Shortly after launch, an Ex RN Victualling CPO

                                                                                              challenged Black Tot on a number of web sites, over it's

                                                                                              authenticity. Suggesting that Black Tot may in fact be

                                                                                              British Army rum, and outlining the thoughts behind his

                                                                                              challenge. The key to which, was his claim that rum

                                                                                              purchased for the British Army was purchased by open

                                                                                              tender, stored in separate vats at the same victualling

                                                                                              yards as RN rum, and eventually distributed to the

                                                                                              Army in the same wicker covered jars as used by the

                                                                                              Royal Navy.

Royal Navy rum was extremely distinctive in taste, smell and colour, it was blended to be so. I find it hard to believe that rum allegedly purchased by open tender could be passed off as Ex RN rum. There is evidence to show that rum stocks remaining after 1970 were sent to BAOR bases in Europe for storage, and that these stocks did indeed come back to the UK for disposal. I have two Ex RN colleagues who are still drinking Ex RN rum, including some that was stored in British Army bases in Europe. Both advise that there is no discernible difference in taste, smell or colour, between the rum stored at Army bases in Europe, and rum that was not stored in Europe!

One also happens to be an Ex Victualling CPO, hence knows his RN rum. 

I imagine that the early negative comments influenced the Ex RN community at the very least, and in my opinion, unfairly so.

One small point I would like to make is that Royal Victoria Yard in Deptford, closed in 1961. I make the assumption that the solera there in, closed around the same time. Therefore any rum stocks remaining in soleras after 31st July 1970, would have been at Gosport and Devonport ( Actually Wrangaton ) only!

Wrangaton's entire stock ended up in the hands of Bass Charrington. Apart from a small holding, the stock from Gosport was bottled and sent to BAOR bases in Europe.

A spokesman for the Whisky Exchange - a sister company of Speciality Drinks Ltd - intimated that some of Black Tot's stocks may have came from Castle Brands, the company selling gallon jars in the US some years earlier.

My victualing CPO colleague advises that Black Tot Last Consignment has no equal, as far as Royal Navy rum goes, it looks, smells and tastes like the real thing, that's good enough for me!

The sale price was £6.33 / gallon. UK tax at an additional £64 / gallon was also to be paid.

According to the Daily Telegraph article, the rum, some dating as far back as 1953 and some left over after withdrawal ( 1970 ), was mostly stored in wicker covered one gallon jars. There was however around 160 gallons in glass demijohns and bottles.

An article in the Daily Mirror of 7th February 1995 tells the same story and advises that some of the jars were to be sold at auction that week.

The Telegraph article goes on to advise that the buyer gave back the 160 gallons of rum in glass demijohns and jars to the Royal Navy.

The article left, appeared in the April 1995 edition of the Navy News.

It references an FTM from the 16th December 1994, where serving members were offered an opportunity to buy a part of a "small residual quantity".

This was in fact the 160 gallons returned by the original civilian purchaser ( in glass demijohns and jars ).

The cost was £32 / half gallon, representing the  tax element only, the rum was free, having been donated by the original purchaser.

Understandably, there was great rage amongst serving members, regarding the details of the original purchase. I imagine that the reply from the Flag Officer Surface Flotilla, left, did little to comfort those that missed out!

Metal label attached to gallon jar in order to meet
US government requirements.

The last regulation issue of rum in the Royal Navy took place on Friday 31st July 1970. Ever since that time, that day has been known as "Black Tot Day".

The decision to stop the issue of rum was made by the Admiralty Board on the 19th December 1969. There was, therefore, relatively little time until the actual cessation on the 31st July 1970.

I imagine that there was a significant quantity of rum already in the UK, and probably contracts to complete, meaning more still to arrive? Not forgetting of course the stocks in Royal Navy depots overseas.

After cessation, it would appear that the vast majority of rum that remained was offered out to tender/auction.

A small quantity was kept however, for use at state occasions.

In 1971, two main UK victualing yards were in operation, Royal Clarence Yard, Gosport and Royal William Yard, Plymouth. Royal Victoria Yard, Deptford closed in 1961.

The fate of remaining rum stocks at Royal William Yard, Plymouth, is discussed below. Apparently, remaining stocks at Royal Clarence Yard, Gosport, were filled into 1 gallon wicker jars and then stored at British Army bases across Europe.

I do not know if the smaller, Royal Elizabeth Yard in Scotland, had rum issuing facilities.

I discuss below, a number of different instances where Naval rum has appeared for sale after it's release from the Royal Navy. I'm sure that there is more to add to all of these instances and would like to hear from anyone who has supporting or additional information.

