Review: Plymouth Navy Strength Gin / by Jason Hambrey

Plymouth Navy Strength 2.jpg
Producer Black Friar's Distillery (Plymouth, England)

Plymouth Gin is a protected geographical indication, so no gins made outside Plymouth England can be labeled as such. However, there is only one gin producer remaining in Plymouth, at Black Friar's distillery. It started to produce gin in 1793, operating out of a fifteenth century monastery. The "Navy Strength" is more than a gimmick, here. in the 18th century, gin was a drink of the higher classes (and used in drinks like the gimlet to supply lime juice and vitamin C to sailors). Navy ships would often stock up in various ports, which had their own individual styles like London, Plymouth, Bristol, and Liverpool (Bristol and Liverpool styles are lost on us, now). By 1850, Plymouth supplied the Navy more than 1000 barrels per year of gin - but at a specially made 57%. This strength was due to the fact that the gin and firearms were stored together under lock and key to prevent easy access, and if 40% gin spilled on gunpowder, it would fail to ignite. However, at 57%, ignition is not a problem...

Plymouth was a much sought-after brand, and considered by the Navy to be the only way to have a proper pink gin, a mix of gin and bitters originally concocted for medicinal purposes. Counterfeits of the gin led to its eventual protected regional name.

Gin distilleries were also responsible for making "cocktails for Hitler" during the second world way, and were targeted in air raids. Gordon's distillery was attacked and decimated in 1941. Plymouth fared better - Black Friars was attacked in 1942, but the distillery survived. The Navy responded - British officers in Malta who shot down a German ship or plane was offered a bottle of Plymouth.

Plymouth also produces a 41.2% version of the same gin. The brand is owned by drinks giant Pernod Ricard.

Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: N/A
  • Bottling Date: ~2018

The nose is fairly closed at full strength. Watered down, bitter cucumber, juniper, nice earthiness to it.  At full strength, the gin doesn’t feel that hot – it has a nice, subtly sweet grain character to it which richly carries a handful of flavors with it – juniper, lemon peel, and some baking spices. Finish is rich, lightly dry, and spicy – it is a nicely balanced gin, and good at cask strength – but still feels a bit soft in terms of my preferences in gin. 57% carries the flavours very nicely! At 40%, I don’t think I’d favor it this much!

Assessment: Highly Recommended.