What is 'Navy Strength' Gin?

As we have seen in other blogs, Gin has a complex history interwoven with peaks and troughs of publicity: good and bad. But another strand we have not quite covered is the meaning of 'Navy Strength' and why some bottles have this written on them. This, as you will have seen, comes with a higher alcohol content at anywhere above around 57% ABV.

For this tradition, and the explosion of gin in general, we have the Royal Navy to thank. If it wasn't for them trekking around the world - for better or for worse - then exotic and new botanicals would not have been found and infused to create our nation's favourite spirit.

Alcohol rations in the Royal Navy were abolished as late as 1970 but before this time they consisted of rum for the enlisted men, and gin for the officers from around the 16th Century.

The gin (and rum) were stored next to the gunpowder, in barrels, and so certain precautions had to be taken to make sure any spillages did not lead to a catastrophic disabling of firepower. As such, the navy came up with the idea of 'proofing' something. In this process, the gin was mixed with the gunpowder, if the gunpowder still lit then the gin was 100% proof, if it did not light then the gin wasn't strong enough to board the ship.

The magic number came to be in the region of 57% ABV. For this reason, you will find that Darnley's Navy Strength Spiced Gin is bottled at 57.1% ABV to add a punchy warmth to every sip. Head over to the shop to get a bottle of your very own gunpowder-proof gin!

Link to the Wemyss Family

The Wemyss Family has a deep tradition with the navy and ancestors of the current owners played an integral part in the First World War especially. As Admiral of the Fleet, Rosslyn Erskine Wemyss rose in the ranks from Midshipman to command vessels all across the world. He was elevated to the rank of First Sea Lord in 1917 and thus became an established member of the Royal Navy's history.

While serving, men under Sir Rosslyn Wemyss would have been given this ration of gin or rum and it had to be proofed. The links to Wemyss history and Darnley's Gin continue and provide inspiration for us to create expressions that align accordingly.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published