Advertisement detailing sale of original Navy rum.                                 One of the jars from the sale ( Left ).

I do not know how successful the official sell of was, whether those who applied received all that they applied for, or not.

I do think the cost of some of the larger items would have been out of reach for most 'ratings' at the time, evidenced perhaps by a remark made by a dealer. He had a constant stream of officers at his door trying to sell kit obtained during the sell off! So much for the DCI advising 'personal use' only!

It is my belief that the number of grog tubs purchased was relatively small, as few authentic ones are in circulation today, and even less barricoes.

As sets of authentic 'letters' - from grog tubs, were available in bulk at one time, I imagine that those tubs not being fit for sale, and those not purchased, had their 'letters' removed, these letters were likely sold at tender later.

Evidence suggests that some tubs were broken down ( shaken ) and sold at tender disassembled, only to be re-built and have non admiralty brass work applied.

I have seen claims by two owners, that their tubs have a set of 'holes' from an original set of 'letters', supposedly, 'The King God Bless Him', on one side. On the other, an actual set of letters, 'The Queen God Bless Her'. Closer examination reveals that the pattern of the set of 'holes' on the reverse side could not have been 'KING'. I assume that these tubs had their original letters removed at Clarence Yard, and when demand for tubs grew, a different set of letters applied?

Rum issue equipment left over after the DCI sell of would likely have been sold at auction/tender.

The dealer mentioned above, advised that he was 'invited' to attend an MOD auction at Rosyth in Scotland, where there was a very large quantity of rum issue copperware being sold off. He told me that his workshops were later crammed with a sea of rum pumps, funnels and measures.

Disposal of rum issue equipment.

Black Tot Last Consignment:    To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Black Tot day - ( 31st July 2010 ) -

                                                           Speciality Drinks Ltd, pre launched 'Black Tot Last Consignment' rum on board

                                                           HMS Belfast, on the 28th July 2010. 'Black Tot' rum is advertised as made from the last remaining stocks of original Royal Navy rum, left over after the Royal Navy's final issue in 1970.

Prior to 2010, Speciality Drinks Ltd, spent four years tracking down and acquiring the majority of the remaining stocks of original navy rum, so that they could be brought together and bottled as Black Tot last consignment.
At launch, on 31st July 2010, Black Tot Last Consignment was to be aimed at the travel retail sector. 

         A Black Tot Last Consignment webpage advises:      'With the withdrawal of the rum ration, the Royal Navy

                                                                                              had little use for the remaining rum stocks held in large

                                                                                              oak soleras in the historic victualling warehouses of

                                                                                              Deptford, Gosport and Devonport.

                                                                                              In December 1970, the soleras were emptied into wicker

                                                                                              clad stone flagons which were sealed under

                                                                                              HM Customs & Excise supervision and transferred to

                                                                                              government bonded warehouses, where they remained

                                                                                              undisturbed for nearly 40 years, being broached only for

                                                                                              use on state occasions and royal weddings'.

BRNIR gallon wicker covered jar and presentation set.
Presentation case, bottle and measure.

Clarence Yard, Gosport, early 90's:    In the early 90's, parts of Clarence Yard were being sold off for civilian

                                                                      development, housing etc. Allegedly, a quantity of naval rum was found

                                                                      in an old storage facility and was offered to yard employees in exchange

                                                                      for a charitable donation.

Sale by Private Treaty - 1994:    Some time during the first half of 1994, 4,800 gallons of Royal Navy rum was

                                                            put up for sale by Private Treaty. The rum had been stored in Europe, at

                                                            British Army bases since 1971, it was returned to the RN Victualling Yard at

                                                            Gosport, awaiting sale.

From articles that appeared in the press and Navy News some time later, it appears that the MOD, for whatever reason, did not offer naval personnel, serving or otherwise, an opportunity to purchase part or indeed all of the rum.

According to the Daily Telegraph of 12th April 1995, the lucky purchaser was a civilian entrepreneur, who normally deals in timber.

DCI(RN) 1050/70

(U) 1050. - Victualling Stores - Rum - Sale of Grog Tubs, Copper Measures, etc

                                                   (N/STE 1280/70 - 11 Sept 70)

1.          The items listed in Annex A to this Instruction are available for sale to naval

personnel. Applications should be made in the form shown in Annex B and forwarded

to the address shown to arrive not later than two months after the date of issue of this

Instruction. They should not be accompanied by cheques or money; successful

applicants will be advised of the method of payment.

