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The Eden Project

During a small getaway to Cornwall, RumCask made it down to the Eden Project. It’s an amazing place which everybody should visit at least once; if you can pack it all in during one visit. They have two Biomes which are the main draw to the attraction. One contains a Mediterranean climate and the other a rainforest climate. The rainforest climate Biome is much larger and has diverse array vegetation throughout its different stages, not to mention the warm and muggy climate to go with it!

Once you moved along from the World’s Rainforests section, you enter the crops and cultivation part of the 50 meter tall Biome. In this section, I came across a Bay Rum Tree (Pimenta Racemosa). Obviously being drawn to it, I found it is native to Tropical America. The distillation of the leaves and stems produces an essential oil used in lotions and colognes and contains anti-bacterial properties. Although this oil is essentially rum, the concentrated oil is actually toxic and renders the products undrinkable. Much to our dismay!

Further on we stumbled across a bright colourful truck with the word sugar across it. We had reached the sugar cane! Along side the live crop, Eden had given quite a few signs with a lot of information on sugar and sugar cane. Worldwide it is grown more than wheat in around 26 million hectares in over 90 countries globally! In 2012, this attributed to a worldwide harvest of 1.83 billion tons. Although it was chewed in New Guinea 10,000 years ago, in the 14th century, European luxury consumed a teaspoon per head per year, a far cry from today’s consumption of around 30kg!

A relatively large section of Eden was dedicated to Sugar cane crop, showing just how imperative the crop is not only to the rum world, but the world in general!

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Rum Used In Health And Beauty?

The British Navy gave rations of rum to its sailors until the 1970s. You can find a link to a bit more information on Rum and the Navy here.

At that time it was thought that rum was the reason for preventing scurvy. We now know that it was actually the citrus element (usually lime, sometimes lemon) which was added to help take the edge off the rum is the reason the drink aided in the prevention of scurvy. It was the high levels of vitamin C in the fruit that was mixed with the rum that helped.

The way the lime and lemon worked with the rum has led to the use of the citrus fruits in a lot of the famous rum based cocktails we know and love today.

In the 1800s, rum was highly revered as a go-to beauty product for its ability to clean hair and strengthen its roots. From my research, I believe you dip the ends of hair in rum to prevent split-ends. You wet your hair in rum and then leave it to soak in for 15 minutes. Then rinse off with a mild shampoo to remove the ethanol smell. It is said that rum is also used as a remedy to hair loss. The ingredients used in rum help to produce more hair when rubbed onto skin and scalp. It also helps to hydrate skin and scalp which aids with the prevention of dandruff.

Feel free to try washing your hair in rum or trying to help prevent hair loss, however I would stress the age of the rum would make no difference so leave those well aged, expensive rums for drinking!

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Christopher Columbus and Sugar Cane

Almost everybody will know that Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer. He completed four voyages over the Atlantic Ocean to try to establish permanent settlements in the Caribbean and he started the Spanish Colonisation of the new world during the 15th Century. In 1493, Columbus left for the new world on his second journey which is the most important for us. This is because he carried sugarcane seedlings with him, to an area where sugarcane was not native. It was cultivated in Santo Domingo.

After Columbus returned, many Europeans visited the new world and were disillusioned with how well the sugarcane flourished in the Caribbean climate due to the competition it created. However, the countries who ended up colonising various areas of the Caribbean were the ones who decided to make the most of this discovery and created plantations on the islands. This eventually led to slaves being brought in from Africa to farm the plantations due to the number of workers necessary to harvest the sugar cane.

Thank you Mr Columbus!

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Rum From Asia?

As mentioned in previous posts, the bulk of rum produced today comes from the Caribbean and Latin America. However, rum can be produced anywhere that sugar cane grows which is over 70 countries worldwide. Brazil and India produce over 50% of the worlds supply. It would make sense then, that India and other countries in Asia also produce rum.

One of the main rums of India is known as Old Monk. It was launched in December 1954. Uniquely it has zero advertising and relies purely on word of mouth from the loyalty of its customers. It must have very loyal customers though, as it was the world’s largest selling dark rum until 2013. There are 6 different variations of Old Monk Rum, including “The Legend” which was launched in 2013.

The Philippines have one of the largest rum markets in the world. However, the bulk produced is geared towards low price points. High volume low quality mixing rums are what dominate that market. As a result, it was only a matter of time before higher quality rum was produced. Don Papa is one of those that have exploded recently due to its marketing campaign and superb packaging and bottle finish (It has won the double gold medal for packaging design and for product innovation at two different spirits competitions in 2013). In October 2015 they launched a new 10 year version to their range.

