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What Is Overproof Rum?

Many of us have heard of the term ‘Overproof’ when it comes to rum, the most famous examples being Bacardi 151 and Wray and Nephew Overproof.  But what does it actually mean and where does the term originate from?

The actual history of the term comes from many centuries ago when sailors in the British Navy were given rum. As rum became the norm for the sailors, they started to worry that the rations they were given were being watered down too much. The system they devised to check the quality of the rations was to mix a small portion of the ration with some of the gunpowder they had on board. This mixture was then lit to see if it would ignite. If it did ignite then the sailors knew their rum wasn’t watered down.

The sailors realised that this method would work, due to barrels of rum spilling onto the gunpowder in the past. When these spillages occurred with water, it would make the gunpowder useless. However, when the liquid spilt was rum, the mixture still ignited, much to the delight and relief of the sailors.

By using this method, the sailors had ‘proof’ the rum ration they were given wasn’t watered down. It is from this ‘proof’ we have evolved to the term ‘Overproof’ today which in basic terms means that the rum in question is flammable.

We have written a small piece on Overproof rum earlier which you can visit here. Let us know your favourite Overproof rum, and how you like to drink it!

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Rum Used In Health And Beauty?

The British Navy gave rations of rum to its sailors until the 1970s. You can find a link to a bit more information on Rum and the Navy here.

At that time it was thought that rum was the reason for preventing scurvy. We now know that it was actually the citrus element (usually lime, sometimes lemon) which was added to help take the edge off the rum is the reason the drink aided in the prevention of scurvy. It was the high levels of vitamin C in the fruit that was mixed with the rum that helped.

The way the lime and lemon worked with the rum has led to the use of the citrus fruits in a lot of the famous rum based cocktails we know and love today.

In the 1800s, rum was highly revered as a go-to beauty product for its ability to clean hair and strengthen its roots. From my research, I believe you dip the ends of hair in rum to prevent split-ends. You wet your hair in rum and then leave it to soak in for 15 minutes. Then rinse off with a mild shampoo to remove the ethanol smell. It is said that rum is also used as a remedy to hair loss. The ingredients used in rum help to produce more hair when rubbed onto skin and scalp. It also helps to hydrate skin and scalp which aids with the prevention of dandruff.

Feel free to try washing your hair in rum or trying to help prevent hair loss, however I would stress the age of the rum would make no difference so leave those well aged, expensive rums for drinking!

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Everyday Rum – Review 4: Lamb’s Navy Rum – £14

Alfred Lamb was born in 1827. He was the son of wines and spirits entrepreneur William Lamb. Just 22 years later, he blended together ’18 superior rums’ from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana and created the worlds first Lambs Navy Rum. The rum was blended and aged for 4 years in a warehouse in West India Docks in London by the Thames River. This warehouse was unfortunately a casualty of the London Blitz and had to be rebuilt. Their website is fun and informative and can be found here.

You can find Lamb’s Navy rum throughout the land here in the UK. Pretty much every bar/pub/supermarket will have this rum and as a result of this for many it is their go to choice of rum. There are a few other offerings from Lamb’s but this Navy is the staple release and the one which Lamb’s have built their brand on.

The Lambs bottle is quite unique as you can see from the picture. It is a hexagonal shape rather than the typical cylindrical bottle that we see over most bottles. I do think it is easier to hold when pouring than your standard bottle shape. The label lends itself to the branding towards being a rum for the British Navy. However I could not find any information to corroborate that it actually is linked to the British Navy. None the less it seems to be proud to be a British rum and the label displays this.

The rum is a deep red/brown colour when poured in the glass. On my first smell I find this to be quite sweet. Toffee and dried fruits such as raisins are at the forefront. There are notes of burnt sugar and vanilla and the distinctive molasses. On my first sip I taste molasses and toffee similar to the nose. This melts away into some spiciness of nutmeg and slight cinnamon. A very sweet sip, although there is a burn at the finish along with some oak notes. Whilst it is possible to have this neat, I really don’t recommend it. The taste on the palette just doesn’t work for me and the finish leaves a long lasting alcohol burn which I think needs to be mixed. Plus the Lamb’s advertising doesn’t lend itself for this to be a sipping rum.

I have almost always mixed this rum with diet coke when I have been out drinking socially. When mixed, it brings out more grass and earth flavours from the rum. This is a nice alternative to how sweet the other popular dark rums, such as Captain Morgan, become when mixed with diet coke. This is actually a surprising turn with Lambs due to how sweet it is neat. The drink is still definitely sweet, but now mixed; the coke takes the edge off making it a much better option.

Personally I would have this rum as a nice alternative to a simple dark rum  and coke when on a night out. It wouldn’t be my go to choice for a simple mixer but it’s a nice alternative. Other than with coke, I’m not sure where else I would place this rum. Potentially a sharp citrus based cocktail may help to cut through the sweetness, but I am yet to try one of these cocktails with this particular rum.

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Rum & The Navy

Rum has been associated with the navy and sailors for a long time. It began in 1655 when the British fleet colonised Jamaica. However, the navy were not used to the potent effect of the rum when drunk it large quantities. To combat this issue, Admiral Edward Vernon said that the rum must be rationed (called a tot of rum and was 70ml of rum at 95.5% proof) and also watered down before being served, to help to minimise the effect. This mixing of the rum with water became more commonly known as grog. A more senior officer was able to receive his tot neat and dilute or not as he pleased. This ration would be given to the sailors at midday, daily. The last rum ration however, was on 31st July 1970 and is now known as Black Tot Day.