A type of gin that I am enjoying exploring is Navy Strength Gin, a type not for the fainthearted or for those who blanche at paying more than £40 for a bottle. Still, it does the soul good to push the boat out now and again, especially when your purchase contributes to a good cause. Many distilleries spawned by the ginaissance are tripping over themselves to brandish their green and sustainability credentials, and while that is undoubtedly a good thing, you cannot but help thinking that unless there is a universally concerted effort, it is but a small drip in the vat of life.
Conker Spirit, based in Bournemouth and established in 2014 as Dorset’s first gin distillery have decided to take a different approach with their Conker Spirit RNLI Navy Strength Gin. It follows their template of excellence in craftsmanship and the use of the best possible ethical ingredients but is dedicated to the courageous men and women who risk their lives to save the skins of seafarers who have got into trouble. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, for that is that fine body of people, receives a donation of £5 for every bottle sold.
The bottle has a dumpy, squat shape with broad shoulders, a small neck, and a coppery coloured screwcap. On the shoulder is embossed in the glass “Conker Spirit” at the front and at the back “Dorset Est 2014”. The label at the front has a serrated bottle top look about it using navy blue, white, and copper to good effect. They proudly display the RNLI logo, not once but twice, although only once in colour. The labelling at the rear extols the virtues of the RNLI quite rightly, but there is precious little about the gin itself, save that my bottle is number 997 from batch ten. While I am happy to endorse the RNLI, it would be nice to know something about the spirit other than it has an ABV of 57%. Perhaps that’s just me.
Anyway, after some digging, I find that there are nine botanicals involved in the mix, a fairly conservative line up of juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, and cassia bark, with bitter orange peel and fresh lime peel providing the citric notes and marsh samphire and elderberry giving a distinctive twist.
On the nose the aroma is distinctively that of juniper and in the glass the spirit is remarkably clear retaining its clarity even with the addition of a premium tonic – no louching here. In the mouth the juniper makes its presence known loud and clear, but the spirit is balanced with the citrus elements and the herbaceous notes. There is a pepperiness that comes through which together with the spicier botanicals produces a long and pleasant warming aftertaste. It takes the best of a classic London Dry adding a bit of oomph and a slightly saline, nautical twist to present a very well-balanced, moreish tipple.
If you are looking to dip your toe in the water with Navy Strength gins, this is a good place to sart.
Until the next time, cheers!