History Of Rum

History Of Rum

History Of Rum

  • Rum is a liquor made by fermenting and distilling sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice (U.S. Law only)
  • The origins of rum are somewhat “murky” but it is thought that the first distillation of rum in the new world took place in the Caribbean took sugarcane plantations in the early 1600’s. Local lore suggests that rum was being distilled on the island of Nevis by the early 1630’s.
  • The first rum distillery in the Thirteen Colonies was set up in 1664 on Staten Island. The industry so expanded to Boston. Rum soon became colonial New England’s largest and most prosperous industry.
    •  New England became a distilling center due to the technical, metalworking and Cooperage skills and abundant lumber; the rum produced there was lighter, more like whiskey.
  • 1655 VADM Penn (Royal Navy) Victory over the Spanish seizing Jamaica    from Spain. England gained new sugar production and manufacturing industry (molasses was a “waste” product of making sugar at the time but was useful in making a relatively new distilled product – Rum!)
    • N.B. On his return to England, he was briefly imprisoned, for reasons that are uncertain, but may be related to his failure at capturing his primary target, Hispaniola. 
    • He was also suspected of conspiring with Charles II in exile
    • After Charles II was restored to the crown (1660), he was knighted and appointed a commissioner for the Royal Navy by Charles II.
    • His son was William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. The border of Pennsylvania and Maryland became somewhat confusing in 1681 due to “adjustments” made to proprietary grants. Lands originally granted to Lord Baltimore were ceded to William Penn in return for forgiving loans his father had made to King Charles II.
    • This confusion led to the survey of the “Mason-Dixon” line almost a century later.
  • The availability of rum, allowed the Royal Navy to substitute rum for beer onboard their ships as a way of provisioning their for long journeys
    • This rum was initially EXTREMELY high proof undoubtedly
    • The British Navy was not the most powerful Navy in the world in the 1600’s and had only started building a larger ocean-going vessels during the reign of Henry VIII
    • Despite “defeating” the attacking Spanish Armada in 1588, England was still very much a nascent world naval power
  • 1740 – VADM Vernon (Royal Navy) instituted the watering down (4:1) of a sailor’s rum ration. This became known as “Grog” due to the Admiral’s penchant for wearing a Grogram(a coarse fabric made of silk, often combined with mohair or wool and stiffened with gum) cloth coat.

History of Rum Written by Scott Sanders

  • 1768-1771 – Captain James Cook sets out on a 3 year scientific discovery voyage aboard HMS Endeavour
    • The Royal Society of London commissioned him with primary purpose of viewing the transit of Venus
    • His “secret” mission included the exploration to find the legendary Terra Australis Incognita or “unknown land of the South.
    • HMS Endeavour sailed with: 1,200 gallons of beer, 1,600 gallons of spirits (brandy, rum), and 3,032 gallons of wine
    • On this voyage, no men were lost to Scurvy.
      • This was an amazing feat and brought him acclaim.
      • Citrus was added to his spirit rations
    • His scientific experiments included new British inventions
      • Sextant for Longitude
      • Maritime Chronometer for Longitude
    • The creator of Star Trek was also famously inspired by Captain Cook and his scientific voyage
      • James Kirk based on James Cook
      • Enterprise based on Endeavour
      • Cook’s journal said he had travelled “further than any man had ever been before” while Kirk said his mission was “to boldly go where no man has gone before”.
    • NASA even named its first and last Space Shuttles for these ships
  • Term “Proof” – Alcohol was taxed starting in the 1500’s in England based on the “burn or no burn” test. Alcohol ignited was said to be “above proof” and alcohol which would not be said to be “under proof”. This was wildly inaccurate as flammability is heavily dependent on temperature
  • Rum was actually part of a sailors pay. Those not partaking would have an “A” listed in the log for Abstinence and they would receive additional pay
  • The “Gunpowder” test was where the ships Purser (Pusser) who passed out the daily ration would “prove” the rum had not been watered down by mixing gunpowder with it. When the rum is above ~114.3 proof, the gunpowder will ignite

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  • 1782 – Fresh off the support of the colonialist in the American Revolution, France attempts to seize the “sugar Islands” in the Caribbean from the British
    • VADM Rodney defeats the attacking French fleet (led by Admiral Comte de Grasse) near the islands of Guadeloupe and Dominica in the West Indies.
    • The British ships had just started using copper sheathing on their hulls to prevent woodworm and marine growth on their bottoms
    • King George III had sent additional ships to the Caribbean even if it meant increased threat to “invasion” to Britain
    • The British economy would triple after the loss of the American colonies, but it is estimated it would have collapsed if they would have lost their “sugar islands”

History of Rum Written by Scott Sanders

  • 1789 – President George Washington had a barrel of rum to serve his guest at his first inauguration.
  • 1790’s – The British embargo on molasses imports (among many other British trade goods) helped speed the development of American whiskey and led to a decline in rum popularity in North America.
  • 1794 – U.S. Navy established in that sailors were to receive “one half-pint of distilled spirits” a day
  • 1797 – America starts to build a navy with 6 Frigates, the most famous being the U.S.S. Constitution (old ironsides)
    • These ships were used against the French, pirates and the British in the war of 1812
    • We age our rum in the hold of the USS Constellation in Baltimore harbor (afloat museum ship)
      • This is the only documented Rum to actually “come off” a U.S. Navy Ship! It was usually consumed onboard
  • 1813 – During the USS Constitution’s famous cruise during the War of 1813, she set sail in August with a complement of 475 officers and men and the following supplies: 
    • 48,000 gallons of fresh water 
    • 7,400 cannon shots 
    • 11,000 lbs. of black powder 
    • 79,400 gallons of rum 
    • Upon arriving in Jamaica on October 6th, she took on additionally: 
      • 826 pounds of flour
      • 69,300 gallons of rum 
    • Then she headed for the Azores where she took on: 
      • 550 tons of beef
      • 64,000 gallons of Portuguese wines 
    • On November 13th she set sail for England.  In the ensuing days, she defeated 5 British men-of-war and sank 12 British merchant ships, salvaging only their rum. 
      • By January 27th, her powder and shot were exhausted.  Nonetheless, she made a raid on the Firth of Clyde.  Her landing party captured a whisky distillery and brought about 40,000 gallons of whiskey back to the ship. 
      • Then she headed home. 
    • She made port in Boston on February 23rd with no cannon shot, no powder, no food, no rum, no whiskey, and no wine — but with 48,000 gallons of stagnant water! 
  • In the United States Navy, the rum ration was 2 gills (8 oz) of distilled spirits (rum or whiskey) until 1842 when it was reduced to one gill (4 oz). The ration was abolished in 1862. 
    • The Confederate Navy however, continued the tradition as a “recruiting tool” until the end of the Civil War
  • The British Navy abolished the daily rum ration on 31 July 1970 which became known as “Black Tot Day”.

History of Rum Written by Scott Sanders

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