Brand: Black Tot
Rum drinkers of all types have likely at some point or another, associated rum with pirates, sailing ships, and the high seas (whether we want to admit it or not). The term "navy rum", or "navy style rum", and sometimes "navy strength rum", (which I have posted about before has similarly been seen on rum bottles, shifting the motif from piracy to admiralty.
While this review isn't dedicated to a history lesson on what is (or isn't) navy rum, it's important to know that the British Royal Navy had often served a daily ration of rum (known as the "daily tot") on its ships until July 31, 1970, when rum was available. (If the phrasing of that sentence seems a little vague, read the Cocktail Wonk's article about navy rum). That date– July 31– is known as Black Tot Day, and marks the last time a daily ration of rum was provided to British sailors, and this rum wasn't just any rum, but often was drawn and vatted from the stores of the Royal Navy that sat vatted at the Deptford Victualing Yard, and had a number of different distillates constituting its blend.
Black Tot Rum– the brand– celebrates the heritage of the rum ration, and releases rum that carries on the tradition– for the rest of us. Its main expression, Black Tot Finest Caribbean, is a blend of Demerara, Barbadian, and Jamaican rums, and is meant to celebrate the art of blending rums from different islands.
The 50th Anniversary edition, which is up for review today, is a very special blend of finer, older, and in some cases impossible-to-replicate distillates from around the Caribbean. As its name implies, this release was crafted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day, on July 31, 2020; only 5,000 bottles were produced, and I'm glad I spotted this one on a shelf at Lincoln Road in Hattiesburg, MS.
The blend includes a number of long-aged rums, and meant to represent some of the constituent pieces of the Royal Navy blend on any given day. The 50th Anniversary edition even sports a percentage (although very low) of the original Royal Navy blend! Below is a list of constituent distillates in this bottle, grouped by origin:
Each item has the distillery name/marque, still, tropical aging, continental aging (or in some cases total aging), and percentage of the blend.
- Demerara Distillers/Savalle, column, 12yr continental, 28%
- Demerara Distillers/Savalle, column, 9yr continental, 27%
- Demerara Distillers/Port Mourant, wooden pot, 10yr continental, 6%
- Uitvlugt, wooden pot, 42yr, 0.5%
- Foursquare, pot/column, 8yr, 3yr, 15%
- Trinidad Distillers, column, 5yr, 5yr, 11%
- Caroni, column, 13yr, 10yr, 4%
- Hampden, pot, 8yr, 1yr, 8%
- Original Royal Navy Blend, pot/column, solera, 0.5%
Looking at this list, the Caroni and Uitvlugt elements are pretty noteworthy inclusions: the former is from a defunct Trinidadian distillery that last produced in the early 2000s, and the latter is an incredibly long-aged rum from a Guyanese distillery lost in 2000.
Let's see what we have in store from this special blend.
Medium clarity, deep orange-brown, low viscosity
Molasses, brown sugar, burnt rubber, baking spices, cola, baked pineapple, Juicyfruit gum, sweet cherry
Rich brown sugar, caramel, tire fire, sour grapes, vanilla cake, orange peel, lemon juice, menthol
Medium-length; warming blend of tannic oak, tire rubber, smoke, and trailing menthol
This is an incredibly, incredibly complex blend of rums, heavily driven by the smokey rubber sensation of Caroni and the combined funk of Hampden and DDL Port Mourant distillates. This isn't a bad thing, though, unless you don't like any of those types of rum. This is dram in which each sip provides a new experience.
The nose is as complex as a rum made up of such storied components such as Foursquare, Hampden, and Caroni might suggest. Demerara molasses leads, followed closely by the combination of rubber, and oaked Jamaican funk. Cola spice punches through the middle, followed by some trails of baked pineapple and citrus.
Rich, brown demerara sugar leads the palate, followed by caramel, and the distinct "tire fire" of Caroni. The sour funk of Port Mourant rum is mixed with the classic funk of citrusy Hampden rum, moving on to notes of vanilla cake, orange peel, lemon juice, and finished with a cooling menthol effect.
This bottle has a medium length finish, starting with warming tannins, moving on to citrus-laced tire rubber and smoke, and trailing off with that menthol again.
As noted above, the Caroni and Hampden funk really leads the experience, which is remarkable because together they amount to only 12% of the total blend. Demerara molasses and brown sugar definitely lets the drinker know that some Guyana rum is present, and forms the backbone of the blend. The Foursquare and Trinidad Distillers elements seem to be lost in the fray, but the vanilla cake note on the palate may be a result of the Barbadian distillate, as that is a common note on Foursquare expressions.
This is certainly a fun iteration on the navy rum category, and showcases a lot of fine, rare rums drawn from stocks of all sorts of distilleries long closed and still operating. If regular navy rum is a band of misfits getting together for a night out, then Black Tot 50th is a group of old friends gathering together for a quiet night of reminiscing.