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Pusser's Gunpowder Rum

Pusser's Gunpowder


By Robert Plotkin

In the early 1500 through the late 1600s, the shipping lanes in the Caribbean Sea were the most dangerous, hotly contested waters in the world. Through its narrow island passages and channels sailed pirates, buccaneers, and the navies the plundered treasures of the New World.

It was the British Royal Navy that would eventually turn the tide. The Admiralty established the first naval station in the Caribbean at Port Royal, Jamaica in 1692 and the second at English Harbour, Antigua in 1743. While the other superpowers had to shuttle their fleets between Europe and the Caribbean, remaining in the area no more than six-months at a time, the British maintained a permanent presence.

The life of the average seaman aboard a British warship during the 17th and 18th centuries was a mix of drudgery and backbreaking labor, all the while faced with the constant threat of violent death. To break the tedium and stress, sailors were given a daily ration of beer. Unfortunately, the barrels of beer fared poorly on long voyages—especially in tropical climes—and the brew quickly soured and became unpalatable.

The first reference to rum being served onboard a Royal Navy Ship places the event in 1655. Vice-Admiral William Penn had just captured Jamaica from the Spanish and he rewarded his crews by providing them with local rum. It is said the crews immediately took to the robust pot-distilled Jamaican rum.

By the early 1680s, it was standard practice for a Royal Navy Purser to supplement the onboard provisions with West Indies rum. Plantation owners sold local rum to the navy at favorable prices to encourage their frequent return. The mere presence of the Royal Navy was enough to keep pirates away.

The Admiralty officially adopted a pint of rum as the daily ration for crews in the West Indies, and by 1731, a pint of strong, undiluted rum was being doled out throughout the Royal Navy.

The romance begins the moment you pick up a bottle of Pusser's Gunpowder Proof British Navy Rum. It looks like something that belongs on a ship of the line. There's even something disciplined about its no-nonsense label, which bears the Royal Ensign and states its name, strength and port of call. The whole package is strong, concise and dripping with tradition.

Pusser's is history in a bottle, an authentic recreation of the rum served to sailors in the British Royal Navy for centuries. Pusser's continues to be produced in the West Indies—specifically Trinidad and Guyana—in exact accordance to the Admiralty's recipe and standards. All of the molasses used to make the rums comes from the Demerara River Valley. They are distilled in the last remaining production-capacity, wooden pot stills in the world. The distillation of rum in wood imparts a truly unique flavor that can only be described as "full and rich." The wooden staves of the stills are impregnated with centuries of esters and congeners—the organic compounds found naturally in wine and spirits that impart flavor to them. No other stills in the world can reproduce these flavors.

After distillation, the rums used to make Pusser's are barrel-aged for a minimum of 3 years before being shipped to Barbados for blending and bottling at 54.5% alcohol by volume (109 proof). The rich flavor of Pusser's Rum is all-natural—no artificial flavoring or coloring is added.

Pusser's Gunpowder has a dark, golden/amber hue, a velvety textured, medium-weight body and a generous bouquet of semisweet molasses, tobacco, dark chocolate and toasted oak with loads of tropical fruit notes. Its broad palate is brimming with the flavors of raisins, chocolate, anise, fruit, nutmeg and caramel. Don't brace yourself for a slap-in-the-face experience from this rum. The entry is warming—stopping well short of hot—then the exceptionally dry, woody flavors take over and build in intensity. The long, lingering finish is imbued with layers of dry earthy flavors.

Pusser's Gunpowder Rum is an invaluable addition behind the bar. Issued at the original Admiralty strength, the rum is famous as the foundation of the Painkiller, a timeless tall drink made with Pusser's, orange and pineapple juice, coconut syrup and freshly grated nutmeg on top. It'll cure whatever ails you.