Rum is a spirit on the rise. Far from being a tipple only enjoyed by salty sea dogs and Cuban bartenders, it is now being appreciated by a new generation of drinkers keen to flex their taste buds in new directions. From mature sipping rums, to bright cocktail classics and unique flavours from far flung islands, rum’s diversity is its main strength. To celebrate rum’s renaissance we’ve unearthed five fantastic facts…
Light & Dark
As rum is made all over the world, using different raw ingredients, the rules as to what constitutes a rum are varied and confusing. Most are produced in the Caribbean or Central America and broadly fall into three national influences: English-style rums from the English speaking Caribbean islands tend to be dark, molasses based spirits; Spanish-style rums, from Spanish speaking countries, are known as ‘Ron’ and usually lighter in style; while French speaking countries have a ‘French (or ‘Rhum) Agricole’ style which are produced from sugar cane juice.
The colour of the rums is down to ageing and filtering. White, light or silver rums will have spent a shorter time in casks and are often charcoal-filtered to remove colour. Some golden rums then have caramel added to give them their colour. Aged rums gain their deeper tones from a longer time spent in the barrels, while dark rums will be produced from caramelised molasses and aged in charred barrels for extra depth of flavour and colour.
Strong & Stronger
While most rums are bottled at around 40% ABV, there’s one category of rum that is considerably stronger: Navy Rum. Its bottling strength of 57% ABV is a nod to the minimum alcohol level required of the Royal Navy for sailors to ‘splice the mainbrace.’* Wet gunpowder from booze spillage was a potential problem for naval vessels and 57% was the strength at which the explosive substance would still ignite if it came into contact with rum. The booze was tested by mixing a bit of gunpowder with rum and lighting it – if it went up in flame then it was ‘proof’ of alcohol (hence 57% being referred to as 100% English Proof).
Rum & Coke
Rum is, of course, a vital booze for anyone who likes to dabble with the art of cocktail making, and rum & coke is one of the popular cocktails around, due to ease of making and effectiveness. It began in Cuba around a century ago where it’s known as the Cuba Libra and uses the local light rum, served with or without a squirt and slice of lime. From Cuba it spread to America, then the rest of the world, where many variations have sprung that use rums of all distinctions. To make the classic version mix 120ml coca cola (no other coke will do), 50ml white Cuban rum and 10ml fresh lime juice in a highball glass filled with ice. Top with a wedge of lime. Dream of sunshine.
Dark & Stormy
Another popular rum-based cocktail is the Dark ‘n’ Stormy which is a combination of dark rum and (stormy) ginger beer, served in a tall glass with ice and a slice of lime. For a proper Dark ‘n’ Stormy the rum should be Gosling Brothers Black Seal – the company lays claim to the creation of the original cocktail in Bermuda and has trademarked the Dark ‘n’ Stormy name. They’ve even packaged up pre-made cocktails in their own Dark ‘n’ Stormy cans.
Rum & Raisin
Dark rum is one of the best drinks to have hanging around the kitchen. Not only is it great for a quick cocktail fix but it’s also a useful ingredient for cooking where its sweet, rich and boozy characteristics can pep up a plethora of puddings and sauces. Its most famous partner in recipe books is the raisin, first combined in ice creams by Sicilians, and since used in cakes, fudge, chocolate and other sweet confections.
Five rums to try
Aged rum for sipping
El Dorado 15, 43%
Country of production: Guyana
El Dorado produce a range of award winning rich, fruity and spicy aged dark rums. The five year old is a bargain; 15 is exceptional and great value; or for money-no-object options they have even older rums.
Dark rum for cocktails
Goslings Black Seal, 40%
Country of production: Bermuda
The main player in a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, it’s sweet and treacly with burnt orange and caramel flavours.
Light rum for cocktails
Havana Club 3
Country of production: Cuba
Smooth and light with traces of vanilla, almond and oak it’s the ideal choice for mojitos and more.
Wood’s Old Navy Rum, 57%
Country of production: Guyana
For the ultimate winter-chill-buster this is surprisingly smooth with flavours of toffee and cracked pepper.
Rhum Clément Vieux Select Barrel, 40%
Country of production: Martinique
A very different style from more familiar rums, this comes with grassy, herby notes alongside some light fruit and spices.
Tiki Lovers Pineapple Rum, 45%
Country of production: A blend of various Caribbean rums
Rums suit flavourings better than most spirits, particularly if they’re enhanced with tropical additions like the sweet, fruity juice of pineapple in the cheerful tipple.
*This nautical phrase means to partake in an extra ration of rum or grog – splicing (repair) a mainbrace (the rope used to support the mast of a sailing vessel) was a tough task so the successful repairman was rewarded with an extra helping of booze
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