A brief glance at Mary Rose Gin, from HMS Spirits, conveys a sense of voyage and expedition. But it goes beyond the compass emblazoned on the back of the bottle, the sailing ships and the instruction to “Chart Your Own Course”. HMS Spirits began with one chap from the South Coast, Ben Maguire, who had a passion for travelling and also a love of gin (born of a desire to lose weight without compromising his social life!). Having been enticed by the art of distilling, Ben bought a 35 litre copper still on a trip to Hungary (as you do!) but it took four years of experimentation in his garage before he settled upon a recipe he felt would “respect the art of the London Dry whilst adding a new modern twist”. There was then a further year of researching bottles, labels and stoppers and building a brand that reflected his love of the sea, travel and enterprise.
The result is a comprehensive brand and bold bottle with striking imagery that could fill even the laziest landlubber with a sense of wanderlust. The big bottle would, I think, hold its own on the back shelf of a bar too, but, with its chunky design demanding considerably more precious space than your average 70cl bottle, it may not prove to be the bartenders’ best friend.
The gin within, however, could be a different story. A traditional London Dry-style gin (meaning it contains no artificial ingredients and has nothing but water added after distillation), with organic rosemary and grapefruit among its botanicals, HMS Spirits boast that Mary Rose contains a higher oil content than most gins, giving it a richness and smoothness on the palate. And while some may scoff at third-party distilling, I say that any gin produced at Langley Distillery – makers of Daffy’s, Martin Miller’s and Hawthorn’s, to name but a few – is almost guaranteed to be a hit.
The nose is pretty classic and inviting with plenty of piney juniper, a hint of dry rosemary and just a touch of citrus. Neat, I think it’s fair to say that Mary Rose retains a juniper backbone but the rosemary is very dominant. This is undoubtedly a dry, herbal and savoury gin. There is some citrus and something almost minty alongside a slight pepperiness although the whole gin softens towards the finish. A little drop of water, however, dampens down that powerful rosemary, brings out some sweetness in the gin and also makes those citrussy oils a touch more prominent.
With Indian tonic water, Mary Rose makes a pretty classic and refreshing gin and tonic. However, it’s with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic that this really comes alive. Somehow the flavours become rounder, the rosemary a little subtler and softer and the tonic adds a touch of sweetness which lends the gin a little more balance. Given its botanicals, the recommended garnish of grapefruit and rosemary may not be the most adventurous (and I look forward to experimenting with others) but it really does work. It’s simply a great G&T!
The bold design and Ben’s clear vision have already had some notable spin-off benefits for HMS Spirits. Their gin is now stocked at the Mary Rose Museum (at the museum’s behest), and with the promise of future projects with Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in the pipeline, they look set to stay the course. Rumour has it they are also planning to release a navy strength gin early in 2018, followed by a lighter summer blend that will be available in the Spring, so be sure to keep your telescope closely trained on them!
Purchase Mary Rose Gin from Master of Malt at £39.45 for 50cl (42% ABV).
With thanks to Ben Maguire of HMS Spirits for the complimentary bottle of Mary Rose Gin.