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Sunday 6 November 2022

Would you pay up to $5000 for a flagon of rum?

Rum is not generally considered a hugely collectable beverage, but three flagons up for auction could attract stratospheric prices.

Three flagons of rare rum from the final batch issued by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) to sailors in the Royal Navy are to be offered at auction next month.

They were among the final offerings of the historic tradition of giving sailors a daily ‘tot’ of rum.

They are a highlight of British auctioneers Dreweatts' Fine & Rare Wine & Spirits sale on December 8, 2022.

The flagons were purchased directly from the MOD by their current owner in 1970, the year that the custom was stopped.

While they were purchased in 1970, Mark Robertson, head of Dreweatts Wine and Spirits department, says: “Due to a system known as Solera, where younger and older versions of rum are continually blended as they age in barrels over many years, these flagons could be decades older.”

The tradition of giving sailors a daily ration of rum started with the Royal Navy’s West Indies Squadron in Jamaica in 1655 and by 1731 it had spread to the rest of the British fleet.

The tradition is believed to have begun as rum was stable in hot temperatures, unlike beer which would spoil.

It was also plentiful in the British West Indies as it was a derivative of the booming sugar production there at the time.

Rum also mixed well with the sailors’ daily ration of lime juice that was administered to prevent scurvy on the ships.

“For five centuries British sailors gathered together from 11am-12pm for 'Up Spirits', the serving of their allocated ‘tot’ of rum," Robertson says.

"The ‘tot’ consisted of an eighth of a pint and was over 50% ABV. While regular sailors’ rum was mixed with lime juice and hot water, officers were permitted to drink their spirits neat.

"When the practice ended in 1970 many sailors regarded it as losing a favourite comrade on the ship and wore black armbands.

“Not much evidence survives about the rum’s provenance before the 20th century, but by the 1930s the lion’s share came from British Guyana and Trinidad.

“We are privileged to offer these rare flagons for sale. We have been told by multiple sources that the rum inside is delicious and a unique style that is impossible to replicate.”

Each flagon carries an estimate of £1,500-£2,500.

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