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Black Tot Last Consignment Rum Tasting at Vinopolis Aug 22

Black Tot Last Consignment RumIn remembrance of the demise of over 300 years of Royal Naval tradition, London’s Vinopolis played host to a full house for the Black Tot Last Consignment Rum tasting.

Organised by The Whisky Exchange, for the 2nd August 2011, to mark the 41st anniversary of Black Tot day, this rum tasting gave those present the opportunity to try a number of representative Caribbean rums, as well as Pusser’s Rum and of course Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

Hosted by Declan McGurk of Speciality Brands, the evening started with Declan giving us an historical overview of rum and the Royal Navy, while we enjoyed a cocktail of Velvet Falernum and Rum:

After the Caribbean island of Jamaica was captured from the Spanish in 1655 by the British fleet, the history of rum became entwined with that of the Royal Navy. With access to Jamaica’s sugar cane production also came rum and it didn’t take long for rum to replace the sailor’s daily ration of beer.

As onboard water casks would often become stagnant and contaminated, sailors were issued a gallon* of beer every day. With Jamaica’s capture in 1655, rum slowly became more common place as the daily ration, until in 1731 a 1/2 pint* a day had become the regulation issue. By 1740, Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon reduced the daily rum ration further, which was served twice daily mixed with water and citrus juice, which came to be known as “grog”.

Supposedly named grog after the Vice-Admiral’s nickname of “Old Grog”, which was attributed to his habit of wearing a cloak of grogram cloth. Although it wasn’t confirmed for several more years, the practice of adding citrus juice to the daily ration improved the health of the sailors under Vernon’s command and reduced the effects of scurvy.

Over the next 230 years the daily ration was further reduced in quantity, but more importantly, it was also improved in quality. By the time of the Second World War, the British Royal Navy rum was a blend of rums from several distilleries in the Caribbean and used a 32 vat solera process, housed in London. Mixing old and new rums, it is believed that some of the rums from the final blend would have been as old as 50 years.

When the last “Up Spirits” was heard throughout the British Royal NavyBlack tot Last Consignment Rum on the 31st July 1970, the daily ration, by now known as a tot, was an eighth of an imperial pint of 54.5% ABV / 109 Proof rum, mixed 2:1 with water. In recognition of the end of the long standing tradition of rum and the Royal Navy, that day was marked down in history as Black Tot Day.

Following Black Tot Day, the Royal Navy’s rum solera was emptied and all of the remaining rum stocks were stored in one gallon (imperial) stone flagons, under government bond in the following Royal Naval Victualling Yards; the Royal Victoria in Deptford, the Royal Clarence in Gosport and the Royal William in Plymouth. With the exception of use for State occasions and Royal weddings these flagons remained untouched for nearly forty years, before being purchased and released in 2010 as Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

With a brief but informative history of the Royal Navy’s association with rum covered, Declan moved on to the rum tasting. The Royal Navy blend of rum was known to have been principally imported from the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad, as well as the British South American colony of Guyana. As such, the evening’s tastings would be representative of these Caribbean rums and would be followed by both Pusser’s Navy Rum and Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

Mount Gay Extra Old Rum – Produced in Barbados by Mount Gay Rum, this rum is bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof. This smooth, oaky rum has a subtle caramel aroma with a slightly sharp after bite.

XM Royal 10 Year Old Rum – Produced in Guyana by Banks DIH, this rum is bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof.  One of the best rums of the evening, this rum has a sweet caramel nose, which comes through in its smooth taste.

Trinidadian Live Cask Rum – Produced in Trinidad, this rum is bottled straight from the cask, at The Whisky Exchange, at 60.6% ABV / 121.2 Proof. Still being aged in the barrel, the taste profile of this live cask rum will continue to change but at time of tasting it had a smoky and spicy aroma, with a spicy, dry, oaky flavour.

Smith & Cross Rum – Produced in Jamaica, this rum is bottled at 57% ABV / 114 Proof. A blend of aged distillates from both Wedderburn and Plummer pot stills in Jamaica, this sweet fruity rum is smooth, with a slightly spicy finish.

Pusser’s Navy Rum – A blend of Caribbean rums from the Royal Naval rum blend, this rum is bottled at 54.5% ABV / 109 Proof. Produced in the British Virgin Islands, this navy rum is easy to drink despite its strong alcohol content. With a slightly sweet liquorice start and a dryer oaky finish, this is an excellent sipping rum.

In preparation of tasting the main rum of the evening, Declan handed the presentation reigns to Nick Tilt, one of the co-creators of Black Tot Last Consignment rum. Before raising our glasses to a traditional toast, Nick explained that the 6,000 declared bottles of Black Tot Last Consignment rum are a blend of the Royal Navy rums from the three Royal Navy Victualling Yards and that during the nearly forty years in storage the rum had only lost 0.2% of its ABV.

