Rum is such an evocative spirit. It transforms, transcends and instantly transports the drinker to the sun-washed shores of the West Indies; white sands, palm trees and blue seas. It always has a sense of joviality, in part... thanks to its Caribbean origins, and also because of the unabashed decadence surrounding a libation whose raw ingredient is sugar. In the Spanish and British Antilles, rum is traditionally distilled from molasses, a by-product of sugar production and today a variety of stills are used in its production, but because it is made in so many different countries legal requisites differ greatly around the world.
Usually, pot stills are used to distil thick, rich, aged rums ( El Dorado 15 and Pusser’s are good examples). Continuous column stills are used to produce white spirits best associated with cocktails (rums like Bacardi Carta Blanca). Rums are sold both aged and otherwise and due to the tropical nature of the climate, Caribbean rums mature particularly rapidly - at as much as thrice the rate of Scotch Whisky . In this respect 15 year old rum is the equivalent of 45 year old whisky!
The Caribbean has been cultivated for sugar for centuries, and the various occupiers, be they Spanish, French or English, have their own terms for the spirit; Ron, Rhum and, of course, Rum respectively. There has always been a strong connection with the Royal Navy. Indeed, the Navy afforded their sailors a pint of rum as part of their daily ration. The rum was traded and export grew in a large part because of the export possibilities that sea travel brought about. Many competing arguments exist as to the origins of the term “rum”. The most convincing is that it is a shortened version of “rumbullion” – a term for great uproar and noise and a good reminder of the often violent, dramatic history of rum. Other terms have existed, including “kill devil” – used to describe spirit distilled from molasses.
Recently, rum has surged in popularity. Its regard as a fine cocktail mixer is good and widespread and a number of the world’s most popular drinks are rum-based, the Daiquiri and the Mojito being two prime examples. It is only recently, though, that our beloved rum has really been enjoyed en masse as a stand alone beverage of true merit, and this new direction is excellent, for rum is as much a connoisseur’s libation as any other dark spirit. Like all dark spirits, a stemmed tulip glass is best for optimum palate entry and for focusing the aromas.