British Royal Navy Imperial RumWithout Equal
This flagon is from the final stores of Naval Rum commissioned by the British Ministry of Defence for the Royal Navy.
Aged in American oak casks, a rum without equal, and like no other found anywhere in the world.
A collector has presented this to TheDrinkShop for sale. On the day of arrival, and showing the MD the full bottle in his office, managed to push the cork into the bottle when putting the flagon back in it's box. It was quickly re-sealed with a clean cork and is now for sale.
A rum collectors dream.
The story starts in 1783 when a Mr James Man founded a sugar cooperage and brokerage just back from the busy Thames River at 23 Harp Lane in the Sugar Quay region of the City of London.
In the next year, James Man won the exclusive contract to supply rum to the Royal Navy, (a contract the company E.D. & F. Man would retain right up until 1970) granted by The Admiralty Office of the Navy at Seething Lane; only a two minute stroll down, what is now Lower Thames Street.
The rights to supply the Navy with Rum also created what we now know as blending, as the Navy demanded not only a quality product but a consistent product too. James and his team would source and import the rums from around the Caribbean and have them blended in the huge Solera style vats at the Royal Navy Victualing Yard in Deptford. James Man's company may very well have created spirit's blending as we know it today; blending Guyanese, Jamaican, Bajan and Trinidadian rums to a create a consistent Navy Rum for thousands of officers and ratings who were to drink it.
From these victualing warehouses, the vatted rum would be dispensed into 4.54 litre stoneware flagons to be distributed and transported aboard Royal Navy Ships, where they would await to be drunk in amounts, varying over time. Back in 1655 Admiral Penn of the British Fleet captured Jamaica from the Spanish and authorised the replacement of the official Beer Ration with the local made Sugarcane spirit. On his return to England, he found this Sugarcane spirit not only stayed fresh for the journey, but also grew sweeter as it was stored in casks. It wasn't however until 1731 that the Navy Board actual authorised the official daily ration to be changed from beer to a half pint of rum, twice a day, issued neat at 80%abv! Nine years passed until the infamous Admiral Edward Vernon, known as 'Old Grog' ordered a reduction in strength claiming 'the vice of drunkenness is but too visibly increasing in our mariners'. The order was passed 'the new twice daily rum ration be augmented with fresh lime and sugar to make it more palatable to the crews', an order that would cement the words 'Limey' in worldwide usage and 'Grog', although I prefer the term 'Daiquiri'. This tradition stuck for over a hundred years until 1850 when the ration was reduced again, this time to a more sensible eighth of a pint, or half gill, or 71 millilitres.
Then on July 31st 1970, a momentous event took place in Naval history that would later affect the rum world as we know it; an event that wouldn't be considered momentous by bartenders, for around another 40 years. On that day, an order was served from the Royal Navy admiralty to suspend the maritime privilege of one half gill of Navy rum every day. The withdrawal of the Rum Ration in the Royal Navy, (known by most as Black Tot Day) was a 300 year-old traditional and was served for the very last time at 11am on that solemn day. An order that was justified by First Sea Lord, Peter Hill Norton thusly 'a large tot in the middle of the day was not the best medicine for those who had to handle the Navy's electronic mysteries'. Interestingly enough, through naval records I uncovered that First Sea Lord Peter Hill Norton only took office after July 3rd 1970, meaning the order to cease the daily ration and its implementation took under 27 days!
In December 1970, it is believed that excess stocks, no longer needed, of Royal Navy reserves were drawn from their barrels and placed into wicker clad stone flagons (pictured). These stocks of Rum however remained, and these lay silently aging in bonded underground warehouses around the world, remaining property of the admiralty. Until now, only guests at state banquets and royal weddings had the privilege of tasting these rums, brought from archive warehouses and decanted into ceremonial flagons. The last time the rum was served to my knowledge was the wedding of His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, as he served in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Invincible, seeing operation duty during the Falklands War.
In 1980 however the Royal Navy did permit sales of these stocks, as a way to accrue money for the Sailor's Fund, although only a few sold to collectors. That was until Mark Andrews, a Texan oil investor acquired 650 wicker clad demijohns and created the 'brand' British Royal Navy Imperial Rum, although this was not actually a brand, more of a description of the product.