There are a few things we have as Americans that only a few other citizens of the world can claim as their own. I’m not writing about redundant, dysfunctional government officials, or over-taxed citizens but that not-so-famous, not-yet-holiday known as National Rum Day. This year, the speculation continues to swirl on the blogosphere about the origins of this iconic day in our lives so I’ll throw my two cents in the ring and state for the record that National Rum Day was started as a marketing campaign for a Caribbean Rum by a talented, not-quite-on-Madison Avenue PR company.
Over the weekend I have been sent numerous links to articles about National Rum Day by writers and publicists. The last of these National Rum Day articles made it painfully clear that I needed to get to work.
Before you read any further, take a moment and try to name ten different rums and the countries from which they come. Got it? Now read on.
In no particular order, here’s a short list of rums to look for in anticipation of National Rum Day. I’m writing about these rums because by the time National Rum Day comes around next year, you may not be able to find them and you certainly don’t want to miss out on these rums.
Bacardi is the best known, and best selling, rum in the world. Originally from Cuba, today’s Bacardi rums have evolved since the family fled that four-letter island and are produced around the world. Change can be good, but like their Añejo, that used to be one of my favorites when it was produced in Puerto Rico, not all changes are necessarily regarded as better by the wider audience. Another Bacardi product is going to change so here’s some news you can use. Bacardi 8, sometimes erroneously called Bacardi 8-year-old, is going to change, if not go away entirely. The distillery where this rum was made was shut down a couple of years ago, but there’s still some Bacardi 8 to be found. When you find a bottle, look on the back label for the words, ‘Product of the Bahamas.’ That’s the one you are looking for. Good enough to sip, cheap enough to mix, Bacardi 8 will have your friends asking where you found that rum.
Variety is the spice of life and there are no more diverse spirits than those made from sugar cane. Flor de Caña has been making a variety of rums for more than a hundred years. From the crisp, tropical fruit and coconut notes found in their clear 4-year-old white rum to the dry, roasted nut and smoky oak finish of their 19-year-old rum, there is something for every taste in their offerings. But nothing lasts forever and Flor de Caña 5-year-old is going to be hard to find in some markets, particularly in North America. But don’t despair if you can’t find any Flor de Caña 5-year-old, reach for the 7-year-old and you’ll be glad you did.
Another suggestion for National Rum Day, and this one isn’t going away, is Santa Teresa Claro, the rum of the month for August, 2011. About as close as you will come to the old Havana Club three-year-old rum for which Havana Club is famous, Claro has a slight tint since it isn’t fully carbon-filtered as aging at least two years. Venezuela has one of the longest minimum ages for bottled rum in the industry. Can you name two other islands with minimum ages for bottled rum? There are a lot of recipes for daiquiris and Claro and Flor de Caña 4-year-old white bring unique qualities to this drink.
Another rum that’s going to go away, though it was hardly known by even many of those who sold it, comes, or came, from Barbados. Mount Gay Sugar Cane Rum, also bottled as Mount Gay Sugar Cane Brandy on Barbados was arguably, the best rum from Mount Gay. Mount Gay Extra Old Barbados Rum has been one of my favorites since I first tasted it in 1994, but their Sugar Cane Rum was only a couple of bucks more than their least expensive Refined Eclipse. In August of each year, Crop Over on Barbados is the annual celebration of the bounty of the island. Since this is the closest of the island celebrations to National Rum Day, it could have been, just might have been, someone working on the Mount Gay account that first coined this National Day, but like the secrets in every bottle of rum, some secrets are best when they remain secrets.
Other secrets should be shared, like how to best enjoy these and other rums. It is almost impossible to miss if you mix one of these fruit juices with rum and a bit of lime. Depending on your taste I suggest guava, pineapple, coconut water or those old standbys orange or grapefruit juice. If you buy your juice, make sure you are buying juice and not fruit drink. Look for 100% fruit juice in the label ingredients and not high-fructose corn syrup mixed with some fruit flavoring. Ginger Beer or high quality Ginger Ale is also one of my go to mixers that is sure to please.
If you’re more talented, or think you are, take a look at the recipes on this site and you’ll certainly get some inspiration. Experiment a little and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. Substitutions are acceptable, but remember that the person that makes those great drinks for you at the best bars in the country has spent months, if not years, perfecting the drink they are serving you. Practice makes perfect.
What will I be drinking on National Rum Day? It’s a good bet that I’ll start with a ti punch and then move on to something with fruit juice in it and then I’ll probably end the night with something that has spent a decade or more in an oak barrel silently maturing in the tropics either with a couple of chips of ice or mixed in an old fashioned.