Plymouth Navy Strength

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.

Tagged with: Gin

0 Responses to Gin tasting: Plymouth Navy Strength

  1. Excellent review – and as a result of which, I shan’t be taking advantage of Plymouth Gin or sailors any time soon. Unless I’m drunk, of course.

  2. Jessica says:

    I feel quite the same about Plymouth Gin, Navy strength and original strength. And did you know that this 57% is Navy Strength, because the alcohol content is high enough not to make gunpowder wet and unusuable if you spill it?

    We have a large bottle of the stuff in our house resulting from my boyfriend’s visit to the distillery (which is where the Plymouth Gin facts come from too). I still haven’t drunk it all which is remarkable of any bottle of gin. Mainly because Plymouth insist you must drink it with water (“tonic ruins the taste” or somesuch) but also because it does taste way too much like… petrol. And not enough like juniper.

  3. Rahul says:

    As always I giggle madly after reading your posts. Plymouth normal strength was voted the best gin for martinis by the WSJ years ago. I think it’s owned by Absolute Vodka (or was). 57% is a bit out of control. And if we wanted bland booziness we could drink vodka.

    I want to be invited to a gin focus group!!! And you need to watch the Sex and the City episode on sailors.

  4. Oh yay another gin review! Love that you got paid £50 to be in a gin focus group. Hilarious.

  5. Doug Ford says:

    Alas! that Navy-strength Plymouth is nowhere to be found in the midwestern United States.

    I would be very interested in trying it in a Gimlet–apparently it is the “original” gin for that drink. The closest I can get to 114 proof here is the 110 Old Raj, but that’s a different flavor altogether, hardly a Gimlet gin.

    Thanks for the fun posting.

  6. curlywurlyfi says:

    I am literally FURIOUS that there is such a thing as a gin focus group + I did not know. Unfocused group, surely, anyway. Agree with you re Navy Strength, it’s just not interesting enough apart from its ferocious wallop. Normal Plymouth is the house gin round my way. Nice + bitey dry.

  7. ginandcrumpets says:

    @aforkfulofspaghetti Being drunk allows for many things, including sailors. That’s why ports have so many pubs. The sailors insist on them.

    @Jessica Gin and water? Bleugh. It is smooth enough to drink neat, over ice (which I suppose is just water) but gin and water seems just wrong to me. A bit parsimonious and not much fun. Like whisky bores who insist on a certain percentage of dilution to “really bring out the flavours”. Yawn, bring on the mixers and the music.

    @Rahul Glad I make you laugh 🙂 Will dig out the SATC boxset and search it for sailor episodes.

    @Gourmet Chick and @curlywurlyfi The best thing is that I had no idea it would be agin focus group until I turned up and saw glasses laid out on a table. Glasses that turned out to be full of gin. The realisation was a happy moment indeed.

    @Doug Ford Interesting, I’ll have to have a go at mixing a gimlet and see what it’s like with Navy Strength. Obviously I’ll have to mix up a few other gimlets with other gins, just to make sure which one is the best…

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