by Len Stephens
Published March 2012

A memo of March 1888 issued at Deptford Victualling Yard by the Superintendent, Mr F R Miller MEMORANDUM AS TO THE MANNER IN WHICH RUM IS PURCHASED FOR THE USE OF THE ROYAL NAVY, AND ITS SUBSEQUENT TREATMENT
Rum is purchased for the use of the Navy through the Admiralty Brokers, Messrs E and F Man. When purchased it is about 40% over proof.

Before rum thus purchased is removed from the bonded warehouse in the Docks to Deptford Yard it is re examined by the Customs authorities in order to ascertain the actual contents as compared with “landing account” i.e. the contents when the rum was originally landed from the ship and taken into bond.

On arrival at the Yard, the actual contents of each puncheon (a large cask usually between 70 and 120 gallons) are again ascertained by the Yard Officers by dipping with a gauging rod, and the strength is taken by Sikes’ Hydrometer. The quantity thus ascertained is then calculated out to proof strength, compared with the Customs despatch, and if found correct, taken on charge as so many gallons of proof spirit.

The method of calculating strong rum to proof strength is to multiply the ullage(which in this sense means the liquid contents of the puncheon) by the over proof strength, and divide the result by 100; the result added to the ullage, gives the number of proof gallons.
EXAMPLE; To reduce a cask of 97 gallons, 41% over proof, to proof strength;
97 x 41 = 3977
3977 Divided by 100 = 39.77
39.77 + 97 = 136.77 or number of proof gallons required!
The actual contents having thus been ascertained and checked by the result of the Customs reexamination, the rum is entered on a daily account of receipt for payment.
The quantity of rum paid for is that shown on the “landing account” i.e. it is the number of gallons contained in the cask when first imported and put into bond.
The quantity “taken on charge”, is that ascertained at the re-examination by the Customs authorities, and checked at Deptford, i.e. the actual contents of the casks.
The difference between these quantities does not appear in the Yard Accounts at all.
On the Account of Receipt, the quantity to be paid for and the quantity actually received and taken on charge, are shown separately.

The strong rum thus received is put into the cellars until required for filling up the vats; the process of starting into the vats is as follows:
The rum is started into the vats which are all connected one with the other, although any one can be shut off, with such a quantity of water as will, it is estimated, reduce it as nearly as possible to issuing strength (4.5under proof) but as it would be difficult to hit off this strength precisely in all the 32 vats, two of them containing 17960 and 17820 gallons respectively, are appointed as issuing vats in which the spirit is always kept at the precise issuing strength.

In calculating the quantity of water to be added to a given quantity of strong rum to reduce it to issuing strength, the following has been the method hitherto adopted.
Multiply the quantity to be reduced by the actual strength, and divide the result by the issuing strength, the difference between this result and the quantity to be reduced gives the number of gallons of water to be added.
EXAMPLE: To reduce 100 gallons at 40% over proof, to issuing strength (4.5U.P.) proof spirit being represented by 100.
100×140 =14000
14000 divided by 95.5 = 146.59
146.59 – 100 = 46.59 or quantity of water to be added in gallons!
The Spirit Reducing Tables recently published by Mr J B Keene of Her Majesty’s Customs, have now, however, enabled a more accurate system to be adopted; briefly stated the rule is as follows:
“Divide the higher of the strengths by the lower to the third decimal, which will give the bulk to which each gallon at the present strength will be raised when reduced as required. Multiply this bulk by the gravity in the table opposite the required strength, and from the product subtract the gravity for the present strength. The difference multiplied by the present number of gallons will give the quantity of water in gallons or by moving the decimal point one place to the right, the quantity in pounds.”

The principle causes of loss are evaporation and absorption. As regards the former, the inevitable loss is slightly increased by the fact that the cellars in which the puncheons are stored before being vatted are not specially well adapted for the purpose, there being too free a current of air, which, however every effort is made to exclude, the average loss from this loss alone, according to the scale of allowances authorised by the Customs, is as follows: For periods not exceeding 1 month 1.5 %
For periods not exceeding 2 months 3%
For periods not exceeding 6 months 5% and so on.
The operations of vatting and drawing off involve a further loss, according to the same authorised scale of 1 %, so that it will be seen that the normal loss, namely 3.74, of rum from the time it is received at the Yard to the time of issue compares favourably with the percentage loss which is considered by experts to be fairly attributable to natural causes, and for which therefore, in the case of private firms, allowance is made as a matter of course.

In taking stock, the quantity remaining in the vats is ascertained by the marked guage glass which is fitted to each vat and shows the contents in gallons, the quantity being verified by dipping with a gauging rod.

The strength is ascertained by taking samples at various depths by means of a bottle attached to a cord, the samples being tested by Sikes’ Hydrometer.
On receipt of an order to send rum to a foreign depot, or one of the other home Yards, or of a demand from a ship, the rum is drawn off into casks where it remains with the bungs loose for a few days, until a shipping order is received, the casks are then filled up to make good any absorption that has occurred, and the bungs driven in and shived off.
Gosh, I need a drink!!

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