Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Return of a lost spirit: Tanqueray Malacca

From 1997 until 2001 -- prior to the mainstreaming of the traditional cocktail resurgence spearheaded by people like my friend Sasha Petraske --- the kind folks at Diageo released a "wetter" (read sweeter and more citrusy) gin ostensibly crafted from an 1839 recipe.

I remember well when another good friend Jonathan Prince introduced it to me at a bar in Washington, D.C. (not coincidently Jonathan introduced me to Sasha a couple of years later). Malacca had and has a very distinctive taste, to me more ginny than gin. In fact, if you'll forgive the loan from my brother -- the eidos of gin. As a martini drinker, it was a perfect discovery,  made even more delicious because it was a bit of a secret (and you all know I can't resist a secret).

I recall being saddened when I heard it was discontinued a few years later. As is often observed when writing about Malacca, Diageo was ahead of its time.  And I am not a regular enough gin drinker and apparently neither were its other adherents. Or perhaps it was too well-guarded a secret.

And then, in late 2004 I saw what I thought was a ghost: a nearly-full bottle of Malacca behind the bar at Blue Ribbon Bakery in the West Village. My then-girlfriend (now wife) and I had an extraordinary and chaotic, free-form Friday night meal of a dozen or so appetizers and some Malacca martinis served by Pete, perhaps the best waiter we've ever befriended. We pledged to come back the following Friday. Which we did weekly for over the next year. During those meals we happily finished what I thought was my taste of Malacca.

I didn't give it much thought after that, until a couple of years ago when Esquire's Big Black Book ran a piece on three extinct breeds of liquor that had become the rare quarry of certain spirit hunters. Malacca was one of them.

I started looking for the odd forgotton bottle on the dusty bottom shelves in the occasional liquor store, but to no avail. It then occurred to me to try from time to time, with similarly unfulfilling results.

That is until last week. I was thumbing through my old Esquire BBB's and saw the article about rare spirits, and realized I hadn't looked in quite some time, so I did a quick search on my iphone.

I was stunned by the results: the long-lost Malacca had popped up over and over again - including at my old neighborhood liquor store Astor Wines. Some quick research led me to uncover that Diageo has re-released a "limited edition" of 16,000 cases of Malacca as of February of this year. What a pleasant surprise.

So, if you are a gin drinker, I highly recommend that you try it while it lasts. Though you'll have to go somewhere other than Astor Wines -- I bought every bottle they had.

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