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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

#TheGrandJourney – A Multi-Sensorial Experience That is All About Flavour

For most people, it is rare the opportunity to consider the flavour profile of a single ingredient and the role it plays to a given dish – but even more so, the opportunity to reflect on 10 different ingredients, their usage, provenance and quality. 

As a food writer, I relish the prospect of such experiences - #TheGrandJourney by Bombay Sapphire is a multi-sensorial experience that is all about flavour, and it is taking place right now (17th to 23rd July 2017) in London’s Banking Hall.

Bombay Sapphire uses 10 different botanicals from around the world selected by the brand’s Master of Botanicals Ivano Tonutti. I am told only the finest and sustainably sourced ingredients go in to produce the brand’s gin, these include juniper berries (Italy), grains of paradise (West Africa), almonds (Spain), lemon peel (Spain), cubeb berries (Java), coriander seeds (Mexico), angelica root (Germany), cassia bark (IndoChina), orris root (Italy) and liquorice (China).

Liquorice from China - one of the 10 Bombay Sapphire gin botanicals

For #TheGrandJourney, Bombay Sapphire built a train - the Laverstock Express (named after its distillery, Laverstock Mill in Hampshire) and is taking “passengers” on a Gin of Ten Journeys, illustrating through a multi-sensorial food and gin pairing dinner, the 10 botanicals and places around the world where these are found.

Collaborating with the brand is Michelin-starred chef Tom Sellers of Story Restaurant who created four dishes specifically for this campaign. Using Spanish lemon peel, Tom’s scallop two ways was a delightful dish of raw and pan-fried scallops – Tom mixed diced raw scallops and apple with lemon, crème fraiche and fine slices of radish. The pan-fried scallop was served with a super-light and zingy lemon foam, a very sophisticated hollandaise-style creation brimming with flavour, zinginess and intense citrus flavours.

Another fantastic dish, this time using Spanish almonds, was Tom’s Spanish Iberico pork (served pink) with roasted pear, fresh and sugared almonds and Amaretto jelly. I loved the toasty nuttiness of the almonds combined with the creaminess of the rare Iberico pork and the sweet touches in this dish – the sugared almonds, Amaretto jelly and roasted pear, all came together beautifully in a dish I will remember for quite sometime. Pork and almonds, who would have thought?!

Dessert was also memorable – a refreshing ice cream of herbaceous angelica (considered the 3rd most important botanical in gin, after juniper berries and coriander seeds), with salted blackberry and bitter chocolate.

But the gin botanical inspired creations were not only limited to food – there were a number of cocktails devised by brand ambassador Sean Ware using these ingredients. There were a few favourites – the cubeb berry was a peppery cup of Bombay Sapphire, coffee and cardamom cold infusion with Benedictine and tri-pepper tincture. 

Using orris root, we were served a zesty coupette of Bombay Sapphire, fig and bergamot liqueur, violet leaf tincture, bergamot juice and crème de violet – this was intensely floral.

Perhaps my favourite of the lot was Sean’s Maghreb High Ball – made from 1 part each of Bombay Sapphire gin, water, and Moroccan liqueur (a heady concoction of vodka, dried mint leaves, coriander seeds and saffron) to 2 parts of honey mead, garnished with fresh mint leaf, this was as exotic and spicy as it was refreshing.

Before #TheGrandJourney, three of Bombay Sapphire’s 10 botanicals were new to me - grains of paradise, cubeb berries and orris root. On further research, I discovered that grains of paradise are melegueta or malagueta pepper. This is a native plant of West Africa brought in to South America, especially to Brazil by the Portuguese who had a number of colonies in the continent at the time. Malagueta is the most popular pepper used in Brazil and I love using it in food for its pepperiness and citrus undertones.

I also discovered that cubeb berry is an Indonesian plant that is cultivated for its fruit and oil. Dried, they’re similar in appearance (and taste) to black pepper. I learnt that cubeb berries have long been used alongside juniper as their combination pairs well with other core gin botanicals. 

Cubeb berries - one of Bombay Sapphire's 10 gin botanicals
Have you ever wondered why gin can have such an intense floral quality? Well, one of its botanicals, orris is the root of the iris, specifically from the Iris Pallida and Iris Germanica plants. These are beautiful, blooming flower species that grow widely across the world. A lot of work goes into harvesting orris; after three to four years of growth, the roots are dug up and left to dry for at least 5 years, before being ground to powder for use as a botanical in gin. Dried orris root take on a floral, sweet smell and unsurprisingly has been used in perfumes for years.

If you have not been able to secure a spot for #TheGrandJourney, you will be pleased to hear that Bombay Sapphire will be collaborating with ten leading cocktail bars across Europe, five of these in the UK. For the next twelve weeks from the 17th July 2017, five UK bars well known for their outstanding creativity in cocktail making will be serving limited edition tipples using Bombay Sapphire’s 10 botanicals. In London, bars taking part include The Berkeley (angelica), Three Sheets (coriander seed) and Scout (liquorice), while in Manchester the Science and Industry (grains of paradise) and in Edinburgh the Panda and Sons (cassia bark).

Discovering new flavours, ingredients and how to use them in my cooking and cocktail making is what makes me tick – I have been hugely inspired by #TheGrandJourney and have created my own recipe using two of Bombay Sapphire’s botanicals: liquorice and juniper berries. If you would like to try my meltingly tender, super ‘Slow-Braised Pork Belly in Honey Mead, Soy, Liquorice and Juniper Berries’ dish, you can find the full recipe here.

For more information on Bombay Sapphire gins, cocktails and The Grand Journey, visit their website at http://www.bombaysapphire.com.

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