The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2010

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Page 95 of 104

B ecause rum can be made anywhere in the world, it is made pretty much everywhere in the world. Still, geography and history do infl uence the fl avor of one of the world’s favorite beverages. Rum must come from a sugarcane derivative—sugarcane juice, syrup or molasses (the byproduct of sugar produc- tion)—but can be made in a diverse number of ways that infl uence its taste: pot- or column-distilled, aged or unaged and sometimes fl avored with a variety of fruits and spices. As sugarcane spread from the Far East around the world to warm-weather countries including India, Brazil and throughout the Caribbean, rum production followed. In most of these locations, sugarcane is processed into sugar and the leftover molasses is distilled into rum. But in countries with less demand for sugar (and more for liquor), distillers make rum directly from fermented sugarcane juice. The Brazilian version, called cachaça, is wildly popular locally and is gaining an international following (see story on page 66). To categorize rums from the Caribbean, we look to each island’s colonial history. On French-colonized islands, rum from sugarcane is called rhum agricole; originally made in cognac stills, it is now mostly column-distilled. Martinique brands, including Rhum Clément (KINDRED SPIRITS), Neisson (CARIBBEAN SPIRITS INC.) and Depaz (KOBRAND CORP.), are controlled under French AOC regulations, Martinique being a French possession. Others, like Haiti’s Barbancourt (CRILLON IMPORTERS), are made in a similar style but do not fall under French AOC law. The British style of rum is the oldest in the Caribbean, with Mount Gay (RÉMY COINTREAU USA) from Barbados dating to 1703. They were and are made from molasses in colonies including India, Australia and Jamaica. These rums were originally pot-distilled, heavily bodied and often packed a wallop with their high proofs. They were once rationed to sailors aboard British Navy ships, and some rums like Pusser’s still tout the “Navy Rum” association on their labels. We can see traces of English rum’s funky-fl avored past in hard-to-fi nd Demerara rums from Guyana and in the more popular Appleton from Jamaica. Appleton Estate (KOBRAND CORP.) rum today is made from a blend of custom copper pot–distilled and column-distilled rums; the combination gives it rich fl avor with a cocktail-friendly body that makes it a favorite with the Mai Tai–obsessed tiki cocktail crowd. Spanish-style rum was a latecomer to the game but is still quite infl uential, as the modern technology used to refi ne products—column stills, barrel aging and charcoal fi ltration—made them palatable to a mass audience. This tradition was started by Bacardi (BACARDI USA) in Cuba and has morphed into today’s international style. Some brands like Cruzan (BEAM GLOBAL) are fully column-distilled to give them a clean and easily mixable profi le. This brand’s new spiced expression, Cruzan 9, is fl avored with nine all-natural spices and will provide mixologists with exotic new possibilities. No rum is more made for mixing (with Coke, for example) than spiced rum; the spices often including vanilla, caramel, and nutmeg. With the massive success of Captain Morgan (DIAGEO NORTH AMERICA), many new brands have launched in the category, including Blackbeard (DESTILERIA SERALLÉS) rum launching nationally in August from the Serrallés family, who provided the Puerto Rican rum base for Captain Morgan for the last 25 years. Blackbeard adds some tropical fruit fl avors and “secret spices” to the mix. While Puerto Rico and most Caribbean islands sell so much rum that they have to import molasses to keep up, in Latin America, brands like Flor de Caña (SKYY SPIRITS) from Nicaragua use molasses from estate-grown sugarcane and cite a “slow-aging” process to mature the rums before blending. Although it was a Colonial-era staple, there isn’t a whole lot of rum distilled inside the U.S. today; most of it comes from micro-distillers, like Rogue (ROGUE SPIRITS) from Oregon, Hudson River Rum (TUTHILLTOWN SPIRITS) from New York and Old New Orleans (CELEBRATION DISTILLATION) from Louisiana. These small-batch rums are made mostly from molasses, mostly on pot or hybrid stills, and are usu- ally aged for a short period of time, but they all taste wildly different from one another. Though rum can come from anywhere in the world, even within one country it shows its fascinating diversity. august 2010 / the tasting panel / 95

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