Every city I fly into, I look for two things: Is there a Tumi sale on, and what are the unique gins available here? Tumi sales are rare and rarely worth it, but unique gins are found a plenty these days, as it gets more fashionable around the world. London is, quite obviously, the capital of Gins, and I have had my head reel at the choice I seen in the speciality gin bars there (and the head reeled even before I started imbibing them). But I did not expect to find the variety I did in Toronto.
Spoilt by choice in the local LCBO — you had Hayman’s and №3, Dillons and Malfys and Topshelf and Boodles, there was the sinister Death’s Door. But, the one I did not expect to find, and picked up, was the Tanqueray Rangpur.
Now, many Gins like to have an overt Indian reference in their label itself, since it is the Raj that made gins famous. Gin was added to the anti-malarial quinine-fortified, tonic water to make it more palatable. It turned out to be so good, that the memsahibs and sahibs started having it for reasons other than keeping malaria at bay. Even today good tonic waters, like Fever Tree, are called Indian Tonic waters, and have real quinine. The Raj nostalgia is milked to the hilt by most gin brands. Bombay Sapphire, with its iconic blue bottle and 10 botanicals is the most obvious. But there is also Jodhpur, and Indian Summer, Elephant and Opihr and a score of others.
And now, in Canada, was this new Tanqueray brand. The first sip blew me away — the gin was great, but it was the lime notes that were special. They were not ordinary lemon or lime, but a bold, strong, orangey, citrusy taste of a special lime, that has a special place in the hearts of Bengalis. This was the peerless Gandhraj, which literally means the ‘king of fragrance’. Sometimes also called the surkh nimboo, or the sharbati, it grows wild in many parts of Eastern India. But the place which it calls home, is Rangpur, in now-Bangladesh.
The distinctive, piercing flavour of the gandhraj has inspired many dishes — of fish, and hilsa, and vegetables, and there is even a gandhraj spaghetti recipe. But, I believe, that the king of fragrance has achieved its true potential in this gin named after the place the king calls home — Tanqueray Rangpur…