Once the dominion of pirates, rum has persevered through time and trend to demand respect as a noble global spirit. Rum culture was born from the development of sugar production in the New World—Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing sugar cane to the West Indies. Although sugar is an essential commodity in raw form, it becomes a different kind of treasure through the romance and science of distillation: the agriculture and industry of rum.
Caribbean climates are ideal for prolific sugar cane cultivation. Rums made directly from sugar cane pressings speak to the delicate natural character of the grass. This lighter agricultural style of spirit is common to islands with French colonial history (Haiti, Martinique). Beyond natural cane juice, sugar refinement gives us various domestic forms of sweetener, including molasses: essential as an industrial base for rum creation, embraced by the islands built by British influence (Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda). The burnt sugar base character yields a distillate with richer, warmer traits, a suitable foundation for tremendous development derivable from oak-aged maturing.
Light rums are responsible for inspiring many of the most iconic cocktails we enjoy today (Cuba Libre, Mojito, Daiquiri), while deeply toned aged rums do not see much spotlight in comparison. Dark rums express stewed fruit, spices, and oak, which can contradict freshness in a warm-weather cocktail.
Mount Gay in Barbados holds the oldest deed for rum production in history (1703), giving credence to its claim and motto, “The Birthplace of Rum”. Their Eclipse rum is a sailor’s essential, found at regattas and behind bars around the world. Sweet, rich old rum develops accents and structure not unlike the wooded tones of aged whisky; it thrives in luxurious partnership with Caribbean-tuned tastes of tropical fruits, decadent caramel, and mellow spice.
While whiskies tend to get the call when deep tones are required for cooler weather sipping, substituting a premium aged rum into a typically malt-based classic (Old Fashioned, Rob Roy, Sazerac) can reap sweet rewards.