Words by Eddie STATS Houghton—
Fools have been making moonshine from different forms of sugar since caveman days but the particular process of fermenting molasses–making alcoholic gold from the by-product of industrial sugar refining–was invented by plantation slaves of African descent, most likely in Barbados. That makes rum one of the Caribbean’s truly distinctive contributions to world civilization alongside steel drums and daggering. Like many of these other innovations, Rum didn’t take long to conquer the rest of the world. In the 1700s rum was so in demand that it was accepted in place of gold as a universal currency and may have actually caused revolutions from America to Australia. In fact, whether or not he grew hemp in his backyard, it is a matter of historical record that founding father George Washington curried votes in his run for president with open bars on a rum-punch called Bumbo. If he’d been Irish his nickname woulda been “Bumbo Red.” Bim! But anyway, on to the list…
The title should actually be: Top 10 rums in my life (so far). Because rum has more variety than any other class of spirit, classifying the best is a highly subjective operation. My personal rule of thumb is dark but not too dark, the sweet spot being in the goldy-brown range of the spectrum. I definitely prefer something that tastes like it was made from brown sugar instead of a) wood or b) anonymous grain alchohol. I fully understand the central place of overproof white rum to the Caribbean experience but for my money these substances are better suited for cleaning your house, sterilizing wounds and/or driving away evil spirits. Unless you are already blind, in which case: dumb out.
Partly for that reason and partly just because it is not easy to draw a line between them, I have included some Latin American rums, but not North American or Brazilian cachaca, which although it is technically a form of rum is another whole category. Also these are all premium rums that are still relatively affordable/orderable in a decent bar. (Emphasis on decent. In spite of rum’s resurgent trendiness, the rum selection in most Manhattan bars is still fucking abysmal. Mixologists please take note!)