Ever heard the stories of sailors swabbing the puke off their decks? Or stories of drunken nights they don’t remember? No? Neither have I, and that’s for one reason: Sailors were well’ard. Back in the day Sailors were manly men. Men who had engines, internal combustion engines that run on the darkest of rums: BLACK RUM.
This fabled spirit is widely available nowadays but its humble beginnings are not lost on those who care…
On July 31st 1970 a tragic event befell the Royal British Navy: the very last ration of rum was given out to the sailors under the flag of her majesty’s fleet. This was a tragic and sad day for all those who would call themselves sailors, after all this day ended a 300 year old tradition.
“A mighty bowl on deck he drew
And filled it to the brink
Such drank the Burford’s gallant crew
And such the gods shall drink.
The Scared robe which Vernon wore
Was drenched within the same
And hence his virtues guard our shore
And Grog drives its name.”
An excerpt from Mariners Mirror by L.G. Carr Laughton, 1919
Back in 1655 the rum ration started (unofficially – as if there’s any other way) and carried on until Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon of the West Indies fleet insisted the rum be watered down and served with lime: And thus became known as Grog (after his nickname: Old Grog).
This sounds like a great rule to me. And it was a shame they stopped it. Apparently during the 1950’s there was concern caused that the rations supplied might impact the ability of the sailors to operate the more complex warships. Personally I think it would’ve created a much more interesting world. I mean imagine the crap that would float to shore from the abundant collisions and groundings? Not to mention the rather abundant plunder to be had for treasure hunters scouring the sea floor.
You see the choice by the British government to ban the rum rations has created a loss of jobs and slashed the dreams of all those kids who grew up wanting to be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. Hell, I wanted to be a treasure hunter (I still do!) and they ruined my life. Kind of.
Anyway in all seriousness this day has been celebrated by rum lovers everywhere, with rum brands making the most of the day with offers, competitions and of course sales. On that fateful day many of the sailors held mock funerals, others poured their last ‘tot’ into the sea and various other events.
Finally, an ending thought:
Black Tot Day (BTD) is not without its positive notes… In 2010 a company called Speciality Drinks realised that the remaining stores of Naval rum were available for ‘procurement’… They purchased the remaining rum stores and on July 31st 2010 they (re)launched their plunder under the apt name: ‘Black Tot Rum’.
This rum is unique as it has been preserved in its stoneware flagons for the four decades between Black Tot Day and the launch of possibly one most unique alcohol products ever sold. Whether you’re a naval history enthusiast, or if you just like rum this is something you just have to try /own. If you can afford it that is!
If not, settle for a bottle Kraken Spiced, a bag of limes and rather large bottle of cola.
Until the next time readers!