Plymouth Gin – Once a Preferred Drink of the Royal Navy

For Nearly Two Centuries, No Navy Ship Left Port Without Plymouth Gin:

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Black Friars Distillery - Plymouth

Black Friars Distillery is one of the oldest buildings in Plymouth and one of the city’s heritage buildings. Its Refectory Room – a medieval hall with a hull-shaped timber roof was built in 1431.  Since 1793, Black Friars Distillery has been home to the Plymouth Gin and is England’s oldest working distillery.

Black Friars Distillery

The Black Friars Distillery buildings have an interesting history, having been used for various purposes in the past. Originally a monastery, this Plymouth gin distillery takes its name from the Black Friars who used to live in the monastery.

At the time of the Reformation, and with the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 , the building was used for various purposes. It was thought to have been the town’s first Guildhall at a point in time. It was also used as a debtor’s prison and a camp for the Huguenot refugees from France.

It is also believed to be the place where the Pilgrim Fathers spent their last night in Plymouth before they sailed on the Mayflower for America in 1620. The Mayflower appears on the front of the Plymouth Gin bottles.

Plymouth Gin Navy Strength

Plymouth Gin has had a long association with the Royal Navy and owes its early success to the British Royal Navy. With the Navy taking copious amounts of Plymouth Gin to all corners of the world, it soon became the world’s largest volume gin brand. There is even a Plymouth Navy Strength brand. This is a reference to the level of alcohol. At 57% abv, or higher, spirits can be spilt onto gunpowder without impairing its ability to explode.

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Plymouth Gin Navy Strength

For nearly two centuries, no navy ship left port without a bottle of Navy Strength Plymouth Gin.

These days Plymouth Gin is no longer British-owned – it is being distributed by the Greek subsidiary of the giant French Pernod Ricard Group.  However, Black Friars still follows the traditional distilling processes for its Plymouth Original, Navy Strength and Plymouth Sloe Gin.

If Gin is your drink of choice, there are guided Plymouth Gin tours and tastings available all year round.  But even if you’re not a gin drinker, a visit to this heritage Plymouth building is interesting.


Black Friars Distillery
60 Southside Street
Plymouth PL1 2LQ
Tel: +44(0) 1752 665 292

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