One of the most well-known gin brands has been neglected by me and this website since its inception. That’s nothing against the brand, I’ve just never really got round to using it within my work – until now. I’ve managed to get my hand on a bottle, sit down, and really experience the gin. Of course, I dive into the history and re-establish my, to be honest, one only fact I know of Plymouth; it has to be produced in Plymouth.
I always say I’m not a man who know everything about the drinks world, so lets rectify Plymouth gin’s case.
It seems best to start with the distillery, Black Friars to be exact. The now only distillery left standing in Plymouth dates back to the early 1400’s, with a medieval hall built in 1431 still standing to this day (now the Refectory Room), and thus being one of the oldest buildings in Plymouth. The buildings at the time were inhabited by Black Friars, resulting in the buildings being listed as a monastery. By 1536, the dissolution of the monasteries caused the buildings to be vacated, and over the years became the town’s Marshalsea and a debtor’s prison. It is also said here that ‘The Pilgrim Fathers even spent their last night in England here in 1620. It was from the distillery they made the short walk down to the harbour to set sail on the Mayflower on their epic voyage to start a new life in America, where they founded a new Plymouth.’ To honour this, The Mayflower ship forms a part of Plymouth Gin’s label.
In 1793, a gentleman named Mr Coates joined the then already established distilling business of Fox & Williamson, and started production of Plymouth gin within the buildings. Soon the business was to become known as Coates & Co, which it remained until March 2004 after the acquisition by Sweden based V& S Group, and then Pernod Ricard in 2008. The launch of Plymouth gin saw numerous countries enjoying through its easy access to shipping channels. The Royal Navy boosted its presence through Victorian times, and by 1850, Coates & Co were supplying over 1000 barrels of ‘navy strength’ 57% abv gin a year to the Royal Navy. It was around this time that Plymouth Gin became a Protected Geographical Indication, determining that any gin distilled in Plymouth, England could only be named Plymouth Gin. Thanks to the British Royal Navy taking it on ships all over the world, Plymouth become the world’s largest volume brand of gin with 1000 cases a week going to New York alone by the 1900’s.
The gin itself is produced in a copper pot still, the same for over 160 years now, and uses seven botanicals including juniper, coriander, sweet orange, cardamom, angelica and orris root that are re-distilled with pure grain spirit and water from Dartmoor.
So how does it fare? Well below I give to you my tasting notes –
Plymouth – 41.2%
Light, clean and notes of soft citrus on the nose. Juniper and spice follow gently. Soft and floral on the palate, with a light sweetness creating a lingering experience.
Plymouth gin are very proud to lay claim to the fact that in 1896, the first ever recipe for a Dry Martini specified Plymouth gin (in Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them). So it makes sense to show off a variation –
2 dash Orange Bitters
75 ml Plymouth Gin
12 ml Dry Vermouth
Fill mixing glasses with ice and pour in all ingredients. Stir well and strain into a Martini glass.
A classic from a classic gin brand. Plymouth gin is a lot more approachable to the London Dry style you see more commonly, and is a recommendation for a start-up gin for those who are not a fan of the category. Plymouth gin has had its up’s and down’s over the years, with the base recipe even changing at one point in the 1980’s. But the name is on the up and is firmly established as a must stock brand for most venues these days. One to enjoy at home for sure.
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