Smoke and Oakum’s Gunpowder Tasting Notes

Smoke & Oakum's Gunpowder Rum

I do love my rum. Such a variety, different styles and flavour experiences to be savoured on each sip. Coming across Smoke and Oakum though, gave a slant that all rum enthusiasts should experience in their lives.

Smoke and Oakum from New Zealand have within their portfolio a gunpowder rum, recreated to a style that was said to be common almost 300 years ago. Back then though, the invention of the column still to refine the rum that we enjoy today had yet to be discovered, resulting in rough, coarse spirits. To mask this, sweeteners, herbs, spices, tobacco and said to be a personal favourite of Blackbeard the Pirate, gunpowder were all used. These days, spices are more prominent within rums, hailing its own category within the rum world, but gunpowder has its back history too, being famously used to test the relative proof of the spirit dispensed to sailors in the navy.
If the mixture failed to flare up it was deemed ‘under-proof’. It is supposed that this test is the origin of the concepts of ‘proof’ and ‘navy-strength’. Rum that had been ‘proved’ (i.e. would flare up when mixed with gunpowder and ignited) was deemed as being at or above ‘navy-strength’. Over-proof is usually defined as being at or above 57% abv, while the Royal Navy’s definition of ‘Navy-Strength’ is set at 54.5% abv.

Today’s offering of gunpowder rum by Smoke and Oakum’s is a blend of rums flavoured with peppers, calumet ‘tobacco’ (a substitute for tobacco smoked by Native Americans) and traditional black gunpowder, before being flavoured with an ingredient that gives the appearance of gunpowder grains, and hand-bottled within bottles shaped in reference to the 17th and 18th centuries. All bottles are hand labelled so each bottle is unique.

So how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Smoke and Oakum’s Gunpowder – 51.6%

Dry smoke aromas on the nose, with slight chocolate notes coming through. A sharp start of hot jalapeños creating a long, lingering spice finish.

An experience on its own, and goes equally well with one of these –

Black Bellamy

Glass –


Ingredients – 

30 ml Gunpowder Rum
Barspoon fig conserve
15 ml Apricot brandy
7 ml Orgeat
Orange wedge
Cranberry juice

Method –

Shake all except the juice and pour into a tall glass – add more ice if needed and top with cranberry. Garnish with an orange wedge and a grind of black pepper.

Gunpowder isn’t the only variation from Smoke and Oakum’s available, with a cherry gunpowder rum and J.Thomas’ English Curacao a part of their portfolio. I’m yet to see it available to purchase in the UK, although you can catch it in a couple of rum heavy bars I’m sure.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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