Monday, December 10, 2012

The story of American Rum

After reading (and while continuing to read) the fascinating history of Rum in the US, I have compiled a short but hopefully non-sleep inducing history of rum as it pertains to the United States, more than a century before it was the United States.
My advice -- Pour a nice portion of rum - perhaps neat, over a rock even mixed and settle in for a read...

A Brief History of Rum


Seems that a “Brief History of Rum” can be done but rum it self has along, long history. The beginnings of rum may go back in time further than we realize. The Malay people made a drink called “brum” that may be one of the earliest references to a rum-like drink. Not sure if it was a distilled or brewed drink. In the 1500's the explorer Marco Polo mentions in his journals of a sugar-wine. Surely rum in some form had been around for a long, long time. Its history in the Americas follows quite quickly after colonization.

Life Before Flavor

Eating back then was not the epicurean delight we now know. Spices like cinnamon, caraway, mustard sesame, and even black pepper were unknown. However, many of the early spice trades were for spices used in ointments and burial procedures by the Egypt ions and others, not for food. So when so many of these now familiar spices hit the cooking pot – their value exploded. Sugar was the new “spice” that gained value. So much so that at one time it stood in the “worth its weight in gold” standard we hear of. It had turned to be a money maker. Whole countries wanted the sweet spice. Colonies in The New World arose in the Caribbean and the land now the Unites States to, not only, grow and process sugar (Sugar crystallization had been available since around 500BC) but to ship it world-wide. With the abundance of sugar cane growing in the ideal conditions of the southern (one day to be) states and the Carib, the processing, crystallization, packaging and shipping soon ate up all available man-power. Slavery grew from the local residents being impressed into labor to trade with Africa for human labor. A dark time in history though one that helped the foundling country that would be come USA begin an ascent into financial power. 

The growth of a new drink

While the sugar industry grew, the waste products did as well. Slaves and other workers found that using the “Black Strap Molasses” which was nearly worthless for further sugar production, they could brew and distill an alcoholic beverage. This new product too began to become popular. It was not a refined wine, but a workingman’s distilled drink. Sailors: private, military and privateer, all adopted it. Picking it up in ports gained to load and unload the sugar cargoes. We all know that English sailors had a rum ration and who can't recall singing “Yo Ho-Ho and a bottle of rum,” without feeling all pirate-like? 

Rum lands on what would become US soil

In 1664 the first rum distillery was opened in New York, on Staten Island. Another opened in Massachusetts just 3 years later. The New England style rum was a lighter, more refined drink than was  obtained from the islands to the south. It's popularity grew. So large, in-fact, that The British government began taxing it in the colonies. As always, there is some government somewhere that wants its share.

The Patriotic drink

In 1764, the Sugar Act was another of a long list of taxes laid upon the back of the American Colonists. The rum made by the New England Distillers used more sugar than the all molasses southern recipe. Sugar taxes grew as popularity grew. While the dark days of rum production include the expansion of slavery, it can be said that it played a part in The American Revolution as well.

The near-death of American rum 

Over the years, most of North American continental distilleries shut down. The Volstead Act pretty much brought it to near complete stoppage. However, rum, like moonshine whiskey still, was made in the back lots and forests of the US. Once the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th, spirits of all kinds began to return in the United States.

Rebirth, rediscovery

Today with changing laws and licensing, Rum as a Craft Industry has grown. There have been local makers both legal and illegal since the first colonies. But now, as Distillers have rediscovered the deep flavors and richness of small batch distillation, Rum is beginning to be re-discovered and appreciated. Now, don't get me wrong. There are fine rums all over this planet. And the good ones are constantly being revealed and apprized. In the US though, we are directed more toward our own history with this spirit. We have a history, we have made major contributions in the art of rum-making. Now, many wonderful rums are available to discerning drinkers everywhere. Rick, the Rum Runner and American Made Rum is about helping spread the word.

Just an important looking "minor heading" to keep you reading

Explore – Discover – Enjoy!!! Drink American Made Rum and taste the difference!

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