“There is something fresh and crisp about the first hours of a Caribbean day, a happy anticipation that something is about to happen, maybe just up the street or around the next corner.” ― Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary
Rum gets a bad reputation because of mass-marketed industrial rums notorious for bite, dryness, and hideous hangovers. They are rarely palatable unless rendered invisible by sickly sweet sodas or sugary coconut mixers. A great rum should drink more like a cognac; it is neither sweet nor cloying, but instead rich, deep in flavor and texture, heady, aromatic, and dry. A sip of fine rhum will transport you to a leeward island surrounded by pristine blue water, mainsail hoisted; the Caribbean sun soaking your skin.
No, that wasn’t a misspelling! “Rhum” is rum – but it’s rum made from sugar cane juice rather than the less expensive, mass-produced molasses. Unable to get industrial molasses, the French settlers in Martinique (and later, Guadeloupe) improvised and began to make rum like they made cognac back home. They simply substituted sugar cane for grapes: pressing the cane, letting it rest on the lees, then distilled with pot stills. As French colonies, they work with VS/VSOP/AOC classifications (most often associated with cognac). These regulations ensure that “Rhum Agricole” remains the gold standard for quality rum worldwide.
Demerara rum, meanwhile, is made only in Guyana from the sugar cane grown along the Demerara River. This was the rum sent to the British Navy: a “rum ration” was given twice daily to British sailors and mixed with water and citrus – in order to prevent scurvy – and called “grog”. Currently the only distillery on the tiny nation of Guyana is El Dorado. The aged rums from this distillery carry a deep, smoky flavor.
As for the Cola or bottled pina colada mixers..arrrgh. Nay, matey. These rums should be mixed with fresh fruit juice, a good nectar, or simply on the rocks; with a twist of lime if you choose.
Distilled in both column and wooden stills before maturing for five years in bourbon oak casks, Demerara Distillers first started production in 1670. An essential component to any “boat drink” or rum-based cocktail. A butterscotch driven, spicy entry leads to an evolving palate of fruit, caramel and toasted coconut fading to a vanilla-tinted glow.
…is characterized by a rich aroma of dark fruit and roasted nuts leading to a hearty body of fruit, nuts, smoky oak and vanilla followed by hints of spice in the warm, lingering finish. Réserve Spéciale is a blend of rhums aged up to ten years in French and American oak barrels in the distillery aging warehouse.
Oak, pencil shaving & blood orange on the vibrant nose. Hints of camphor that is very typical of rhum agricole. Much less “tropical” than expected. Very fresh and surprisingly light. Medium long, clean finish. An unusual rhum – more elegant and complex than most. Certainly not for mixing!
I came to love rum because of my Uncle Greg, a sailor if ever one was. He has circumnavigated twice, sailed the Atlantic and Pacific, and for nearly fifteen years he and my Aunt have run a charter sail company at Caneel Bay, St. John, USVI. They were kind enough to share their recipe for Rum Punch with me, and I am happy to share it with you. And if you find yourself in the USVI, go take a sail with them!
“Spitfire” Rum Punch
“It’s similar to Plantation Punch, except we prefer it without bitters. Grenadine is for the color, mostly, but it does add a certain flavor that makes it cohesive. The lime juice cuts the sweetness.”
2oz fresh squeezed orange juice
2oz pineapple juice
½oz fresh lime juice
2oz El Dorado 5 year Rum
Dash of grenadine
Freshly grated nutmeg
1oz Neisson Aged Reserve Rum
Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher or shaker. Serve over ice.
Float 1oz of aged rum (Neisson) on top.
Grate fresh nutmeg over each glass.