Sailor Jerry: The Man, The Rum, The Tattoos and The Cult

Sailor Jerry – The Man

Sailor Jerry

Before Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was born on January 14th 1911 in Nevada. A young troublemaker, he was nicknamed “Jerry” by his father after the family’s stubborn mule. He learned tattooing from a young age and lived the life as a vagabond.

At age 19, he joined the navy and travelled around the Caribbean and Asia Pacific where he was exposed to a different style of art and tattooing which eventually became his trademark. After his big journey, he settled in Honolulu and set up a tattoo shop in Hotel Street at Chinatown where sailors came to get “screwed, stewed and tattooed”.

He entrusted his work to his two protégés, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone, who in 1999 partnered with an independent Philadelphia clothing company to establish Sailor Jerry Ltd., which owns Norman Collins’ art and flash.

Sailor Jerry – Flash Tattoos

A Sailor Jerry tattoo has a distinctive design and makes use of bold colours and intricate detail combining American design and traditions with Asiatic colour. Anchors feature predominantly in flash tattoo art, with the words “Mom” or a female’s name – the people who are meant to keep them anchored. Golden dragons, hearts and the Nautical Star used by sailors for navigation also feature in SJ tattoos.

Sailor Jerry

Sailor Jerry – The Rum

Sailor JerryThe story of dedication to Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins continues when Sailor Jerry Limited was founded, a company created by fans who wanted to keep his legacy alive. The company began as a clothing brand in Philadelphia, before creating a sailor-style spiced rum to commemorate his life spent at sea and in the company of sailors.

On the old spice ships, sailors picked up harsh rum and added spices and natural ingredients to make it drinkable. Sailor Jerry Rum is crafted along similar principles by the William Grant family. A selection of rums distilled in the Caribbean is infused with a mix of spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, clove, lime and old spice.

Sailor Jerry Rum was launched 10 years ago in the USA and has been available in Australia for approximately a year. The products vary markedly in that the American product is 92 proof and has no age statement, while the Australian product by law has a minimum age statement of two years and is 80 proof.

When put to the taste test, the 92 proof has a lot more ethanol on the nose, is slightly paler colour and its spice flavours are not as pronounced as its Australian counterpart. The 80 proof is darker in colour, has more vanilla spice on the nose, is noticeably sweeter on the nose but not on the palate making it a mellow rum with hints of oak, good viscosity and mouthfeel.

Sailor Jerry

Sailor Jerry – The Cocktails

Sailor Jerry Rum fares well as a sipping rum as well as in cocktails and mixed drinks. According to Hugh Payten Smith, Brand Ambassador and Bar Manager at the Anchor Bar in South Bondi, some ask for it in a shot with beer, or straight up in a daiquiri, as an old fashioned, in pina colada, a Dark and Stormy or simply as a shot.

Sailor Jerry
Hugh Payten Smith at the Anchor Bar

At the Anchor, the Spiced Mojito is a must-have and makes use of Sailor Jerry rum, lime, spiced sugar, apple juice and comes served with a burnt cinnamon quill.

Sailor Jerry
Spiced Mojito SJ

Sailor Jerry
Burning cinnamon quill

Sailor Jerry
(L) Spiced Mojito (R) Classic SJ Daiquiri

The Classic SJ Daiquiri has Sailor Jerry spiced rum, fresh lime, sugar and spice flavours.

Sailor Jerry
L to R: Ozzy Rockabilly Juice, Old Cuban, Smith

The Ozzy Rockabilly Juice gives a nod to the American influence and adapts it to Australian style with Sailor Jerry rum, True Blue, lemon and house-spiced tea, served with a comb and a little sword. The Old Cuban with Sailor Jerry rum, sugar, lime, mint, bitters and a little sparkling wine is served with vanilla bean. The Smith, named after the man of the house, combines Sailor Jerry rum with passionfruit and citrus.

Sailor Jerry – The Cult

According to Hugh Payten Smith, Sailor Jerry are the first in the world to employ brand ambassadors worldwide who form part of its lifestyle. In other words, they promote a brand by which they are influenced.

The brand also works with tattooists, festivals such as Soundwave and Splendour in the Grass, and art galleries that match the style of product. Hori Smoku, the film which depicts the roots of American tattooing through the life of Norman Collins has a cult following and plans for theatrical releases are in progress.

Sailor Jerry

Through Sailor Jerry rum, its brand ambassadors, clothing store, flash tattoos, art and lifestyle, the legacy of Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins lives on.

* Norman Collins photograph and flash tattoos courtesy of Sailor Jerry, used with permission.

Gourmantic was invited to taste Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum at the Anchor in South Bondi.

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Sailor Jerry: The Man, The Rum, The Tattoos and The Cult was last modified: December 20th, 2015 by Corinne Mossati

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Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.