Hidden Treasures: Great Undiscovered RumsBy Brad Japhe
Amongst the craft cognoscenti, rum gets a bad rap. Some of this is truly the fault of the category itself; international laws regulating its labeling and production are far more lax than with many other varieties of spirit. But not all rums exploit this looseness. An increasing number of variants entering the marketplace today rely upon rigorous standards to get great juice into the bottle. If you’re skeptical of the words ‘craft’ and ‘rum’ in close proximity, here are a few noteworthy numbers to help you kick that preconceived notion to the curb.
COLOMBIA, TWO WAYS
“I think you only really know a good craft rum when you taste it,” says Adam Stearns, head mixologist at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. “We serve one interesting one called Barbary Coast. It’s an agricole-style rum [typically spelled in the French style: ‘rhum’] meaning it is made using the juice from sugarcane, rather than molasses.” The resulting liquid offers savory, earthy flavors to offset more saccharine aromatics. Although Barbary Coast is made in San Francisco, the distillery imports their sugarcane from Colombia, imbuing the spirit with tropical terroir. Their 100-proof rhum agricole retails for around $40 a bottle.
Photo Credit: (Left To Right) Parce Rum & Dunc’s Mill Rum
But they’re not the only ones enamored by the unique tastes in this part of the world. Parce was launched in the States after three brothers from Chicago took a trip to Colombia and developed an unexpected love for the local spirit. They partnered up with a father-and-son tandem of master blenders from Bogota, to bottle an 8 and 12 year-old spirit of exceptional quality, distilled from pure sugarcane. Beyond its sweetened core, exceptional cooperage shines thru, delivering creamy vanilla, and sturdy oak in every sip. A bottle of the 12 Year Old ‘Straight Colombian Rum’ is a bargain at $55.
NOT YOUR USUAL FLAVORS
Even flavored rums — a category commonly noted for its ham-handed notes of scented candle and suntan lotion — have benefited from a modern craft revival. In Florida, Siesta Key ($23.99) infuses their Coconut Rum with real coconut, toasted and shredded, resulting in a supple liquid with wondrous complexity. Dunc’s Mill is similarly reserved in their approach, using Vermont’s native nectar to embolden an entirely unique Maple Rum ($35). Hooker’s House in Sonoma, California leans on wine barrels to impart elegance. Their Sugar Daddy Amber Rum ($40) is pot-stilled in Jamaica, before it enters ex-Chardonnay barrels in Northern California. Rich, buttery, with a hint of pineapple, it shines big and bright with a rock or two in the tumbler.
Photo Credit: Siesta Key Rum
ALL FOR RUM AND RUM FOR ALL
Rum has always been deceptively versatile, but the new generation of craft culls from an even wider range of flavors. If you can’t find something here worth filling your glass, you’re not trying hard enough. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: “I think rum as a category is a bit underestimated, but to be honest I hope it stays that way,” admits Stearns. “I like getting some of the most complex and delicious spirits inexpensively!”
Ready to go on the hunt for some great undiscovered rums?