It’s the 12th day of December, and that means we’re already halfway through Advent! Forget half-time oranges, we’ve brought you a tasty rum to tide you over. It’s Rumbullion!
Unless you’re a 12 days of Christmas purist, you’ve probably awkwardly hoisted your Christmas tree down from the attic for the all too nervous inspection of competence by now. Some of you may already know what’s going under it. But for those struggling for ideas/time/funds, #WhiskySanta is still waiting to hear how good you’ve been this year, and if he agrees you might just find you have more to put under that tree than you thought…
A history of Rumbullion
Some people tell the story of rum as being something of an accident. In the mid-17th century, sugar stormed to the forefront of industry in the plantation economies that colonists controlled in the Caribbean. Here, cane grew in abundance, and when you crush sugar cane to extract the juice, you get a tasty, sweet liquid. However, if you heat and concentrate the juice you encourage crystallisation, and those white little flavour buddies we all know and love as sugar appear.
But you also get a thick, sticky black treacly liquid called molasses. Distill it to create a spirit, and it becomes something rather delicious. Which is what we know as rum. Now, the idea of rum being a happy accident booze made from a miracle byproduct is probably quite reductionist. But this early history is murky and still being pieced together. What we do know is that the early version of the spirit was popular and traded all over the world, with various name like ‘kill-devil’ or probably most famously ‘rumbullion’.
We can see this in a document from Trinity College, Dublin written around 1651 called a ‘Description of Barbados’ says: ‘the chief fudling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar-canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor.’ Not everybody liked it, apparently.
A description of Surinam (now Suriname) from G. Warren in 1661 is also most revealing. He talks of rum and describes the spirit as being one “extracted from the juice” and being called “Kill-Devil in New England”. He goes on to say: “‘Rumbullion’, is a Devonshire word meaning ‘a great tumult,’ and may have been adopted from some of the Devonshire settlers in Barbados; at any rate, little doubt can exist that it has given rise to our word rum, and the longer name rumbowling, which sailors give to their grog.”
It’s a long, complicated, and intriguing history, and one that inspired Ableforth’s when it was creating a modern spiced rum. Although how cool the name Rumbullion! is also probably had something to do with it too.
Back in 2015, the brand whipped up a recipe loosely based on the kind of rich, warming blends enjoyed by the seafaring fraternity of yesteryear using Caribbean rum as a base and flavouring it with decedent Madagascan vanilla, a generous helping of orange rind, as well as cinnamon, cloves and just a hint of cardamom.
With its distinctive brown paper bag-style wrapped bottle, black waxed top, and big flavour profile Rumbullion! has become a staple of the new flavoured/spiced revolution that’s helping drive rum to new heights. Although if you don’t care about any of that, might I interest you in a Hot Buttered Rum?
Tasting note for Rumbullion!
Nose: A fabulously decadent nose of intense, sweet vanilla and flamed orange zest. The cardamom makes itself known by offering up an evocative suggestion of old-fashioned cola, and to this the cloves bring out a deep, dark complexity. Yet more sweetness with cinnamon, which melds beautifully with essential oil notes of Seville orange peel.
Palate: At once a fabulous mix of thick-cut bitter orange marmalade and tingling, zinging spices. Hints of Manuka honey and mouth-watering cinnamon form its heart, with molasses, candy floss, toffee apples, crème brûlée, and clove-studded oranges.
Finish: A long finish, with tongue-prickling spices, and a stunning degree of freshness as cinnamon, orange, and creamy, sweet vanilla notes coat the palate for minutes.
How to make a Hot Buttered Rum:
2 spoons honey
1 knob unsalted butter
2 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
Place a bar spoon loaded with honey in a warmed glass. Add butter, nutmeg, and rum then top with boiled water. Give it a good hearty stir until the honey and butter are dissolved.
Another advent dram will be uncovered tomorrow. See you then. Cheers!