Tattoos, booze, brawn and broads.
It’s Sailor Jerry’s birthday today and, as such, I’ve found myself falling down a rabbit hole of sorts — scrolling through Internet pics of all the things associated with the man: hula girls, black leather, white cotton, sepia-colored rum and all the staples of the “American Traditional” school of tattoo which we’ve come to associate with the brand.
It’s the sort of sequence of images that inspires one to want to skip work and go off adventuring.
Sailor Jerry was born as Norman Collins on Jan. 14, 1911.
There’s a decent-sized bio written about him on the Sailor Jerry site, but in short: the man was in the navy, lived through World War II, had a love for the Pacific, got the nickname “Jerry” from his father and later settled in Hawaii where he set up shop.
Yes, but what about the rum?
When Collins died in 1973, he left his shop and artwork to his two protégés, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone.
In 1999, Hardy and Malone partnered with a small independent Philadelphia clothing company to establish Sailor Jerry Ltd., which owns Collins’ letters, art, and flash, and produces clothing and other items in what’s now known as the Sailor Jerry style.
Sailor Jerry Ltd. also produces a 92 proof spiced Navy-style rum. The bottle features a typical Sailor Jerry hula girl on the label. As the bottle is emptied, additional pin-up girls designed by Sailor Jerry are visible on the inner side of the label.
What is Navy-style rum? Here’s a link to a primer. In short, Navy-style rum is rum modeled after the darker, more full-bodied rums associated with the British Royal Navy.
The Royal Navy was famed for its custom of providing a daily ration of rum to sailors, as far back as 1655 when the British fleet captured the island of Jamaica. Rum traveled aboard ships far better that French brandy. As a matter of fact, where grape-based spirits of wine and brandy eventually went bad in the heat of the tropics, rum seemed to improve as it aged in the barrels aboard ship.
Sailor Jerry’s rum is distilled in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It takes its influence from Caribbean rum, which sailors would spice with flavors from the Far East and Asia to make it more enjoyable to drink. In 2010, the original formula was changed to include a less sweet taste.
Locally, I’ve seen Sailor Jerry a few places, but I don’t remember ’em all. We don’t stock it at the bar where I work, so in his memory today I’ll have to make a stop at The Wine Cellar for a shot of the rum. Maybe a mixed drink too. We’ll see where the day takes me.