Review: Prohibition Liquor Co. Navy Strength Gin

I’m a lucky chap. Kind folks send all sorts of things to drink, appreciate and provide feedback on. Sometimes they’re prototypes for some constructive criticism, other times they don’t quite hit the mark and don’t end up on the site here. Or other times, they’re polished and aim high in the spirits world.

100 years ago this year, Prohibition finished in the USA and other places that mimicked this attempt to reduce the consumption of booze (good luck with that)….  Interestingly, the only place in Australia that did this was my home town! Alcohol sales were prohibited in the Australian Capital Territory between 1910 and 1928. Mind you, the nearest pub was only a few minutes drive over the border, so no biggie.

So it’s fitting that South Australian distillers, Prohibition Liquor Co decided to create a new release. Featuring the one of the most stylish (and probably most expensive) packaging of any Australian gin, they’ve debuted a Navy Strength Gin that lands at 58% ABV.

About Prohibition Liquor Co.

They appeared on the scene in 2016 and have been winning awards for the Original, Bathtub and other releases ever since the prestigious London and San Fransisco spirits awards.  You can visit them at their centrally located bar and distillery in downtown Adelaide on Gilbert Street.  Using a 900 litre copper still, affectionally called Mary.

Their house style might be described as ‘flavoursome’ with a generous flavour profile based on a grape spirit (which lends a pleasant softness to the palette) which is sourced from the famous Barossa Valley.  the threat the botanicals appropriate to what they are, some are placed in a basket during distillation if more delicate, whilst the juniper is macerated prior.

You can also read a previous article by me about their epic Bathtub gin release here. Plus for look at the unique business / creative ecosystem that makes South Australia a hot spot for distilling and cocktail culture, check out this article I wrote from a couple of years back.

Anchors Away- what’s the deal with Navy Strength Gin?

You’ve probably heard about ‘Navy Strength’ gins.  The term was actually coined by a clever marketer from the UK for the famous Plymouth Gin in the 90’s for their gin release that is over 57% ABV. trading on their long association with the Royal Navy.

For the uninitiated, let me explain for the Alcohol By Volume thing – the ABV you see on the label. When the spirit is distilled it needs to be diluted by good quality water prior to bottling, otherwise it’s pure poison.

This is sometimes called ‘cutting’ the spirit down to the desired dilution. It is also defined as the number of millilitres of pure ethanol present in 100ml (3.4 fl.oz). A standard gin might be 40% or 42% ABV, perhaps higher.

Sometimes, especially in the USA, the label might say ‘Proof’. This is another way of saying the spirit level, it’s usually double the ABV, so if that was 42% ABV it would be 84 Proof. 50% ABV would be 100 Proof etc.

So what’s the Navy thing? We’ll back in the day, as in C18th etc, to ensure they Royal Navy were getting what they paid for in gin rations from suppliers they tested the gin, or proved it was legit. Hence the term Proof. Anyways, they wanted to make sure it hadn’t been diluted and also if spilt on gunpowder (drunken sailors, match, booze, what could possibly go wrong?) the latter would still light. This was also in case during the voyage that if some spilt where it shouldn’t, they could still fire their cannons.

So they’d test if by pouring some of the gunpowder, light it and if the ABV was high enough, whoosh!

Thus a Navy Strength gin needs to be at least 57% ABV or 114 Proof.  But that background aside, why bother these days to make one?

It’s not about getting you drunk quicker. The higher the ABV, the more intense flavours from the botanicals can be carried by the spirit. It’s a design decision by the distiller. It’s a bit like an Indian Curry, the heat levels like mild, or hot, are about flavour profile, so the extra heat of the spirit can make for a whole new gin with greater intensity.  The spirit should be the platform still for the botanicals to shine.

Some producers may release a Navy Strength gin with the same botanicals (with a tweak maybe in the ratios) as their say, standard gin, others, like Prohibition  have created a whole new gin.

Class over, let’s a have drink.

Tasting Notes

This gin features quite a range of botanicals, many locally sourced. These include, vanilla, macadamia, coriander seed, Tasmanian Pepperberry, wormwood, saltbush, Gunpowder tea, Grapefruit peel, Finger lime, Desert lime, macrobiotic salt from the South Australian coast, and finally juniper of course

  • Nose:  clean, bright pepper spice with hints of the citrus and juniper, with the spirit itself very clean.
  • Neat: true to their house style, the gin is generous on the palette, it rounds out completely with a lot going on. No boozy hit at all, the spirit is married very well with the botanicals. It lingers very long and if you concentrate can pick out the gunpowder tea or the savoury /saltiness, with the  limes towards the front. But essentially, it integrates very well, it wears the ABV very lightly, just a hint of it’s heat in the background.  No particular botanical dominates.
  • Mixer: It tried it first with just an ice cube and not surprisingly the spirit heat picked up, more of that pepper and spice. You could certainly sip this like a whisky to appreciate it’s complexity.
  • With premium tonic, it worked well as you’d expect, the more citrus notes, along with the vanilla and macadamia came forward, I opted for a Ruby Red grapefruit peel, and a dried Blood Orange or Lime slice would work a treat hear. The gin is quite restrained actually, very at home in the Officer’s Mess I’d say.
  • Cocktail: this makes for a great Gimlet too, a natural fit given this cocktails roots in Royal Navy tradition:
    • Two measures of Bathtub Gin
    • 1/2 measure of fresh lime juice or 1 measure if you prefer
    • 1/2 measure of simple syrup
    • Shake over ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass with a lime peel garnish.

The Take Home

This classy package delivers a complex and well thought out gin that uses it’s higher ABV and base spirit intelligently. If the point of a Navy Strength gin is to give the botanicals a strong platform to shine and offer a more intense sipping experience, then this release is a very fine example of the genre.  It takes some skill to balance all the competing demands of the botanicals, with the higher ABV to arrive at an integrated whole that is both polished and delicious.  Lovely work Prohibition Liquor Co!


Disclaimer: this review is of an unsolicited samples provided by the distributor, opinions expressed regarding the product are my own.