Nine leaves is the new Japanese rum brand, launched in 2013. Nine leaves use only the finest ingredients for its creation, including water refined from the Otowa Mountains and the brown sugar from Okinawa. It is the first rum brand to be domestically produced in Japan. Almost immediately after release, Nine Leaves won the silver medal for innovation at Rhum Fest Paris in 2014, less than 12 months after official release of its first product (Nine Leaves Clear) in June 2013. They have started exporting and distributing to France and other countries in Europe and North America.

The stereotype that high quality rum only comes from the Caribbean is fast being debunked by more than just the rum community. If you haven’t ventured out further than those areas I would suggest giving any (or preferably all) of these three brands a try. Or why not suggest one of your favourites below for others to experiment with?

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The Largest Collection Of Rum Outside of London in the UK?

We have been to a few bars outside of London in the UK which have had an excellent selection of rum. One of the more notable was The Liars Club in Manchester which not only had over 100 different rums, but a friendly and informative staff to boot. Also there is Island Bar in Birmingham, which has a separate tiki bar and boasts over 50 different types of rum.

However, we came across a bar, Cubana, in Sheffield in the news recently which has over 150 bottles of rum. Now we haven’t been to Sheffield, but this bar is a reason to go. A very good reason! The owners Brad Charlesworth and Adrian Bagnoli have put together a list of rum which is sourced from far and wide. As well as a large selection from the Caribbean, they have the famous Japanese Rum “Nine Leaves” as well.

However, the reason they were in the news recently was due to the fact they have purchased one of the most expensive bottles of rum in the world directly from Havana in Cuba. They will be selling Havana ‘Maximo Extra Anejo’ for £150 per 25ml shot. There are bottles available in the UK online at around £1,250 and it is touted as one of the best rum’s in the world. As well as spending time in Cuba for the rum, the Cubana spent time building other contacts and are currently in talks to bring a group of talented Cuban musicians to Sheffield for a short period to play at the bar.

The top of Havana’s production line, the bottle is more of a glass decanter and was made by one of their master distiller; Maestro Ronero Don José Navarro. He has over 40 years of experience in making Havana Club and is one of the most experienced in the entire industry.

We am yet to try this rum, but from what I have read it is meant to have notes of oak and smokiness alongside subtle tones of fruit on the nose, namely coconut and pear notes. On the tongue it is said to be woody with hints of vanilla and very smooth indeed. The finish is warm and spicy. From the couple of people I have met who have had the opportunity to savour this rum, they have unanimously agreed that it is an excellent rum, very complex and yet subtle at the same time, a must try for all rum enthusiasts indeed.

When we next make a trip up north, The Cubana Tapas Bar will definitely be on our must visit list. If your bar in the UK has a wider selection of rums, please let us know and We’ll be happy to update this post.

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The Bacardi Bat

There are many famous symbols in rum; the Captain of Captain Morgan, the Appleton Estate banner, but one of, if not the most famous, is the Bacardi Bat. We have seen that bat on a variety of different TV adverts, Bacardi bottles and other marketing campaigns for Bacardi and it has become synonymous with the brand. But not many people know the history behind the flying mammal and its link to Bacardi.

In 1862, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso and his wife purchased a distillery and created light rum. During the early period of setting up Don Facundo’s wife noticed a colony of fruit bats were nesting in the tin-roofed distillery and suggested to her husband that they become the symbol of their newly developed rum. However, there was more to this decision than just this suggestion. The fruit bat has roots in folklore in both of the Bacardi’s native homeland. They symbolise good fortune as well as represent brotherhood, faithfulness and discretion. Also the fruit bat is a natural friend of the sugar cane industry as they pollinate the crops and also prey on those particular insects which cause damage to the crop.

The insistence on a logo became a genius move as many of their potential clients at the time were illiterate. The rum of the bat or “el ron del murcielago” was how Bacardi became known in that time, as the company had the image of the bat burned into barrels. As we know today as well, when Bacardi was bottled, each one featured the bat and initially had Don Facundo’s signature as well to assure customers of the quality and authenticity of its contents.

The logo itself has changed significantly from the original since registered in 1862. The first adaptation of the logo was a realistically drawn black bat on a red background. After being updated numerous times, the logo that was created in 1959 is very similar to today’s version. We have the gold features on the bat as well as a gold outline to the red border. The change of the viewing angle of the bat to the right recently was to symbolise looking to the future.

