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Rum

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 made from sugar.

The kind of sugar used is one of the key differentiating factors in rum production. In the Spanish and British Antilles, for example, rum is traditionally distilled from molasses - a by-product of sugar production. In the French Caribbean islands, however, sugarcane juice (sometimes called sugarcane honey) is used instead of molasses. Countries like Martinique and Guadeloupe are famed for producing spirit distilled from sugarcane juice, known as rhum agricole - French for 'agricultural rum'. The spirit is often made in a way that more closely resembles the distillation of some of the famous French brandies, such as Cognac or Armagnac. Younger varieties often exude a tangy, herbal flavour, whilst the aged varieties (often matured in Cognac casks) will offer up subtlety and complexity, just like any fine aged spirit.

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.

As far as British involvement with the spirit, there has always been a strong connection with the Royal Navy. Indeed, at one time the Navy afforded their sailors a half pint of rum as part of their daily ration. The rum was traded and export grew in 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 word meaning great uproar and noise, and a good reminder of the often violent, dramatic history of rum. Other terms have existed, including "kill devil” which was used to describe spirit distilled from molasses.

Due to the huge geographical territory in which rum is produced, there are many variants in production, the type of still being one of the most obvious. Usually, pot stills are used to distil thick, rich, aged rums (El Dorado 15 and El Pusser’s are good examples). Continuous column stills, on the other hand, are used to produce white spirits best associated with cocktails.

Maturation is an interesting aspect too. White rums are either unaged or aged only very briefly. Classics such as Bacardi Superior are crisp and tangy and work brilliantly well in cocktails. Gold rums tend to be a mix of spirit old and new, and also work nicely in cocktails, with an increase in complexity and flavour. For the connoisseurs of sipping spirit, however, dark rums are the preference. These can be tremendously refined and delicious, thanks in no small part to the tropical nature of the climate. The hot weather allows Caribbean rums to mature particularly rapidly - at as much as thrice the rate of Scotch Whisky . In this respect a 15 year old rum is the equivalent of a 45 year old whisky!

Other geographical factors come into play too, and some of the top rum-producing countries have attained their own unique style.

Jamaica is perhaps one of the most prolific rum nations today, with its own unique style. Prior to distillation, the molasses are typically allowed to ferment for a great length of time. This is then followed by distillation in pot stills. The result is intensity and body, often with notes of tropical fruit and banana. Appleton Estate and Wray and Nephew are superlative examples.

Barbados is another prime rum territory. One of the original islands to begin rum distillation, Barbadian rums are often superbly balanced, with deliciously aromatic tendencies. There are three main distilleries on the island (West Indies Rum Distillery, Mount Gay and Foursquare), and each makes use of pot stills. These are easy-drinking rums, with some of the longer-aged variants (Doorly’s XO, for example) working brilliantly as sipping spirits.

Guyana is one of our favourite rum nations, thanks in no small part to the heavy, Demerara rums bottled in the El Dorado range. These are full-bodied spirits, traditionally the main constituent in British Navy rum. Made in a mix of pot stills and column stills, there is quite a variety of flavour to be found. Where once there were more than 200 distilleries, today there is only one. We suggest you seek out El Dorado 15 for an example of just how good Guyana rum can be!

Latin America is home to the lighter, fresher cocktail rums. The popularity of such spirit (with the advent of the recent cocktail revolution) has transformed the place into the most prolific region of all. It all started, however, with Bacardi, originally produced in Cuba before the country's factories were nationalised. Today, Bacardi is made in Puerto Rico, and the classic Carta Blanca remains a mainstay for many cocktails including the Daiquiri. Countries such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela and Trinidad play hosts to some of the world's top distilleries. Brands such as Ron Zacapa, Brugal and Pampero - among many others - are well worth a look.

