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In the Spirit: Rum

by Kristen Siebecker
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Saturday Aug 16, 2014
In the Spirit: Rum
  (Source:Mount Gay Silver)

It's National Rum day, so what better way to celebrate than with an in-depth look at the history of rum along with some of EDGE's favorite rum spirits? Distilled from the fermented juice of sugar cane, rum has its origins outside of the U.S. but is deeply entrenched in the beginnings of our country.

Some origins of the word rum may have come from Dutch, Latin or French, but the best option is that it's a derivation of the word rumbullion which means, "a great tumult or uproar."

The U.S. and rum go way back. The first rum distillery showed up in Staten Island in New York in the late 1600s and spread its way up the colonial coast to Boston where rum production escalated as the demand grew. By 1764 the clamor was so great for rum that Parliament modified the "Sugar and Molasses Act" that changed the tax rate, but increased the enforcement of the taxes, limiting trade not only of rum, but also other imports like coffee and lumber. The love of rum but the hatred of taxes bubbled and became a precursor to the American Revolution.

George Washington had rum from Barbados at his inauguration in 1789 even through it was illegal at the time to import it and even distilled rum himself at Mount Vernon. Before he was our first President, he was certainly a fan of the sprit. Among his general orders to his troops in 1756:

"And, as an encouragement to them to behave well, and to attend diligently to their Duty, the Colonel [Washington] promises to give them, so long as they deserve it, four gallons of rum, made into punch, every day."

Even in early colonial politics, rum played an important part of any election. Candidates would often ply the voters with rum to convince them to lend their vote. Whoever had the more liberal rum allocation usually won the election.

There are many styles and types of rums, but here we will focus on just a few:

  • Silver or White rums are clear and offer a sweetness without the aging. Since these rums are milder they are usually great for mixing.

  • Dark rums are darker in color because of longer aging in whiskey barrels and/or have been distilled from caramelized sugar or molasses.

  • Premium rums are meant to be sipped on their own without a cola within shouting distance. These are usually specialty items to be savored.

    Here are some of Edge's rum picks from around the Caribbean (and U.S.) that fit all wallet sizes:

    Cruzan Black Strap
    Cruzan Black Strap  (Source:Matthew Wexler)

    Cruzan Black Strap

    This rich molasses nose on this aged dark rum is perfect for mixing in a Mai Tai, Colada or other Tiki-style drinks. Black Strap utilizes the Cruzan's five-column distillation process, which gives it a smooth flavor with bursts of dark chocolate and brown sugar that shine through.

    Cruzan's Black Strap, St. Croix $18

    Mount Gay Silver
    A white, clear rum with a mild sweetness that is clean on the nose and palate. Balanced with some fruity, banana notes, it's perfect as a mixer. Mount Gay has been making rums for more than 300 years and uses the local coral filtered water along with local molasses nicknamed "Black Gold."

    Mount Gay Silver, Barbados, $24

    Prym Not Proper
    Appleton Estate 21-Year Aged Rum  

    Prym Not Proper

    This rum is made in the U.S. and is certified gluten free and kosher! Prym is clear to the eyes but with a dark rum taste. The nose has baked fruit flavors and you get more of the sweetness in the form of caramel and spices on the palate. They have partnered with the charity organization Local Choice to give a percentage of their profits back to the community.

    Prym Not Proper, South Carolina, $50

    Appleton Estate 21-Year Aged Rum
    This green estate in Nassau Valley produces this premium aged offering that contains a blend of rums that are all at least 21-years-old (so it's old enough to drink itself in the U.S.!).

    This rum is super-complex with a woody note that has a dry finish that you might find in a quality bourbon or Cognac of the same age level. This is a full-bodied rum with rich levels of vanilla and nutmeg, fulfilling their website's promise that "This rum needs nothing."

    Appleton Estate 21-year-aged Rum, Jamaica $130

    Kristen Siebecker is a Certifed Sommelier and lover of cocktails. She is the co-host of I Feel Vine, a weekly podcast about the power of positive drinking. She also hosts recreational wine classes under the title, Popping Your Cork. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @WineWithKristen.

    In the Spirit

    This story is part of our special report titled "In the Spirit." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


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