The lights are dimmed, the OHP is poised, the books are [wonderfully] presented [on the Joanna] and the music is cued as Dave Broom sets the scene. We are taken to a bustling 18th century bar in Jamaica where shanties are sung and socialising is done over a punch,… at which point my mate’s phone rings at full volume! It sets the night off well somehow as laughter and frivolity accompanies what is set to be an informative and engaging night for the book launch of Dave Broom’s, Rum: The Manual.
We are promptly served Sweary Nick’s rum punch [with Smith & Cross Jamaican rum 57%] TWE as Dave talks about the social importance of punch in the 1800’s. ‘If you want to understand rum’ he says, you must go to Jamaica.
Colonial activity had exhausted the natural resources on Barbados so Jamaica was then targeted as the place for the production of sugar cane. The high production and exportation of sugar cane produce during this period basically resulted in people in the islands and back home [in England and Europe] developing a sweet tooth. The raw new-make that was distilled from the sugar cane was then filled into casks in Kingston and exported. Once it arrived on home shores months later, the spirit that had been swilling around in barrels on the boats all that time was inadvertently picking up flavours from the cask whilst the juice softened. Whisky on the other hand wasn’t being aged significantly at the time so rum appeared sweeter, less harsh and considerably more tasty than its Scottish counterpart. In turn, once the middle classes with their own social aspirations had made the association between rum and the very wealthy Planters, rum as a drink gained respectability and therefore popularly.
On rum and pirates
It was Louis Stevenson’s book, Treasure Island that encouraged the romantic association between pirates with ye ol’ grog but Dave says pirates much referred cognac. it was in fact the Royal Navy who were drinking rum and lots of it. Naval officers were well aware of alcohol’s morale boosting qualities during long and rough journeys, but were understandably keen to control and reduce over-consumption amongst the sailors. Edward Vernon [known as Old Grog], first introduced a rum ration in the 1770’s which initially [and incredibly by today’s standards], was the equivalent of 1/2 pint a day! He insisted the rum be diluted as it was often bottled at cask strength and stipulated it be accompanied with lime or lemon juice as a prevention for scurvy. He had unwittingly invented a cocktail. The Navy were fuelled by Daiquiri right up until 1970.
Cue the Daiquiri’s along with Dave’s recipe:
On spiced rum
Dave explained there were six potential spiced rums considered for inclusion in his rum manual. The reason for their ultimate exclusion was in the fact that those places could be and were subsequently taken up with better, non-spiced rum. He says If you like spiced rum, do it yourself. It’s really easy to do and it’s great fun. Steer clear of the commercial spiced rums. Everyone is making rum he says. Indian whisky producer Amrut are producing rum for example and theres even a rum distillery near Balmoral castle.
Although the origins of sugar cane spirit actually start in India, the first straight rum we are trying tonight is Demerara rum from Guyana. Dave imparted so much information at this point i decided to stop writing, concentrate on the rum and buy the book. From his book [page 133]: ’El Dorado rum is a blend of marks from the Enmore wooden Coffey still, the metal coffey stills, Port Mourant double wooden pot still and the Versailles single pot still’. See what i mean about information. I’m starting to feel poorly, i may be showing early signs of ‘rum madness’.
- N: A little herbal at first but then displaying dense yet balanced sweet sugars, some dunnage-like notes, over-ripe banana, sweet/dried, limes and bourbon cask traits.
- T: Exactly what a lot of people would refer to as ‘smooth’ – dense, sweet, glazed and aged rum. Developing uniformly, forever sweet and a little creamy. Hard not to enjoy its moorish, yet overt sweetness.
- F: Milky, sweet cream.
- C: i can imagine this is a benchmark for some rum fans, especially those with a sweet tooth. Perfectly acceptable as a sipper but one that also gets too sickly, too quickly.
Scores 82 points
Contemporary rum includes Appleton, Foursquare and Havana Club and it’s to Cuba that we now turn. Cuba came to rum late in the day. The English who controlled Cuba for around a year in the 19th century brought sugar cane to the island. The rum produced here was rather different in style to the big, heavy molasses rums of Guyana for example. This lighter, drier, more citrus led style was far more accommodating to added ingredients. it’s ability as a flexible spirit to retain its character whilst soaking up and complimenting the surrounding flavours of it’s mixers further lead to rum’s mass appeal. Daiquiri transformed rum consumption, coinciding with the pre-war cocktail revolution alongside gin. Vodka would come much later after the war.
This is rum ‘authenticos’, used for cocktails in bars all over Cuba.
- N: This is white rum which surprisingly smells just like the Strathclyde grain whisky WB I’m currently devouring at home. Theres a textual pepper quality alongside a sherry element which later translates as more grain & complex fruit sugars.
- T: More Strathclyde! Less complexity but longer travel. Lots of vanilla. Drying, but then……
- F: .. it develops on mouthfeel. Dave Broom calls this a ‘clever rum’.
- C: I’m enjoying it, so much so I don’t want to mix it as requested – but i did eventually and Fever-tree ginger ale works wonders.
Scores 80 points
The Duppy Share Rum is a blend of 3yo Jamaican rum and 5yo Bajan rum, which is aged in ex-bourbon barrels.
- N: This is a rum akin to the Worthy Park ‘Kill Devil’ style MoM I’m struggling with at home.
- T: Basically, I struggle with this ‘blended’ style.
- F: Moves quickly to a buttery finish, actually the top of it’s game
- C: Not a style I like but this was intended [on the night] to be mixed. Dave says the test of a good rum is how well it mixes with one simple, additional ingredient. If it stands up to a simple mixer then it’s balanced. Cola he says is quite possibly the worst mixer for rum. The Duppy is then mixed with [a dessert spoon of] coconut water. What a simple cocktail, and again [like the Havana Club/ginger ale mix – it works!
Scores 78 points
It becomes apparent to us malt-heads that the ‘malternative’ rums are more likely to come from pot still production rather than column still production – well, go figure! Globally however, rum is produced in column stills. You have to go to Jamaica and St Lucia for bespoke, craft, pot still rum. Then again Neisson’s is a r[h]um agricole made using a Creole column still, yet us malt drinkers in the room found it rather good – an expression Dave humorously called a ‘gateway rum’.
This is a rhum agricole made from pressed sugar-cane juice. I’ve so much to read and learn. Until then, lets nose and taste this expression.
- N: It’s r[h]um going on cognac ~armagnac with a complex vegetal>mineral character with plenty of fruit action. Ha, i’m not going mad and it’s all starting to make sense – they use French oak! Is that where much of the complexity is coming from?
- T: Tastes abv strong as with each sip it digs in to the palate. Indeed it’s sturdy stuff and with complexity to boot.
- F: Woody, rubber tires,… and hugely dunnage-esque.
- C: As a malt drinker, i find this rather agreeable, just flailing a little on the finish. Is it the agricole spirit or the cask influence i like – or both?
Scores 87 points
This rum comes from Venezuela and the company/brand is owned by diageo.
- N: Displaying creamy age and depth, with caramel, peppered chocolate, sweet dried limes, cherry and blackcurrant.
- T: Sweet-sour arrival. This is just like a whisky I know but i can’t think which. Similar complexity as on the nose.
- F: Citrus, bananas, white chocolate and bourbon cask dunnage.
- C: Fab stuff, different yet on par with the Neisson.
Scores 87 points
That concludes a fabulous night with Dave Broom in Brighton on 13th October 2016. Time for a cocktail and a read me thinks!
Dave Broom’s book can be found easily on tinter-web.