When Florence from our supplier Classic Fine Foods asked me for a meeting, she made quite a mystery about the product, she wanted to let me try. We sat down and I tried - first of all neat - and than with gin [and ice].
I will spare, to bombard you with another story [which might or might not be created in a marketing department]. But you want to know how it fares?
This is just wow. The label coloured in a purple with silver fonts, is just beautiful. The funny thing is, that it comes also in very small bottles - 150 ml. But while the 125 ml of Fentiman's is really too short, the 150 ml seems really to work much better! Kudos to them - they really might have thought about it! However I still would prefer a bottle which is around 180 ml - I love my G&T double - and for a double, 150 ml might just be not enough!
This tonic water seems directly quite "root driven". It is tough - it smells almost blunt like faded brown spices [but nothing bright like cinnamon], a bit dusty - and the taste is very similar. Very unique... not everyones taste... or lets say it like that - a person who is drinking from time to time some tonic, will refuse to accept it! Strangely - it doesn't seem to have any acidity in it.
A positive note - carbonation is awesome! Nice fine bubbles [or should I say perlage?], it isn't at all flat as e.g. Fevertree.
With Bombay Sapphire:
Bombay Sapphire [47% abv - the good stuff!] is a very versatile gin, very bright, very friendly. And it takes a bit the edge of it - but it is far from being agreeable - it just doesn't have the freshness a G&T is gonna give you. If you are adding lime or lemon [squeezing several wedges!] it gets suddenly better. It not only becomes drinkable, but definitely enjoyable and unique in a positive way.
GinMare is also a pretty unique product, rather playing on the savoury notes of gin [e.g. they use olives as part of the botanicals]. Combined with the East Imperial tonic it becomes unbearable. Really. Add some lemon, it is better. But not great.
With Tanqueray Rangpur:
Well, I have a slightly bit left, after a staff party, where it went almost awol [the guys just took it, instead of the new bottle of Bombay Sapphire - idiots] - I know, it is still a rare find - but as Tanqueray is keeping it on their website, I guess, it will be available?! I just wanted to use a very citrus driven gin and Rangpur is pretty much the most citrus driven gin, you can drink. But even then, without lime/lemon, the gin&tonic is pretty... weak. Yeah - drinkable - but not great. However add some lemon, and it becomes alive. One very tasty G&T indeed!
What do I think:
Stay away of this tonic, when you are lazy. When you are just pouring a glass of gin and some tonic and some ice into the glass, but you don't like to cut a fresh lemon or lime. Stay away of this tonic, when you like juniper driven and/or spicy/vegetal/savory gins. Your volume tonic water would fare much better in this case. But... I just love it. I like the corkiness - and that it is not conform like any other product.
Look, there are a lot of tonic waters out there nowadays, and sometimes I am suspicious, that the producer are buying the commercial products and just bottling them into their unique [and often beautiful] packaging/bottles. But East Imperial is definitely not like that. It taste so different that it is head turning! But... I don't understand them. On the ingredients list the only acidic ingredient is ascorbic acid - which is definitely used as antioxidant [more or less, it is vitamin C] - but not as flavour agent [ascorbic acid is brutally bitter]. No citric acid. At all. No citrus juices - at all!
Adding citric acid to it, makes a bit less different tonic water - but definitely much more enjoyable.
...Did they just forgot the citric acid???
I guess, it will be also an interesting drink ingredient. Unfortunately one tiny bottle, which I tried in our meeting and just another tiny bottle was not enough, to try it in a cocktail [it was barely enough, to taste it with 2 gins...]. As there is almost no acidity in it, it will not modify the balance of a drink too much - you could use it in a Gin Rickey [you call it then Tonic Rickey?] or Gin Tonic Fizz. By the way - sweetness is there, but very subtle - one of the least sweet tonic waters around!
East Imperial is a great tonic water in the light, that it is not just a repackaging of a known taste. However it needs some serious tweaking, when served! But as we are talking about bars, some lemon or lime and a careful selection of gin, shouldn't be a problem.
By the way, they also offer a club soda and a ginger beer. The ginger beer, hasn't landed in Dubai yet - if I will try it, I will let you know. The club soda is rather pointless. Don't get me wrong, the water comes from New Zealand, and it is quite enjoyable - with a good fizz - however it is just pointless, to pay a premium for forced carbonated sparkling water!!!