: there’s no explanation of what it represents, so perhaps they just felt they deserved one.
|Note the illustrated botanical list on the inside|
of the back label and the same on the BS bottle
Sticking my nose into a glass of Bombay Sapphire I get citrus first, then coriander and the warmer, dry notes of cassia and perhaps the soft, oily, nuttiness of the almonds. Bombay Sapphire is made entirely in a Carter Head still, where the botanicals sit in a “flavour box” through which the alcohol vapour passes, rather than macerating in the spirit before distillation, and this produces a lighter flavour and mouthfeel with fewer of the heavy essential oils from pot still distillation. I haven’t tasted this gin in a long while and, neat, it’s actually quite fierce and astringent compared to, say SW4, which is smoother, with more woody, aromatic action going on in the mid-range.
|The back label. Click to enlarge|
I don’t know if I expected big, almost synthetically in-your-face, fruit flavours but the palate is much the same as the nose, dominated by the rough spirit, like crude, unaged Scotch. You can detect some sort of tropical fruit, plus something rooty and earthy. Even a hint of banana. But mostly it’s that alcohol.
The only good thing I can say about White Elephant is that it is probably not as bad as the bottle of Moutai that someone gave me. This is a Chinese spirit distilled from wheat and sorghum and it has a similar sour smell and taste, but much more intense.
Mixed 2:1 with tonic water, the botanicals in White Elephant, if there are any, fade even more and that odd, dusty, sour taste of the spirit actually gets worse. All round, it’s not a fun experience. If you find yourself in Duty Free at a Thai airport, avoid this.