Rum vs. Rhum

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Precursors to rum date back to antiquity with documented examples of drinks made from fermented sugarcane juice in China, India, and Malaysia; however modern-day distillation of this fermented alcohol did not take place until the 17th century on Caribbean sugarcane plantations. The British colonies did not take long to adopt this island spirit, opening their first distillery on what is today known as Staten Island in 1664, sparking a huge American thirst for rum with estimates of annual consumption at 14 liters per man, woman, or child! This ushered in the era of Triangular trade with Europe, Africa, and the Americas, where rum was almost as valuable as gold.

Today rum falls definitively into two categories: Demerara Rum and Rhum Agricole, each unique and delicious in its own right. Demerara Rum is produced from fermenting molasses, resulting in a sweeter, rounder, and usually darker rum while Rhum Agricole (the French term for this spirit, as it is generally distilled on the French-colonized islands of the Caribbean) is made directly from the sugarcane juice yielding a much more vegetal, savory, and lighter final product.

These two types of spirits serve different needs and come in a variety of different ages, all of them worth trying. White rums tend to be the basis of mixed drinks, while dark, barrel-aged rums are usually served on their own. But don’t let that stop you from experimenting with them in your favorite drink! Below we have even supplied two cocktail recipes that we enjoy, that showcase these wonderful spirits. Here’s to those sunny days to come! Tim Gagnon

‘Ti Punch

This is the classic cocktail of the French-speaking Caribbean islands, specifically Martinique, and dates back to the invention of the cocktail during colonial times. It is meant to be laid-back, and can be adjusted to your personal taste.

2 oz Rhum Agricole (can be made with white or aged rhum, depending on taste)
.25 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 tsp Cane Syrup (adjust to your taste)

Mix all ingredients in a glass with ice (1 or 2 cubes) and stir.

Hemingway Daiquiri

Ernest Hemingway was a well-known imbiber of spirits and spent most of his time away from writing in the 1930s and 40s at his favorite Cuban bar, El Floridita, enjoying one after the other of his namesake cocktail.

2 oz white rum

.75 oz fresh grapefruit juice

.5 oz fresh lime juice

.25 oz Maraschino liqueur

.25 oz simple syrup (a 1:1 ratio, Hemingway said he would use extra portions of Maraschino liqueur to        combat his diabetes)

Grapefruit twist for garnish

 

Shake all ingredients with ice, except for the garnish, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with grapefruit twist.

Neisson 100 Proof Martinique Rhum Agricole Élevé Sous Bois 1 Liter

Neisson is one of Martinique’s most traditional distillers. The island’s unique, breezy climate and volcanic soils yield sugarcane unlike any other place. Also, on Martinique it is traditional to distill fresh raw sugar cane and not molasses (which is a byproduct of sugar production).  Sugar cane rhums, or Rhum Agricole, have wild, grassy, and citrusy aromas and have a great complexity not often found in molasses-based products. Neisson ages its rums in French oak casks, unlike the Bourbon barrels used by almost everyone else, lending a flavor profile reminiscent of Cognac. Always interested in producing rhum unlike others, Niesson has started fermenting using a native yeast sourced in the cane fields instead of the industry standard commercial yeasts. I can’t recommend this enough for those who know rum well or are interested in an introduction to one of the world’s most delicious spirits.  John Rankin

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La Favorite Martinique Coeur d' Ambre Rhum 1 Liter

If Neisson is Martinique’s refined, Cognac-esque rhum, then La Favorite is the wild, Bourbon-esque brother. The raw distillate comes from an ancient copper pot still—the last on the island to still use steam power (making them self-sufficient with a very low environmental impact). La Favorite’s un-aged rhums have a complex spectrum of tropical fruit flavors like green banana and lime, and after aging in Bourbon casks they gain layers of toast and vanillin with a lingering spicy finish. When The New York Times’ tasting panel reviewed Rhum Agricole, La Favorite’s Ambre took the top honors among very good competition. This is truly a world class product, and next to a lineup of industrial rums shows how vivid, complex, and delicious rum can be.  John Rankin

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El Dorado 5 year Guyana Rum Demerara

This is a great rum for cocktails and casual sipping. The Demerara molasses gives a bit of extra body to a very fairly priced bottle. I’d recommend using this for a delightful winter-time Daiquiri. The 5 years spent in Bourbon barrels gives a kiss of coconut and vanilla, but doesn’t leave the rum tasting tannic or overly oaky. John Rankin

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El Dorado 12 Year Guyana Rum Demerara

Aging for at least 12 summers in Guyana’s tropical climate creates a rum with silky smooth texture and delicious flavors of butterscotch and wild honey. Although it was made to be enjoyed neat or with an ice cube, rules are made to be broken: forgo Bourbon and use this rum for a wonderful Old Fashioned with a South American twist. John Rankin

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Rhum J. M. Rhum Agricole Blanc 1 Liter

Rhum J.M. is probably the best known and loved spirit of Martinique. Like the island’s other rhums, it is distilled from pure sugar cane instead of processed molasses, which lends a powerful grass and mineral character to the rhum’s flavor. Just about any cocktail gains complexity by swapping out a molasses-based rhum for this funky variation. I love J.M. Blanc in a Daiquiri, done traditionally or in Hemingway’s style. John Rankin

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Rhum J.M. Martinique V.S.O.P. Rhum 750ml

Because of Martinique’s history with France, bottles of rhum will often feature some of the same nomenclature that is used to denote age on Cognac labels. Here we have a V.S.O.P., which stands for “very special old pale,” a phrase used in the Cognac trade to highlight aged brandies for British merchants. Some extra oak aging tempers the spirit’s initial herbaceousness with flavors of clove, cinnamon, and smoke. This is extremely complex, round and easy to drink. Treat it as a fine brandy or whisky and enjoy it in a snifter after dinner. John Rankin

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El Dorado Demerara Rum Single Barrel EHP

This rum is produced on a relic of a still from a distillery built 200 years ago on Guyana – best of all, it’s made of wood. In order to keep the rum flowing, panels are periodically removed and replaced as the climate and use breaks them down. I taste vanilla and toast upon layers of delicious citrus fruit and baked butter flavors. To my knowledge this is the last still of its type and certainly produces a memorable rum of dense flavor and complexity. John Rankin

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