To evaluate the Imperial Rum, we diluted it with two parts of water, as was done for common seamen in the Royal Navy, and conducted a blind taste test against a leading premium brand of Jamaican rum diluted to the same alcoholic content. Seven of nine staff members preferred the naval rum, which they described as “delicate,” “earthy.” “oaky,” and “dissipates like smoke on the tongue.” The other brand: “mellow, bland, creamy” and “tastes like alcohol and water and the paper cup that holds it.”
Is Royal Navy rum worth $6,000 a gallon? Not on a publishing salary, to be sure. Still, all were impressed with the momentousness of the tasting experience—not just the link with long tradition, but also the fact that each tiny cup held $8 worth of liquor.