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Getting the 'rum' around?

Getting the 'rum' around?
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  • Getting the 'rum' around?

    Post #1 - July 13th, 2018, 10:32 am
    Post #1 - July 13th, 2018, 10:32 am Post #1 - July 13th, 2018, 10:32 am
    Is rum a serious spirit? It seems that nearly every tropical island has its own distillery-even on a small scale. But, are rums from Cuba,Jamaica, Tahiti, Helena, and other far flung tropical islands all over the world really that different? Are bottles from these ports of call worthy legit pours that don't get distributed to the shelves of Binny's or just tourist trinkets with a pretty label that sit in a cabinet and never opened?How do you know if a rum from these unknown places is a find or a farce...what makes a good rum? Are there rare rums from remote places that are worthy of a visit?
    What disease did cured ham actually have?
  • Post #2 - July 13th, 2018, 11:22 am
    Post #2 - July 13th, 2018, 11:22 am Post #2 - July 13th, 2018, 11:22 am
    Elfin wrote:Is rum a serious spirit? It seems that nearly every tropical island has its own distillery-even on a small scale. But, are rums from Cuba,Jamaica, Tahiti, Helena, and other far flung tropical islands all over the world really that different? Are bottles from these ports of call worthy legit pours that don't get distributed to the shelves of Binny's or just tourist trinkets with a pretty label that sit in a cabinet and never opened?How do you know if a rum from these unknown places is a find or a farce...what makes a good rum? Are there rare rums from remote places that are worthy of a visit?

    Rum is definitely a genuine spirit but as you point out, there is very little regulation about what is or isn't in the bottle. If it's a distillate of cane sugar and/or its by-products, it can be called rum, without regard to what else is or is not in the bottle. And generally, speaking there are 2 broad categories: rum and rhum. The first, rum, covers the larger category of distillates that are made from the by-products of sugar refining, such as molasses, etc. They are predominantly sweet and much of their individuation is imparted by aging in wood, though there are certainly a variety of other factors in force (provenance, methodology, type of still, etc.).

    The latter, most commonly produced in the West Indies, often Martinique, are often referred to as Agricole. These are distillates produced directly from raw cane juice and are generally funky and grassy with less up-front sweetness. They are certainly found in aged form (aged, vieux) but are also regarded as serious spirits in their non-aged forms (blanc).

    Because of its footloose style and lack of strict regulation, some would argue that rum, not bourbon, is truly the most American spirit there is. But the origin and history of rum generally parallel the history and path of the sugar trade. So, all the countries and regions along this route developed their own styles, methods and recipes. And this is why there are such vast differences between all the different expressions. There is a phenomenal book by Wayne Curtis that covers all of this and much more: And a Bottle of Rum, Revised and Updated: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. I highly recommend it.

    After tasting many rums over the years, I've found a few that I really like (hello, Guayana!) but I cannot say how "pure" they are or if they contain other ingredients. And I think that after a while, you can get a sense of the kinds of things you like and what feels genuine enough for you.

    Is older better? Not necessarily. I've had some rums that come in a variety of ages and find that there is a sweet spot (pun mildly intended), after which the wood takes over and overwhelms the spirit. There is also a sub-industry of companies that buy stock from distilleries, age it further, blend with other rums, etc. In these areas, too, after tasting things over time, you'll get a sense for which houses line up with your preferences and which don't. And as with many other spirits, you'll be able to identify which drams you'll want to sip, which you'll want to use in cocktails and which you'll want to leave on the shelf. I spent one summer trying dozens of combinations of rums in making classic Daiquiris. It took a lot of trial and error (such hard work, lol!) but I found what I consider to be a perfect combination for my palate.

    Lastly, for now, a great place to try rums/rhums locally without having to buy full bottles is Lost Lake on Diversey, which has a vast collection of cane distillates curated by spirits maven Paul McGee. Though many of their back bar items are not inexpensive, many are also quite affordable. And just about every style and origin are available there, so you can have a session or two there and come away with a pretty good sense of what you like and what you don't.

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #3 - July 13th, 2018, 12:04 pm
    Post #3 - July 13th, 2018, 12:04 pm Post #3 - July 13th, 2018, 12:04 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:The latter, most commonly produced in the West Indies, often Martinique, are often referred to as Agricole. These are distillates produced directly from raw cane juice and are generally funky and grassy with less up-front sweetness. They are certainly found in aged form (aged, vieux) but are also regarded as serious spirits in their non-aged forms (blanc).


    One of my favorite bottles in this genre is Rhum JM's blanc 100 proof.

    Exploring rum is fun because there is a lot of variety. Two 'exercises' are to experiment with different rums in a straight daiquiri and to replace bourbon with an aged rum in an Old Fashioned or other bourbon-forward drinks.

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