The Cocktail Wonk Comprehensive Caribbean Rum Tour: Bottles $45 or Less

There’s no shortage of rum listicles lately. Rum is a hot topic du jour and publications push them out with abandon: “Nine Rums I Found at My Local Bar” or “Seven Rums Too Expensive for You.”

All too frequently these stories elicit groans from rum enthusiasts, because the author only dabbles in rum, thus providing well-intentioned but often misguided recommendations. Equally wince-inducing are lists without a unifying theme, or those that rely on outdated and discredited rum categories such as silver, gold, and dark.

Yes, I cast a suspicious eye toward most rum listicles, preferring a more nuanced approach to rum writing. Yet here I am with a rum list of my own. What gives? And why is my list any better?

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Unraveling Plummer and Wedderburn Rums

Among Jamaican rum aficionados, two names hold almost mythical allure: Plummer and Wedderburn. They’re known as old, obsolete Jamaican rum marques from a glorious time when all Jamaican rums were chock-full of funky flavors and hogo.

The main reason most aficionados know these names today is thanks to Smith & Cross, the gateway Jamaican rum for many people. Its dark blue label proudly declares, “PURE POT STILL – PLUMMER & WEDDERBURN.”

Similarly, Bristol Classic Rum and Velier have issued rums labeled as VRW – Vale Royale Wedderburn. Undoubtedly, the Wedderburn name is still out there in common use.

But what exactly do “Plummer” and “Wedderburn” mean?

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Mount Gay – Cornerstone of Caribbean Rum

Telling the story of Barbados rum–and of rum itself–is impossible without referencing Mount Gay. The distillery operations at its Barbados site are arguably the oldest and longest running in existence. Spanning nearly four centuries, Mount Gay has something to say about every era of rum’s existence.

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The Gargano Files

In September of 2018, I sat down with Luca Gargano in London immediately prior to the Rum Tasting of the Century, celebrating the launch of Hampden Estate’s aged rum.

We had a wide-ranging interview that covered many topics, resulting in far too much material for a single interview piece. In my Bevvy Ruminations column, I excerpted two portions that cover topics of broad interest to the rum audience. Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

However, there was plenty of material left over that’s manna to the more hardcore rum wonks. Topics that are a bit more esoteric and inside baseball. A lengthy bonus reel, so to speak.  I’ve polished it a bit but haven’t added a ton of explanatory comments to the numerous references Luca makes. In short, this is raw, very lightly filtered Luca–and he has plenty to say.

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Is Rum Made From Sugar or Not?

A recently published “Rum 101” article caught my attention because it asserted rum can be made from sugar beets, as well as from sugar cane. This is simply not the case. While you can certainly make a distilled spirit using sugar beets, the end product is not a rum–just as a distilled spirit made from malted barley can’t be a rum, no matter how hard someone might wish it to be.

While sugar plays part of rum production (and actually, part of all spirits production), the real story is a tad more complicated than most people realize. So, let’s get just a bit geeky and clear up some misconceptions about rum and sugar.

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