By Michael W. Harris
Type: Naval Dry
Botanicals: Angelica, Cassia, Cinnamon, Coriander, Juniper, Lemon, Licorice, Nutmeg, Orange, Orris Root
Base: Grant Neutral Spirit
Distilling Notes: Bottled at so-called “navy strength,” much higher proof.
Navy strength gin is something of an odd duck. Clocking in at well over 50% ABV, sometimes as high as 57% (as in the gin at hand), it is much stronger than your typical gin. The legend is that it has such a high ABV because it needed to not prevent the use of a ship’s gunpowder should it become soaked in the clear spirit.
Whether this is true or not is not something I did research on. However, what I will say is that Hayman’s Royal Dock at Deptford Navy Strength Gin (could you have a longer name?) has booze to spare, and your mileage with the spirit will vary with how you use it and in what cocktails. There is a lot of flavor in the gin well beyond the alcohol, though, that is well worth exploring.
I promise that one of these days I will finish with Robotech, but right now I am buried in the second season and am getting more than a bit annoyed with the show (11/27). The straight Hayman’s on the nose was very citrus forward with a few hints of alcohol on it. The booze came forward, though, once it hit the palate…though only slowly.
I will admit that while the burn of the ABV did not bother me at first, the more I drank, the more pronounced it became. That being said, the other flavors were quite nice to taste, and overall Hayman’s is a well balanced as a gin, something that I found quite surprising in all honesty. However, to finish it I had to put an ice cube in it to dilute the spirit just a bit. As opposed to many gins like the Tanqueray No. 10 or Gunpowder Gin, it is not one that I will find myself turning again to sip straight.
Gin and Tonic
Based on my expensive at the tail end of the straight tasking, I decided to halve my normal pour for the gin and tonic so as not to get completely drunk on a single cocktail. Plus, I needed to get through both the g’nt and pink gin tastings on the same day (12/1) while also getting to some long suffering videos in my YouTube “Watch Later” cue. I have, sadly, fallen behind on many things and needed to play catch up last Saturday.
To my pleasant surprise, the Hayman’s and tonic was a delightful cocktail, and one in which I barely tasted the 57% ABV (a dangerous situation to be in). The citrus flavors of the gin balanced well with the tonic and lime, and together they created one of the most pleasant new-to-me gin and tonics that I have had in a while. I am actually looking forward to trying another one in the very near future as I eventually finish the bottle.
I don’t really know what else to say other than to try a Hayman’s and tonic. It was shocking to me that a 57% ABV gin could be so smooth with rather subtle flavors when paired with a mixer. It is truly a credit to the distillers that they created such a high proof and yet drinkable spirit.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the pink gin, which I tried on the same day (12/1). While the tonic subdues and brings out the best qualities of the gin, the bitters amps up its worst quality: the alcohol burn. With the bitters added, the alcohol overwhelms the drink. However, while drinking it, a phone call pulled me away and I discovered that as the pink gin sat, the drink settled down and became almost pleasant, though still not as good as the gin and tonic. I feel like, much like the straight Hayman’s, the pink gin might need something to cut down the ABV just a tad and allow the flavors to open up.
Hayman’s Royal Dock Navy Strength is an interesting gin, and one whose lineage is worth exploring. It was quite tasty in a gin and tonic, but for me the ABV keeps it from being truly enjoyable otherwise without some alteration (i.e. as a primary spirit in a cocktail). However, that does not keep me from giving it a strong Middle Shelf recommendation.