When it comes to rum, there’s a tendency to think of it as unsophisticated, hanging in the balance without provenance. Yet it is without a doubt the most diverse spirit category in the world, whether you’re talking about flavour or geography.
Distilled from sugarcane or sticky molasses, it’s a liquor that can be made anywhere. It can be distinctive and exuberantly delicious, even in its youth. Does age matter? And beyond your basic rum and coke, what – really – is it good for? Miguel Smith, brand ambassador for Mount Gay, spills on the thrills of the lawless liquor.
Does rum improve with age?
Ah, well, does maturity improve with age? I don’t know. You’re ageing, but you know, the artist in the adult is the child that never went away. That’s how I live my life.
Similarly, we could say that time well spent in a barrel makes a spirit rounder, bolder and more confident. With time, you can look back and think how some things could have been done differently, but you know you’re in a good place. Unlike spirits distilled from grain, rum doesn’t need to be quite as old to be palatable. Sugarcane spirits mature faster and the warm climate helps speed things up. So, maturation over age, anytime.
What’s the difference between the light and dark?
First of all, there’s a misconception that we should separate rum based on colour. It’s the same with whisky. While white rums are usually meant for mixing (like in a piña colada) because of a lighter body, and dark rums (aged in charred oak barrels) usually denote maturity, colour is irrelevant. It’s the character that matters.
That’s what we look for in humans, too. The character of a person means more than anything else.
What’s the most unlikely base for a dark rum?
This might sound strange, but here it is: Pineapple juice! Rarely will you find this combo at a bar, but it works.
If I’m stuck on a plane and itching for a cocktail, how can I MacGyver one?
There are always fruit juices, sparkling mixers and limes on board, so you can get creative. I once smashed up some dried cranberries and stirred down a glass of dark rum to make a Cranberry Rum Old Fashioned somewhere over the Atlantic. Add a bit of water and bitters, if you have any. Delicious.
But you should know that it’s hard to find good rum on a flight, unless you bring your own.
What forgotten cocktail should we make great again?
The Palmetto, the Manhattan’s creative and cool younger brother. It comprises of equal parts dark rum (the Mount Gay Black Barrel is good) and sweet vermouth, and a couple drops of bitters, stirred with ice.
What’s one alternative use for rum?
Some people say the reason that locals of Barbados aren’t often bitten by mosquitoes is that they drink rum, whereas newly arrived tourists tend to get bitten quite a lot. After a few days on the island (and some rum), they, too, become immune… No scientific evidence offered here!
With whisky, there’s the Hot Toddy. What’s the rum equivalent?
Some might argue that the Rum Toddy came first! I like mine with fresh ginger for an extra kick of antioxidant power.
To beat a flu, you need the following:
120ml hot water
A small piece of fresh ginger
A spoonful of Manuka honey
A Netflix subscription and a warm bed
Lastly, what would you say is the best rum on earth?
Some would say, the one that you didn’t pay for. If you must know, rum is not the star, but the glue… The best rum is great company, great views, and if you’re lucky, an infinite amount of time, so you’re not in the hurry to go someplace else.
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