Friday, 13 March 2015

A Journey through Gins lesser known relatives (Part 5: Navy Strength)

Navy Strength Gin is produced just like regular Gin except for its powerful 57-58% alcohol content, that’s enough to knock you on your ass quick smart if your not watching your drinks.

Navy Strength Gin as suggested by its name was consumed by the British Royal Navy as they cruised around the globe colonising and generally creating trouble. The British government actually regulated in the 18th century that there Royal Navy ships should have a quantity of Gin aboard at all times.
This Gin was often stored in the same area as the Gun powder and certain savvy officers quickly realised (no doubt after particularly energetic drinking sessions) that if the Gin spilt onto the gunpowder and the gunpowder fizzled or failed when lit that there Gin was low in alcohol content.
So they discovered that Gin needed to be a minimum of 57% or in those days british 100 proof to ignite. A simple test of soaking the gunpowder in Gin and lighting it was devised as a means to ensure that there Gin was not being diluted by dodgy distillers and merchants.   

Today it’s all about flavour!
Most of us today don’t have to worry about our Gunpowder becoming Gin soaked, but that doesn’t mean Navy Strength has become irrelevant.
There is an altogether different reason these days that Navy Strength Gins are beginning to gain popularity but this time it has more to do with the Science of distillation and specifically dilution.
The simple concept is that when you distil a Gin it will be coming of the head of the still at somewhere in the region of 80-90% alcohol by volume this means that you have to dilute this distillate down to the normal ~40% bottling strength. This dilution effect is not only cutting the alcohol content but also a large amount of the flavour components that you have extracted during distillation.

So the simple answer is that a Navy Strength Gin can be up to and over 30% more flavoursome than a traditional Gin. This is important for those of us that have a penchant for strong flavours and also makes Navy Strength particularly useful in cocktails with strong ingredients allowing the Gin to stand out.

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