When Dona Amalia suggested to her husband to use the fruit bat as the logo for the fledgling rum business they were running, there is no way she could have foreseen just how important that bat would become to the global brand and trademark that Bacardi has gone on to become today.

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What Do You Call It?

As mentioned in a couple of earlier posts, rum has many nicknames including Nelsons Blood and grog. Alternatives include; Rumbullion, kill-devil, navy neatersBarbados water and pirate’s drink. One of the theories of the origin of the word rum, is from Rumbullion, which itself means great tumult or loud crowd noise. Colonists from America when they first discovered and tried rum found it very strong and when they claimed it was potent enough to slay Satan himself, kill-devil was born. Alongside grog being issued to the Navy, where rum was mixed with water, the senior offices were able to take their allowance neat, hence the term navy neaters. Barbados water comes from folklore that suggests Barbados is where the first rum originated. Finally, pirates are synonymous with rum. This could have been due to the fact that rum kept for longer on ships, but we know it was steeped in pirate tradition which has led to the term pirate’s drink. If you have any other nicknames with interesting back stories please leave them in the comments below!

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Oldest Existing Rum Company In The World

Although there were many established before it, the oldest existing rum company in the world dates back to 1703 and is owned by Mount Gay in Barbados. A man named John Sober inherited an unknown distillery and asked his friend Sir John Gay to help in managing it. Sir John was a respected business who worked in service of Barbados. His business acumen meant he took quickly to the rum production process, refining the distillation side which helped produce a much superior rum which is today known as Mount Gay Rum.

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Where Was Sugarcane Fermentation Created?

The pioneers of fermenting sugarcane to produce drinks were actually from the East of the globe and date back to ancient times. It is believed that the process first transpired in either India or China. From that origin point it spread globally. This is hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Marco Polo also wrote about a “very good wine of sugar” that was offered to him in the 14th Century, 3 centuries before the similar process occurred in the Caribbean. There are records of this wine labelled “brum” throughout history and is a popular drink in Malaysia. Although around 80% of all rum originates in and around the Caribbean, its humble beginnings may have been as far away from there as possible.

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Rum & The Navy

Rum has been associated with the navy and sailors for a long time. It began in 1655 when the British fleet colonised Jamaica. However, the navy were not used to the potent effect of the rum when drunk it large quantities. To combat this issue, Admiral Edward Vernon said that the rum must be rationed (called a tot of rum and was 70ml of rum at 95.5% proof) and also watered down before being served, to help to minimise the effect. This mixing of the rum with water became more commonly known as grog. A more senior officer was able to receive his tot neat and dilute or not as he pleased. This ration would be given to the sailors at midday, daily. The last rum ration however, was on 31st July 1970 and is now known as Black Tot Day.

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Rum Or Rhum – What’s The Difference?

If you have started to look for different rums when out or over the internet you may have started to see a change in certain spellings of rum. You may have noticed an ‘h’ being added to certain rums. This is not just a difference in spelling due to the region or place where the rum is made but there is actually a material difference in the manufacture of the rum from a very early stage of the process.

When the islands in the Caribbean were invaded and colonised they were done so by four major civilisations; English, Spanish, Dutch and French. All except the Dutch began distillation of rum on a large scale and as a result have different textures and tastes to each other. The English rums are deeper and full bodied rums e.g. Mount Gay from Barbados. The Spanish were crisper and lighter e.g. Brugal from the Dominican Republic. Both created rum using the molasses produced when making sugar from the sugar cane crop.

The French however not only used this process to make rum, but also decided to use rum made from sugar cane juice. They make a sugar solution from this called ‘vesou.’ Made in this way it is officially called Rhum Agricole, but usually shortened to Rhum. A major difference between molasses and cane juice is that molasses are very stable and can and are shipped all over the world. Cane juice however, is prone to degeneration and as a result is sourced locally so that it is fresh for the distilleries. It is also important to know that currently, Rhum makes up only about 3-5% of all rum production in the world.

