The story behind what we know today as navy strength gin began during the first ‘gin boom’ in the 18th century.
The Royal Navy legislated that there had to be a certain amount of gin on each vessel while they were sailing on the high seas. Gin was required on board to help fight illness and diseases which were rife.
However, some of the officers were suspicious of the gin, especially as the quality varied so much from city to city and felt it had been overly watered down.
In order to test the gin was of an acceptable quality, it was tested by lighting a mixture of the spirit and gunpowder. If it burned with a clear flame this was ‘proof’ that the spirit was of sufficient standard (at least 114 proof or 57% ABV in today’s terms). Failure to light or a smoky flame were signs that the spirit was below the required strength.
Despite links to the 18th century, the term ‘navy strength gin’ is actually a marketing creation from the 1990s which was coined to help sell high strength spirits. All navy strength gins are bottled at a minimum of 57.1% ABV and are fantastic for cocktails as the gin characteristics can stand up to the other flavours.
As the number of distilleries and gins have grown in recent years so has the number of Scottish navy strength gins on the market. Below are some of our favourites.
Scottish Navy Strength Gins
Badachro Distillery's take on navy strength gin is a full flavoured, high strength version of Badachro Gin.
As the distillery sits close to the 57° north line of latitude in the North West Highlands of Scotland, it is no stranger ot the full force of West Highland storms. Therefore, it seemed only right to name their high-strength gin after the storms Badachro experiences.
We recommend Badachro's Storm Strength Gin sipped over ice or to make a classic G&T using a premium tonic water, lots of ice and a slice of lime. If available, a sprig of wild myrtle tops it off amazingly well.
Photo Credit: The Gin Cooperative
Inshriach Distillery is based in the Caingorms National Park and is situated in the 2015 Channel 4 Shed of the Year!
The navy strength gin is packed full of the same botanicals that are present in the Original Gin but are blended in different proportions and greater quantities. The main difference between the Original and the Navy Strength Gin is that there's an extra layer of spice in the navy strength expression.
All the botanicals that are hand picked within a few miles of the distillery and the season they're picked in will make subtle differences to the taste.
A match for even the most flavoursome of mixers. Best served over ice with the mixer of your choice.
Biggar Navy Strength Gin
Bottle Size: 70 cl | Price: £43.95
An ideal gin for any budding mixologist for those who like their gin to pack a punch. It's made with a slightly different recipe to the Biggar Original Gin but it has the same creamy smoothness.
Made using a combination of traditional and locally handpicked botanicals, the Biggar Navy Strength Gin includes fresh orange peel, fresh lemon peel, hawthorn berries, rowan berries and pink peppercorn.
If serving as a long drink then we recommend serving over ice with a premium tonic or ginger ale and a twist of orange peel. However, it is arguably best as the base of many classic gin cocktails as the flavours from the botanicals shine through.
Crossbill 200 Special Edition Gin
Bottle Size: 50 cl | Price: £84.50
Crossbil 200 is a rare special edition dry gin which has been made using handpicked juniper berries from a 200 year old specimen in Cairngorms National Park.
It's exceptionally rare for juniper to age for 200 years, especially in Scotland. When Crossbill found out about the rare find, they knew they had to do something special to honour the fruit!
Crossill 200 is a fresh and dry gin made with only juniper and rosehip which are distilled within 24 hours of being picked for a crisp taste - highlighting the rare juniper specimen.
The Mariner Strength is Mackintosh Gin's navy strength version of their award-winning Mackintosh London Dry Gin.
It's made with 9 carefully selected botanicals and being bottled at the higher strength 59% ABV, these botanicals really shine through. To taste, the Mariner Strength is juniper-led with floral and citrus flavours including Mediterranean citrus fruits and elderflower. The finish is a mild peppery spice.
While it still makes a cracking G&T, we think that it works best as a cocktail gin and it makes an ideal base for a Martini or Negroni.