We marked the 40th anniversary of Black Tot Day with a re-enactment of the daily rum tot on July 30 next to HMS Victory on at the first of three Portsmouth Navy Days celebrating the senior service. Black Tot Day (31st July 1970) mourned by many, was the day the Admiralty ended the centuries old tradition of issuing a daily tot of rum to serving sailors of the Royal Navy. The final Up Spirits took place between 11am and 12 noon when the last measure of Pusser’s Rum was served to the crews of Royal Navy ships.
The Pusser’s Rum re-enactment crew, dressed in naval gear of Nelson’s period, were accompanied by the Exmouth Shanty Men singing famous old sea songs such as ‘All for me Grog’ and ‘Nelson’s Blood’. The songs recall the creation of grog (a mix of rum, lime juice and sugar) and the death of Nelson whose body was shipped back to England in a rum cask to preserve it after the battle of Trafalgar. Legend says that the barrel was dry when opened. Thirsty sailors had bored a hole and, literally, drunk Nelson’s blood.
Black Tot Day ended an enshrined 300-year tradition in which the daily rum measure shrank from half a pint a day from its introduction in the 17th century (the standard measure right up to the latter part of the 19th century), to one eighth of a pint (equivalent to three measures) of 54.5% ABV Caribbean rum. The rum was watered down in the Scuttlebutt and either drunk on the spot or collected in a rum fanny for the sailors’ mess.
But while the tradition has gone, as you all know, Pusser’s Rum survives! In appreciation to the Admiralty for allowing me to launch Pusser’s Rum to the public in 1979, Pusser’s donates a royalty on every bottle sold to a Tot Fund to provide on-shore amenities for serving sailors. To date, more than £1 million has been donated and is its largest source of income other than the interest earned by the Fund’s capital.
March 15, wind about 7 knots from the NE and Tortola as seen from Little Harbor, Peter Island. A lazy, warm day as seen from my floating office.The beauty of the place makes up for the hard work needed to stay afloat these days.
We decided recently to try to expand our tropical & nautical apparel business from our home here in the Caribbean to the U.S. We hope to be able to achieve this by selling directly to independent, specialty retail stores – some that might be near you.
The problem is that we don’t know specifically where to go. Some of you will probably have spent some time in a Pusser’s Store, or have some familiarity with our apparel. If you could think of one or two retailers that you believe might be good prospects for Pusser’s products, we’d be absolutely grateful. Please just let us know the name of the store and the town.
Thank you for your support of Pusser’s, and for any assistance that you might be able to give us. Your input will be invaluable, and will really be appreciated.
Geoff enjoys a Painkiller and gives his book "Walking on Water" to Pusser's as a token of his appreciation for the Painkiller Welcome Reception the night before.
Geoff Holt, after a 28-day, 2,700-mile voyage, recently become the first quadriplegic to sail solo across the Atlantic.
Sailing Impossible Dream, a 60-foot specially built catamaran, he completed his voyage on Thursday, January 7th after setting off from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on December 10, 2009. On his arrival at Tortola he was given a hero’s welcome by hundreds of wellwishers. The BVI governor and deputy prime minister also turned out to greet Geoff. All of us at Pusser’s were very pleased to throw him a Painkiller Welcome Party on the dock at Manuel Reef Marina, the home of the BVI’s Sailability programme and the BVI Watersports Centre.
Geoff had been expected to arrive in Tortola on December 27, but unhelpful weather and mechanical problems delayed them (he had a non-sailing carer and videographer onboard with him). Five hundred miles from the finish line the generator on Impossible Dream stopped working properly, leaving Geoff having to work the hi-tech yacht manually.
It also meant he couldn’t cook anything onboard in order to save vital fuel.
Me (left), Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey, Commander Paddy McClurg, General Secretary Royal Naval Association
On the eve of Black Tot Day, 30 July, I handed over a substantial cheque to navy charities.
The cheque was accepted by the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey in the Great Cabin of Lord Nelson’s Flagship HMS Victory on behalf of the Royal Navy Sailors Fund, otherwise known as the Tot Fund.
This is an annual donation made by Pusser’s Rum to the Royal Navy Sailors Fund which was set up by the Admiralty in recompense for discontinuing the tradition of serving a daily rum tot on ships of the Royal Navy. The Fund provides amenities for serving members of the Royal Navy and Pusser’s is the largest contributor to the Fund, outside the original bequest.
It was on 31 July 1970, known as Black Tot Day, that the serving of the daily rum issue was discontinued. However, in 1979 I obtained the original blend for Pusser’s Rum from the Admiralty and commercially started blending Pusser’s Rum for public consumption. In appreciation, Pusser’s Rum makes a donation from worldwide sales to the Sailors Fund. To date, donations have reached over £1million.
In recognition of my long relationship with the Royal Naval Association, I was presented with the Association’s Admiral Lord Nelson Medal by Commander Paddy McClurg, General Secretary of the Association.
Our foray into the Australian market is going well. The following story by Wes ‘The Captain’ Morgan was recently posted on the Australian web site http://4bars.com.au:
On Monday, 3rd August, a nearly full tasting room for the latest Sydney Rum Club was very positive news indeed. Upon arrival attendees were treated to the classic Painkiller cocktail – a potion of Pusser’s Rum, coconut cream, orange juice and nutmeg. The room consisted of liquor reps, media personalities, bartenders (keen to expand their knowledge) and rum lovers alike.
MAR off Rhodes - the start of my long voyage with Pusser's Rum
The commercialization of Pusser’s Rum had its beginnings on board my yacht MAR, in 1978.
For 330 years Great Britain’s Royal Navy issued a daily rum ration to its sailors. This daily allotment was known as the ‘tot’, and its issue and the ritual that went with it was one of the longest running traditions in maritime history. The rum issued was a very special rum called Navy or Admiralty Rum, or sometimes PUSSER’S, a corruption of the word purser, after the officer in charge of the daily issue. This issue of rum was stopped on July 31st, 1970 – a day known to the navy as “Black Tot Day”. [click to continue…]
Soggy Dollar Bar, BVI - Birthplace of the Pusser's Painkiller
The infamous Pusser’s Painkiller® had its start at the six-seat Soggy Dollar Bar on a long stretch of white sand beach at White Bay on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. There’s no dock, so the usual way in is to swim. Of course, your dollars get wet – hence the name: Soggy Dollar Bar.
When all this started, the bar with its four adjoining cottages was owned by an English lady, Daphne Henderson. Boaters, including myself, came from all around to sample her tasty Pusser’s Painkiller® for which she’d become locally famous. The fact that I had gone to Great Britain’s Royal Navy and gotten permission to commercialize the rum in 1980 made me more curious about this deliciously concocted recipe made with Pusser’s Rum.
Daphne Henderson and I became good friends, but in spite of our friendship, and no matter how hard I tried, she refused to divulge her secret recipe for the Pusser’s Painkiller®. Two years passed, then late one Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of a long session of Painkilling, I somehow managed to get one of her concoctions back through the surf and over the gunwale into my boat, and ultimately into my kitchen on Tortola where I live.