Rum has come along way from its barbaric and repugnant forms conceived back in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The plethora of countries that are now producing this popular spirit were just a foresight of things to come. I guess you could think of it as a noble conception, bottled up till the right person or persons could alter what was once a harsh and rudimentary drink into liquid gold, similar to the saying, catching lightning in a bottle so to speak.
During rums inception, known then as “kill-devil” by the barbadians that created it, the rudimentary grog was consumed for a few simple reasons. Rum was thought to be significant for its medicinal properties and purposes. It was given to the British Royal Navy as rations while on board their ships for extended periods of time to help them cope with the terrible conditions and as a way of dealing with the stressors of life. Rum, at that time was repulsive and foul to say the least. By this, I mean that, their were no professional master distillers or aging processes to create a favorable, pleasing bottle of rum that was a direct correlation of that particular distillers personality, pride, skill and dedication. Various aromas and flavors, combined together forming a unique spirit, were not viable or auspicious during this time period. Instead, rum was produced at a very high alcohol content (Navy strength) which is around 100 proof or 50% abv. This number was pertinent and needed to be achieved in rum consumed by the British Royal Navy because if the rum spilled onboard, the alcohol would not prevent gunpowder from igniting. The rum was not allowed to age in wood barrels or be filtered and stilled more than once, so the taste was more to the effect of grain alcohol with little desirable taste acquired through the aging process in wood barrels such as oak, acacia or other premier wood and carbon to remove many impurities.
Enter the so called modern age of rum. Enter Mount Gay distillery. Sir John Gay, a leader and businessman along with a friend, named John Sober, who had inherited a distillery on the island of Barbados, decided to refine the distilling process of rum and produce one of the finest and oldest rums in the world. This rum which is still being produced to this day is called Mount Gay rum. Warm climate, fertile soil, favorable conditions for the growth of sugar cane were synonymous with Barbados allowing for the production of rum to prevail and pave the way for other countries and producers to share their vision and creativity in the spirit world.
Today, rum is being produced, not only in Barbados but many other islands in the Caribbean, Australia, Thailand, South and Central America, Spain, Holland, The United States, India, Scotland and Africa. Each and every distillery hailing from these regions promotes and displays a completely different and diverse rum from its competitor. Factors such as altitude, temperature, rainfall, type of sugarcane used, fermentation technique, blending technique, type of wood used to make the barrels for rum aging combined with the amount of time the rum is aged in these barrels and whether the rum is made from molasses or fresh pressed sugarcane juice all have a profound impact on flavor, aroma and complexity.
One other major constituent that has a paramount effect on the outcome of rum is the process used to distill the rum. Their are various methods and types of stills used in the creation of rum. Each has a profound impact on the outcome of the rum produced. Continuous and batch distillation, solera method, copper pot still and column still all produce a unique and diverse type of rum.
Today’s rums are as diverse and distinct, region by region much in the same way as one persons fingerprint to another. If you are looking for that next bottle of liquor, why not try one of the myriad of rums available. Their is such a wide array of choices available based on flavor, complexity and character to satisfy anyone’s curiosity and taste.
I’m sure that if some of the famous pirates of our time, like Edward Teach, William Kidd, Jean Laffite, Henry Morgan and Anne Bonny had the privilege of enjoying rum produced today, their devotion to looting and plundering would probably be encompassed around drinking more rum instead.
Why not do the same…Drink responsibly