Saturday, October 6, 2018

Rum Has Made Strides to Return in 2018

     Its place in the canon of British inebriation was cemented thanks to the adventurous but often brutal history of imperialism.   Some of its earliest distillers were plantation slaves in the Caribbean, who fermented alcohol out of molasses from the sugar cane they were forced to harvest.  Kill-devil, as rum was often called, soon became intrinsic to Britain’s seafaring history, used variously as a way to stave off scurvy and as payment for thirsty sailors. The Royal Navy’s daily rum ration, or “tot”, was only abolished in 1970.  When Admiral Nelson died, according to legend his body was soused in brandy or rum to preserve it for the voyage home.  On arrival the booze had already been drained by thirsty sailors who had drilled a hole in the barrel, earning another nickname: “Nelson’s Blood”.   Throughout the British colonies, rum was used as currency and was made in many of the colonies and a major part of the "Triangle Trade".

     “The challenge with any spirit is to present it in its naked form with access to all of its benefits and faults,” said Walters. “With rum you need a lot of expertise.”  Unlike gin, which can be made relatively quickly with little more than ethanol and botanicals, rum is expensive and fiddly.  Importing molasses is costly – Walters gets his from Venezuela – while the tarry syrup is messy and hard to handle.  Yields are typically low because yeast, required for fermentation, does not respond well to the acidity of molasses.  “All the commercial odds are stacked against you,” Walters said.  Nonetheless, the effort is paying off. Sales of his three brands, led by flagship Old Salt Rum, were 40% higher than 2016, leapfrogging vodka sales in the process.

      “Rum cocktails are some of the most popular ones ... mojitos, daiquiris. And there’s a rise in tiki-style drinks too, Mai Tai’s, Pina Coladas etc.  “They not only use rum in abundance but may use several in one cocktail.”  He is also predicting an upsurge for spiced rums, usually made using imported spirits and infused with spices and other ingredients such as fruit peel.     People have gone to bourbon, whiskey and gin, but the natural sweetness and flavor of a good premium rum is bringing them back into the fold.