Mary Rose Gin – the launch of HMS Spirits

There’s a new nautical gin in town.

Mary Rose gin was launched mid August, and it’s got some big boots to fill. With the motto ‘Chart your own course’, it’s the flagship gin of the new HMS Spirits. It’s a bold and brave name, but creator Ben Maguire was pleased to confirm that he went through all the right channels to confirm he could use it and as well as online the gin is for sale at the local Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. There are also hints that there could be further projects with them which is wonderful. Good luck with that, Ben, it’s a fantastic connection to have.

If you’ve read my previous article on IOW Distillery – Mermaids and the mighty – HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin, you would already be aware of my connections to the Dockyard, being a local resident in Portsmouth and for a period of time working at the Dockyard itself on ships like HMS Victory and HMS M33. So, it could be said that I take a great personal interest in nautical gins coming out of the south coast and it felt only right to write a little something on it.

On speaking to Ben, it’s apparent that this gin has come from a particular labour of love. He has travelling in his blood and wanted to create a gin that caught that sense of adventure and his own fondness of the south coasts nautical connections. Creating a gin that boasts the bold flavours of grapefruit and rosemary, he found it a nice play on words to name the gin Mary Rose (rosemary, get it?) Silly me hadn’t immediately picked up on the connection, but once I did, I found it rather clever.


The gin tastes strong at 42% and the rosemary does give it a rather lovely kick. Using a higher level of oils than some gins, it’s smooth to taste, whilst holding a characteristically strong flavour.

HMS Spirits began life in a garage, with Ben pottering with a 35L still he brought during a trip to Hungary. The idea was to create a gin that respected the full art of a traditional London Dry, whilst giving it a modern twist. Four years were spent playing with different recipes before arriving at Mary Rose gin in 2016. This labour of love was soon to turn to business as after friends commenting that they thought it was a good gin and could hold it’s own in the market. With this boost to confidence, Ben felt that it was worth looking into further and started down the road to make it an official company.

It would be another year before HMS Spirits got their name. “The name needed to encompass all of our core beliefs and interests, we felt like the HMS Fleet did exactly this, pulling together a love of the sea, travel, taking risks, discipline and supporting others.” He’s ambitious and believes that Mary Rose gin is just the start, wanting “to create the finest spirits, using the highest quality organic botanicals from across the globe as well as locally, learning from other cultures as well as out own and in turn spread the word of ‘Modern Britishness’. With our changing times, this idea of Modern Britishness is certainly an idea I can get behind and I’m really looking forward to seeing what other spirits they come up with. HMS are keenly looking into export and are arranging meetings so I think it’s only so long before they’ll be off on a voyage of their own.


It’s recommended to go with a sprig of rosemary and a slice of grapefruit, although HMS actively encourage people to ‘chart their own course’ to try it with different mixers and garnishes and share how they like to serve it. Ben has hinted at a fantastic idea for marketing which will see social media participation with drinkers hashtagging the HMS Spirits cork at different places around the world.

And there’s more in the pipeline. Ben tells me there’s a Navy Strength due in the new year, and a summer styled blend that will be available in the spring. He’s keeping his cards close to his chest with botanicals but has said it is another London Dry style with no flavours being added after distillation.

If you fancy meeting the guys, good news! They’re partnering Suzuki at the London Boat Show in January and Ben would love people to pop along and say hello.

The gin is lovely, Ben is friendly and excitable and there are some good creative ideas here. I’m certainly wishing HMS Spirits all the best and I hope to catch them on the high seas soon.

Mary Rose gin is for sale on all good websites like Amazon and Master of Malt, as well as local stockists and of course the Mary Rose Museum at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Pictures courtesy of HMS Spirits.

Sipsmith and Portobello Road – Two staple gin related London landmarks.

Friday 24th February, I went on a lovely jolly up to London with the illustrious David T Smith and delightful Cherry Constable, in order to research for a new book. It’s a hard life, I tell you.

First up was the monumental Sipsmith Distillery. Now any discerning gin drinking will know the importance of Sipsmith. Back in 2009 they successfully completed a court process to allow small batch distillation again and set up the first distillery in London for approximately 200 years. Due to this, they are arguably the forefathers of the ‘glorious’ revolution we have been experiencing the last few years. They are essentially the gardener who pulled up the paving slabs and let the flowers grow.

With this in mind, you can perhaps understand my overwhelming excitement at visiting their distillery with new bar. It’s an interesting thing, discovering where the magic happens. The entrance to the distillery is purely functional, looking more like a garage for your MOT than one of the most successful and established gins in the artisanal range. As soon as we get inside however, it is apparent that the humble exterior is concealing all sorts of delightful surprises. A beautiful copper bar sits along the right hand wall with members of staff to run through the gins and give the all important tastings.


