Amber Dias looks beyond its dark and stormy history to highlight why rum is such a popular spirit.
Rum is a tantalizing spirit that rarely disappoints. While at first thought it might conjure images of pirates and smugglers – especially if you are a pop culture or history buff – this elixir has emerged as one of the top choices for those who enjoy the finer things in life. It has a rich, indulgent texture with a subtle peppery tingle that heightens the experience. If you know your cocktails, you’ll know that it finds its way into some of the very best. But if you’re looking for something a little hardier, it can be enjoyed neat or with a splash of water too.
The present is sweet, as far as rum goes, as its rising fanbase will attest. However, its past tells a different story. Distilled from a sugar base like sugarcane or molasses, rum originated in the Caribbean, around the 1600s, where sugarcane was grown in plenty and its popularity grew once it hit the shores of New England – it was much cheaper than brandy. And in the years that followed, it became a form of currency, often being traded for goods. The tendrils of its story weave through slavery and wars, prohibition and political upheaval. Centuries later, rum no longer has a cloud hanging over it and is enjoyed freely and finds itself at the centre of a plethora of culinary and beverage innovations.
A Tale Of Types
There are few spirits that offer the depth of flavour, smoothness of texture and diversity that rum does. But there’s more to this decadent elixir than meets the eye. There’s more than one type of rum to choose from; each with its own unique flavour, profile and ageing process.
Crafted from sugarcane juice, this spirit hails from the Caribbean islands, though it is also produced in Hawaii, Thailand, Mauritius and Australia. It is allowed to rest in casks for an extended duration, giving it a smooth edge. Flavour-wise it is more fruity and earthy than molasses-based rum and has a rich character. When it comes to cocktails, think along the lines of a White Elephant or Ti Punch.
Also referred to as clear or silver rum. Often aged for about a year, it is filtered with charcoal to remove its colour. It plays well with other flavours and is a good choice for mixing things up, like say a Daiquiri or Mai Tai.
Perhaps the most commonly known, it boasts of rich colour and stronger flavour. Typically aged for longer periods in charred oak barrels. A favourite for rum punch, it is also the base of some of the most popular rum cocktails – Dark ‘n’ Stormy or Caribbean Coffee, anyone?
…Or amber rum, has a deeper, more caramelly colour than light rum – courtesy the wooden barrels it is aged in. Taste-wise it is the smoothest of the lot and is sweeter too. It may have hints of vanilla, cocoa or even butterscotch to it. It’s the key ingredient in cocktails like the Cuba Libre and Seven Seas.
As the name suggests, this dark amber spirit packs a flavourful punch as spices and sometimes fruits are mixed in with it. It’s a fun choice for punches or cocktails and a good addition to hot toddies. Psst… it’s also the secret ingredient in rum balls.
Premium rum is aged in oak barrels for several years. That’s the secret behind its rich and intense flavour. The lengthier process often means that it is a little pricer than its counterparts but it is worth it. The strong flavour does mean that it doesn’t do well with mixing, however, it is so delectably smooth that it doesn’t need a mixer to go down and you can sip on it at leisure.
Single Vintage Rum
Let’s talk elite. This exclusive spirit is aged for over 12 years in whisky casks before being transferred to Olorosso sherry barrels. Notes of tobacco, oak and vanilla are predominant in flavour. Don’t confuse it with aged rum though, there’s only one batch made at a time and it is bottled from a specific production year, say the Diplomatico Single Vintage Rum 2005, for instance.
With an ABV (Alcohol By Volume) over 50%, this rum adds an extra kick to the drinks it’s mixed in. Think Zombie or Singapore Sling. A popular way to drink it though is just over ice.
In The Mix: Popular Rum Cocktails To Try
- Pina Colada
- Jungle Bird
- El Floridita
- Rum Sour
- Miami Vice
The Taste Of Luxury
Whether you’re sipping it on a tropical beach, a restaurant or an exclusive club, rum takes you on a journey steeped in history and born of meticulous craftsmanship. A harmonious blend of robust and sweet flavours, velvety texture and tantalizing aroma, it offers an indulgent sensory experience that would be a folly to miss.
A Pirate’s Life
As fun as it is to watch Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew guzzle gallons of rum, there is some truth to its relationship with pirates. Sailors particularly favoured it and since the 17 century, it was considered a must-have at sea – it was easier to store than drinking water. It was even included among rations for British sailors. Since rum was also being exported, ships that were attacked by pirates were often loaded with it. Drinking their liquid loot was favoured at the time – and of course, on those long voyages at sea, it kept the crew’s spirits high.