Black Tot Last Consignment Rum – A blend of the last remaining stocks of Royal Navy Rum, this rum is bottled at 54.3% ABV / 108.6 Proof. Steeped in all those years of history, you can’t help but approach this rum with respect and it’s a respect that it deserves. Where Pusser’s has captured a glimpse of what the Royal Navy rum was like, it simply cannot compete with the full bodied character of a spirit that contains rum that would have been distilled during the Second World War. With a sweet caramel nose and a smoky, spicy taste this rum is simply superb.

With the evening over and an another excellent rum tasting held at Vinopolis finished, I was left to wonder what’s next and what they’ll do for next year’s Black Tot Day? Although there are no current plans for anymore Whisky Exchange rum tastings this year, I will be keeping an ear out and will post news of any update when it’s confirmed.

So my thanks to Declan McGurk of Speciality Brands, Nick Tilt and the Whisky Exchange team, for a great evening and the chance to try so many great rums, especially the very special Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

Black Tot Rum Tasting

* It is worth noting that the pints and gallons referred to here would have been based on what has today become known as a US Pint (0.473 litre) and US Gallon (3.785 litres). Imperial pints and gallons were not introduced in Britain until 1824 and equate to 0.568 litre and 4.546 litres respectively.

The Drink Show Live 2011 – Rum Roundup Jul 20

The Drink Show LiveArriving at London’s Vinopolis on the South Bank and organised by The Drink Shop, The Drink Show Live aimed to bring the curious and enthusiast drinkers of London together to “explore a selection of desirable, innovative and limited edition drinks.”

For the rum drinkers among us, that meant St Lucia’s Distillers with their Chairman’s Reserve and Toz White Gold Rum brands, Bermuda’s Gosling’s Rum, Venezuela’s Ron Santa Teresa and the Dominican Republic’s Ron Atlantico.Tasting Shots

Hosted in the evening of Friday the 8th July, as well as all day on Saturday the 9th July, the show consisted of a number of spirits, wine and beer companies promoting their products. Alongside the opportunity to try these drinks, a number of masterclasses were held over both days. These included; The Gin Revival, The Secrets of Scotch, Tequila Travesty and Housing the House Party to name but a few.

With free entry, the currency of the show was tasting tokens (£10 for 16 tokens), which once purchased could be exchanged for masterclasses (5 x £1 tokens) or tastings of the various beverages (1 token per tasting). For those who wanted to attend multiple masterclasses and not worry about the tokens for tastings, there were VIP wristbands, for a fixed price of £30.

Andy Pearson in Mexican SombreroUnable to attend on the Friday evening, I headed to Saturday’s show intending to explore the rums, as well as attend the Gin, Liqueur, Scotch, Tequila and Home Cocktail Party masterclasses. I cannot deny I would have liked to have seen a rum masterclass, but you can’t have it all.

Our host for several of the classes was the award-winning mixologist and TV presenter Andy Peason (pictured left), who has been described as “The Jamie Oliver of the bar world.” Bringing his own zany style of presentation to the proceedings, I’d like to thank Andy for his fun and edutaining classes. I’d also like to give a mention to Diageo‘s Whisky Ambassador Colin Dunn for his brilliant masterclass on Scotch Whisky.

The day also proved useful for my love of mixology, with the opportunities try several liqueurs, such as Grand Marnier, Chartreuse, Drambuie and Chase Marmalade Vodka, as well as the new Black Cherry flavoured Bourbon, Red Stag from Jim Beam. Although I haven’t had a chance to give it a go, I can’t help but wonder what a Cherry Cola cocktail would taste like, with the Cherry Brandy being replaced by Red Stag…

Having started my day at the Chairman’s ReserveChariman's Reserve Rum Stand Rum Shack, I took the opportunity to sample the excellent Chairman’s Reserve Spiced and Toz White Gold rums. Both rums are bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof, with Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum being a sweet and light spiced rum with the aroma and taste of oranges, cloves and cinnamon flavours. Toz White Gold Rum is a smooth 3 year old, charcoal filtered white rum.

Being the third chance to enjoy these drinks  in less than a week, I think poor Andrew Scutts must have thought I was stalking him or something.  Along with the samples of rum on offer, Andrew was promoting the use of Chairman’s Reserve Rum as the base of a premium Mojito.

Next up for the rums was Ron Atlantico, Ron Atlanticofrom the Dominican Republic. Having tasted this only 3 days earlier at the Imbibe Live show, in quick succession with several other rums, I knew how special this rum was and couldn’t wait to get another chance to savour the taste.

Using three stages of aging and blending to create an exceptional and sweet tasting rum, Atlantico’s master blender takes a selection of their finest small batch aged rums and blends them together in private casks. The private cask blend is then aged further to produce a mellower and more complex rum. In the final stage the solera method is used to bring the age blend up to 15 to 25 years. Bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof, this is simply a great rum, that you really should seek out.

