The first part of our Gin History series is finally here. Tanqueray has become one of the most popular gins in Sweden and in 2020 Tanqueray was the seventh most sold gin at Systembolaget. But how did it all start in the first place?
Tanqueray i the beginning - 19th century
Tanqueray is a type of gin, with roots in 1830s London. Its progenitor was an Englishman named Charles Tanqueray (1810-1863). His family descended from generations of clergymen, and when he too was expected to dedicate his life to the Church, he defied his family and chose his own path. Charles wanted to make gin. Together with his brother, he founded Edward and Charles Tanqueray & Co. Their distillery would eventually make its home on Vine Street in London. Sadly, Edward passed away just a few years later, but Charles chose to realise their vision of creating the world's finest gin. He experimented at length with recipes and flavours that he picked up during his long travels abroad. Finally, he succeeded in producing Tanqueray London Dry. It was a dry gin with a balanced taste of angelica, liquorice, juniper and coriander.
The drink quickly became popular in the UK, and the company did well. By 1862, Charles thought enough was enough, so he retired and moved to Scotland. He died three years later, aged just 53. The distillery was taken over by one of Charles' brothers, when his son was still at school.
Once Charles Waugh was a fully qualified spice merchant, he took over his father's distillery. He managed to make his father's legacy flourish, and it did well for several years. But as gin was incredibly popular in the 19th century, competition grew rapidly with new distilleries setting up. Charles Waugh realised he had to do something drastic to ensure the survival of his business. So in 1898 he joined forces with another distillery, Alexander Gordon & Co. Together, the new, merged distillery became the world's largest gin producer. While Gordon's gin took over the British market, Tanqueray dominated the American one. It still does today.
Tanqueray in the 20th century
Prohibition (1920-33) was a period in US history when the manufacture, sale, import and export of alcohol was prohibited. This was not good, of course, as Tanqueray dominated the American market. The company protested by donating money to opposition groups who wanted to lift prohibition. Since it was now illegal to possess alcohol, the demand was enormous. Not unexpectedly, sales hit record levels when prohibition was finally lifted in 1933.
After prohibition, the company had some golden years ahead of it. But nothing lasts forever, and during the Second World War the whole empire was threatened again. Many cities were attacked by the Axis powers (Germany, Japan and Italy), and when bombs fell on London in 1941, almost the entire company was destroyed. The oldest distillery, "Old Tom Still", survived only because the staff flooded it with water. After various repairs, it is said that Old Tom works as well today as it did 180 years ago. Now it has become a kind of spiritual good luck charm in the making of gin.
At the end of the war, the distillery began to be rebuilt. This time it expanded, and the company bought up almost an entire street. The new distillery was opened in 1957.
During the 20th century, the drink also attracted media attention:
- When prohibition was lifted in 1933, it is said that the first drink to be mixed in the White House was a gin and tonic. It wasIt was made from Tanqueray, as this was President Roosevelt's favourite wine.
- The Rat Pack entertainment group was seen drinking Tanqueray martinis in the well-known Buena Vista Social Club in the 1960s. This doubled sales in just one year without spending a dime on marketing.
- Even Frank Sinatra was drawn to the drink. On the Sinatra family's own website, the forum question was asked whether Frank really liked gin. Nancy Sinatra, Frank's daughter, replied that "Dad loved Tanqueray gin, but it didn't love him." Nancy Sinatra
After many years, the company felt it had made its mark in London, and in the 1980s it moved to Essex. Finally, in 1995, the company ended up in Cameronbridge, Scotland. The company still operates there today.
Tanqueray in the 21st century
Gin has generally had periods when it has been more popular and periods when it has been less popular. In 2000, the company was again noticed, when it promoted Tanqueray No. TEN. The difference between this and other gins was that the newer version is distilled in small stills, called Tiny Ten, along with fresh fruit. The distillation takes place in four batches. The drink then has a generous taste of grapefruit, lemon, orange, juniper and chamomile. The citrus flavour dominates over the classic juniper flavour. The new variant is therefore quite different from its siblings, as citrus was rarely used in the production of spirits in the 19th century and most of the 20th century. These fruits were considered to be exclusive and were often very expensive. In fact, it was not until closer to the new century that fresh citrus began to be used in alcohol.
In 2014, Whisky & Bourbon magazine tested 43 different types of gin. The panel agreed that Tanqueray No. TEN was among the finest. The review reads, "This is undoubtedly one of the finest gins produced. Its aroma and flavour are big and deliciously spicy with distinct notes of juniper and citrus peel. There is a subtle spicy nuance of cypress and pine. The palate is full-bodied, intense and rich with a really nice balance of spice, bitterness and sweetness." (Whisky & Bourbon, No. 14, 2014). Tanqueray No. TEN is the only gin variety to have earned a place in the San Francisco Spirits Hall of Fame.
In 2020, Tanqueray was the seventh best-selling gin at Systembolaget.