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Canada Recalls Bottles Of Bombay Sapphire Gin For Having Too Much Alcohol

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you're mixing a drink today for Cinco de Mayo or tomorrow for the Kentucky Derby, you might just reach for a premium gin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Bombay Sapphire - vapor-infused with beautiful botanicals from the ends of the earth.

SIEGEL: But if you live in Canada and you happen upon one fateful batch of Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin, you might not be able to taste those fancy botanicals.

FRED JAMIESON: It normally would have about a 40 percent of alcohol, and the level alcohol is almost approximately double.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

That's Fred Jamieson of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. These accidentally over-proof bottles are 77 percent alcohol. That puts them somewhere between Bacardi 151 and Everclear in terms of potency. Now a few thousand of these bottles are being recalled in Canada.

SIEGEL: Bacardi, which distributes Bombay Gin, told NPR this all traces back to a mistake at a third-party bottling facility. And it was discovered after one discerning customer in Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario returned a bottle to the store after noticing it didn't taste quite right.

JOHN HAYES: I've never actually personally tried 77 percent ethanol, but I can imagine it would burn quite a bit.

SIEGEL: That's John Hayes, a food science professor at Penn State. He's done research on the taste of alcohol. And we should say ethanol is the scientific name for the kind of alcohol we drink.

HAYES: At lower concentrations, ethanol is both bitter and burning, but the bitterness tends to predominate. But then as the concentration increases, it's both bitter and burning again, but now the burning predominates when you're at higher concentrations.

MCEVERS: So would you like some extra-burning gin in your gin and tonic?

HAYES: If you're really interested in the taste, it's probably not so good. But if you're interested in, how shall we say, other pharmacological effects, then maybe that's a desirable property.

MCEVERS: In their stipend to NPR, Bacardi said the bottles of Bombay Sapphire were recalled because the alcohol by volume on the label does not match what's in the bottle, not because it's unsafe to drink. Professor John Hayes agreed. When consumed in small quantities, it probably wouldn't be dangerous.

HAYES: I don't think so. It's still food-safe ethanol. I think the big problem would be that people would get more intoxicated more quickly or maybe more than they expected to. So if you made yourself a big, strong martini and chugged the whole thing down, you might finish the entire beverage before you realized the trouble you were in.

MCEVERS: Canadians, if you are listening, check your Bombay Sapphire bottles for the code L16304W stamped into the glass. If you have one of those, you might want to throw it out or return it to the store for a refund. Though, many people on social media are asking, why do that when you can just drink it?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GIN AND JUICE")

D-RUFF: (Singing) Sipping on gin and juice...

SNOOP DOGG: Laid back.

D-RUFF: ...With my mind on my money and my money on my mind.

SNOOP DOGG: (Rapping) Now that I got me some Seagram's gin, everybody got they cups, but they ain't chipped in. Now this types of [expletive] happens all the time. You got to get yours, but, fool, I got to get mine. Everything is fine when you're listening to the D-O-G. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.