Gosling's RumOnly having recently picked up a bottle of Bermuda’s Gosling Black Seal Rum, I decided that next up should be the Gosling’s Rum stand. Not having opened up my own bottle as yet, this was my first chance to taste this dark, rich and full-bodied rum and it didn’t disappoint. It was also a chance for me to meet Malcolm Gosling Jr, whose family business for seven generations has been making rum.

Malcolm talked me through my tasting of the four rums that make up the range of Gosling’s Rum: Gosling’s Gold Rum, Golsing’s Black Seal Rum, Gosling’s Black Seal 151 Proof Rum and lastly the Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum.

Starting with Gosling’s Gold Rum, a light golden rum, that is equally suitable for mixing or sipping. It is the base of Gosling’s Bright ‘n Sunny cocktail. This was followed by “The Spirit of Bermuda” – Gosling Black Seal Rum. This dark rum is the base of Bermuda’s national cocktail, the Dark ‘n Stormy and comes with a rich and highly flavoured taste. Like Gosling’s Gold Rum, it is bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof.

Next up was the Gosling’s Black Seal 151 Proof Rum, which is based on the same recipe as the Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, but comes with a much higher alcohol content, of 75.5% ABV / 151 Proof. What is surprising about this rum is how much flavour and character is retained, considering its strength.

To finish Gosling’s Rum, I was introduced to Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum. Until recently, this rum was kept for the family’s personal enjoyment, but fortunately for us, they have released this exceptional 40% ABV / 80 Proof, sipping rum for us to enjoy. And enjoy it I did, so much so that when I finished talking to Malcolm, I popped round to The Whisky Exchange shop and bought a bottle.

Ron Santa TeresaLast up for the rums of the show, was Ron Santa Teresa. I knew of Santa Teresa, but had not knowingly had a chance to taste any of their range. Available to taste at the show, were four of their rums; Santa Teresa 1796, Santa Teresa Añejo, Santa Teresa Arakú and Santa Teresa Rhum Orange.

Being a fan of the Venezuelan rums that I’ve already had the pleasure of trying, I approached the Santa Teresa range with high hopes. Not as sweet as some of the other rums at the show that day, Santa Teresa 1796 and Santa Teresa Añejo are both smooth rums with good depth and character. The other aspect that they both share is their strength, at 40% ABV / 80 Proof.

Where they differ is in their aging process. Santa Teresa Añejo is aged for up to 5 years in oak barrels and casks and is blended to produce its smooth character. On the other hand, Santa Teresa 1796 is crafted using the Solera method, with rums as old as 25 years blended together with younger añejos to create this premium sipping rum.

In addition to the traditional rums, Ron Santa Teresa also produces two flavoured rums. Namely the 28% ABV / 56 Proof, coffee infused Santa Teresa Arakú and the 40% ABV / 80 Proof, Orange infused Santa Teresa Rhum Orange. Both offer intense flavours and are suitable for drinking over ice or as an ingredient in a cocktail. Although untested, I’m thinking that Santa Teresa Arakú would make a good substitute for Kahlua in an Orgasm and Santa Teresa Rhum Orange would go well in a Margarita.

So with all of the rum tastings savoured and the masterclasses I wanted to attend finished, my highlights of the day had to be tasting the delicious Ron Atlantico again, trying (before buying) the sublime Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum, picking up a bottle of Toz White Gold Rum and being entertained by Andy Peason. Let’s hope that next year, The Drink Show Live brings us more rum, but in the meantime, I’d like to offer my thanks to everyone that helped make for a great show.

Black Tot Day Rum Tasting at The Whisky Exchange, Vinopolis Jul 15

Black Tot RumWhile some aspects of the history of rum are best learned from, never to be repeated, other areas of its history are steeped in tradition and are worthy of closer inspection. On Tuesday 2nd August, The Whisky Exchange gives you the opportunity to taste some of this history at Vinopolis, with a Black Tot Day Rum Tasting.

300 Years of Royal Navy tradition came to an end on 31st July 1970, at exactly 6 bells in the forenoon watch as the last ration of rum was serverd onboard ships of the Royal Navy. This day is remembered as Black Tot Day.

With a surplus of rum, the remaining stocks were emptied from their oak soleras into wicker clad stone flagons and sealed by HM Customs and Excise in government bond warehouses. For nearly 40 years they remained virtually undisturbed until 2010 when these stocks were acquired and carefully blended before being released as Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

In celebrating the “long historical link between the Royal Navy and the story of rum”, The Whiskey Exchange will hold a tasting for Black Tot Day. Starting at 7pm on the 2nd August, the evening will begin with tastings of rum from the West Indies, including Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad, which original Naval records show formed the basis of the Navy’s rum ration. The evening will culminate with a sample of the Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

Tickets go on sale at 3pm on Monday the 18th July and are priced at £30 each. For more information or to purchase your tickets (maximum of 2 per booking) please call The Whisky Exchange on +44 (0) 207 403 8688.