Published on October 18, 2023.
Bet you didn’t know this…
1. The Founder was destined for another career choice.
Charles Tanqueray was born in 1810 to a long line of English clergymen — father, grandfather, even great uncle. Naturally, when it came time to pick a career, Tanqueray the younger went with booze, founding a distillery with his brother in London in 1830.
2. A choice between gin and horse feet.
According to former Tanqueray master distiller Tom Nichol, Charles Tanqueray “was a genius.” More accurately, “I think he was a genius who told everyone he was a genius,” Nichol says. Tanqueray would invent recipes for animal medicines and a supposedly “improved” horseshoe polish; however, in the end, he went with gin.
3. Tanqueray’s tinkering led to modern craft gin.
Tanqueray dedicated himself wholly to improving what passed for gin at the time, taking on industry leaders Felix Booth and Alexander Gordon (he’d go on to partner with the latter). While developing what would become his flagship recipe, Tanqueray stumbled upon his preferred method for distilling botanicals into a small quantity of neutral grain spirit before distilling the larger batch for the final time. It was one of the first innovations in botanical infusion.
4. Tanqueray: a ‘simple’ recipe.
Gin production is relatively easy. There’s only juniper. Many recipes go well beyond with unexpected ingredients but for 180-plus years, Tanqueray stuck by the seemingly simple combination of only four botanicals: Tuscan juniper, coriander, angelica root, and licorice. With just those four botanicals, Tanqueray presents an excellent product.
5. It’s (almost) Smirnoff.
They’re different types of spirits, but before botanicals come into play, vodka and gin can be (and often are) close to the same. In the case of Tanqueray gin and Smirnoff vodka, they’re exactly the same stuff: Smirnoff and the base neutral spirit for Tanqueray are distilled at a facility called Cameron Bridge in Scotland before going off to become their respective final products, which proves — if nothing else — the surprising economic advantage of adding juniper to stuff before selling it.
7. Tanqueray 10 has only eight botanicals.
Tanqueray and Tanqueray 10 are the two Tanqueray products you’re most likely to see or have seen, drink or have drunk (or are drinking right now, nice). They both ring in at a solid 47.3 percent ABV, but Tanqueray has that aforementioned juniper assertiveness, whereas Tanqueray 10 was produced as a kind of concession to and/or celebration of the emerging craft gin market — a market reaching out to more consumers, including those less in love with gin’s signature juniper note. The result is a mix of eight botanicals that is less juniper-forward and overlaid with not just earthy spice but brighter, fragrant citrus notes.
7. It’s made with a 200-year-old still.
The still is nicknamed ‘Old Tom’. This is a sturdy machine that survived a London World War II air raid in 1941 and, after some repairs, became a kind of spiritual mascot for Tanqueray’s brand endurance.
8. From Presidents to Rat Packs, America loves Tanqueray.
According to Diageo archivist Joanne McKerchar, Tanqueray was the first drink poured in the White House after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Then, in the 1960s, the Rat Pack realized they loved the stuff, too, famously putting down more than a few Tanqueray Martinis in the Buena Vista Social Club. Says McKerchar, “Sales of Tanqueray doubled in a year without a penny of advertising money being spent on the brand.”
9. Speaking of the Rat Pack, it was Frank versus the Tanq.
The Rat Pack had a controversial relationship with alcohol, and it turns out Frank Sinatra had his own love-hate relationship with Tanqueray gin.
10. The bottle is not a tiny fire hydrant.
A reasonable visual resemblance, but the Tanqueray bottle wasn’t based on a fire hydrant. The bottle was actually, and carefully, modeled after a cocktail shaker, a marketing attempt at aligning the strangely assertive flavors of English gin with the more approachable, mutable flavors of the American cocktail scene. When Tanqueray 10 launched in 2000, the company used a similar shape but added a not uncool retro citrus reamer vibe to play up the aforementioned citrus.