Crafty Gins

plymoug_ginFor a craft gin it is the distilling process that counts, not because a distillery is new.

The resurgent popularity of gin over the last five or so years is remarkable, driven by new craft distillations entering the market.

Trendy bars offer a dedicated gin list and one of our royal yacht clubs recently scheduled a tutored gin-tasting evening.

There are so many new ones, but what is the benchmark for judging? Surely not just because they are new. It is the distilling process itself and can just as easily be applied to earlier established brands.


One such is Plymouth Gin that has been distilled craft style for over 200 years at the Black Friars distillery in the Barbican area of Plymouth, a short walk from the Royal Western Yacht Club at Queen Anne’s Battery.

They claim it is the oldest working gin distillery in England and describe their gin as a modern classic.

At this year’s Southampton Boat Show I picked up a neat mini book, The Legend of the Plymouth Martini, distributed at the show in conjunction with Princess Yachts, themselves a feature of Plymouth for over 50 years.

This rekindled my long held respect for Plymouth as a favourite gin, gained after my first Fastnet Race in 1965 when a free tour of the distillery was laid on post-race for crews.

Many of the new arrivals have interesting individual flavours due to their choice of added botanicals surrounding the juniper essential to being a London Gin. All are higher strength, over 40 per cent, which is a key factor in boosting flavour on the tongue.

But they can only be described as craft if they are hands-on, small-volume batch production. The result is premium prices of more than £20 a bottle.

The Plymouth Black Friars distillery, still at 60 Southside Street, Plymouth

The Plymouth Black Friars distillery, still at 60 Southside Street, Plymouth

Plymouth is made from an original 1793 recipe in a small-volume batch-process copper still by dedicated gin distilling experts, bottled at 41.2 per cent and £25 per 70cl bottle at Waitrose.

You cannot get more crafty than that.

Tasting notes: soft Dartmoor water, sweet botanicals, juniper plus another six, bold rounded character, perfect viscosity to carry the bitters for a Pink Gin, a popular Navy cocktail in the last century,

The little book says: “Whether on land or the seven seas, we invite you to savour the masterful balance of Plymouth’s seven botanicals, each sip inspiring voyages of endless possibility.”

It works for me. It is my chosen gin treat for this year’s Christmas drinks basket (coming next month).

There is also a Navy Strength version, a mighty monster at 57 per cent or ‘100 proof’ in old money, as it still says on the label.

A favourite of the Royal Navy operating out of Devonport naval dockyard, by 1850 a thousand barrels were supplied to the Navy every year. A 70cl bottle now costs about £35, available from

Beaujolais Nouveau time

The 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau will be uncorked at 0001hrs 17 November.

Look out for chalkboards at wine shops, bars and restaurants and it could be the theme for sailing club laying-up suppers.

Beaujolais Nouveau has its own specific production method and is bottled only weeks after the grape harvest, mostly the Gamay variety from the Beaujolais region between Burgundy and Rhone. Best drunk chilled.

In France there will be many to choose from, but in the UK only a few. Anything from the Georges Duboeuf winery will be good. Expect to pay about £6 to £8 a bottle.