• Jonathan Winters

Tanqueray Malacca Gin review

Updated: Jan 5, 2021


The first modern gin.


Review Tanqueray Malacca Gin

Made in: Cameron Bridge, Scotland, by Tanqueray Gordon and Co.

Base: Grain

Method: Column still.

41.3% alcohol/82.6 proof


Botanicals ? : Juniper, angelica, coriander, licorice, rose, black pepper, nutmeg, clove(and almost certainly orris root)


Style: Modern gin


This is the third coming, or is it the fourth, of Tanqueray’s Malacca Gin. Despite being based off of one of Charles Tanqueray’s favorite recipes from 1830, it wasn’t until 1997 that a gin that didn’t have the typical juniper forward London Dry flavor would take center stage and open the door for modern gin (see Malacca, the granddaddy of modern gin).


I have to admit I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Malacca - I was at their initial launch event back in 1997 and was treated to a gin so full of citrus andpepper notes that balanced with juniper rather than sat behind it. It was so good that I thought for sure it would be the future of gin.


But it was too far ahead of its time. Tanqueray pulled the plug on it by the end of 2001. But it gained quite a cult following, especially among bartenders - who regularly used it in recreating old cocktails that called not for London Dry, but Old Tom gin. So much so that after Tanqueray pulled it from the shelves, bottles would regularly sell for $200 or more on the secondary market. In fact the demand for it was so great that Tanqueray brought it back as a limited edition in 2012 before letting it fade away from the market again.


But people liked it. And in 2018, it came back, again as a limited edition (at least here in the US), albeit reformulated (I compared it to the 2012) and with a different flavor profile, this time far more citrus forward. Then again it was gone. I couldn’t find it anywhere - and to be fair I thought it was totally gone when i wrote The Granddaddy of Modern Gin: Malacca.


So imagine my surprise when I was perusing my local liquor store and found not only standard Tanqueray, but Bloomsbury, and...Malacca. Since I still happened to have some of the 2018 release on hand and could try it head to head, with the new one I did, and found good consistency.


But that also confounded me a bit in trying to figure out if this was a continuation of the 2018 batch, or if it’s a fourth coming for the gin (and in the US apparently it’s the fourth coming - the 2018 was limited here in the US, but became a regular staple gin in Canada and Europe as of that year). Either way, since it’s available i thought, “heck, this one deserves a review” and so you have it.


That said, while Malacca was incredibly unique back when it premiered in 1997, it’s come back in a market where there are a lot more citrus forward and spice flavored gins - as well as Old Tom gins. So while it’s not quite as unique as it once was it stands up beautifully, and perhaps even better in a market that is far more ready for it.


Tasting notes


While bit harsher than the odd alcohol content of 41.3%* suggests, this gin is a nice sipping gin, light and refreshing with a bit of zing to it.


So what does it smell like? Floral notes, Citrus and spice take the frontmost notes, notably the premier botanicals of rose, grapefruit and the spiciness of pepper and nutmeg, but juniper is not at all far behind with just a tinge of licorice behind it. It’s a big nose with bold flavors.


Ons sipping, it's hard to tell what you notice first, but I think it’s the spice, mellowed by just a tinge of sweetness and then the tartness of grapefruit and lemon pith - right behind that are some floral notes and a strong enough backbone of juniper which ensures that you’ll not mistake this as anything other than gin.


The spice profile has licorice and black pepper at the foreground, with middling notes of coriander, clove, and angelica, with small notes of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon in the finish.


Mouthfeel is slightly oily with a crisp and well spiced finish.


*I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed a gin with a decimal of anything other than .5 or .0 before.


Mixability:


One of the reasons this gin gained cult status was because of mixability. The original Malacca was used regularly as a replacement for old tom gin, in the creation of old fashioned style cocktails. However, I’m not sure that appeals so much to the 2018-current version of the gin as the flavor profile is not the same - and because there are so many Old Tom gins on the market today. That said it’s still a good mixing gin.


It makes an excellent dry martini. It is strong and lemony, with notes of black pepper and a touch of ginger. I found this an excellent pairing with Carpano dry. It’s definitely a winner in this category.


With plain Indian style tonic water it holds up to the Tanqueray tradition of making a good G &T. There is a lot more citrus and a bit less juniper here, and that makes the bitterness of the quinine a touch sharper. A touch of bitters only made it even better. I suspect it would be excellent with an elderflower tonic,


While originally this gin was used by bartenders in place of Old Tom style gins, it certainly doesn’t need to fill that niche anymore - despite the fact it plays very well in a Collins or Gimet (though I’d cut back a touch on the simple syrup). It’s equally at home in an Aviation cocktail, Last Word, or Bees Knees.


It was best in Negroni’s (especially the Perfect Negroni), Aviations, and Gin Old Fashioned (where I’d typically look for a barrel aged gin) - for all of those iit added a layer of richness and smoothness to the cocktail. I really liked it in the Gin Old Fashioned, where the notes of spice, especially the clove came though in an extremely pleasant way.


That said I thought it was just slightly out of sync in a Martinez - it was still good, but missing something.


Overall


This is a great fairly priced mixing gin. Yes, it’s plenty good with just a few ice cubes for those who love to sip, but I like it a bit less than I liked the original formulation of this gin.


I think this is one of Tanqueray’s best. It’s not as refined as the Ten which is much more of a London dry type formulation, nor as standard as their flagship Tanqueray (which really is the bar by which I gauge other gins). It has a place for those feeling a bit more adventurous, and works well for those looking to experience something different but of high quality.


Flavor profile

spice 4/5

herbal: 0/5

Juniper 3/5

Floral 2/5

Citrus 4/5

Heat 2/5


Rating (Sipping):87 - Solid and pleasant it’s a damn good sipping gin, and probably slightly overrated as it was the gin that launched the modern gin revolution. That said, it will be a staple in my cabinet, due to its groundbreaking nature and overall quality.

Rating (Mixing): 89 - Better than solid in just about anything you put it into.

Overall rating: 88 - a good gin that walks the line (cue the Johnny Cash) between ultra modern and Old Tom.


 

What you need to know about my reviews: All my reviews are my honest opinions based upon my own personal tasting. I am NOT a paid reviewer, and no compensation was given, or expected. I may from time to time choose to do a second review and amend my opinion of a product, should I feel like it and find my review criteria has evolved, or that I’ve found it different at a later date. That said, as I’m unlikely to repurchase anything I thought was less than very good to excellent, it would be by chance or at the request of a distiller who thought I rated them very unfairly - BUT even then, whatever you get will always be my honest opinion.









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