Dockyard Gin review

Dockyard Gin review


Getting Dutch courage from our greatest naval defeat –

Just a year after the Great Fire of London, the capital came under threat again when Dutch warships attacked Gravesend and sailed on up the Thames – before heading down the Kent coast to wreak havoc on our own fleet which was anchored unmanned and helpless just off Chatham Dockyard.  350 years on, tourists still flock to The Medway from Holland to gloat over Charles II’s humiliation at the capture of his flagship, and can now even toast their victory with a drop of ‘Dutch Courage’ distilled nearby.

As with Peaky Blinder and St Ives Gin, I have Greg and Simon at Bovey’s Dartmoor Whisky Distillery to thank for giving me the chance to taste Dockyard Gin, as the bar there reverberated to the sound of accordion playing as our local Morris Dancers drowned their sorrows over the postponement of the annual Green Man Festival, due to Storm Hannah.

“The bottle is embossed with the pattern of eight maritime signal flags spelling out DOCKYARD”

My own mild disappointment came from discovering that rather than a full bore 57% Navy Strength spirit, the Chatham Dry Gin comes in at a rather less potent 41.2%. Nevertheless the taste is robust enough, based as it is on grain the makers proudly claim they can trace back to the Kent fields where it is grown.

Copper Rivet Distillery at Chatham

Beer lovers will know that the Garden of England is even more famous for its hops, though they aren’t amongst the internationally recruited list of botanicals.  Only the locally grown elderflower hales from Blighty, with the orange and lemon peel being of Spanish and Italian origin respectively, as Angelica and Orriss Root add their own aromas.  Meanwhile coriander seeds and green cardamom, along with Seeds of Paradise add some spice. The latter were apparently originally brought here from Africa by trading ships as a cheap alternative to pepper, around the time the Dutch were destroying our ships of the line.

Janet, the hand-built copper still

Back in 1667 our admirals were relying on the Great Chain stretched across the River Medway to protect the fleet from marauders, but unfortunately it proved as effective a deterrent as King Canute’s words were against the rising tide.  Despite this desperate episode in our maritime history, Chatham Dockyard’s museum and other attractions – including Dockyard Gin – make up one of the area’s most distinctive destinations.