Not many people have dreams of helping to command a nuclear submarine, let alone undergo the training to do so in the first place. It takes a special breed of individual to commit to defending one’s country and controlling one of the most advanced weapons available. It’s a job that takes extreme skill as well as nerve — after all, you’re not only responsible for the lives of your crew, but also piloting a sub that’s carrying nuclear missiles as well.
In the UK, commanding a nuclear submarine is considered one of the most revered roles in all of the British Royal Navy. So revered in fact that naval officers only have one chance a year to apply to the Submarine Command Course, which is required to ascend to the role of Executive Officer (aka the XO, who is second in command). Out of those applicants only fifty-percent actually make the cut. And this cut is just the first of many cuts in a training program that has come to be informally known as The Perisher.
The training program, which was created in 1917 during WWI, is considered the toughest program in all of the British Armed Forces, costing the government almost 2 million pounds per candidate. With this lofty fee comes even more pressure, and that means few people actually make it through. So how does the British Royal Navy handle cutting those candidates that just can’t hack it? They’re presented with a delicious bottle of whisky and told to be on their way.
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The tradition, which began almost at the start of the creation of The Perisher program, became such that when a sailor was cut, instead of going through a drawn out process, he would simply be presented with his packed bags and a bottle of whisky. At this point that the sailor would be notified of the failure and a boat would arrive to whisk him away. No discussions, just a nice bottle of whisky and a swift boat back to shore.
This departing bottle of whisky was meant to soothe the sailor’s spirits and allow them to drown their sorrows. Many give up much to pursue the role, even though they know the odds are stacked against them to make it through, and many are crushed when they receive word they have been released. At least sailors who get cut know there’s a nice bottle of whisky waiting at the end of the ordeal.