Rum, like a lot of culinary treats, fell victim to industrialization, becoming quantified and simplified. Similar to the frozen vegetables I was served as a child, the popular rum of 20 years ago was made as cheaply and as inoffensively as possible. The end result was a mash of the bite of alcohol with whispers of flavor. Like those frozen warmed over peas, it served as the placeholder for what in previous generations had been an entirely different beast.
A hundred years ago, much of the spirit world in America had been comprised of wild and untamed alcohol. The goal, then, was to try and wrest control of the flavors into a unique, quaffable profile. As time went on, with the onset of mechanization, the whittling away of the cane, cutting corners to maximize profits, rum was reduced to little more than unfiltered vodka.
Other countries, weren’t as hampered by the quest to dismember the cane and the funk could still be found in their rums. And for that we, in the US, paid their tariffs and for shipping, just for the sweet, sweet fermented juice that awaited us.
As we near the centennial mark of Prohibition, Americans are starting to go gaga for hogo. In the last few years there has been an uptick in distillers aiming for sticky icky rum and it is a thing of beauty.
St. George’s California Agricole Rum is as funky as any French made rum, stuffed full of olive brine and truffle, while still laying on the acidity and salinity expected from agricole. Intensity is what St. George does well, and it’s no surprise they packed as much as they could into their rum. From cane harvested down near San Diego, lovers of agricole should give it a try.
Sun Liquor in Seattle has released Sun Rum Silver, an intense rum made for those throwback daiquiris. Big lime and tropical fruit notes at first embrace, with enough salinity to keep you thirsty for more. This is another cane juice spirit.
Then there’s Lost Spirits’ molasses based Navy Style Rum. Recently released to much fanfare, this rum packs a wallop. At 68% you’d expect not much more than heat but there’s lots of baking spices, bananas, and – surprise! – molasses.