Oh A Drop of Nelson’s Blood Wouldn’t Do Us Any Harm

The story goes that after the Battle of Trafalgar, instead of burying him at sea, as was their tradition, the sailors who had fought wanted Nelson, who had fallen in the battle, to be brought home to England to be buried. In order to preserve the body for the journey home, it was placed in a barrel of spirits. I have been told most often that the spirits were rum, but I have also heard brandy. Regardless, the legend is that when the barrel was opened in Gibralter, Nelson’s pickled body was inside, but none of the spirits. To this day, rum and brandy are referred to as Nelson’s blood. That same rum was served daily on the ships of the Royal Navy until 1970. After Black Tot Day, when the Royal Navy stopped the rum ration, it was thought that navy rum was lost forever, and it was, until Pusser’s bought the rights to the recipe, and started producing rum. This rum is faithful to the very same stuff that Nelson was pickled in.

The Sailor's Dram

The Sailor's Dram

Pussers Rum Ltd.: Original Navy Rum

Tasting Conditions: I cracked this fine rum open fresh from the store as my Sunday evening digestif. I tasted it in a Ministry of Rum tasting glass.

Eye: The eye is a gorgeous amber in the glass. A swirl shows very slow forming legs of medium thickness. The bottle is a squat, thick glassed affair. It is liberally coated with fouled anchors. I counted four: one embossed on the cork, on embossed on the shoulder of the bottle, and one on each label. There is also a Royal Navy Jack. They are quite proud of the fact that it is Royal Navy-style rum. I feel the bottle is quite nice, and very evocative of an old-style rum bottle from the age of sail.

Nose: The first impression of the rum I got was that it was fairly rough. Behind the roughness I got a bit of toffee and oak. The smell is surprisingly simple, but hopefully there will be more in the mouth.

Mouth: Tasted neat, this spirit sneaks up on you with caramelly sweetness only to ambush you with as the rum reaches the back of your mouth to burn all the way down. Taken a bit more carefully, the caramel blends to toffee, and fades to honey on the finish. It is quite a sweet rum, but there are also a wide variety of pleasant spice notes, mostly cloves and cinnamon. Adding a bit of water smoothes this out as well and bringing nutty notes up. It also highlights the clove taste, and brings a bit of nutmeg to the very first sip. The sweetness, in the meantime, is pushed back. Far from being repelled as I initially was in the first neat sip, with just a bit of water, this becomes quite exceptional. I am almost afraid to add the ice, since I do not think it can possibly get better. After waiting for the ice to cool the dram, a sip proves my fears unfounded. The ice really brings the cinnamon and other spice notes to the fore, as well as adding molasses into the mix. With that bit of ice, this rum truly sings. All of the gorgeous elements that had been barely glimpsed before rise harmoniously to make a wondrous symphony of rummy goodness. The buttery texture of the rum combines with molasses, spice, vanilla, and oak notes to make an epic rum.

Conclusion: It seems recently that every new spirit I try is my new favorite. Before I wondered how people could be willing to shell out thousands of dollars for a fifth of old Royal Navy rum. I still don’t think I would ever do it, but now I can see the draw. I can see a bottle of Pusser’s on my shelf for a long time to come, and I may even need to find their better aged Red Label.

So enjoy your blood, and perhaps a bowl of Irish stew,
The Scribe


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