While the kids get their bags packed and lunch prepped, do some learning of your own this September with our Spirits School. Each week, we focus on a different category and tell you all about it - from its history to how to swig it. We’ll also be offering you discounts and giveaways along the way. Last week we looked at the wonderful world of gin - and now we’re casting our eye on the sweet world of rum.
So what is there to know about rum? Or, as it was once referred to, Nelson’s Blood, Demon Water or simply, “grog”?
Well, as it happens, quite a lot. The popularity of this spirit is going from strength to (navy) strength. As well as the classics that we all know and love, we’re seeing a hearty range of flavoured expressions coming out - gin, watch your back!
It is thought that the world’s first distillation took place in the 1620s in the Caribbean - and this product was probably classed as rum. It was also the first spirit to be produced for entertainment purposes, as opposed to medicinal.
For more than 300 years, the brave sailors of the Royal Navy were issued a daily ration of rum, known as a 'tot'. This tradition, one of the longest running in military history, was carried out from 1655 all the way until August 1st, 1970 - otherwise known as 'Black Tot Day'.
Originally, beer or wine was used for daily rationing but these often couldn't survive in the hot and humid weather of the West Indies and Africa. Spirits like rum and brandy, however, retained their good taste and didn’t spoil - making them the perfect candidates. But why rum specifically?
Well, firstly scurvy was a thing in those days, an extremely common ailment among sailors who didn’t get enough Vitamin C. Sure, rum doesn’t naturally contain Vitamin C but it did go well with lime juice - which is jam-packed with the stuff. The popularity of rum was also due to Britain's growing political influence within the West Indies and their growing use of plantations.
HOW IS RUM MADE?
The base for rum is sugar cane, usually harvested in the Caribbean or in South America. The cane is cut close to the ground as the highest concentration of sugar is in the stem. Another fun fact: Jamaican farmers usually leave a few canes standing as it is believed it will ward off mischievous spirits.Due to the hotter climate of the Caribbean, rum ages and evaporates faster - meaning the farmers lose more spirit compared to say, ageing whisky in Scotland. So much so that some rum brands transport their barrels to Europe to avoid this happening!
Rum can be made either from distilled sugar cane juice or molasses, the residual syrup from the fermented juice itself. Yeast is then added, which causes the molasses to ferment and then produce a sugar cane wine. This is then distilled in a pot or column still and then aged as desired.
What’s your type?
White rums tend to have lighter flavours whereas dark rums have a more complex flavour profile, largely due to being aged in wooden casks for longer. With an alcohol content higher than 57.5%, overproof rums are not for the faint hearted, while spiced rums have additional flavours to enhance its aromas - which usually include nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla.
Don’t believe the rumours surrounding white rum: there are many a white rum out there that rival the quality and deliciousness of their dark, spiced and golden sisters. Aluna Coconut Rum is a personal favourite, its tropical smoothness makes an excellent mojito.
A pretty pair
Gin and tonic, vodka and soda, rum and.. coke? The sweet, moreish combo is a solid option, but if you fancy something a bit.. well, cooler and aren’t looking to shake up a cocktail, I’d recommend Longtail’s mixers for your dark/aged/spiced rums. They’re specifically designed for pairing with dark spirits, bringing fresh, sultry flavours that’ll compliment your rum with ease.