Pirate Ship

Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented molasses. Rum was all the rage for early American colonies as well as the Caribbean because of its inexpensive means of production.

The legal definition according to TTB.gov (details below) for rum is spirits distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses or other sugar cane by-products at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).

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Rum: The Spirit of Choice for Pirates

In the early American colonial days, alcohol was both a God send and Devil’s torment on board naval and pirate ships. Sailors needed to drink and water was difficult to keep fresh. Water was stored in wood barrels and tended to go bad, especially on long voyages. The water could be made drinkable by adding alcohol, normally rum, to kill the algae and make it taste better.

Thanks to Captain Billy Bones in the book, Treasure Island, the alcoholic beverage most associated with pirates is rum.

Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest –
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
~Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

Six Degrees of Separation: From Rum to Bourbon

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the words above but, he never really made it into a complete poem or song. The rest of the words to the song were written by American writer and newspaper editor Young Ewing Allison (1853 – 1932.) Allison was a writer of prose and verse and is best remembered for his poem the “Derelict,” written to complete the famous verse fragment by Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island, “Fifteen Men on the Dead Man’s Chest.” And in this world of six degrees of separation, Allison also played a prominent role in the establishment of Federal Hill, the mansion in Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon Capital of the World. The Federal Hill mansion is said to have inspired Stephen Foster’s song My Old Kentucky Home, as a state historic site in 1922.

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Fifteen Men on a Dead Man’s Chest

Here is the full TTB description of Rum.

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Resource: TTB Chapter 4, Class and Type Designation

¹ A distinctive or fanciful product name with a statement reflecting the composition and character of the product is sufficient as class and type designation, e.g., “Spiced Rum, Rum With Spice Flavor

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