- Food & Drink
Plymouth Navy Strength Gin
Hello sailor! I’m getting that joke out of the way right at the start but I can’t promise it won’t reappear. Opportunities in life to say: “Hello sailor!” are sadly rare and must be taken full advantage of when they come along, much like sailors themselves.
I’ve met Plymouth Navy Strength Gin once before, several years ago in a focus group. I sat in a room with 11 other women and we were given glasses of different gins to try and pronounce on. After discussing the aroma and flavour of the gins and drawing diagrams on whiteboards of how they made us feel, we were given large glasses of Plymouth Navy Strength, tonic water and encouraged to talk about gin generally. The evening culminated in me shouting: “But this stuff is good enough to drink neat, like posh VODKA.” And proving it by knocking back several shots.
After 2 hours I staggered out of the room clutching the £50 they’d paid me (yes, they paid me) and stuffing free crisps into my slack, slobbering mouth. It was one of the finest nights of my life.
Day or night gin? Hello sailor! At 57% this is a gin that’s only suitable for drinking after dark in navy ports where degenerate goings-on and people being sick on themselves is perfectly normal for a Tuesday lunchtime.
What does it smell of? Like fishbones washed in lemon-scented bleach. There’s also a green rawness to it, like stubborn grass growing by the sea, but it’s not a smell that lingers. After the first flush of citrus and raw spice, the scent peters out, leaving a chilly a vacuum into which the unprepared are sucked.
What does it taste of? Giving how strong Plymouth Navy Strength is, this is surprisingly easy-drinking. It slips down very easily – the harsher edges have been rounded off, leaving a junipery gin warmed up with orange and finishing with a spicy, coriander flavour. At first sip it’s quite sweet. After a few mouthfuls, the subtle burn of alcohol creeps up on you and, when it’s too late and you’ve drunk too much, you suddenly realise your diaphragm on is fire.
But it’s also a bit boring. After each mouthful I’m left blank. I can’t quite remember what it tasted like. There’s a lingering trace of the spice cupboard on the tip of my tongue and a catch of marmalade in the back of my throat but without those clues, I wouldn’t be entirely sure I’d drunk gin (that is, until I go cross-eyed with intoxication and attempt to urinate in a wardrobe. That’s always a reliable sign I’ve been drinking).
Buy it? I paid £27.99 for a 70cl bottle of Plymouth Navy Strength in my local off licence. Royal Mile Whiskies are selling it at £26.95, but I can’t honestly say I would buy it again. It’s nice, in the sense that it isn’t a harsh grain spirit that someone has waved juniper berries over but it isn’t delicious, either. At that price, I’m more likely to buy a bottle of Sacred or Tanqueray no TEN. Which means it must be time for my final, bathetic joke: a sad wave of my hanky on the dockside and a whispered: “Goodbye sailor!” as I turn on my heel and head for the pub.