With a bright botanical bill and typically clocking in at 57 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), navy-strength gin acquired its moniker from when it was a mainstay of the British Royal Navy (a warship’s gunpowder could still ignite, even if soaked in the spirit). We tasted through longtime standbys and craft-distilled newcomers and found six favorites.
Far North Spirits Gustaf
Using rye harvested from his fourth-generation family farm in Minnesota, Far North Spirits distiller Michael Swanson named his navy-strength gin Gustaf after his great-grandfather, a “steely-eyed Swede” who built the farm. Each element of the 11-botanical blend— including Meyer lemon, meadowsweet and fennel—is distilled separately in muslin bags, and then portioned into the master blend. A creamy, vanilla aroma gives way to a zesty palate marked by peppery citrus.
Hayman’s Royal Dock
Also a longtime supplier to the Royal Navy, Hayman’s Royal Dock takes its name from the dock in the Royal Victoria Yard on the Thames River that served as the headquarters for food and drink provisions. The overproof spirit maintains a smooth balance, with a juniper- forward aroma complemented by spicy citrus flavors and a pleasant sweetness that lingers on the palate.
Leopold’s Navy-Strength American Gin
Colorado-based Leopold Bros. distills each component of its navy strength gin separately—ranging from juniper to bergamot—then blends them together. The result is very much an American interpretation of the style, with a piney aroma up front followed by floral and botanical flavors. The long, perfumed finish can hold its own against any tonic.
New York Distilling Co. Perry’s Tot
Named for Matthew Calbraith Perry, a commandant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the 1840s, Perry’s Tot is an herbaceously robust gin. A high juniper note in the aroma is countered by a licorice-rich foundation, and an initial pop of cardamom on the palate dissolves into a lingering, softly sweet finish.
Plymouth Gin Navy Strength
Produced at the Black Friars Distillery in Plymouth, England, since 1793 (when the British Royal Navy was their biggest customer), Plymouth Gin certainly has the upper hand in experience. Offering exactly what you would expect from a classic gin with its pleasant juniper aroma, the spirit maintains bright floral and citrus notes, and the finish softens noticeably, with a touch of sweetness.
Standing for “Very Junipery Over Proof,” Sipsmith’s V.J.O.P gin is indeed as “unashamedly junipery as running naked in a pine forest,” as master distiller Jared Brown claims. This is achieved by adding juniper at three stages: macerated in the mash for three days, added to the pot still and vapor- infused into the spirit. The result is, unsurprisingly, juniper-forward, but balanced by a citrusy sweetness and a pleasant heat that dissipates into the botanical bill.