The Kenilworth Hotel



The Kenilworth Single Flagon Collection

British Royal Navy Imperial Reserve Rum

>> To purchase, please call The Kenilworth on 01926 779 473.

 

The story starts in 1783 when a Mr James Man founded a sugar cooperage and brokerage just back from the busy Thames rive 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 run 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 one 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 Vicualing Yard in Deptford. James Man's company may very well have created spirit blending as we know it today; blending Guyanese, Jamaican, Bajan and Trinidadian rums to 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 1665, 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 gresh for the journey but also gre sweeter as it was stored in casks. It wasn't until 1731 that the Navy Board actually 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 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 word '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 (half gill or 71ml).

 

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 Admiralty to suspend the maritime privilege of one half gill of Navy rum every day. The withdrawl of the Rum Ration in the Royal Navy (known by most as 'Black Tot Day') was a 300 year-old tradition 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 were drawn from their barrels and placed into wicker clad stone flagons. These stocks of rum lay silently aging in bonded underground warehouses around the world, remaining the property of the Adminralty.

 

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 HRH Prince Andrew, as he served in the Royal navy aboard HMS Invincible, seeing operational 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 demi-johns and created the 'brand' British Royal Navy Imperial Rum, although this was not actually a brand, more of a description of the product.

 

Now, as the government clears out its bonded warehouses, stocks are becoming available from various sites around Europe, military stores in Munster, Antwerp and Bellefield all apparently had stores of Royal Navy rum, most of which have been snapped up, blended and bottled under the brand 'Black Tot: Last Consignment'.

 

However, The Kenilworth has incredibly managed to track down three flagons and will begin bottling our own British Royal Navy Imperial Rum from each individual flagon. Each flagon will produce nine 500ml bottles of this incredibly rare rum and each flagon will have its own unique taste.

 

The following tasting notes are from Bottle 1 of 9, an incredible example of history creating pure heaven in a glass.

 

Heavy aromas of treacle, tar and tobacco come rushing out of the glass followed swiftly by butterscotch, new oak and black pepper caramel. Hints of fresh sawdust and bursts of cooked fruit like tarte tatin, caremelised pineapple and bitter marmalade dance around nuances of cinnamon smoke, toffe popcorn and outstanding Demerara sugar notes. An aroma that lasts and lasts!

 

The palate is remarkably direct; starting initially sweet with a good viscosity featuring rich fruit cake and soft spice notes, elements of toffee apple, rum & raisin fudge, fresh Tahitian vanilla pod all fade to reveal slightly bitter notes of espresso and dark chocolate allowing the finish to develop into a light and oaky mixture of tobacco, white peppercorn and cooked bananas.

 

>> To purchase, please call The Kenilworth on 01926 779 473.