|Authentic Royal Navy Rum, circa 1940's
The inimitable and legendary original: an untouched one gallon stoneware flagon dating from
|We're very pleased to have acquired a second
untouched original wooden case, containing two
one-gallon stoneware flagons of authentic old Navy
Rum, formally acquired for consumption by the Royal
Navy before 1955 (the rum itself would have originally
been distilled in Jamaica in the late 1940's). Each
stoneware flagon holds a gallon of rum, and allowing
for some evaporation over the decades will yield
approximately 4 litres of rum.
This is THE single most legendary rum, with a
swashbuckling and romantic history stretching back
over three centuries. Very occasionally flagons from
1970, when the Navy ration was discontinued, have
come on to the market, but to have the chance to
taste original flagons from the 1940's is
unprecedented. A unique opportunity to drink
The association of rum with the Royal Navy began in
1655 when the British fleet captured the island of
|Jamaica. With the availability of domestically produced rum, the British changed the daily ration of liquor
given to seamen from French brandy to rum. While the ration was originally given neat, or mixed with
lime juice, the practice of watering down the rum began around 1740. To help minimize the effect of the
alcohol on his sailors, Admiral Edward Vernon directed that the rum ration be watered down before being
issued, a mixture which became known as 'grog'. While it is widely believed that the term grog was coined
at this time in honor of the cloak Admiral Vernon wore in rough weather, the term has been demonstrated
to predate his famous orders, with probable origins in the West Indies, perhaps of African etymology. The
Royal Navy continued to give its sailors a daily rum ration, known as a "tot," until the practice was
abolished after July 31, 1970. Today the rum ration is still issued on special occasions by H.M. Queen
Elizabeth II. Recently, such occasions have been Royal marriages and birthdays, or other special
anniversaries. "Splice the main brace", in the days of the daily ration, meant double rations that day.
A standard naval tot of rum consisted of an eighth of a pint of rum (which was over 50% ABV, and was
traditionally named "overproof"). Generally spirits are about 40% in comparison.
Labelling spirits today as overproof or underproof is derived from the early method of treating Jamaica
rum in the naval victualling yards before it was issued to the warships. To ensure that the rum had not
been watered down, it was “proofed” by dousing gunpowder in it, then tested to see if the gunpowder
would ignite. If it did not, then the rum contained too much water and was considered to be “under
proof”. It was found that gunpowder would not burn in rum that contained less than 57.15% abv.
Therefore, rum that contained this percentage of alcohol was defined to have "100 degrees proof" (this
differs from the simpler US system, where you simply double the alcoholic abv to get the proof percentage)
Once a rating reached the age of twenty he was entitled to draw his tot. Senior Rates were entitled to
drink this neat, however Junior Rates had "2 in 1" which meant that it was mixed with two parts water to
one part rum. The reason for this was so that the rum could not be stored and saved for another day.
A story involving naval rum is that following his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, Horatio Nelson's body
was preserved in a cask of rum to allow transport back to England. Upon arrival, however, the cask was
opened and found to be empty of rum. The pickled body was removed and, upon inspection, it was
discovered that the sailors had drilled a hole in the bottom of the cask and drunk all the rum, in the
process drinking Nelson's blood. Thus, this tale serves as a basis for the term Nelson's Blood being used to
describe rum. It also serves as the basis for the term "Tapping the Admiral" being used to describe
drinking the daily rum ration. The details of the story are disputed, as many historians claim the cask
contained French brandy whilst others claim instead the term originated from a toast to Admiral Nelson.
Variations of the story, involving different notable corpses, have been in circulation for many years.
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