Review: Pusser’s Rum Blue Label Original Admiralty Rum

Of all the spirits we review, I feel like rum is the one spirit that has a specific vibe most closely associated with it. There’s a nautical, tropical, seafaring feeling that it brings to mind for me every time I drink a glass of the stuff, and the reason for that close association with the sea seems to stem from its storied history in the British Navy. While the limeys may no longer issue a ration of rum every day, one brand of rum tries to capture that same taste and spirit and bottle it for you to enjoy without the imminent specter of a grizzly death.



Anyone who has spent time around sailors will quickly realize that they tend to be a hard drinking lot. That’s a tradition that has remained unchanged for centuries, from the early mariners to today.

Historically speaking, the British Navy had always provisioned its sailing vessels with plenty of beer for the sailors to drink. Fresh water was carried in large wooden casks in those days, and in a short period of time bacteria and other nasty elements would start to appear in the water and make it rather unpleasant to drink. The alcohol content in beer not only ensured that it would stay fresh longer, but also provided some mood enhancing qualities that were necessary for the crew of a wooden sailing vessel of those days.

But even with that alcohol content, the beer would eventually go bad after about two weeks and also start to taste rancid. Captains on long voyages would sometimes swap out their beer stores for wine or other spirits, things with a higher alcohol content that not only had a longer shelf life but also would be easier to dilute and therefore was a more efficient use of space.

In 1655, the island of Jamaica was captured by the British Navy and the local sailors quickly grew to prefer casks of the local rum instead of the normal ration of beer that was normally provided. From that point forward, ships in the West Indies were permitted to swap out their beer ration for a rum ration instead… although ships originating from England still carried beer as their primary store of spirits for much longer. Evidence suggests that around 1731 the British Navy began preferring rum for their sailors, but British Navy beer was still being brewed as late as 1832.

Somewhere in the intervening centuries of British naval superiority, the fleet standardized on rum as the official spirit taken and provided on military ships in large casks called a “tot”. Since 1740, each British sailor was provided a ration of half a pint of spirits per day, split between two servings, diluted in a 1:4 proportion with water (the resulting drink called “grog”), and doled out in a choreographed and highly regimented ritual that would continue until July 31, 1970 (called “Black Tot Day” by sailors) when the last formal ration of rum was issued.

Nine years after the last ration of British Navy rum was issued, Pusser’s Rum Ltd. was founded by American businessman Charles Tobias to capitalize on that rich history of rum-drinking sailors and continue producing rum the same way that the Navy had been producing it for centuries. With the original recipe for British naval rum in hand, he started sourcing spirits from distilleries in the West Indies and has continued to do so ever since. As part of his agreement with the British government for the rights to use their rum recipe, part of the proceeds from each sale goes towards the Royal Navy Sailors’ Fund charity.

The name “Pusser’s Rum” comes from the slang term British sailors used for their purser, the position on the ship responsible for maintaining the ship’s stores and especially their ration of rum.


There’s a reason I went a little deeper than usual into the history of British navy rum and not just the history of the brand — and that’s because the two are intertwined. A lot of the power behind this brand is because of that British naval history, and the expectation that what you’re getting in the bottle is as close as possible to the original article.

Pusser’s starts out properly: they start with molasses sourced from the Demerara River Valley in Guyana, which is roughly the same place that the original came from as well. Those sugar cane plants are processed to make proper refined sugar, which is sold separately and the resulting sludge of sugary leftovers is then added to water and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic mixture. That mixture is then distilled in six different facilities spread out between Guyana and Trinidad in the British Virgin Islands to create the raw rum.

One interesting thing to note is that at least one of these stills is a wooden still that first went into service in 1732. Refurbished and moved over the years from its original location, the wooden still provides some unique flavors and components to the process which helps create the desired end flavor.

Once distilled, the spirits are then placed into charred oak barrels for a period of at least three years to mature. This is where things deviate slightly from the source material, primarily because getting it exactly right might be an impossible task — some sources indicate that at the peak of navy rum production, large vats were used in England where fresh rum was imported from the Caribbean and mixed directly with existing stocks to create a constantly evolving blend that produced a consistent quality and flavor of spirit. For this modern take, the spirits are individually matured and then blended to create the final product which is immediately bottled and shipped for sale.


Pusser’s Rum has been made available in a number of vessels over the years, ranging from one-liter sized porcelain decanters to gigantic earthen jugs. For the modern drinker, this bulbous glass version is probably going to be your most recognizable image of the stuff.

The body of the bottle is round and portly, with a wide bottom that probably helps with stability on a rolling ship. Flat walls extend upwards towards a rounded shoulder and a tapered neck, which is capped off with a cork stopper. The glass is clear, which is perfect to allow consumers to see the deliciously dark rum inside.

