What is Navy Strength Gin? The High-Proof Spirit With a History of Gunpowder and Muskets
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What is Navy Strength Gin? The High-Proof Spirit With a History of Gunpowder and Muskets

A collection of popular Navy Strength gins, ready to be featured in a high-proof gin and tonic.

What is Navy Strength Gin?

Simply put, Navy Strength gin is any gin with a minimum ABV of 57%. This makes it a higher-proof spirit with a similar boozy punch to still-strength tequila or cask-strength rum and whiskey.

Additionally, a higher-proof spirit usually means significantly less (or no) water is used to cut alcohol content after distillation. Because of this, Navy Strength gin is often considered a purer, more flavorful expression of gin with the potential to offer a creamier mouthfeel.

A Brief History of Navy Strength Gin

Following its introduction to Britain during the 80 Years War of the late 16th and early 17th Century, gin became a staple for members of the Royal British Navy. Rations of booze were considered an important facet of maintaining morale on ships.

After beer and wine served their time as navy rations, rum and gin moved in as smart replacements. Generally, spirits took up less space on board and also didn’t spoil as beer did.

To ensure that the spirits they received were of quality and not over-diluted with water, members of the navy would perform a “proof” test. This involved soaking gunpowder with a spirit and lighting it on fire. If the gunpowder did not ignite, it meant that the gin (or rum) was of a satisfactory alcohol level.

Furthermore, gin rations and gunpowder barrels were often stored in the same location on a navy vessel. If a 57% ABV spirit started to leak out of its container and onto the gunpowder, there was no risk of ruining perfectly good material for shooting muskets or cannons.

Navy Strength Gin Today

The actual term Navy Strength didn’t start being officially used until the 1990’s, originating as a marketing tactic to sell high-proof gin.

Now, many gin distilleries produce their own Navy Strength gin expressions and you can find ones for sale by a good majority of top-selling brands.

For a sampling of what the Navy Strength gin category has to offer, we recommend trying Green Hat Navy Strength Gin, Perry’s Tot Navy Strength GinPlymouth Navy Strength Gin, Lee Spirits Navy Strength Gin and Vigilant District Navy Strength Gin.

Navy Strength gin is celebrated for it potent flavor, marking it as an excellent choice for complex cocktails that might otherwise conceal the tasting notes of a subtler gin. So, grab a bottle of Navy Strength gin and have fun mixing it to your heart’s content!

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Candie Getgen is the managing editor for Gin Raiders. Before immersing herself in the world of spirits journalism, Candie has been many things: a bartender, a literary journal editor, an English teacher — and even a poet. Now, Candie shares her passion for gin with the world and hopes to help others fall in love with it, too (if they haven't already!). When not writing, Candie enjoys sipping an extra-dry martini while painting or relaxing by the pool with a thrilling mystery novel.