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Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum

Review: Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum    78/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 24, 2017

Pusser’s Rum is advertised as the original rum of the British Royal Navy. And it is a fact that for over 300 years it was a tradition of the British Navy that each member of the crew was issued a daily ‘tot’ of rum. This tradition began in 1655, and by 1731, the tradition of the daily ‘tot’ was in general use throughout the British Navy. As it was the ship’s purser who was responsible for issuing the rum, the tot of rum became known as Pusser’s Rum in a sort of slang derivation of the term ‘Purser’s Rum’.

Although the naval tradition of the daily tot had ended, in 1979  Charles Tobias obtained the rights and the blending information for the British Naval Rum, and formed Pusser’s Ltd. on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. His company produces their Pusser’s Rum following the blending information and the traditions of the Admiralty.

Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum is new to the Pusser’s range. According to the producer’s website it is a traditional Royal Navy style rum produced at original Admiralty strength. Prior to the invention of the hydrometer, the ship’s purser shutdown claims of watering down sailors’ daily tot by mixing a few grains of gunpowder to the rum to see if it would burn. If the mixture ignited, the rum was ‘at proof.’ If it didn’t, the purser might find himself tossed to sea.

Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof is bottled at 54.5% alcohol by volume.

pussers-gunpowder-sam_3046In the Bottle 4.5/5

Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum arrives in the bottle pictured to the left. I notice that the label states the rum is bottled by Pusser’s Rum LTD. (British Virgin Islands), and that it is a product of Barbados. This is a departure from the previously reviewed Pusser’s Blue Label Rum which was a product of the British Virgin Islands, Trinidad, and Guyana. This of course means that the Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum does not share the same blending pedigree as the Pusser’s Blue Label.

I like the bottle, I like the clear labeling, and I like the nice blue topped synthetic cork closure which seals the bottle.

In the Glass 7.5/10

The rum displays a darken bronze colour in the glass, and when I tilt and twirl that glass I see a lightly thickened oily sheen which refuses to give up its leglets which dangle from the crest like legs dangling from a pier.

The nose is heavy with aromas of brown sugar, caramel and molasses. Within the brown sugary caramel I sense a building up of baking spices (vanilla, with some hints of nutmeg and cinnamon) and dry fruit (heavy on dry raisins and light on dates and prunes). Perhaps I am gleaning some wisps of black licorice and asphalt tar as well. I do not discern anything but a light dusting of wood spice. My guess at this point would be that this rum has only been aged a short time.

The rum appears to be blended in the style of a ‘dark rum’ which means that it would be a mistake to believe that aging has anything but a small role in the dark colour or the collection of aromas that we sense. This style of rum achieves a goodly portion of its flavour, aroma, and colour from whatever special ingredients which are added to the blend prior to bottling.

In the Mouth 47.5/60

The rum gives the mouth an alcohol rich punch of bitter-sweet flavour. There is a significant level of astringency which heats the palate ( this is after all ‘Gunpowder Proof”). Those same impressions which I sensed when I inspected the breezes above the glass are present as I sampled the spirit. Molasses, dark brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, bits of cinnamon, and hints of black licorice and cloves, mix with orange peel and dry fruit. Although the rum is certainly sweet, there is also a certain amount of bitterness coexisting within that sweetness which gives me impressions of treacle and asphalt tar. Although he flavours descriptors sound complex and inviting, the high alcohol content and accompanying astringency of the rum dissuades me from further sipping explorations.

Of course, rums such as this are normally destined to be cocktail mixers or cola enhancers. As such my review would be remiss if it did not involve a nice cocktail and a rum and coke style bar drink. On the cocktail front, I began by mixing a variation of the Brooklynite, but I quickly learned that the high alcohol content and the astringency of the Gunpowder Rum seemed to push through the mixed drink. I added a splash of ginger ale and found the serving much more inviting (see recipe below). After that I mixed a straight rum and cola (1:3 ratio) with lots of ice. Although I preferred the ginger ale enhanced cocktail I had made earlier both servings were acceptable bar drinks..

In the Throat 11/15

When sipped, the Gunpowder Rum brings a thin burn and a light bitterness which is somewhat unpleasant. Unfortunately when the rum is mixed in short cocktails the thin burn seems to seep into the libation as well. My opinion is that the rum should be mixed with soda.

The Afterburn 7.5/10

The Pusser’s Gunpowder Rum seems to me to be an overproof rum which doesn’t seem to carry enough character in the glass to offset its high alcohol astringency. Although my review is full of rich flavour descriptors, the rum itself is somewhat thin making me believe the flavour descriptors are more a result of enhancement than of distillation and aging. I suspect that a few more years in an oak barrel prior to blending would have resulted in a dark rum with much more depth of flavour.

I recommend cocktails topped with soda and long bar drinks as the rum’s best companions. If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


Suggested Cocktail


2 1/4 oz Pusser’s Gunpowder Rum
1/2 oz Honey syrup (1:1 ratio honey and hot water)
3/8 oz Lime juice
3/8 oz Lemon juice
dash of Angostura Bitters
Splash Ginger Ale
twist of lemon

Add the five ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Double Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a twist of lime

If you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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