Black Tot Day commemorates 31 July, 1970, the last day when the Royal Navy issued sailors with their daily rum ration. To honour the occasion, the Sydney Rum Club held a tasting of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Pusser’s Rum at Cargo Bar.
Black Tot Day at Cargo Bar
With a mock coffin displayed at the entrance to the bar in commemoration, and (Captain) Tom Bulmer, President of the Sydney Rum Club in navy regalia, club members were treated to a historical overview before tasting four different styles of navy rum.
Rum was not originally part of the British Navy’s tradition but a substitute for beer until 1655. After the Battle of Trafalgar, daily rum rations were instigated where they gave sailors half a pint of navy proof rum 78% ABV, which they downed and got back to work. Later, they started adding water to the rum and lime which gave rise to the punch.
Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
John Gakuru gave a brief introduction to Gosling’s Rum which was founded in 1808 by James Gosling who set sail on board HMS Mercury and carried a cargo of 10,000 pounds. He never made it to America and had to stop in Bermuda where he discovered rum. In 1824, he returned to England and in 1860, the first barrels of rum arrived in Bermuda but it took 3 years to create their distinctive black rum.
The rum takes its name from the black wax seal which was used to seal the bottles. Today, the black wax adorns the family reserve Old Rum and has become synonymous with the black rum of Bermuda.
Dark ‘n’ Stormy (right)
Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (40%ABV) is part of the royal naval tradition and tastes heavily of molasses. It is also synonymous with the Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a trademark cocktail made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, ginger beer and lime.
Gosling’s Old Rum
Gosling’s Old Rum is a family reserve and comes in a wood box with straw and bears a number and signature. Big on molasses with no burn, this is a refined, sipping rum, with a good mouthfeel.
Pusser’s Navy Rum
Tim Ludlow introduced Pusser’s Navy Rum which dates back to a gentleman by the name of Charles Tobias whose ship broken down in the British Virgin Islands. The captain gave him a litre of British royal rum and he later purchased the rights from the Royal Navy and began production.
The name Pusser is a corruption of Purser who used to hand out the daily rations. The rum is made in the old tradition of using wooden pot stills about 200 years old which impart a lot of flavour. The spirit is a blend of 5 rums, all natural with no sugars or flavours added. The rum is heavy on tannins and esters and congeners give it a rich and rough flavour.
Sydney Rum Club members
Pusser’s Rum was standard issue for the British Royal Navy for over 300 years and was drunk by Admiral Lord Nelson.
Rum is referred to as Nelson’s Blood. Horatio Nelson, who died three days before the battle of Trafalgar ended was revered by his shipmates who consequently put him in a barrel of rum to preserve his body until they reached England. Upon arrival, they discovered the barrel was empty. The sailors had bore holes from the barrel and drank it dry, hence the name Nelson’s Blood.
No Nelson’s Blood in this barrel
Pusser’s 15 yo Rum was released in 2001. Aged for 15 years in the heat of the British Virgin Islands means that the Angels’ Share leaves only 7% of the spirit. It takes 16 bottles of a standard Pusser’s rum to make one bottle of the 15yo. Also a blend of 5 rums, Pusser’s 15 yo is strong on molasses, smooth on the palate, and has a rich and intense flavour that makes it a sipping rum.
Pusser’s Rum coffin
Traditional navy style rums have strong molasses flavours, richness, lingering in the mouth. And on this sad day for sailors, processions with coffins and funeral music are still held in commemoration.
With Black Tot Day falling on a Tuesday, a Royal Navy Traditional Toast was raised “to our men”.
For a photo gallery of the event, visit us on Facebook where you can “Like” and “Tag”.
Black Tot Day tasting was aptly held at Cargo Bar, a Keystone venue with nautical décor which is soon to be rum-centric with a new cocktail list and a selection of various types of rums at the bar.
Previous articles on the Sydney Rum Club:
Ron de Jeremy Rum
Bundaberg, TMD Gold, Beenleigh & Stone Pine Barrique Rum
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