Four Bells Finest Old Navy Rum (1970’s)

Four Bells Finest Old Navy Rum review by the fat rum pirateFour Bells Finest Old Navy Rum. In order to celebrate Black Tot Day, I’ve cracked open another old miniature I had in the collection. Kept especially for days like this. Fortunately, in this instance I also have a full size (75cl) bottle in the collection as well.

I’ve done a bit of research on these bottlings and with the use of the old style UK proof and the newer metric ABV on the bottle, I have worked out this is likely to be from the 1970’s. Though sadly I can’t be much more exact.

The Metrication Board was set up in 1969 and whilst by 1980 using Metrication was optional (in 1978 the government tried again to make it mandatory) most alcohol producers had removed the proof in favour of ABV only. In all honesty the UK still exists on a mixture of metric and imperial measures, depending on what is being quantified.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to find a few resources on line, with this exact bottle pictured stated it is from the 1970’s. Though I can find no exact dates. I am also not entirely sure how close in terms of production the full size bottle and the miniature are. The miniature does not state proof – though that may have been due to lack of space. For clarity this review is of the miniature. The full size bottle remains unopened.

This Four Bells Finest Old Navy Rum was bottled and distributed by Challis, Stern & Co Ltd. A London based alcohol wholesaler which began trading in 1924 and which was dissolved as a company in 2005. They seemed more concerned with whisky than rum as they only bottled Four Bells from what I can see.

In terms of the full size bottle. It is a standard bar style bottle with a gold screw cap. The gaudy orange label is different in that their are no sailing ships or British flags. There is just a picture of Four Bells. Bells were used aboard Navy ships to let the sailors no what time of day it was.

The rum has been bottled at 42.9% ABV or 75 proof (note this is old style UK proof, not the US, where it is just double the ABV that is commonly used now). There is no rear label on this bottle and thus no real information on the rum other than it is from Guyana. To be fair this was pretty inexpensive rum which will have been sold alongside the likes of Lambs, OVD, Woods etc.

You can still find the odd bottle of Four Bells Navy Rum online but it is becoming scarcer and scarcer. It has not been in production for some time (possibly late 00’s if not earlier). From what I have been told it was last bottle by Whyte and Mackay. Pictured is the most recent version of Four Bells I could find – please note this is an “Overproof” version.

Four Bells is actually quite a fondly remembered rum and you will find a fair bit of discussion about it online. I’ve not spent hours researching this rum but I easily could have disappeared down a bit of a rabbit hole. For the record whilst this rum is a “Navy” rum I can see no record or any claims from the producer as to it ever being drank by the British Navy or any Navy for that matter as part of their ration. I believe “Navy Rum” at the time (and still is) is seen more as a style to describe these type of dark rums.

So lets see how this one tastes.

In the glass we have a dark brown liquid with an orange hue. It is not quite as dark as I was expecting from the bottle. Four Bells Finest Old Navy Rum lightens a touch in the glass. It is undoubtedly coloured but I was quite surprised to find when I ran the hydrometer test the hydrometer bobbed nicely at 43% ABV. So no sugary additives. Good start.

The nose is quite perfumed. It’s quite light in style actually. Not as heavy as some more recent Demerara rums. It has a light tropical fruit note of mango and some guava. There are familiar notes of raisin and some milk chocolate but they are more subtle than most of todays younger “supermarket” Navy rums.

Whilst the nose is lighter than say Wood’s or OVD, it still has a good weight of oak spice and a touch of tobacco. It’s actually more complex in many ways. Quite which still or stills it might have come from, I wouldn’t like to guess. It doesn’t feel as molasses or caramel heavy as many of todays Demerara’s and Navy rums. There is some presence of caramel, a very slight bitter note but its dialled right down. Overall, the nose is pretty impressive for what is likely to be a 2-3 year old rum at best!

Sipped, again I was surprised not be struck with a lot of bitter caramel. It’s richer than the nose with more dark chocolate, raisin and plum notes. It still has a touch of something slightly flowery/perfumed about it though. The rich oak spice is also very pleaFour Bells Finest Old Navy Rum review by the fat rum piratesant on the mid palate as it builds. The finish is a bit short and not very memorable. Overall, this is something which would warm the cockles on a cold evening quite nicely. It is surprisingly smooth as well.

Mixing this with cola, it doesn’t have the full on flavours the likes of Woods has. Nor does it have the overtly sweet notes of Lamb’s. It’s not bad at all, though I would prefer a Woods myself.

When trying these old Demerara and Navy Rums, I am aware that as I bought these things at auction or acquired them from generous friends, I don’t know how well they were “looked after”. Certainly condition wise this one is much better than the Lamb’s Navy Rum I reviewed last year.

I would like to try this rum as it was produced and blended back then now, a freshly made bottle. It’s certainly quite different to other Demerara’s I have tried. I’d be intriqued to know what made up this blend.  I’ll be on the look out for some more Four Bells rum.

Food for thought.




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7 comments on “Four Bells Finest Old Navy Rum (1970’s)

  1. I have a bottle of 4 bells that I think must be about 45 yrs old that is the length of time I have been ashore is it worth any thing to a collector

  2. I am an Ex Captain I worked my first 20 years at sea with BP., I was always fond of four bells rum. I presently live in Florida, i am 87 years old and decided I wanted a bottle of Four Bells, only now do I find out it has been discontinued for a long time. Unhappy now, guess I will have a scotch to cheer up.

  3. I bought a bottle of this when I sailed on TheBritishCommodore ,a BP tanker in March 1977.i still have it in my collection unopened ,it was the rum that was on all ships at that time.happy days

  4. […] I’ve managed to date this specific bottle based on label inclusions. One gentleman commented on the FRP’s review “This was the Rum issued to all ships up until the demise of the Merchant Navy (British Merchant […]

  5. Just to let you know it was only sold on merchant navy ships in 1972 it cost ten Bob a bottle that was for your docking bottle

  6. This was the Rum issued to all ships up until the demise of the Merchant Navy (British Merchant Marine) in 1987. We Didn’t receive a tot of rum like the Royal Navy, instead we had our own run bars (officers bar, crew bar). The label with the bells was changed sometime in the early/mid 80’s to a brown coloured label with a sailing ship. I remember the old timers used to drink it with a slice of orange peel floating in it. Of course I was a beer drinker back then, but I do remember it had a nice caramel/toffee flavour. I took one home once as my ”docking bottle”, it was the litre bottle at 100 proof.

    • Thanks for the insight Anthony that was interesting to read!

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