January 22nd, 2016
The green bottle and its red seal – a familiar sight amongst the other bottles of spirits. Tanqueray (pr. Tanker-ray). London’s Dry Gin. A happy sight after a long day in the office; it glints and dances in the light as it fills the glass. Tonic water and a slice of lemon – its partners in crime. Perfect. Each sip evokes a sophisticated London of days gone by; of secluded speakeasies and suave Gatsby-esque parties.
It was 1830 when Charles (da man) Tanqueray decided against his intended life as a man of the cloth, and embarked on his journey (with the help from an unknown but experienced distiller) of botanical nip-tucking, which would result in the uniquely distinctive taste that is Tanqueray.
Distilled in Vine Street, Bloomsbury, not far from our office, Tanqueray not only created a perfectly balanced recipe, he created an attitude. Encapsulating a sense of: Victorian luxury, Gin Palaces, the roaring twenties, a timeless British glamour, Prohibition, (Tanqueray is rumoured to have shipped inflatable cases of gin to America during Prohibition), the British Raj, Martinis in proper glasses, rare hot London days, the first drink of the night, the Queen Mum and Winston Churchill.
Charles Tanqueray died in 1868 but his driven and equally tenacious son, Charles (same name, whaaaaat?), took over the company at only 20 years old. He had the foresight to begin exporting to the British colonies, resulting in successfully building the brand internationally.
Tanqueray’s branding takes a slightly alternate route. Its logo is not the most recognisable element in the holy trinity of brand elements, (logo, colour and typeface), its colours are. The now familiar-bottle design, which is meant to resemble a 1920s cocktail shaker, was designed in 1948. Its distinctive green colour was the only one like it on the market at the time. An accident? I don’t think so. Another theory is that the green colour would hide any imperfections in the gin. I’m going with the first theory. The red seal with the “T” is said to be Mr Tanqueray the elder’s signature.
While there is no definitive answer about the origin of its logo, a small silver coat of arms depicting a pineapple and two axes according to folklore, the pineapple represents a nod to Victorian opulence, an association created to distinguish it from other inferior “riff-raff” gin. The axes are said to symbolise the Tanqueray family’s involvement in the third crusades.
While the logo has always featured on the packaging during its existence, its typeface has gradually surpassed it evidence that not all brands need a logo.
The 2013 global campaign “Tonight we Tanqueray” (a new verb – clever), positioned Tanqueray as the drink to start the night, and start the night right. A war cry almost. Beautiful Art Deco bars with mysterious, moody, pretty people swanning around, giving each other “the eye” (hot). Making us all reach for the nearest bottle, donning our most fabulous cocktail dress or tux. Cut to my flat; 2am. Work clothes slightly askew and only one shoe on, drinking straight from the bottle, singing at the top of my lungs (not so hot).
What that campaign has embodied, is Tanqueray’s Britishness, class, timelessness and quiet confidence. This remains at its core to this day.
Gin has not always been for everyone…
“The most dangerous drink is gin. You have to be really, really careful with that. And you also have to be 45, female and sitting on the stairs. Because gin isn’t really a drink, it’s more a mascara thinner”. Dylan Moran.
Gin has experienced a resurgence of late, fitting into the popular retro subculture, and Tanqueray has carved its mark, encouraging a new generation of Tanqueray appreciators. Tanqueray sells over 2 million 9-Litre cases each year, making it one of the top 5 best selling gins in the world, and I like to think I do my bit.
The production of Tanqueray is now carried out in Cameron Bridge, Scotland and remains reservedly confident and true to its British core.
So cheers. To the nights Tanqueray has made a little hazy, and to the enduring force that it is.