2.          Grog tubs and barricoes may vary considerably in condition and the price charged

will be assessed accordingly, probably ranging from the full value shown to about

one-third of that figure. Spirit measures, pumps and funnels may be new or used and

are offered at the price shown whether new or used. All prices include cost of packing

and transportation to any UK destination.

3.          If stocks are insufficient to meet all requests, allocation will be decided by ballot.

Individuals wishing to purchase several items should list them in order of preference,

but no person will be permitted to purchase more than one item until the initial

requests of other applicants have been satisfied. No matched sets will be sold until

all requests for single items have been met.

4.          It is a condition of sale that the items are for the applicant's personal use and

will not be re-sold.

                                                               ANNEX A

                                       Item                                                   Sale price

Measures, Spirit, Copper, Lipped                                                                         £     s     d

           1 gallon      .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .           5     0     0

           1 pint          .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .           3     0     0

           2 gill           .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .           2     0     0

           1 gill           .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .           1    10    0

        1/2 gill           .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .           1     5     0

Matched set of five measures (available only after all requests for

single items have been met.        .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .          20     0     0

Measures, Spirit, Copper, Round

           1 gallon      .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .           4     0     0

           2 quart       .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            3    10   0

           1 quart       .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            3     0    0

           1 pint         .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            2    10    0

           2 gill          .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            1    15    0

     1 1/2 gill          .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            1    10    0

           1 gill          .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            1     5     0

        1/2 gill          .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            1     0     0

Matched set of eight measures  (available only after requests for

single items have been met.  .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .          20     0     0

Funnels, Copper

           1 gallon     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            2    10    0

           2 quart      .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            2      0    0

           1 quart      .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            1    10    0

           1 pint        .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .                  1       5    0

Pumps, Spirit, Copper     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            4      0    0

Tubs, Grog, with Cover

           40 gallon   .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .          25     0     0

           30 gallon   .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .          21   10     0

           20 gallon   .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .          17   10     0

           10 gallon   .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .          14   10      0

Barricoes, Spirits, Polished

           10 gallon   .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            8   10     0

             6 gallon   .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .            8     0     0

Annex B Gives the address to send requests to, along with the applicants service details

and address.

It also gives the applicant an option to select four items in order of preference and asks the

applicant to certify that "I wish to acquire these items for my personal use and not for re-sale".

BRNIR Certificate of ownership.

Gibraltar - Brian Cornford.     The late Brian Cornford was an CPO ERA, serving in submarines during WWII.

                                                       At some stage, date uncertain, he purchased a large quantity of RN rum at

                                                       auction, both in wicker covered jars and large wooden casks. The rum was shipped to Gibraltar and held in a secure bonded warehouse. A steady supply of RN vessels visiting Gibraltar, gave Brian Cornford and his General Manager, Mr John Kania, the ideal opportunity to supply one gallon, wicker-covered jars of Royal Navy Rum, to the eager to purchase crews.

Allegedly, when the individual wicker covered gallon jars were all finally

sold, the large wooden casks were tapped.  Rum from the casks was

decanted into litre bottles and sold, primarily, to RN, RAF and British Army

messes in Gibraltar, and also to selected local pubs. ( Source - Wikipedia ).

I distinctly remember visiting Gibraltar in 1977, and the warning from the

Liaison Officer, that should anyone be approached ashore, re: purchasing

a gallon wicker jar of Navy rum, they should politely refuse. This pearl of

wisdom went unheeded by several of the Senior Rates, who managed to

get the jars back on board, and I'm sure later consumed in their mess.

I do not know how long Mr Cornford's stocks lasted, or indeed how much

he originally purchased. Brian Cornford crossed the bar in 2013, he was

living in Spain at the time.

The image right, shows a one gallon wicker jar purchased from Brian

Cornfords stock in 1976. It is being held aloft by an auctioneer at time of

being re-sold.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who may be able to add greater

detail to Brian Cornford's purchase from the MOD or indeed his story of

RN rum supply. Recently found information suggesting that Mr Cornford

purchased the stocks left in Gibraltar after cessation, and that his stock did

not come from the UK?

Some of the equipment available for sale in September 1970 - One careful owner.

Bass Charrington:   In the 1950's, storage and issue of rum from Royal William Yard, Plymouth, was transferred

                                       to Wrangaton. When the rum issue came to an end, the vats and store at Wrangaton

                                       contained 7,500gallons of rum.

The last of the rum was stored in Kilderkins and small casks. It was put up for auction and sold to a travel company. It later resold to the brewers Bass Charrington. The entire consignment left Wrangaton in 1974.

