Bahama Bob's Rumstyles

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Where do we get Rum From?

Sugar Cane in the Fields
     I get asked on a regular basis where does rum come from?   Actually rum only has one rule for its production, it has to be made from a derivative of the sugar cane.   With that in mind, why is there so much rum production in and around the Caribbean? 

Water Power Cane Crusher
     Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical Southwestern Asia.   Different species likely originated in different locations, with Saccharum barberi originating in India and S. edule and S.officinarum coming from New Guinea.   Approximately 70% of the sugar produced globally comes from S. officinarum and hybrids using this species.   It is theorized that sugarcane was first domesticated as a crop in New Guinea around 6000 BC.

Loading cane in the crusher
     How did it get to the Caribbean region?   Well, you can give Christopher Columbus most of the credit for that.    On his second voyage, he brought sugar cane with him and distributed it around the islands that he visited.  It would spread throughout the region and to South and Central America as well.    Sugar was a commodity that was very popular and valued in England and Europe in the 1600's and the 1700's and he who controlled the sugar had the power and wealth at that time.

Cooking the Cane Juice

     Sugar production, is a process that takes the sugar cane stocks and crushes them into syrup and then cooks it in stages to extract the crystalline sugar.  The residue left after the cooking is completed is known as molasses.   Originally it was from the molasses that the rum was made.   There was a large amount of it and most every sugar plantation at the time had a rum distillery connected with it.  In fact most of the most famous brands of rum were a part of a very large sugar plantation.

     One of the interesting parts of my trip to Grenada last November was seeing the process being done the old way at the River Antoine Distillery.    Watching all of the steps leading from the field to the crusher, to the cooking pans, to fermentation and finally to the stills makes me appreciate the fine spirits of the cane even more.   ;o)