Black Tot rum (46.2% ABV) summary

A bottle that commemorates one of the saddest days in the Royal Navy’s modern history – the day the tot died. This bottle pays homage to the old navy rums that warmed the bellies of sailors for centuries, drawing on flavours that define the islands the rum came from: tropical fruits meet ginger and fiery chilli, modulated by deep, dark cocoa.


What is the history of Black Tot rum?

The daily tot was a naval tradition that ran for centuries. It was a daily ration of rum given to the sailors aboard a ship. There are two acceptable start dates for the tradition: the day when the first tot was given out, or the day when the tot became a daily ration. In 1655 the British battled the Spanish for the island of Jamaica, and after winning the battle, Admiral William Penn rewarded his men with a measure of rum. It was not until 1731 that rum was issued as a ration – half a pint of overproof rum was given to each crew member (no wonder nobody knew what to do with the drunken sailor – they couldn’t pick him out!)

Over the years the rum ration was halved, diluted and debated. 1740 saw Admiral Edward Vernon decimate the rum ration, halving it and watering it down. The 20th century brought an end to the daily tot. Machinery had become too advanced and the stakes were higher... we couldn’t have sailors knocking back a measure of rum, then handling all of this modern weaponry. The 31 July 1970 saw funerals held on what became known as Black Tot Day.

Black Tot rum seeks to revive this old navy rum blend for the modern palate. The head honchos of Elixir Distillers spent two years crafting the Black Tot Finest Caribbean rum – it’s no surprise it took so long to get right considering the multitude of considerations. Whilst Jamaican rum hadn’t been a main feature of the British naval blend, it was brought into the Black Tot to provide a vibrance. Guyanese rum is also featured in honour of its integral role in the traditional recipe, whilst the bright tropical fruits of Barbadian rum were impossible to ignore.

How does Black Tot rum taste?

The nose is thick with tropical fruits and sticky ginger fruit cake. This carries through into a palate laced with golden syrup, pineapple and dark brown sugar. Coffee beans are bashed about with cinnamon and a hint of clove, before fiery chilli enters towards a satisfying finish.

Black Tot also offers a 50th Anniversary edition which commemorates Black Tot Day – this features a helping of original navy rum, stored in stone flagons since the 1970s. This tipple is gentler in points, yet darker and more complex towards the finish, with orchard fruits introduced before being met by cloves and anise.

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This review was last updated in January 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at