So back to my Navy roots and a description of Navy Strength Gin – the why, the how and the when.
Navy Strength Gin is undoubtedly another chapter in the rich and tumultuous history of the spirit. And we owe a debt of gratitude to the British Royal Navy, not only for Navy Strength Gin but for shaping the gin we know and love today.
The Royal Navy holds a prominent place in the production, consumption, and spread of gin. In the 1600s as sailors explored new territories, they brought back exotic spices from Africa and Asia. These spices became essential ingredients in gin. The influence of the Navy - as its sailors docked in far-flung cities and continents - helped gin gain popularity around the globe.
Most of us are familiar with the rum rations provided to Navy personnel. But here's a little-known fact: while the enlisted men received their daily ration of rum, the officers of the Royal Navy enjoyed their gin. And still do!
But what exactly is Navy strength gin and why? Any gin with an alcohol content exceeding 57.15% can be classified as Navy strength. The reason for such high alcohol content has a practical purpose.
Spirits, both gin and rum were stored in wooden barrels below deck, alongside the gunpowder. In case the alcohol barrels leaked and the alcohol seeped into the gunpowder, it was crucial for the alcohol content to be at least 57.15%. Anything less, and the gunpowder wouldn't ignite.
The term "proof" originated from the Royal Navy's "proof" test. This involved dousing gunpowder with the spirit. If the soaked powder could still burn, it meant the alcohol content was sufficient, or the gin was "gunpowder proof," and thus permitted on-board His or Her Majesty’s fighting ships.
In the UK, a spirit with 57.15% alcohol is considered 100 degrees proof – gunpowder can still explode.
So as I served ten years in the Royal Navy and left the Royal Australian Air Force as an Air Commodore – it’s only fitting for Twelve and a Half Acres to have The Commodore – a true Navy Strength Gin! Bottoms up (or some naval cheer)