A Navy in search of RUM!
Strength versus Style. The Ministry versus the Spirit. The sourced and the reacted. Ed versus Brian. Hamilton Navy Strength versus Lost Spirits Navy Style. There will be cocktails too!
First, what is Navy Rum? It is a term that is thrown about quite a bit. Smith and Cross bills itself as “Navy Strength.” Pusser's has a fleet of nautical themed names. The UK boasts an armada of "Navy Style" brands. These rums tend to are darker in color and (try to) have a rich, deep body and palate. They should be overproof with an ABV above 54%. The Navy’s official recipe is licensed by Pusser’s and is marketed as “the same Admiralty blend of five West Indian rums as issued on board British warships.” Five rums! Navy Rums are typically blends as well. Finally, Navy and Rum can only go together with the British Navy and the former Caribbean colonies.
The Kapu working definition of a Navy Rum is: a blend of molasses-based rums bottled at a minimum of 57% ABV, dark in color with a deep flavor profile that traditionally is sourced from more than one of Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad, and/or Jamaica.
By this definition, Smith and Cross is not a Navy Rum - single island. But OFTD would be be included. These are the hard choices of the rum community. This style would typically fall into the Smuggler's Cove Category Black Blended Overproof (6). The Gargano/Seale system would group these rums with twice-used bath water, I think.
Hamilton Navy Strength counts under Kapu definition. Lost Spirits does not but an Ecumenical exception will be granted due to the nature of the reactor process. It helps that the symbol of Ecumenism is a boat afloat on the sea of the world. Poetry writes itself.
Let the battle begin.....
The Battle of Backbar Point
Lost Spirits Navy Style Rum
Hamilton Navy Strength Rum
Hamilton Navy Strength is a blend of Jamaican (Worthy Park) and Guyanese (DDR) rums made in the tradition of the British Navy - a blend of rich rums from the former colonies. The Ministry says the rum "is for tiki and other specialty drinks that call for stronger, more flavorful rum." Why would we want that..in only a 750ml bottle? The back of the bottle comes with a recipe for OG Navy Grog.
Color: Warm caramel
Nose: Anise, banana, slight alcohol with soft oak, vanilla, and butterscotch in background
Taste: Tropical fruits, demerara sugar, clove, slight alcohol heat.
Finish: Warm with a growing level of baking spices that fade into molasses
Notes: The Ministry of Rum does not spend much time on label design. They are as straightforward as a private label at the megamart. Normally, I wouldn't even mention it but for the disparity in the two brands.
Lost Spirits 2.0 has produced an improved version of its navy strength rum. It is, as of this bottle, distilled in Northern California with baking grade molasses. I was not able to find a definition of "baking grade ," but I can translate the marketing speak to government speak Baking should be Grade A - that is practically free from defects. Link to the 1959 USDA standard is way below.
Color: Brown leather
Nose: Oak, molasses cookies, vanilla, toffee, faint smoke
Taste: Dark chocolate, smoke, oak with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and clove
Finish: Short and spicy. The palate intense but is with a moderate alcohol burn given the proof.
Notes: I really adore the back label. It makes sense that Brian Davis feels the need to clearly state that nothing in the rum is there but rum given the non-traditional aging process. "Does not contain coloring (or flavoring) additives, " couldn't be less ambiguous.
The front label is an excellent Rococo fantasy world of the high sea and buccaneers.
Both rums are excellent. They each work well in a tiki cocktail. They hold up under a weight of juice and sugar. They stand tall and remain present. If you have limited space and can have only one, I would choose the Hamilton. BUT that is my own bias for Jamaican rum over Demerara. Make your own choice wisely.
During recipe development, I combined them and found that they blend well - really well. The rums complement each-other with fruits and smoke. They complete each other to be cliche. I, now, split the base with these two in the Gunpowder Grog below.
The alliance of style and strength would be good to evaluate against O.F.T.D....
The original grog was not the cocktail we order today at a tiki bar. It was a staple of the average sailor. It made the harsh rum palatable and harsher life of an enlisted seaman less miserable. The mixture of the basics - rum, lime, and sugar - was served daily. For these gentler times, I wanted to evoke the spirit of the gun decks. The favor of gunpowder and smoke. The aroma of a wooden ship. A taste of the Caribbean that only exists in the romantics dream's or behind the Blue Bayou.
Don's Navy Grog is a favorite of mine and I have a nice print of the recipe iconically lording over the bar cabinet. The recipe can easily be customized into menagerie of rum, lime, sugar and fresh juices.
2 oz Navy Rum
1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Gunpowder Syrup*
1/4 oz Coffee Liqueur
1/4 oz Islay Scotch
2 ds Angostura Bitters
2 ds Fee Brothers Molasses Bitters
Place ingredients in a mixing tin. Add 1 cup ice and flash blend. Dump into an Old Fashion glass. Garnish with fresh grated nutmeg and mint.
* Gunpowder Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 30 cracked black peppercorns
- 1 Lapsang Souchong Tea Bag
- 1/2 c Demerara Sugar
- 1/2 c Cane Sugar
- Warm the water with cracked pepper. Just before boiling steep the tea until the desired strength is achieved; then remove the tea bag. Add the sugar and reheat the mixture while stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks.
Care to learn more about rum, grog, and the Royal Navy way? Check out And a Bottle of Rum, a History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. Wayne Curtis takes on rum history one drink at time. About 400 years of history - at times not good and others Mai Times - packaged into an entertaining, informative work.