The original and prime meaning of the word puncheon is a tool or instrument for piercing or punching, such as those used for impressing designs onto coin dies. The "barrel" meaning is thought to derive from the fact that it would have been marked by use of a punch to denote its contents.
In Trinidad and Tobago, Trinidadians and Tobagonians have adopted the use of the term "puncheon" to describe Puncheon Rum, which is a high proof light-type rum. Two local manufacturers Caroni Puncheon Rum and Stallion Puncheon Rum produce bottles that are 75% alcohol by volume. A favourite with seafarers and estate workers, Puncheon Rum distilled in the cane-fields of Caroni has traditionally provided comfort and warmth against the elements in Trinidad and Tobago to cane workers. From the early days of the plantations, this rum has been much sought after for blending in Europe and North America.The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century. Plantation slaves first discovered that molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process, can be fermented into alcohol.
The puncheon, in the United States also called pon for brevity, is an old English unit of wine casks, holding about 318 litres. It is also known as tertian (from the Latin word for third), because three of it make a tun, and as the (wine) firkin.