Pusser's is a brand name of rum produced by Pussers Rum Ltd. "Pusser" is Royal Navy slang for a purser, a ship's supply officer, now called a Logistics Officer. Thus the word came to connote "one hundred per cent Service," as in "pusser's issue." "Pusser's issue" applies to anything supplied by the Royal Navy, such as a "pusser's grip", a canvas bag that sailors may use instead of a suitcase (it folds flat and is thus easy to stow on board ship). Pusser's Rum is sometimes known as Nelson's blood, in honour of Horatio Nelson, a famed Royal Navy commander.
In 1979, nearly a decade after the Royal Navy abandoned the custom of the daily tot of rum, company founder Charles Tobias obtained the rights to blending information associated with the naval rum ration and formed the company to produce the spirit according to the original Admiralty recipe, a blend of five West Indian rums without colouring agents. The Royal Navy Sailor's Fund, a Navy charity, receives royalties from the proceeds of each bottle of the rum sold. Today, these proceeds are the charity's largest source of income, apart from the founder's original bequest.
The Royal Navy issued the last tot to "the fleet" on 31 July 1970. Since then, this has been known in Royal Naval Slang as the "Black Day." The remaining rum stocks were put up for auction. They were bought by Brian Cornford, shipped to Gibraltar and held in a secure bonded warehouse. As each visiting Royal Navy ship visited Gibraltar, it was the task of Cornford and his General Manager, John Kania, to supply individual, wax-dated, corked, wicker-covered demijohns containing full strength (approx 110 proof) to the ships. When the individual gallon jars were finally sold, the large wooden barrels were tapped. It was found that over the years some of the contents in each wood barrel had evaporated, and diluted the strength to a slight degree, though some would say it simply mellowed. The barrelled rum was decanted into litre bottles and sold primarily to RN, RAF and Army messes and selected local Gib pubs.
Some Genuine Royal Navy Rum still pops up in premium auction houses, and apart from the collectability aspect, the contents are vintage, and because of the wax seal is still as powerful as the day it was bottled. It is rarely seen, though bought at auction (the last time for GBP 1250) for special ceremonial events. This is not to be confused with the commercially bottled Pusser's Rum seen on supermarket shelves dated after 1970.
Part of the reason Pusser's Rum has been successful, some say,[who?] is because it has some characteristics in common with a scotch whisky, despite it being distilled from molasses. This may have been a result of the British Navy developing a scotchlike rum to meet the tastes of enlisted men at the time.
In the decades leading up to "The Black Day," it became common for Royal Navy sailors to give a portion of their rum ration to a shipmate on their birthday, or for a favour. The donor would indicate how much he was allowing the other to take with one of the following phrases:
- "Sippers" - Take a sip.
- "Gulpers" - Take a gulp.
- "Sandy Bottoms" - Drink it all.
- "Grounder" personal during National Service 1949/50 (though this has nothing whatsoever to do with the black day, or drinking of rum)
- Top 95 Percentile of Rums (Pusser's Gunpowder Proof Rum), Proof66, Fall 2014
- Gold Medal Winner, Best Dark Rum, London 2001
- Gold Winner, San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2005
- Double Gold Winner, San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2003
- Gold Medal Winner, IWSC International Wine and Spirit Competition 2011
- Double Gold Winner, The Fifty Best, New York 2012
- Rick Jolly, Jackspeak: A Guide to British Naval Slang & Usage, FoSAMMA (2000), ISBN 0-9514305-2-1