Trailer Happiness kicked off the New Year in a fine old style with their new format Rum Club and to me, “Why Trailer Loves Navy Rum” was always destined to be a winner. A subject with as much history, interesting facts and tall stories as British Navy Rum, just can’t fail. Couple that with a trio of connected brands in Smith & Cross, El Dorado and Pusser’s and we have (without doubt) one of the best ever rum clubs we’ve attended!
A record crowd certainly contributed to the amazing atmosphere – but I have to say that the real star was the boldly flavoured, over-proof Navy rum that really deserves far more attention than I feel it generally gets! The more time I spend with rum, the more I really appreciate robustly flavoured pot still style and without a doubt, Navy rum has plenty of that in its blend.
Our genial host, Paul McFadyen ran us through a rich and varied history starting way-back in 1655, taking in some notable Navy victories and humiliating losses along the way. The well educated rummy will now be able to speak of Admiral Vernon and Portobello, the Battle of Trafalgar and Nelson’s Blood and of course the Naval tradition of Up Spirits! Far too much information presented to be captured on this humble blog, but the team did post the outline notes to the Facebook event page [http://www.facebook.com/events/310733059038705/permalink/312420392203305/] – so it’s probably worth taking a moment of your busy day to check them out – ensuring that you ‘like’ the Trailer Happiness Facebook page along the way and for good measure: TheFloatingRumShack.com Facebook page too.
Some points of interest discussed along the way:
If you consider that rum was initially considered a boon to the diet of the sailors, then couple that with the fact that the original ration was a pint – per day – of over proof rum… then you’ll probably agree that the world was a very different place back then. A further development might have seen the addition of sugar and lime to combat scurvy, but don’t let the fact that the British Navy become a fighting force of daiquiri drinkers (long before Jennings Cox appeared on the scene) make you think that our boys were any less effective at fighting.
The winning of the contract to supply the Royal Navy with a blend from all the rum producing countries of the British Empire was a major success for James Man back in 1784, I’d love to believe that James knew he was making an indelible mark on the world of rum – but I’m sure that even he wouldn’t have believed that the contract would run for so long – to be ended only by the sad, (but necessary) abolishment of the Navy rum ration tradition on what became known as Black Tot day [31st July 1970].
Declan of Speciality Brands presented for our delectation the very fine Smith & Cross – a wonderfully pungent and flavoursome example of a blend of two, relatively young Jamaican pot still rums. These distilates are just the sort of rums you’d expect to find in the Royal Navy blend. The exacting standards demanded for rums used in the Navy blend actually upped the quality and consistency of rum production of Caribbean rum in general. Speciality Brands are the team behind Black Tot – the last of the Navy rum stocks which were purchased, blended together and then bottled for the delight of all wealthy rum fans the world over. Truly a piece of rum history!
Stefanie Holt of El Dorado (or perhaps more specifically Demerara Distillers Limited), presented El Dorado 12 Year Old. ED12 is a particular favourite of ours, but it’s the first time that it’s ever tasted so light, coming straight after the Smith & Cross as it did. I’m not sure just how Stef did it – but even though we’ve been privileged to attend a number of El Dorado educational events – there were still a few new factoids to learn! Just how deep does Stef’s knowledge run?
Completing the trio was Peter Thornton of Cellar Trends, whom presented Pusser’s rum. The back plot of Pusser’s is that Charles Tobias convinced the Admiralty Board to give him the blending formula of their rum and the right to use the Royal Navy’s flag along with the name BRITISH NAVY PUSSER’S RUM on the label of his product. Whilst I think it’s true to say that the product is not an exact replica of the rum produced by ED & F Man – the product is in fact pretty damn good and something I’m slightly ashamed to have allowed to go out of stock at TheFloatingRumShack.com (mostly because as soon as we get a bottle – we kill it off quick by making loads of Painkillers! At 2.5oz per cocktail – a bottle really doesn’t last long).
The Trailer boys return to the stage to draw the comparison between blended rum Tiki drinks of Don the Beachcombers and Trader Vic’s days - the parallel being that a Tiki drink might call for dark Jamaican and light Puerto Rican rums and if tried individually, the assumption might be that the light rum is going to be lost. But the reality is that the drink wouldn’t work as well without it. The Navy rum blend (by inference from the specification that it was a blend of distillates from all the rum producing countries of the British Empire), will also contain a proportion of lighter column still rum from Trinidad. The blend needs this addition as Jamaican and Guyanese pot still rums would be too much on their own.
Painkillers and an awesome Navy Grog (1941 / Don the Beachcomber) were served up to prove the point and brought a long, but highly enjoyable presentation to a close. The fun continues on the 4th February with “Why Trailer Loves Barbados Rum…” – so make sure you clear the diary and get along to that one!
Seems apt to end with the Royal Navy toast of the day (Wednesday): “Ourselves, as no-one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare. And the Queen, God Bless Her.”
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