As you can imagine using a different ingredient very early on in the production of a rhum would result in different flavours being found in Rhum than Rum. An example of a couple of well-known Rhum Agricole include Rhum JM and Clement both from Martinique. Next time you are at a bar, why not ask to try a Rhum and see how you find the difference between them

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Ron Zacapa – Petate Rings

The Ron Zacapa 23 and the Reserva Limitada have petate rings around them. These are created by a team of the Chorti women in the Guatemalan town of Jocotán. They are made from dry palm leaves that are indigenous to Guatemala. The band itself can be traced back to the Mayan period where they were used as floor mats. It was said that people who sat on these mats were forced to view life with humility. The rings are a symbol, for the unity of everything. When Zacapa started to use the bands in 2003, they employed just about 50 artisans to hand weave 2,000 bands a month. Currently, between the now hundreds of the Chorti women that are employed, they weave over 20,000 bands a month. As a result, the production of this world famous rum helps to keep an entire community in Jocotán, employed.

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Use Of Rum Throughout History

Rum has also been used in ways other than just drinking during its long history. Rum was used as currency when trading. It was at first used by English privateers to trade with, however some of these privateers become pirates and the appeal of rum never left them. As a result, rum was used as a trading currency between pirates as well and that is part of the reason pirates are associated with the molasses based beverage.

But as well as currency for simple bartering and trading, rum was also used in the infamous slavery triangle for almost 3 centuries. This triangle carried slaves, cash crops and manufactured goods between the Caribbean, American and West Africa. For the colonial molasses trade, sugar was transported to America where it was distilled to rum. The profits were used to purchase manufactured goods which were taken to West Africa and traded for slaves. The slaves were taken to the Caribbean and traded for sugar and sold to plantation owners. The profits were spent on sugar and the triangle began again.

Next time you’re out with another rum enthusiast, give him a bit of extra knowledge of the history of rum and keep the conversation flowing enough so he can buy you another rum or two!

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The Most Expensive Rum In The World? – Wray & Nephew’s 1940’s Rum

When I last checked (please let me know if this has changed since) Wray and Nephew owned the most expensive bottle(s) of rum in the world. Whilst there are some very expensive rums which are valued highly due to their design and style, this rum however, is the most expensive due to the quality, age and limited supply (4 bottles) remaining.

As the title suggests, this rum was bottled in 1940, over 75 years ago. It is claimed this bottle contains blends from 1915. But what happened to the supply? To answer that, we need to look into the origination of one of the most famous rum based cocktails, the Mai Tai.

Mai Tai:

There are two contradictory stories about the origination of this cocktail. I’m going to focus on the story at Trader Vic’s. Victor J. Bergeron (Vic) owned his now infamous Trader Vic’s restaurant in Oakland, California where he claims he invented the cocktail in 1944.

“In 1944, after success with several exotic rum drinks, I felt a new drink was needed. I was at the service bar in my Oakland restaurant. I took down a bottle of 17-year old Jamaican J. Wray Nephew rum, added fresh lime, some Orange Curacao from Holland, a dash of Rock Candy syrup, and a dollop of French Orgeat, for its subtle flavour. A generous amount of shaved ice and vigorous shaking by hand produced the marriage I was after.
Half the lime shell went in for colour … I stuck in a branch of fresh mint and gave two of them to Ham and Carrie Guild, friends from Taihiti, who were there that night.
Carrie took on sip and said, “Mai Tai – Roa Ae”. In Tahitian this means “Out of this World – The Best”. Well, that was that. I named the drink “Mai Tai”.

– Victor J. Bergeron

Once Vic found his ideal blend, he was adamant not to change any part of the recipe including which rum he used. Due to the popularity of those Mai Tai’s, his institution literally came close to drinking the entire supply of that Wray and Nephew rum. To fill demand, Trader Vic’s started using a 15 year old version, but similarly this rum had its supply exhausted in a short space of time.

The last known place to sell this rum publically was the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They would make a Mai Tai with exactly the same ingredients as the original by Vic for an eye watering £750 a glass.

The remaining 1 litre bottles of the original 17 year old rum were only found recently in 2004, when Wray and Nephew took an inventory world-wide. There, they discovered the remains of a barrel with 12 unmarked bottles of this rum. Until then this particular blend was thought to be extinct. By 2007, only 4 known bottles were left and one went on display at RumFest in London.

Wray and Nephew themselves have a long history and began in 1825 in Kingston, Jamaica. J. Wary opened “The Shakespeare Tavern” that year and it grew steadily alongside Kingston itself.  J. Wray brought in his brother’s son in 1860 to run the business side of the company and retired 2 years later leaving it to his nephew Charles James Ward when he died in 1870. They have become one of Jamaica’s biggest rum exporters and are one of the oldest producer’s on the island.

The last price I found for a bottle of this particular rum was $55,000. If you do manage to get your hands on one, RumCask would be happy to swing by for a tasting!