Welcome to the Gibraltar Distillery Company
What better way to celebrate the great history of Gibraltar than by paying homage to the individuals that shaped it. Here at the Gibraltar Distillery Company we’ve picked our favourite stories and transformed them into three exceptional spirits.
Introducing ‘Spanking Roger’
For almost 200 years new ships in the Royal Navy received a “Gin Commissioning Kit”- a wooden box containing glassware and two bottles of “Navy Strength” gin which is stronger than standard, at 57% ABV or 114 proof. The Gin was mainly for officers while sailors were given Rum. The Royal Navy created their own “proof” of the strength of the liquid they received- by adding grains of gunpowder to the gin and heating the mixture with the sun’s rays and a magnifying glass- only if the gun-powder ignited was the Gin at least 114 proof; thus was invented the concept of “alcohol proof”, the measure of alcohol strength still used in many parts of the world today.
Major General Roger Aytoun famousely raised the 72nd Regiment of Foot Royal Manchester Volunteers and deployed with them to the Gibraltar Garrison during the Great Siege in 1779. He recruited in Manchester pubs by challenging young men of at least 5 feet 6 inches to either fight him or out-drink him, or sign up…acquiring the nickname “Spanking Roger”. Many recruits reputedly awoke on board passage to Gibraltar…
A Navy-strength Gin might not be the norm today, but in the 18th century, and certainly during the Greit Siege of Gibraltar, Spanking Roger and his fellow officers would have enjoyed their daily ration of navy strength Gin.
Introducing ‘Trafalgar Rum’
For over 300 years a “tot” of rum was part of the daily ration for Britsh sailors, which was in fact about half a pint! This tradition began in 1655, when Admiral William Penn granted the first recorded rum ration to sailors whilst on a quest to claim the West Indies for Britain. To ensure the Rum hadn’t been watered-down, the Royal Navy created their own “proof” of the strength of the liquid they received- by adding grains of gun-powder to the Rum and heating the mixture with the sun’s rays and a magnifying glass- only if the gun-powder ignited was the Rum as least 114 proof; thus was invented the concept of “alcohol proof”, a measure of alcohol strength still used in many parts of the world today. Caribbean Rum soon became a major part of 18th Century commerce, with Gibraltar as the trading gateway to the Mediterranean.
On October 21, 1805, Admiral Horatio Nelson led 27 ships to glorious victory in once of the most decisive battles in history, Trafalgar, sinking 19 Spanish and French ships without loss of a ship from the Biritsh Fleet. The victory ensured that Napoleon would never invade Britain. The battle raged most fiercely around Admiral Nelson’s flagship, Victory, which signalled the famous message “England expects that every man will do his duty” . Tragically, 30 minutes before the end of the battle, Admiral Nelson was shot and died, his body reputedly preserved in a cask of Rum as the damaged Victory returned to Gibraltar for repairs.
A Barrel-aged, Navy Strength, Caribbean Spiced Rum might not be the norm today, but in the 18th century, Nelson would have ensured his men enjoyed their daily “tot” of navy strength Rum drawn straight from the “Grog Tub” complete with the navy toast “The King, God Bless Him”.
Introducing ‘Blackstrap Cove’
Blackstrap Cove, hidden away on the Mediterranean coast of the Rock of Gibraltar, was an infamous landing point for contranbad whisky, rums, tobacco and wine. Sailing ships seeking to trade with the UK, northern Europe and the New World often had to wait weeks for an easterly “Levante” wind, required to successfully navigate the narrow Strait of Gibraltar. While waiting at anchor, east of the Rock, the ships’ predicament became known as being “Blackstrapped” and the sailors, while waiting for the wind to change, were notorious for off-loading contraband cargo to Blackstrap Cove.
For over 50 years 18th century Barbary Pirates and then the Spanish and French Fleets’ had a stranglehold over the Straits of Gibraltar, effectively rendering the Mediterannien sea “closed” to British trade. In 1798 this all changed when Captain Horatio Nelson left Gibraltar to pass the straits and hunt down Napoleon’s fleet. Early success at the battle of The Nile was followed with Nelson emerging victorious a few years later at The Battle of Trafalgar.
With open seas, Gibraltar soon flourished as an international trading post and merchants from Genoa, Portugal, Spain and Britain settled on the “Rock”, made it their home, and traded goods around the world. Pedro Ximenez wines from Malaga and sherries from Jerez travelled in their native casks to Enlgand and Scotland and the ever resourceful Scots used their well- flavoured barrels for the maturation and improvement of their earliest of malt whiskies. Thus was born today’s industry- wide practice of maturing the finest of Scotland’s Malt whisky in Spanish sherry casks.