We were lucky enough to have a tasting session with the man himself, Master Distiller, Jared Brown. We began with their sipping vodka, the 40% spirit used to make the gin. The taste is sublimely smooth and sets a good standard for the quality and flavour of the gin. ‘Sipping vodka’ is an extremely adequate name.

We slowly worked through the range. Beginning with the London Dry a classic soft pine, sweet citrus “dry meadow flower warm spice, lime grass with pepper in the long finish”. During distillation a narrow heart is collected and there are differing opinions on filtering, Jared putting forward the good point that filtering can remove qualities as well as impurities. When it comes to the recipe they had a mission: “In the absence of a bench mark we set out to create a bench mark, a dry gin made in London”.


The tasting session was full of really delicious and interesting and information on the distillation process. or example during the production of the Lemon Drizzle, fresh fruit was used plus hand squeezed peel. That’s a lot of work and a lot of love in every bottle. I thought that it tasted good, and now I know why.

We also tried the VJOP (Very, Junipery Over proof), London Cup (a punch using the London Dry) and the Sloe, all fabulous gins indeed. The wall to the left of the bar is covered with large round bottles of experimental flavours. It’s quite clear that Sipsmith do strive to create spirits of quality with a specific, almost scientific approach but that creativity is still thriving. I’d definitely recommend a visit there. It’s a fantastic place and the people are lovely. Well done guys and girls!


Feeling considerably light headed, we then moved on to ‘The Distillery’, the Portobello Road Distillery with Gintonica bar and hotel. What a beautiful place that is and a fantastic idea to boot. The decor is gorgeous with deep blues and greens on the walls with huge sash windows giving a beautiful sense of decadence to the building. There was something romantic about it, as if it had the capacity to transport us back in time to the days of the true gin palaces. It really is a lovely place.


The Gintonica Bar is equally special. We were lucky enough to meet James, who is responsible for writing the cocktail menu, a fantastic twist on the growing popularity of Spanish serve gin and tonic in copa glasses, a halfway house between the gin and tonic and the cocktail. There were some fantastic options, my favourite being one including Nordes  Atlantic Galician Gin with hibiscus, orange and ginger.

Portobello Road have also been experimental with their flavours. I was lucky enough to try their ‘Butter Gin’, the sweetness was strong and very nice, making this a prime base to use with cocktails holding any sort of peanut butter or chocolate flavours. They also produce a ‘Director’s Cut’, utilising the unusual botanical of late season English Asparagus. The flavour is wonderful and very unusual.


Finally getting to visit the Sipsmith Distillery was a fantastic experience and one I’ve been waiting patiently for, for so long now. It feels ever so good to finally tick it off my list! As for the Portobello Road Gin Hotel, what a beautiful building. Their Gintonica Bar is 100% worth a visit. Lots of interesting gins as well as there own variations and their cocktail menu is gorgeous. Thank you for having us!

A Gintroduction

4 weeks ago, I drank Bombay Sapphire. Then my life changed entirely.

Having been chained to a desk in a monotonous customer service job, I received confirmation I was starting a degree in creative writing in September. The prospect of a different life dawned on me so I began hunting for bar work that would be more fun and allow part time hours when the time came. Luckily, I found a job in a new bar ‘Gin and Olive’, on Albert Road, Southsea, which is a rather quirky area and one of my favourite parts of Portsmouth. I remember contemplating that it would be interesting to learn about gin, I did drink it after all. 4 weeks ago, we opened.

I used to say ‘I loved gin’. This was a lie. I realise now that I knew nothing of gin. I had no idea of the rich historical content, the overwhelming combination of botanicals and the thought and nurturing care given by the distiller that goes into each and every bottle.

As a gin bar, we currently stock 65 gins and this is ever growing through recommendations. As a specialist bar, it is paramount to have a thorough knowledge. With the fabulous opportunity of training in this exciting industry, aided by visits to distilleries as well as visits from the distillers themselves, I have been learning in earnest. A fire in my heart has been ignited and now my world is bathed in gin.

It’s still early days, but anyone can come aboard and join me. I’ll be meeting some of the finest artisan gin craftsman of our generation. Everything I learn in history, production and consumption will be shared on here and I’ll also be writing pieces on the distillers themselves. My thinking is: It’s taken my world by storm. Who else could fall in love as I have? Not only this, but it’s a rare opportunity to share the knowledge and experience as it find it and any extra info for me would be warmly welcomed.

So, whatever clear or coloured liquid is in your glass right now, prepare to open your mind to a whole bottle of wonder as we embark to new horizons on a journey of knowledge into the incredible world of gin.