At one point, Plymouth Gin was considered a geographically protected product within the E.U. In 2014, Pernod Ricard declared their intentions to not renew the designation [sources: Plymouth Herald, The Spirits Business, Wall Street Journal]. As you can see, this was quite the news. Plymouth Gin once could only be produced in Plymouth.
But under the E.U. regulations set forth in Regulation (EC) No. 110/2008 stated that all spirits with protection must issue a technical file with ” a description of the spirit drink including the principal physical, chemical and/or organoleptic characteristics of the product” and “a description of the method for obtaining the spirit drink and, if appropriate, the authentic and unvarying local methods.” In other words, given that Plymouth Gin is one of a kind Pernod Ricard would have had to give away the recipe for Plymouth Gin in order to maintain its protection. Wisely, they let it lapse.
You’ll still see vestiges of its time as a protected spirit drink in numerous articles on the internet referring to the “Plymouth Style.”
Plymouth’s modern brand identity ties together several strands of English history. The Plymouth Gin Distillery was once a monastery and even a prison prior to becoming a distillery. The Plymouth Distillery’s proximity to the Royal William Victualling Yard in Plymouth made it an ideal location for supplying naval officers with gin. If you drank gin while in the British Royal Navy, it was probably Plymouth Gin. The brand dates back to at least the early nineteenth century and perhaps even further. It’s one of the oldest gin brands still being produced today, though it’s had a somewhat discontinuous history, meaning its ascent in the gin world is a surprisingly recent phenomenon.
A lovely nose with an unusual earthy melange of angelica and juniper, with subtle camphoraceous tinges of cardamom and coriander. It’s softly juniper forward. Others have written before that Plymouth Gin’s credibility as a style unto itself stem from this unusual earthy nose. To me it the nose suggests that angelica is almost as much of a key component of the botanical blend as is juniper.
The palate is where I think Plymouth Gin shines. The early palate is softly earthy and gentle piney simultaneously brings together angelica, cardamom, lemon zest, sweet orange and juniper. I get intimations of botanicals which are not even here, such as nutmeg. The palate is soft, oily and gently warming. The finish leads into a soft citrus and earthiness. Only moderate length, angelica and coriander seem to be the last two standing. Absolutely beautiful, Plymouth Gin is one of my favorites.
Bartenders in the last decade have made Plymouth Gin a common house pour. And this is simply because Plymouth Gin works in nearly every cocktail application. It makes one of the best Dry Martinis, but also has the softness and earthiness to work in more extreme applications like the 2:1 Martini or the dreaded Dirty Martini. The olive brine marries nicely with the earthiness and subtle pine.
I think it makes a gentle Gin and Tonic. Delicious, but subtle. I find that the juniper and citrus come through more strongly with a little bit of effervescence.
But going deeper, Plymouth makes among my favorite Blue Moon Cocktail and Aviations. The violet seems so much brighter when paired with this gin. I also have found that it makes the best Ramos Gin Fizz owing to its subtly. Plymouth continuously surprises me because while it never comes across as overwhelming, it always seems to come through. It really is the perfect balance for a house pour. It works well in everything. Home cocktail connoisseurs could take note from the industry, as this gin is a versatile addition to any home cocktail cabinet.
You can throw my praise in as another accolade on the heap of accolades that Plymouth Gin has already won. There are few gins as versatile and as well made as Plymouth Gin. It’s no wonder that they didn’t want to give away their recipe to preserve their GI protected status.