FORDS “OFFICER’S RESERVE” NAVY STRENGTH GIN MAIDEN VOYAGE
54.5% ABV, 750 ml, Maiden Voyage #1
Fords Gin is distilled in London at Thames Distillers, and is a collaboration between 8th generation Master Distiller Charles Maxwell and Simon Ford of The 86 Co. The mix of 9 botanicals starts with a traditional backbone base of juniper & coriander seed that’s balanced with citrus (bitter orange, lemon & grapefruit peels), floral (jasmine flower & orris) and spice (angelica & cassia). The botanicals are steeped for 15 hours before distillation in 500 liter stills.
Review by spiritsreview.com:
“A revelation in the aged gin category where less(time) is actually more in the impact. Please bury me with a supply of this.
Brought to you by the 86 Company, run by Simon Ford – a Bon Vivant and spirits monger- who has a number of other excellent products that we have reviewed previously
86 Company has dedicated itself to producing excellent quality spirits “by bartenders for bartenders” producing a stable of spirits that are designed as high quality but modest prices. Not entirely sure if I want to own up to my role in helping them get started years ago, with a referral to a friend of mine on where to source good rum. It has been nice to see them expand across categories over the years, with the Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Cana Brava Rum, Tequila Cabeza, and their lovely standard Gin Fords Gin
Notes: Perhaps the only gin I have ever come across that lists all their ingredients on the information sheet and especially the exact proportions ( fascinating read for gin freaks) other details ( found on the bottle itself ) are that the ingredients are steeped for 15 hours and then distilled for 5 hours in a 500 liter ( roughly 100 gallons) copper still using an English wheat base spirit. and yes, the stills have names like any other well-loved pieces of machinery.
This is the first of a hopefully longer series of expressions called “Journeys in Gin” and this is considered Maiden Voyage No. 1 where an overproof ( referred to by many as a Navy Strength) gin is placed in 64 liter Madiera oak barrels for resting/finishing for 3 weeks. Both the proof and the barrel finishing are Naval traditions.
Overproof or Navy Strength gin was done for two very important reasons. 1st The higher the proof the less space it takes up in the ships’ stores 2nd And possibly more important reason is that there are two things kept under strict lock and key on a British Warship to keep it out of the hands of the crew, gunpowder and alcohol. Alcohol over 100 proof will not affect the powder as it will burn, so if a cask breaks in the powder room it will not sodden the powder and ruin it, it will ignite almost as well. This also relates the story of proofing spirits which we will deal with in one of our articles as we may get into the full historical entomology from armor and crossbows, black powder, and an assortment of firearms and of course alcohol.
Appearance: Clear as a bell with no faults or impurities, with an ever so slight cast of color from the Madiera barrels Leaves a thin clear coat o the glass that then goes to legs then droplets.
First Impression: More aromatic and herbal with a nice floral and citrus background. Nicely aromatic without getting up your nose which is an accomplishment for 109 proof . Nicely deciduous notes from the Madiera oak and grape influence. This is very much NOT your typical London Dry Gin. While it does have juniper and coriander that are the hallmarks of any London Dry type of gin it is a bit more balanced than most with a nice subtlety to the blending giving you a very harmonious gin.
Taste: The gin flows in with an oily body, with spice and citrus juniper starting a parade with juniper and the other spices following on closely and leaving a pleasantly bitter drying long finish. A good solid gin profile, juniper, coriander, backstopped by lemon, bitter orange, grapefruit, grounded by Angelica, cassia and orris root, with a lightness imparted by scents of jasmine. The Madiera offers a slightly vinous and saline notes with touches of oak, resin, and a calling out of the cassia, coriander, orris, and angelica, breathing a little life onto the flame for a glow rather than a burn. Subtle but pervasive the Madeira whispers transform the excellent to the extraordinary.
Drinks: Plays well with other ingredients. Unlike a lot of other new gins, this does not have some odd new ingredient or hook that makes it interesting for somethings and horrible for others – it’s extremely versatile and meant to blend not stick out like a sore thumb. It’s solid, versatile, mixes with anything and will not go out of style like a Barbour waxed coat, it has an understated dignity, utility, and style without screaming it, and those who know will recognize it as such right off the bat.
Bottle: Clear glass with easy to open foil type screw cap closure. Attractive old style graphics on paper labels make the bottle easy to spot by both customers and bartenders. Interesting graphics on the reverse of labels ( look through the gin) detailing old steamship routes and fun graphics. Company trademark is embossed on the bottom of the bottle. All the bottles are designed from the ground up optimized for bartenders see http://www.the86co.com/pdf/the86co-Ergonomic-Bottle.pdf for an obsessively detailed guide on features. A feature they do not mention is that the bottle is nicely tall or long with an easy to grip neck making it the bottle to reach for in a bar fight also – or at least they don’t mention that point in the design specifications sheet.
Other: Given that you are getting about 30 more proof (15%) % more gin rather than water and the fact you are getting a LITER rather than a 750 ML bottle ( another 25% more there) so brings the price compared to standard bottles of gin considerably ! Designed by bartenders and spirits professionals as a bespoke gin for the trade. People over 30 years old will need a magnifying glass and good light to read the back labels
Final Thoughts: Overall a very no-nonsense, non-gimmicky, gin profile. No tricks, no games, just good gin. Excellent gin without a lot of flash, secret ingredients or other hocus pocus – they put the money into the gin, the bottle, and not the hype. Further, they knew when to leave off and quit. Far too many barrel aged gins start tasting like Fireball after too long aging of the wrong recipe. There seems to be a synergistic effect of wood and cinnamon that has led to some rather unfortunate results in other gins. This wood treatment is more like a little truffle or saffron – they realize when the gin is just right and not over do it.”