Whilst not always thought of as a true rum, this introduction would not be complete without a mention of Cachaça. The famous spirit, made almost exclusively in Brazil, is traditionally enjoyed as part of a Caipirinha cocktail, and its production closely resembles Rhum Agricole. It is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice, and is bottled at between 38% and 54%ABV. One interesting aspect is the legally permissible addition of up to six grams of sugar per litre, giving the spirit additional sweetness. Varieties are sold both aged and unaged, with the former being a more premium style thanks to the extra complexity imbued by the use of wooden barrels. To sample some fine Cachaça, look for the superb distilleries Germana and Abelha. We recommend you enjoy the aged varieties neat, whilst the tangier white Cachaça is best drunk in the aforementioned Caipirinha - a cocktail made simply with two shots of Cachaça, half a lime and a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Delicious!

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 standalone 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 aroma.

Rum

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A single cask Panamanian rum from Don Jose. Bottled by Duncan Taylor, just 272 bottles were produced.  More info
£67.49
Single cask rum from the same distillery in Guyana that produces El Dorado? Heck. Yes. Please.  More info
£126.15
A superb single cask rum from Bellevue, Guadeloupe. Bottled by Duncan Taylor with an outturn of 263.  More info
£75.27
A blended rum from Duncan Taylor. Great in cocktails.  More info
£56.33
A rare 1970 bottling of the amazing Ron Bermudez. White Rum.  More info
£120.00
Rare Argentinian rum dating from the 1960s.  More info
£121.29
Rum rum rum. Rum for my Tum. From the 1970s.  More info
£96.00
A rare 1960s bottling of Courville Rhum. C'est magnifique!  More info
£120.00
A 1980s bottling of Ron Arechas. Vintage. Antique-y.  More info
£72.00
A super-rare bottling of Captain Morgan White label from the 1980s.  More info
£72.00
Añejo means 'over a year old'. That. But rum.  More info
£24.00
Ron Arehucas Rum - 2010s
(70cl, 37.50%)
Rum. In a bottle. At 37.5%.  More info
£24.00
A 12 year old single cask Mount Gay. Top Bajan rum from Duncan Taylor.  More info
£58.78
An independently bottled rum from Berry Brothers & Rudd.  More info
£41.93
Bottled in the 1990s, this is a delicious and very rare bottle of the classic dark rum Captain Morgan Black Label. It's made with rum from Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica.  More info
£48.00
This is a very rare 1970s bottling of the classic British Navy Rum - Lamb's. It's a legendary blend of 18 different pot-still rums from the Caribbean, from such countries as Trinidad and Guyana.  More info
£96.00
Produced by Lamb's in the 1970s, this is a delicious and very rare Navy-style rum based on oak-aged spirit distilled in Guyana, home to the famous Demerara river.  More info
£120.00
Rhum Fantasia - 1960s
(100cl, 40%)
Rhum Fantasia is an Italian dark rum. This was made in the 1960s by the A. Pagliarini company and it was produced in Romano di Lombardia, in Italy's Bergamo region. Very rare.  More info
£120.00
This is a very fruity Rhum Fantasia - an Italian dark rum. It was bottled in 1974 by the Masera company in Milan, Italy. Very rare indeed.  More info
£96.00
Rhum Fantasia is a very rare and very retro-looking dark rum which was made in Italy in 1976 by the Tocini company.  More info
£96.00
This was made by the Cocal company in the Canary Islands. It was produced in the 1970s and is a lovely mix of molasses rum and honey... Delicious!  More info
£72.00
This is a very rare and collectible bottle of honey rum, or Ron Miel, made in Antigua in the 1970s.  More info
£48.00
Ron Arehucas - 1970s
(100cl, 40%)
This is a golden rum from Ron Arehucas which was produced in the 1970s in the Canary Islands. It was distilled from molasses and works nicely in cocktails...  More info
£72.00
Bacardi 151 Rum - 1980s
(75cl, 75.50%)
This is a high-proof, "151" dark rum from Bacardi - the world's most famous spirit of its kind. This particular bottling was made in the 1980s and is thus rather rare.  More info
£60.00
This is a delicious dark rum from the French Antilles, it was bottled in the 1970s by the French company Bardinet. Very rare.  More info
User Rating:  Rating (2.0/5)
£72.00

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ATOM Supplies Ltd trading as Master of Malt. Registered office: North House, 198 High Street, Tonbridge, TN9 1BE. Registered in England & Wales. Company number 3193057, VAT number GB 662241553.