July 31 marks the 50th Anniversary of Black Tot Day, the day in which British Royal Navy sailors were given their final rum ration. A July 23 Zoom seminar and guided tasting hosted by Black Tot Rum ambassador Mitch Wilson and rum historian Matt Pietrik discussed the history of the Navy and its rum rations, along with the blending of Caribbean rums.
The earliest record of rum being given out in ships was in 1655, but the first official naval rum rations were offered across the British fleet in 1731. Why did the Navy provide sailors with a rum ration, also known as a tot?
The sea voyages were rough, and the promise of a daily portion of rum helped keep spirits up and prevent sailors from deserting, Wilson said. Each sailor initially received half a pint (British imperial pint) of overproof rum per day. This quantity was subsequently reduced, and in 1740 the rum rations were also watered down.
The British Navy inadvertently created a “world blend” by combining different styles of rum from Caribbean countries such as Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica for the tot. That type of blending is something you don’t see in other spirit categories, such as whiskey, Wilson noted.
The Navy continued the practice until 1970 when it decided to abolish the tots due to the more complicated systems involved in modern ships. Sailors showed their disapproval by wearing black armbands and holding mock funerals for the tot, but it was over: July 31, 1970 became known as Black Tot Day.
Black Tot rum will mark the occasion with a 24-hour Facebook live event on July 31 featuring rum sessions and tastings with some of the world’s best bartenders and assorted rum royalty. For more visit the Black Tot Facebook page.