Peggy and I had a chance last night to visit our favorite watering hole, Alameda’s own Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, where we signed up for the Kill-Devil Club and started in on the list of 97 rums. Only two patrons so far had made it all the way through the list, and their names were displayed in places of honor above the bar. I found the David McMurray Trinidad and the Westerhall Plantation to both be very fine out of the rums sampled (David McMurray, flight of five; Westerhall; Vizcaya VSOP). But the real treat of the evening was the British Royal Navy Imperial Rum, the very stuff served to officers and VIPs on special occaisons, as detailed below. And I’m here to tell you it was worth it, even at $60/oz. Smooth, even at 108 proof; richly flavored yet not oversweet, delicious. If you can’t make it to Alameda you can buy it here, only $2999.99 for the 1 Imperial gallon jug and presentation set pictured above.
Some more information:
British Royal Navy Imperial Rum Tasting Notes
F. Paul Pacult, The Spirit Journal
Appearance The deep color is mahogany with ruby core highlights.
Nose Impeccable purity. Immediately after the pour, exotic scents of rubber tire, lanolin, and black pepper greet the olfactory sense. With time in the glass, the aroma slowly begins to unfold in the second whiff, offering mature, rind-like scents of bacon fat and poppy seed. In the third sniffing, the fat/oil component takes charge, providing a substantial aromatic phase. In the fourth and last nosing pass, following nearly ten minutes of aeration, indistinct notes of herbs (ginger? cardamom?), cocoa butter, molasses, and steamed asparagus get added to the peculiar aromatic stew.
Taste The palate entry is unctuous, layered, intensely honeyed, and molasses-like—the midpalate stage is opulent, cocoa-like, buttery, and shows traces of rancio.
Finish The aftertaste is long and is laden with ripe and sweet tastes of dried fruit, almond butter, and oak resin. Most of all, I liked the ethereal touch of rancio on the tongue
Comments An interesting gorilla of a rum.
and from Rum Numb Davey on Tiki Central
Martiki: If you think $62 a dram is steep for some premium rum, let me illuminate my most prized spirit in my collection (along with my sole bottle of 50 year old Macallan). The “brand” is really not a brand at all but a description. The product is British Royal Navy Imperial Rum, and it is, in fact, the REAL deal. Pussers and Lambs have some legitimacy as Royal Navy Rum, but the stock of wonderfully aged alembic spirits distilled in Jamaica and Guyana that were aged in American oak barrels and casked at 108 proof was the British Vatted Rum for issue to the Jack Tars on deck. Most TCer’s probably know the infamous day, July 31, 1970 – known as Black Tot Day, when the Royal Navy admiralty suspended the maritime privilege of one half gill, or one eighth of a pint to be issued out by the Ship Purser with great solemnity and pomp (the original measure was a gill, which is equal to one quarter pint or 5 US Ounces –Military bearing?).
The American Navy ended the Rum ration on September 1, 1862, the Limey’s closed the Grog shop in 1970, and the PC cops finally did our neighbors to the North –the Canadian Navy served their last measure to sailors on December 2, 1971. (Take off, Hoseheads!)
In any event, when the Royal Navy decreased the ration from one gill to one half gill on January 1, 1851, Rum brokers experimented with blending and the blending formulas eventually became closely guarded secrets. They carried over the surplus rum blend akin to the Solera system for Sherry or in the old Cognac Houses. This created layered, rich, noble rum with distinct rancio. Since the quantity of the ration of rum was reduced the Sea Lords demanded that QUALITY standards increased. After, the notorious Black Tot Day in 1970, the remaining stock silently aged in bonded underground warehouses in Jamaica under the authority and supervision of the British Government who owned the old stock. His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York, served a served in the Royal Navy, seeing action in the Falklands War aboard HMS Invincible. The British Royal Navy Imperial Rum was served at his wedding to Fergie, and at various other Royal functions. All the while the rum slumbered away with only small sales to generate resources to benefit Royal Navy’s Sailor’s Fund. Finally, a shrewd and charming Oil Man named Mark Andrews from Houston, Texas acquired the remaining stock of 650 wicker-covered ceramic demijohns. He previously purchased Knappogue Castle in Co. Clare, Eire in 1966.
He found vast stocks of aged Irish whiskey in the cellar, which he inherited, making the Old Irish Manse a fantastic investment. Texas Oil went bust, and a new venture was born. When Life gives you lemons you make lemonade (or cocktails)! With this twist of fate Knappogue Castle Irish Single Malt Whiskey was born. He started Great Spirits (An Independent Liquor Import Company), which has since evolved to Castle Brands, after a merger with Roaring Water Bay Spirits, an Irish company that has enjoyed great success with its Boru Vodka and Clontarf Irish Whiskey.
In any event, they not only have the British Royal Navy Imperial Rum stock, but they produce a premium branded rum under the Sea Wynde label comprised of five pot still rums from Jamaica and Guyana. I definitely like Sea Wynde, and still have a couple of bottle from the launch. After all, Jim Murray was the consultant on the brand and he consulted with us when I worked for Cadenheads. Spirits Journalist and publisher, F. Paul Pacult of the prestigious Spirit Journal gives it his highest recommendation, which is for him a five star rating. As good as, Sea Wynde is, it cannot touch the absolute sublime complexity of the BRNIR. I obtained a fantastic demijohn of BRNIR (wholesale) after the launch. I tasted it with Mark Andrews at the second Whisky Expo at the Nikko Hotel in San Fran a few years ago. I knew it was not practical, but I finagled a bottle at wholesale from my Brands Manager at Southern Wine & Spirits for a whopping $3,500.00 clams. That’s’ right people my wholesale price was $3,500.00! I can see the blank stares in all across Tikidom thinking what kind of fool old Rum Numb Davey is just blowing his retirement like a chump. Consider this, I am a bachelor and was always impractical. Like my moniker implies I loves me some rum, and this is very special rum! It is history in the bottle, and it is a beautiful package. I have reluctantly shared some, at various times, since I purchased it in 2002. It is mostly a Christmas, New Years and Birthday dram for me, and I do mean dram – 1 solitary ounce. I keep it away from my own home bar, and stashed with my vintage wine collection in a climate controlled cold storage. I know Rum Jungle offers the demijohn for $5,000 to High Rollers in Mandalay Bay, and although RJ is expensive they do have about 150 or so rums, and worth a visit to the gambling Rummy. I think Asia de Cuba restaurants stock BRNIR which can be ordered by the snifter (Garçon, pour it in a Tiki Mug, Please!)
The British Royal Navy Imperial 108.6-proof rum is a beautifully packaged classic ceramic demijohn encased in wicker, along with a glass decanter, funnel and stopper. A normal retail price should be around$5,500 to $6,000. If you cannot afford it, perhaps a bottle of Bacardi Millennium Rum which retailed for an impressive $800 might fit your budget! Back to my bottle of Ancient Macallan, while celebrating Hogmany in Edinburgh in 2000, I paid (on my credit card) a whopping sum of £1900.00 for a rare bottle of 1949 Vintage Macallan Millennium 50 Y.O. Single Malt and it is UNOPENED in its’ wooden and copper case. That’s nothing, on April17, 2002, an unlabelled bottle of ‘The Macallan 60 Years Old’, was sold at auction, by McTear’s in Glasgow, for £20,150 – setting a new world record for the most expensive bottle of Scotch whisky. Park Avenue Liquor in NYC lists the Macallan Millennium 50 y.o. for $5,000 now.