Discover rum’s pleasures and complexities by enjoying a new variety of distillations that shine when sipped neat, as you would Cognac or fine whiskey.
Picture this – you’re bartending at the annual walk-around tasting/drinking event hosted for the charity Citymeals on Wheels (CityMealsOnWheels.org). There’s your bar, tucked between Richard Gere (yes, that Richard Gere) on one side and some hot, hot, hot Pacific Northwest chef on the other. You are neither hot, nor Richard Gere. But you still have an ace in the hole. You have — rum. Lots of it. Oh, and, the longest line in the place. What’s going on here, you ask? What about all the great cocktails being served? The food from the big name chefs? Well, they’ve had their due. The guests at this party are busy wrapping their head around the sheer joy of sipping great rum solo. No mixers need apply.
To put it simply, rum is coming out of the shadows of its brown spirit cousins whiskey and Cognac. It is starting to shine on its own. And, like whiskey or Cognac, a fine sipping rum can be enjoyed at any time of year. In the heat of summer, rum feels tropical. In the chill of winter, it feels exotic.
And, because of the variety of new rums distilled specifically for sipping, now is the right time to explore these sugar cane based spirits that hail from warm weather climes like Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Barbados, and other Caribbean islands.
From Foursquare Distillery to Zacapa to Diplomatico to DonQ and Bacardi’s Facundo collection (the list goes on), each spirit has a different and interesting story to tell. In discussing the rums created on Barbados, the Authentic Caribbean Rum website (ACR-Rum.com) notes,
“There are nuances behind the historic spirit one needs to become familiar with. The cane is the common denominator as is the land and climate. The soils on the island are clay [like] and rich in lime and phosphates.”
Taking terroir into account as distilling gets underway is a skill, and extracting the essence of cane is part of what drives the passion for rum lovers. Tito Cordero, Diplomatico Rum’s Maestro Ronero may be one of the world’s biggest proponent of trying the spirit without mixers.
He notes, “Rum is one of the most complex spirits categories and certainly an interesting one. Until recently, rum had been considered a spirit mainly consumed in mixed drinks and cocktails, due to its versatility and ability to mix well. In recent years, rum has experienced a revival as a sipping beverage, and is competing directly with traditional sipping spirits such as Cognac and whiskey.”
David Cid, Bacardi Brand Master, has also seen consumer interest in sipping rums growing exponentially; brands like his are responding to the call. He remarks,
“This presents the perfect opportunity for the introduction of a collection in which all of the rums are meant for sipping. In addition, it isn’t just an opportunity to add more sipping rums to an already great family of rums, but really having the opportunity of doing something new that truly showcases the art of rum making like the Facundo Rum Collection.”
He continues, “By no means do sipping and mixing attributes need to exist in separate worlds. However, we certainly want our consumers to enjoy the inherent flavors and aromas our Maestros de Ron, Master Blenders, have achieved in each blend. So, do we have to use specific techniques to create sipping versus mixing rums? Not necessarily. However, the Maestros will certainly apply the techniques differently or begin the creation of a sipping blend with very specific rum traits.”
The difference tasted in Diplomatico’s rums results from their approach to distilling. As Cordero explains, “The steps of the production process are the same for a mixing rum and a sipping rum: fermentation, distillation, aging and blending. The difference lies in the types of rums in each blend and the specificities of each of those production steps. They are carefully crafted through the distillation process, which makes them so unique. They are distilled using a variety of methods, including diverse continuous columns [Hispanic rum tradition], ancient copper pot sills [British whisky tradition], and a batch kettle system [American whiskey tradition].”
Specific rum traits and various distilling methods all result in one thing… more people lining up and asking for their rum neat. Facundo Rum Specialist Nelson Lemus, says, “For the non-initiated, it’s like discovering a new world of rums they didn’t know existed. For the sipping spirits aficionado, it’s that wonderful surprise of finally finding a great collection of rum that can be enjoyed without the need of any mixers. It’s a new and unique era for rums of exceptional quality.”
John Eason, Chief Operating Officer of Serralles USA, the family owned company responsible for creating the award winning, and imminently sip-able, DonQ Gran Anejo, is pleased to see a growing appreciation from both producers and consumers when it comes to the rum category.
His observations aptly sum up the sea change in the rum world when he notes,
“The rum industry has upped its game and we see the opportunity in higher end, aged expressions. Consumers are more educated about blending, aging, and angel’s share now, and care less about pirates and fictional sea monsters. This is where we can thank whiskey and bourbon producers. It’s only natural that consumers looking for an alternative to bourbon [would] discover sipping rums.”