This week we celebrated Black Tot Day around the world. What is Black Tot Day? Its the anniversary date, July 31, 1970, of the last daily rum ration served to members of the British Royal Navy. Many terms associated with rum were derived from the British Royal Navy’s rum rations including Tot, Grog, and Pusser’s.
Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, provides a nice history of the Naval tot explaining that liquor rations were quite normal for centuries since potable water was difficult to store on board ships. The British Navy perfected alcohol rations providing a number of rules for their disbursement. Watered down and dispensed twice daily helped prevent drunken debauchery at sea while still keeping sailors happy. For over 200 years the tot was a normal part of sailing life but as advanced Navy ships and submarines became the norm, drunken sailors was not something to be tolerated hence the discontinuance of the tot. (TheDailyBeast.com)
The tiki bar is a Los Angeles tradition. Starting with Don the Beachcomber in 1933, the trend peaked in the ’50s, and just like the Tiki culture, cocktails, and fashion, “exotica” music boomed too. Artists like Martin Denny, Yma Sumac, Arthur Lyman, and Eden Ahbez (a proto-hippie who used to sleep under the “L” of the Hollywood sign) suddenly started appearing everywhere. Originally an escape for Angeleno suburbanites, the tiki bar is an undeniably relaxing retreat, an adventure into a faux-Polynesian fantasy.
If you’re looking for an exotic escape, simply put on Eden Ahbez’s The Wanderer and head to one of these classic tiki bars. (EventBrite.com)
A new era of modern rum production is sweeping through the industry. Because rum production has few production restrictions, high quality products are being made world-wide. With the growth of small, craft distillers the industry has seen a vast expansion of quality and quantity of rums available. This week TastingTable.com highlighted the reasons why rum quality is vastly improving and highlights some of the industry leaders who are leading this change:
– Terrior: Most rum is made with molasses, a by-product of sugar making that won’t reveal terroir. But distilleries like Louisiana Spirits and Georgia-based Richland Distilling Company ferment sugarcane itself or sugarcane syrup, which can express a sense of place. Richland is the only rum distillery that grows its own sugarcane solely to make rum on the premise, and proprietor Karin Vonk is excited for more places to hop on board, so she can compare terroirs.
– Fermentation Experimentation: The majority of rum producers ferment molasses, or in some cases sugarcane, for just 24 hours before it is distilled. Distilleries like Privateer ferment its molasses for six days at a cooler temperature, which produces a more complex, dry and flavorful rum. “We’re known for the texture,” Campbell says.
– Double-Cask Finishing FTW: It’s common for rum to age in oak barrels—either new ones that let the sugarcane notes really sing or used whiskey barrels that might impart different flavors. More distilleries are experimenting with double-cask finishing, aging rum in port, sherry or cognac barrels after initially aging in oak barrels. They’re usually limited editions, so keep an eye out. See Foursquare Port Cask Finish
– Hand-Cut Sugarcane: Much sugarcane harvesting is done by machine, but hand-cut sugarcane “develops a different flavor” and leads to “a better concentration on sugars in the molasses,” Jason Kosmas from Cana Brava Rum, which uses only hand-cut sugarcane, says. This, in turn, allows for faster fermentation time, which is traditional of Cuban rum making—a method to look out for as the country opens. See Cana Brava Rum
– The Queen’s Share Method: Pittsburgh-based Maggie’s Farm Rum use a method called Queen Share. They collect batches of tails only—“the really heavy, funk, oily portions,” Maggie’s Farm Rum owner Tim Russell says—and re-distill them for a smooth, rich and intensely flavored rum.
Last week was Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards which saw Stiggins’ Fancy Plantation Pineapple Rum named Best New Product of the year.
“The story of Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy never included plans to market it. Indeed, it was a rum resulting from research that Alexandre Gabriel and his small team undertook along with his friend and oft-collaborator, David Wondrich. The two friends wished to create a pineapple rum, one similar to the favorite drink of Reverend Stiggins which is a character in Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. Pineapple rum unfortunately disappeared in the late 19th century but by digging through old recipes and reinterpreting ingredients, Gabriel, Wondrich and the team ended up producing a special rum, named in honor of Reverend Stiggins, that they then shared with their friends at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in 2014.
Gabriel explains how Stiggins’ Fancy came to be: “The pineapple rum experiment turned out delicious and we thought we would enjoy it, share it with our friends at Tales of the Cocktail and in New Orleans and then we would move on to other exciting experiments. We didn’t expect the overwhelming amount of praise from bartenders and aficionados who began to harass us to produce more. So we decided to make another batch and share it with even more friends and the rest is history.””
Kenny Chesney very easily could have partnered with another company to create his own rum line but he didn’t just want to slap his name onto a bottle and call it his own. No, he decided to invest in a ground up company that he built himself. Chesney is completly hands on within the company functioning both as the Chairman of the Board and the Chief Brand Officer.
“He makes all the product decisions…When we do our flavor expansions, Kenny makes the final call on everything: packaging, juices, flavor ideas, you name it. He’s involved down to the smallest detail, including the sayings and phrases we print on the tamper tape [around the cork].” – Marketing Director Monica Papuga
Three years after launching Blue Chair Bay rum the company has seen double digit sales growth year-to-year and their has expanded to seven expressions including their terrifically flavorful Coconut Spiced. (Forbes.com)