Spirits & Liqueurs Gin

Plymouth Gin Review

This classic makes one of the world’s great Martinis.

Plymouth Gin bottle
Image:

Liquor.com / Laura Sant

liquor.com rating:
5

Plymouth Gin is a great choice for anyone: Beginners to the category will appreciate that it’s softer than London Drys, with less obvious piney notes, while longtime fans will find that its beautifully balanced botanicals make a world-class Martini or G&T.

Fast Facts

Classification Plymouth gin

Company Pernod Ricard

Distillery Plymouth, also known as Black Friars Distillery (Plymouth, England)

Still Type copper pot

Released 1793

Proof 82.4 (41.2% ABV)

MSRP $32

Awards Double Gold, 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Pros
  • It’s softer than a London Dry gin, with a more gentle juniper influence, while still retaining a classic old-school flavor.

  • A great introduction for the gin-curious who may be turned off by the piney flavor of bottles like Tanqueray

  • Its beautifully balanced botanicals make a world-class Martini.

Cons
  • Mixers need to be chosen carefully, lest its more muted flavors get overwhelmed in a cocktail.

Tasting Notes 

Color: Clear and slightly viscous

Nose: Juniper dominates, but it doesn’t give off that pine tree-in-the-woods scent. The sweetness is balanced out by dry coriander and cardamom notes.

Palate: A creamy sweetness that isn’t cloying, with juniper and vanilla evolving into a light lemony flavor

Finish: Sweet juniper, tart citrus, and dry coriander all blend for a finish that lingers lengthily. 

Our Review

When people say they don’t like gin, they’re usually referring to a specific kind of gin: a piney, juniper-heavy London Dry like Tanqueray or Junipero. It’s an acquired taste that, for many, is simply never acquired. That’s where Plymouth comes in. It’s still juniper-dominant, unlike the “New Western Dry'' gins like Hendrick’s or New Amsterdam, which can tread perilously close to flavored-vodka territory. But it’s softer and mellower than many London Dry expressions, with a more balanced botanical profile that makes it an ideal starter gin for newcomers to the category. Its long history and beautiful flavor also make Plymouth the gin of choice for many connoisseurs, even if its mass market appeal has waxed and waned over the decades. 

The big test of a gin, of course, is not how it tastes sipped on its own, although Plymouth isn’t half bad if that’s your thing. What’s important is how it fares in the two definitive gin cocktails: a Gin & Tonic and a Martini. For G&Ts, a lighter-bodied tonic will complement the bottle’s gentle flavors without overwhelming them. But simply put, Plymouth makes one of the world’s great Dry Martinis, perhaps even the best. Mellow and elegant, all it needs is a touch of dry vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, and a twist of lemon peel to achieve perfection. It also makes a terrific Gimlet or Pink Gin.

Questionable corporate management over a period of decades has left Plymouth with something of a cult brand’s reputation; current owner Pernod Ricard is so flummoxed by the brand that it shunted off the product’s marketing to a subsidiary in the States. But real gin fans know Plymouth’s lofty standing in the pantheon, and you should, too.

Interesting Fact

Plymouth Gin wasn’t always just a brand—it was its own style of gin, with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) mandating that the spirit could only be made in Plymouth, England. The European Union changed its rules for PGI-protected spirits, however, and asked Plymouth to submit  its proprietary (and secret) recipe. Rather than divulge it, parent company Pernod Ricard decided to let the PGI lapse in 2014. Fortunately, Plymouth hasn’t changed its style, and it is still made at the same distillery and former monastery where it’s been crafted since 1793.

The Bottom Line

This softer, mellower alternative to traditional London Drys is ideal as a starter gin for the juniper-averse, but it will stay in rotation for a lifetime as one of the world’s great Martini gins.