Pre Black Tot Day – Original Royal Navy Rum

Black Tot Navy Rum Review by the fat rum pirateFollowing the abolition of the daily tot on 31st July 1970, excess stocks of rum were drawn from their barrels and placed into wicker clad stone flagons. These stocks lay untouched in bonded underground warehouses around the world, remaining the property of the Admiralty.

Only guests at state banquets and royal weddings had the privilege of tasting these rums.  Often they were brought from archive warehouses and decanted into ceremonial flagons. Some of this rum was served at the wedding of HRH Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.  Andrew served in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Invincible, during the Falklands War.

In 1980 the Royal Navy began to sell these stocks as a way to accrue money for the Sailor’s Fund, although only a few sold to collectors.

As the government cleared out its bonded warehouses stocks became available from various sites around Europe. Military stores in Munster, Antwerp and Bellefield all had stores of Royal Navy rum.  Most of these have been snapped up, blended and bottled under the brand ‘Black Tot: Black TotLast Consignment’.

However one such flagon found its way into the hands of the Old Sprits CompanyPlease not if you follow the link you will have to sign up to enter the site.

These Imperial gallons of Royal Navy rum (approx. 4.54 litres) are contained inside a ceramic flagon.  Which is housed within a wicker surround then paired and placed in a wooden case. This was the traditional way in which rum was carried on ships in order to distribute to sailors their daily ration.

Old Spriits Company then set about making the rum available in a variety of bottle sizes between 5cl (50ml) and 100cl (1 litre).  Which made it more affordable to try a sample.  This rum comes from stock which was bonded in Germany following Black Tot Day.

black tot navy rum review by the fat rum pirateAs many of you will know Charles Tobias of Pusser’s Rum Company holds the rights to the original British Royal Navy blend.  Having acquired them back in 1980.

One of the many things that made me curious to try an original pre 1970 British Navy Rum was another Navy Rum.

Nowhere near as well known as Pusser’s Hebridean Liqueur’s released a rum for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.  The rum was actually a 16 year old rum from the now defunct Caroni Distillery, Trinidad. It was not a blend like Pusser’s.  It contained no Guyanese Demerara rum.

It was noted that they had consulted a number of experts.  Ex-sailors amongst them to re-create a rum which was as close to the original tot as possible.  Needless to say it will be very interesting to see how this one pans out.

A hydrometer test shows that over 46 years later the rum may have lost a touch of its ABV as it comes out at 53% ABV.  This is slightly below “Gunpowder Proof” of 54.5% ABV or 110 proof.

Unlike Pusser’s or Black Tot my sample of navy rum does not have any fancy packaging.  A small and unspectacular rounded glass bottle with a metal screw top.  There is nothing on the bottle to suggest what it is.  I obtained what little information was available regarding the rum from Edgar Harden of the Old Spirits Company.  The company has a great reputation and I have no fears at all that what I have is a bona vide British Royal Navy Rum.  The rum was bought by Edgar from a reputable Black Tot Navy Rum Review by the fat rum pirateauctioneer and came with the appropriate documentation.

The rum is very dark – true to what many understand to be Navy style rum.  I don’t know if it was coloured with caramel or not – I would suggest it could be to keep things consistent from tot to tot but I don’t really know if that was much of a consideration back in the sixties.

As mentioned the rum is quite a dark brown – it also exhibits a reddish/orange hue when swirled around a little in the glass.

The nose on this navy rum is pretty complex.  It immediately puts me in mind of a Silver Seal Demerara that I reviewed recently.  That was from the Enmore still and this rum exhibits very similar fruity yet smoky almost musty notes.  A hit of sulphur as well but not too much to overwhelm.

It’s very intense there are notes of the Caroni rum in the blend – again smoke and a kind of oldness.  Petrol and something almost carbolic like.  Industrial.

Once you begin to adjust to the rum you get more of the fruiter notes.  Familiar raisin and chocolate.  Quite a lot of pot still funk – bruised bananas and mango even.

Sipped it is very spicy.  It’s a very warming rum.  It is also a very smoky woody rum.  I dare say maybe a bit too smoky as the initial sweet note quickly disappears.

What is left behind is a sulphourous note which takes quite a lot of getting used to.  It reminds me of older Caroni’s but unfortunately it lacks the fruitier notes of the Velier 15 Year old or even the Ancient Mariner (16 year old Caroni).

When I have seen reviews of the Black Tot online, I have always hoped to see some comparison made to Pusser’s.  I have deliberately not mentioned Pusser’s in the tastings so far to make sure the review is focused on the rum and doesn’t turn into a comparison.  In short I haven’t enjoyed this rum as much as Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof (54.5% ABV) or any of the other Pusser’s Naval variations (the 15 Year old does not count as it is not a Navy rum) at various strengths right upto 75% ABV.

This rum doesn’t have enough of the pot still character or fruitier Demerara notes when compared to Pusser’s.  Personally I find Pusser’s more enjoyable and to be honest quite a departure from this rum.  This is to my mind not that similar to Pusser’s.

Quite why this is the case is likely down to the fact the Caroni Distillery no longer functions – so the Trinidad element of Pusser’s blend is different no matter what they do or how they blend it.  There are probably others reasons as well.  It is also to be noted that this sample only offers one “look” at Navy Rum and other rums issued over time could have been very different.  There aren’t that many people around you could ask and even those people would be giving any opinions based on experiences at least 46 years ago!  I would say the Ancient Mariner has more in common with this rum than Pusser’s.

Anyway back to the rum.  It’s slightly industrial and whilst not entirely unpleasant I found it to be short of being a classic.

It just doesn’t deliver enough flavour for me.  The initial complexity disappears to quickly.  Leaving the more tarry and industrial notes behind, along with a lot of musty smoke.  The finish is also very short – again your just left with a bit mustiness.

Having said all that, it is still a pretty good rum.  It has plenty of character and much like Pusser’s it gives you a real kick in the nads and puts fire in your belly.  It might well have been better at the time maybe being left for so long hasn’t helped it? Again that’s just speculation.

Definitely a rum to experience but not a rum I would personally spend a lot of money on.  It grows on you after a few sips but it never quite hits the dizzying heights you might expect.

3.5 stars






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One comment on “Pre Black Tot Day – Original Royal Navy Rum

  1. […] This small write up is based on a flagon of Navy Rum bought by Rene Van Hoven in Germany. He has dated it to around 1954 and it’s rated at about 55% ABV, and this is one of those times we’re going to have to take it on faith that he has the backup paperwork to substantiate what he told me. Note that it’s possible that it’s from the same stocks as were bonded in Germany, and which Wes Burgin wrote about in 2016, here. […]

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