As for the label, this is where I start to have some quibbles.

First, the design isn’t that great. I get that this is pretty close to the original 1970’s design for the label, which is cool from a historical perspective… but it feels dated instead of a fun throwback. Especially since this isn’t what the navy issued bottles would look like, I don’t think updating the design would be that much of a sacrilege.

My biggest complaint, however, is the date on the label. This says “Circa 1655” which is misleading — that’s when England conquered Jamaica and started learning about rum, not necessarily the date when all sailors began being issued a daily rum ration. It might make someone think that this brand or this recipe dates all the way back to that first year, which is incorrect. This is a 1970’s brand that is working off a modern sheet of music when it comes to their rum recipe.



The very first thing you’ll notice is that this is an incredibly dark rum. The manufacturer claims that there are no additives or coloring added to the spirit, so what you see is all due to the maturation process. A few years in a barrel does wonders for a spirit — and especially for those matured near the equator, the impact of each day has more force than elsewhere in the world.

Coming off the glass are some delicious aromas, specifically starting with a heavy helping of brown sugar and vanilla. That’s accompanied by some interesting funky components like banana, dried raisins, and pineapple, good tropical fruits that add some interesting character.

While the aromas were great, they don’t really come through in the flavor. What I’m tasting is just a big dollop of molasses — slightly burnt brown sugar, vanilla, and a touch of bitterness. All good flavors if you’re looking for a dark base for your mixed cocktail… but not necessarily a sipping rum.

On Ice

Historically speaking, navy rum was intended (since the mid-1700’s) to be diluted prior to being consumed. The idea was to flavor the water, not necessarily to get the sailors sloshed. So it makes absolute sense that this would taste better on the rocks, with a little bit of added ice and dilution.

Taken neat, there was a touch of burning on the brown sugar and some slight bitterness in the finish that really didn’t do the drink any favors. I feel like those might just have been over-saturated components in the flavor profile, and adding some ice allows the flavors to breathe and stretch out a bit. Here, there isn’t any noticeable burning to the brown sugar, and the drink tastes sweet and delicious. The fruity components even come through and make an appearance, with the banana, pineapple, and dried raisins all clear and delicious. Tying it all together are some nice baking spices and a bit of dark chocolate.

Fizz (Dark & Stormy)

What I’m looking for here is a rum that nicely balances with the other components in the cocktail. Ginger beer and lime juice can be bright and overpowering, but with some added sweetness and some deeper flavors that can all be evened out to an enjoyable experience. And that’s exactly what I’m getting here.

I don’t think there is anything I would change in here, to be honest. There’s a good balance and a good variety of flavors, with the tropical banana and pineapple beautifully complimenting the ginger and lime. It has depth without being overpowering, and is light enough to enjoy on a summer’s day. Perfectly executed, in my opinion.

Cocktail (Three Dots and a Dash)

This is one of those cocktails where there are so many components that it can be hard to detect a change. But in this case, and for this specific rum, I feel like the point is to be a supporting player and not the main character. Thankfully, that’s exactly what we have here.

For a Three Dots and a Dash, the dark rum exists to provide a deeper and richer base for the other components to then play off of. It’s the bass guitar of the band: not something you really notice until it goes missing. In this case, the rum plays its part perfectly, adding some much needed depth and richness to the cocktail.


Overall Rating

I’ve spent enough time with veterans to understand that “Military Grade” isn’t a mark of quality — it’s a warning. It’s a notice that something was made by the lowest bidder to achieve the minimum viable product. And I think this rum is a good example of that concept in action in the spirits world.

As a rum, this is a good mixer. There are some rudimentary flavors that are delicious when tried either on the rocks or in a cocktail, but nothing here will rock your world. There’s not much complexity or a bouquet of fruitiness like you might see with a real Jamaican rum… just a few well executed flavors and some depth to go along. And sipping it neat is pretty much off the table from the start.

The most attractive thing about this brand is the historical context, and I appreciate the historical context of this rum about on the same level I appreciate the historical context of the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. I recognize that the reason the brand exists at all is due to the colonial expansion of Great Britain, which is simultaneously a remarkable achievement and a terrible curse on many indigenous peoples.

Ignoring the historical tie-in (which doesn’t really count, since it wasn’t made by the British government) this is a mediocre dark rum that is being sold for a slight premium. I don’t think I could recommend this over something like the Plantation Dark Rum, which is cheaper and actually tastes good on its own.

Pusser's Rum Blue Label Original Admiralty Rum
Produced By: Pusser's
Production Location: United Kingdom
Classification: Dark Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 42% ABV
Price: $29.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 2/5
Something I would happily drink if I was stranded at sea for years on end, but a pass at the local liquor store.


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