Move Over Gin…There’s a New Drink in Town – It has just three letters, can be drunk neat or in cocktails, is gaining very rapidly in popularity and a new, premium ‘artisan’ segment of the market is fast developing. No, it isn’t gin; it’s rum!
Widely predicted to be the ‘next gin’, in 2006 there were just some 50 brands of rum available to the British public – compare that with nearly 200 in 2019. At the 2019 International Wine & Spirits Competition five rums were awarded Gold medals – three more that the previous year – demonstrating not just the growth of the market but also the growth of quality of the rums themselves.
Like gin, rum has a rich history and cultural heritage. The exact origin of the spirit is an area of contention, but it’s thought to date back to the 17th Century colonial era, when Caribbean plantation workers began fermenting molasses – a by-product of sugar refining – into alcohol. From the Caribbean, its popularity spread to North America and at the heyday of the American colonies, it was estimated that the average person of drinking age consumed a staggering (literally, probably!) three gallons of rum every year!
Indeed, our very own navy consumed a fair amount over the years. Travellers on the river between Teddington and Kingston can spot a barrel by the water labelled ‘Pusser’s Rum’. The drink was called Pusser’s because the ship’s purser (slang is ‘pusser’) had the responsibility of issuing each of the crew on a Royal Navy ship with a daily tot of rum; an eighth of an imperial pint (71ml) at 95.5 per cent proof (54.6% ABV). Amazingly, this practice only ceased in 1970.
So, of course in the interests of research for you, I’ve been checking out a few rums recently.
There are lots of flavoured rums on the market now, and one of the premium brands is ARLU. Produced in three flavours: Original Spiced; Blood Orange and Passionfruit & Mango. Available from Masters of Malt at around £23 for a 50cl bottle, they are very smooth indeed. The company distils the rum in Guyana, before blending in Manchester and adding various spices and fruits. The Original Spiced is lovely neat or on the rocks, and is great with the classic pairing of ginger beer and a slice of lime. The Blood Orange variety has a nice kick of tart citrus and can be used in all manner of cocktails, including a rather good Negroni. The Passionfruit & Mango makes a fabulous fruity Daiquiri without fruit juice or slush.
If spiced rum sounds like your tipple and you want to try a budget-priced one, then I recommend the award-winning Sea Dog from Aldi at just £14.99 for 70cl. This premium, black, spiced rum based spirit drink has notes of sweet vanilla, warming spices, coffee and a citrus lime kick, finished with a deep rum aftertaste. I rather like it on the rocks as a digestif.
And last, but by no means least, is Mad City Botanical Rum, premium white rum enhanced and invigorated with a recipe of 25 botanicals from Foxhole Spirits, creators of Foxhole and HYKE gins. Mad City was launched just this week and I was privileged to be able to have an advance tasting. Neither flavoured, nor spiced, rum, this lovely drink is a sort of ‘rum meets gin’ and takes rum to new heights with its depth and complexity. You can drink it with tonic, or soda (and a strip of citrus zest, gently muddled to extract the flavour) or you can enjoy it in cocktails in all the classic rum-based drinks. It is currently only available online at £29 a 70cl bottle, and there are a selection of cocktail recipes too, on the company website here. But here below is an easy recipe for a delicious long cocktail that I enjoyed as part of the interactive tasting on Instagram this week…