We all think we know the Captain. Heck, we kind of love the Captain. He’s the guy with the devilish grin on the label that’s brought spice and booze to budget drinking since college. (Junior year college parties, of course.) But there’s also plenty we don’t know, from the history of the actual guy himself—yes, he was a pirate, and actually a pretty bad dude—to the world beyond their basic spiced rum, to the randomly iconic Captain Morgan pose that somehow caught on all over the world. Tip ye tri-tipped hats back, put ye parrots aside for the moment, and adjust all wooden legs comfortably so you can dive into the Captain’s ocean. So to speak.
There was a Captain Morgan.
As with most major distillery historys, there’s actually a dude behind the iconic, albeit a bit cartoonishly swashbuckling “Captain Morgan” on the bottle. Sir Henry Morgan. And he really was a captain. More of a pirate, actually, Welsh-born but riding the Caribbean seas, basically attacking Spanish interests and settlements on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. As stories go, Morgan was actually pretty ruthless in his piracy — even for a pirate.
Captain Morgan was real but today he’s basically a mascot.
The guy on the label of your Captain Morgan is based on the 17th century swashbuckler, but the cartoon is pretty much where it ends. Morgan had no connection to what became the “Captain Morgan Rum Company,” not least because that didn’t happen until the 1940s (we’ll get to that). But he became one of the most recognizable and Captain Hook-like liquor brand icons nonetheless.
Captain Morgan owes a bunch of its fame to a cartoonist.
Don Maitz is a famous American artist who specializes in sci-fi and fantasy (which he won a Hugo Award for, basically the highest honor an artist in his field can get). He’s also the guy behind the image of Captain Morgan that we all know and love and imitate (see below) today. As he explained in his Reddit AMA, “many liquor products are introduced to the market place and the majority do not take.” Seagram’s, which commissioned him, wanted to distinguish itself. Fun fact: Maitz actually left the original paintings on the roof of his car before bringing them to the Seagram’s offices in New York. He found them on a snowy, salty road. Yeah, some cleaning up had to be done.
The Captain is old; the Rum Company is a baby.
Mascot Morgan might be 400 years old, but the rum comes from a company founded in 1944: the Captain Morgan Rum Company, founded by Seagram’s when it bought the rights to produce a spiced rum recipe from a Jamaican pharmacy run by the Levy Brothers. Production locations changed over the decades, including a stop in Puerto Rico. Today, all production of Captain Morgan has been moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Captain Morgan Spiced Rum was the first, but it wasn’t the last.
You probably know the Captain from his flagship Original Spiced Rum, which has a surprisingly low number of calories per shot (around 75, which is interesting considering the possibility of added sugar). But the brand has expended over the years, with a lighter White Rum, a 100 proof Spiced Rum, flavored rums like Coconut and Pineapple, and even a Captain Morgan Private Stock that blends Puerto Rican rums with a subtler dose of spice meant for more upscale, sipping-style consumption than the classic “Captain and Coke.”
The Captain likes his rum column-distilled.
Some rums are specifically pot-distilled, and others are column-distilled (the latter tends to strip away more congeners, which include impurities and flavor compounds; if you keep column distilling any spirit, you basically end up with vodka). Captain Morgan doesn’t go that far, but column-distilling can yield a lighter base overall, which is why barrel aging and the addition of spices is key to creating a more robust flavor profile.
Clearly, we love our Morgan.
In 2014, Captain Morgan had $224 million in the U.S. alone, making it the second most popular liquor brand in the country.
There’s a little bit of Captain in all of us.
Captain Morgan’s probably the most (only?) iconic body posture associated with a liquor brand. In fact it’s become so popular, people do it everywhere—a lot of hiking photos (some with an actual bottle), argyle sweater modeling, while waiting for your betrothed on a beach. Actually, it’s not always kosher to do that classic Captain Morgan pose. Eagles Tight End Brent Celek actually got in trouble for doing his best “Captain” pose after a touchdown in a 2009 game. The idea was that for every Captain pose done by a player, the company would donate money to charity. The NFL basically said, “Sorry, no, can’t have players advertising products.” Fair enough. But a good try.
Captain Morgan makes badass public appearances. With his “Morganettes.”
Yeah, it’s not just the ol’ Captain making the rounds, as he did at this sports betting party in Vega —it’s him and a posse of sexy swashbucklers (if that’s a thing?).
Speaking of outreach, Captain Morgan briefly had a blog.
The idea seems to have been fleshing out the fun-loving party animal captain with a deeper look into his lifestyle, thoughts, and feelings. Also, mostly, it was meant to be a place where he could “tell everyone all at once how to achieve extreme Captitude.” Alas, the blog sank.
Captain Morgan is seriously interested in having a younger President.
Yes, as in the POTUS him or herself, supporting the idea that presidential candidates shouldn’t have to be over 35 (not sure how we feel about that?), even going so far as to link to the petition on their site.