Black Tot Day is known as the day the British Royal Navy ended a over 300 years old (intermittent) tradition as on the 31st of July 1970 it stopped issuing rum rations to the sailors. This year’s 31st of July marked the 50th anniversary of the Black Tot Day and to celebrate it the Black Tot 50th Anniversary was created by the people from Elixir Distillers (The Whisky Exchange).
The Black Tot brand started when Whisky Exchange’s co-founder Sukhinder Singh managed to buy some of the last flagons of the Original Royal Navy rum and blended them creating the Black Tot Last Consingment bottling which is priced at a whooping £750. Following that it was the Black Tot 40 Year Old which was distilled in 1975 at the now-extinct Uitvlugt distillery in Guyana, aged for 40 years and priced at double the amount of money – exactly, £1500. Interestingly enough both of these liquids (well, slightly older variations) feature in the Black Tot 50th Anniversary blend although at a very minimum of 0.5% each of the total volume (3.5ml each). There’s also the Black Tot Finest Caribbean which is the only continuous release in the Black Tot line-up – you can read my review on it here.
While I do fancy the packaging, something to be highlighted is that on the back label of the bottle, and also on the cylindrical box it comes in, are presented all of the components in the blend complete with countries of origin, distilleries (with marques for the Guyanese rums), the status of each distillery, tropical ageing, continental ageing and how much percentage of each has been used to make the 50th Anniversary. You get a detailed list of the ingredients and their quantities. It might not be information everyone would know how to interpret, but for me as a rum enthusiast it definitely is one of the best and most transparent labels out there – saves me some research time as well, I’m a busy fella after all.
Mitch Wilson, the Global Brand Ambassador for Black Tot, and Gergo Murath, bar manager at Trailer Happiness and Brand Ambassador for Worthy Park, recently started an online Instagram live show called Between Two Rums, broadcasted on Gergo’s IG and in the very first episode Mitch told an interesting story about the creation of the Black Tot 50th Anniversary.
Apparently when the blend was being put together, a whole cask of Hampden rum was used instead of a third, Hampden being well known for creating very potent distillates flavour wise, therefore they had to try and source more of everything else to add in order to “dilute” the Jamaican component and the blend had to be adjusted accordingly by Oliver Chilton, the Master Blender. As a result now there’s 8% of Hampden in the bottle instead of 6% as initially planned – won’t be something you’ll hear me complaining about.
Another consequence of this oopsie is that now they ended up with 1/3 extra rum and so they decided to cask it in sherry barrels for now to be used for the future Black Tot anniversaries. Basically it will be a blend in continuous change every year using this extra rum from the 50th Anniversary as a base and then topped up with other, to quote Mitch, “cool things they find”. This would be another homage to the Royal Navy rum as they used to hold their blends in wooden vats which were continuously topped. You can think of it as some sort of solera system as it is also specified on the back label for the ageing process of the 0.5% Original Royal Navy Blend component present in the 50th Anniversary – have I mentioned that I love this label?
So molasses based this is a blend of rums from various countries – to be noted that the Guyanese components are predominant with just a smidge over 61.5% of the total blend. Distilled in various stills, from a wooden pot still to a multi-column still and aged from 9 years to 42 years + the solera rum from the Original Royal Navy Blend (which doesn’t have an age statement). The maturation occurred both in tropical and continental climate and I’ll assume most of it in ex-Bourbon barrels. You can read the attached label above for all the details. Bottled at navy strength, 54.5% ABV, no chill filtering, no sugar added and with a limited run of 5000 bottles – I could use a tot now.
On the nose the Demerara rum definitely comes through the most with the other rums seasoning it. Liquorice, molasses, pencil shavings, raisins and chocolate brownies. Quite a bit of vanilla, most likely from the TDL component. Old leather, black coffee, blackcurrant and a vintage shelf of dusty novels that haven’t been touched for years. Black pepper and a touch of cayenne pepper as well. Fruity too with apple pie (with cinnamon), ripe pineapple, melon and ripe pears . The Hampden really shines in it for such a small amount. Nutmeg, walnuts and cloves. I could nose this forever, but you know… evaporation.
On the palate it presents itself rich, sweet and hot. Liquorice, dark chocolate, tobacco, ground coffee, treacle and raisins – all typical Guyanese rum flavours. Cayenne pepper once again, but more intense along with some salted caramel. It’s like I took a huge bite out of an oak stave covered in molasses and some red chillies – and it got me hooked. Walnuts, cinnamon, brown sugar, English Breakfast tea and maple syrup. The Caroni in it definitely teases my palate with notes of used car tires and engine oil. There’s a prominent vanilla custard note as well. Blackberries, orange and grapefruit zests, Hampden overripe pineapple, strawberry jam, mango puree and banana flambe. Hints of mint, smoke and juniper in the back along with some damp cardboard. The finish is beautiful and long with red chilli, dark chocolate and Luxardo cherries.
50th Anniversary is described as “a new rum with an old soul” and I find that fairly accurate. While it definitely tastes “navy” there are bright and fruity elements to it along with that spiciness that makes it really interesting and layered. Having tried the Last Consingment a couple of times I’ll say this is considerably better and more balanced while retaining that “dark” Demerara rum backbone. It can be found for (only) £110 on The Whisky Exchange and if you’re a fan of Navy rums, Guyanese or simply a good blend* this is a must-have.
*Drinking game: have a shot for each time I used the word “blend” in this review.
Definitely one of the best rums I tried this year and overall.
Black Tot 50th Anniversary score:
Value for money: 15/15