British Royal Navy Imperial Rum (BRNIR):   The brand name 'British Royal Navy Imperial Rum' was chosen

                                                                                   by 'Castle Brands', formerly 'Great Spirits', when they brought

                                                                                   one gallon wicker covered jars of Ex Royal Navy rum to market in the US. I believe that the launch date in the US was approximately 2001/2002.

I have not been able to determine where and when Castle Brand obtained their stocks of wicker covered jars. An Internet source suggests that 650 jars were purchased in 1980, from Jamaica, apparently from rum left over after the cessation of the RN issue in 1970. The Jamaica connection seems unlikely, as this would have been one rum from one producer? RN rum is a blend of rums from different producers in different countries, blended in the RN victualling yard at Deptford. Further, I doubt that the wicker covered jars were available to a Jamaican producer.

It could be, of course, that prior to 1970, a stock of rum existed in Jamaica to replenish RN ships in the West Indies, and this is what was purchased?

The retail purchase price of BRNIR was in the region of 5000USD.

A very nice presentation set was included in the price. Both the BRNIR wicker gallon jar and presentation set are shown in the two images below.

Disposal of rum. 

The Avondale public House - St levan Gate, Plymouth:   I received the following information from a site

                                                                                                          reader. It reminded me that I had been told the

                                                                                                          same many years earlier, but had forgotten!

The U.K. Government had orders for rum from the West Indies, which needed to be fulfilled, this led to excess stock being 'auctioned off'. Several public house landlords apparently bought the stock and created their own 'tot times'.

( I wonder if the Avondale was a Bass Charrington house! ). 

Must have been a great money spinner!

It was with great delight when, during the early 1970’s, the Avondale public house, obtained license from the government to sell off old stock of genuine Navy rum. This was done for months, on a daily 'Tot Time' routine, one tot per customer at noon, and one tot per customer at 18:30. I distinctly remember queue’s up to half a mile from the pub, with ‘Jack’ waiting for his fix. Great times.

( The Avondale is opposite Devonport Dockyard, just outside St Levan’s gate ).
I'm sure you'll be aware that original Navy rum was a unique recipe, not available anywhere else, certainly not to the general public.

Castle's 'brand name' - British Royal Navy Imperial Rum - appears to have 'stuck', with many instances of Ex Royal Navy rum jars ( not actually being sold by Castle ), being called as such.

A gallon jar supplied in Gibraltar.

The article from the April 1995 edition of Navy News above, and the Daily Telegraph article of 12th April 1995, both mention that some of the rum was being sold at £156, by former members of the Royal Navy.

The image above left, is an advertisement placed in the November 1994 issue of Navy News, offering wicker covered gallon jars for sale, the image above right, is one of the jars.

A fellow collector actually met a descendant of the original purchaser, ( 4,800 gallons ).

I will leave it to him to tell the rest of the story - what happened to the rum that did not get sold to collectors etc.

( He plans to release his own site at some time in the future ).

All I will add is that the majority of the 4,800 gallons remained in bond, allegedly awaiting it's rather wasteful ending!

A second internet source describes how Castle Brands had several problems to overcome in order to gain approval to sell Ex RN rum in the US.

As the jars are a non standard size for the US

( at 4.54L ) - Castle needed to prove that it was 'bottled' prior to a certain date in order to get it 'grandfathered' in.

The US government also requires that a label be permanently affixed to the container, hence the metal label, shown right.

These were 'wired' onto each gallon jar by hand.

Purchasers of BRNIR also received an owners certificate, as shown in the image below.

In July 1970, when the issue of rum to the Royal Navy

ceased, there must have been thousands of pieces of

rum issuing equipment in use. Every vessel in the fleet,

no matter the size, every shore establishment, at both

home and around the world, indeed any place where

there were serving members of the Royal Navy, would

have some degree of rum issuing kit.

Rum issuing equipment was to be returned to the naval

victualing yard in Gosport - Royal Clarence Yard.

In September 1970, a DCI ( Defence Council

Instruction ) was issued, giving details of how serving

members of the Royal Navy may purchase items of rum

issuing equipment. Items for sale were listed along with

their cost, and details of how to apply.

The content of the DCI can be seen below.

Prices were given in the pre decimal format - Pounds (£), Shillings (S) and Pence (D) - ( 20 Shillings to the Pound ).

For example: a 10 gallon grog tub with lid cost £14 10 shillings, ( using current UK currency -  £14.50 pence ).