"Rum is a party where everyone is welcome, not an exclusive country club. Anyone can make it. Anyone can drink it. And anyone sure as hell can write about it on their own website."
I LOVE RUM!
It's kind of a strange statement to make considering the stereotypes associated with rum and those who consume it enthusiastically. I wouldn't blame you for picturing a staggering, disheveled drunk. Picture Barney from the Simpsons or Jim Lahey from Trailer Park Boys. Rum is so associated with alcoholism that the word 'rummy' is a synonym for a drunk.
Stereotypes aside, I am proud to proclaim my obsession with a distilled spirit with a checkered past and a close association with overindulgent intoxication. My affinity for rum extends well beyond just drinking it. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the taste of rum, but its a lot more than that. Rum is a fascination for me. I love the soul of rum.
Rum is history. It's Carribean slaves discovering that they could ferment and distill the waste produced by their masters in the industrial production of sugar. Its the daily ration supplied to British sailors during the Napoleonic Wars and the American Revolutionary War. Rum is a central figure in world history. Reading about the past from a rum perspective is far more colourful and interesting than any history book I read in high school or university.
Rum is the law. It's Martinique's "Appellation d'origine controlée". Its the copyright war between Bacardi and the Cuban government over the use of the trade name Havana Club. It's Gosling's and Pusser's efforts to trademark the names 'Dark 'n Stormy' and 'Painkiller'. It's almost certainly the lawyer in me, but I find this kind of stuff so intriguing.
Rum is culture. You couldn't have a meaningful discussion about the achievements, customs and traditions of any Caribbean nation without at least mentioning rum. Where would countries like Jamaica and Cuba be without rum? Not to mention Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela, Panama, Guyana, Belize...
Rum is geography. It is synonymous with sunshine, beaches, the ocean, palm trees... Nothing goes better with all of these things than a tropical drink made with rum. A daiquiri. A piña colada. A mai tai. We all have our favourites.
I could go on and on about why I love rum - and I will. One of the main themes of Maxwell's House will be rum. It is my intention to write about rum a lot here. Specifically, I want to use this forum to post reviews of as many rums as I can.
What qualifies me to publicly critique rum online?
To be perfectly honest...nothing. Proof of this is that I am going to spend the next paragraph telling you what I am not as opposed to what I am. Not a winning strategy in most cases, especially if I was applying for a job.
I'm not a sommelier or cicerone. I have no training or background at all in tasting wine, beer or spirits. In fact, as long as I'm being honest, my nose and palate are probably well below average when it comes to identifying complex and unique flavours. I must confess that I have never opened a bottle of wine and smelled wet cardboard or tasted new garden hose in a bottle of beer.
I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of fermentation, distilling and ageing methods. Except for tours of the Havana Club, Mount Gay and Gosling's distilleries during my travels over the years, I have never set foot in a rum distillery. I know the difference between a pot still and a column still, but couldn't tell you much about double wooden pot stills or continuous column stills, or the difference that would result from distilling in one over the other.
I'm not a bartender, and I am definitely no mixologist. I can make a passable Daiquiri, Ti-Punch, or even a rum Old Fashioned, but you'll never confuse me for Trader Vic or Beachbum Berry. Everyone enjoys a well-made cocktail, but my preferred way to drink rum is neat or with an ice cube or two. This may change in the next few months as I have a new pre-occupation with Tiki (I blame Kevin at 5 Minutes of Rum) that is on its way to becoming a full-blown obsession.
By now it should be clear to you that I am no expert, but enough about what I'm not...
My background as a serious rum enthusiast goes back about six or seven years. I have tried well over 100 different rums and now have a collection of between 40 and 50 bottles of my own. In addition to buying and drinking rum, I am educating myself about rum. This involves reading books about rum, following rum experts online and listening to podcasts about rum.
I'm devoted to the subject of rum and I am learning new things every day. That qualifies me as a reviewer. Rum has no rules. It's not governed by arcane laws and stuffy old men like whisky and bourbon. Rum is a party where everyone is welcome, not an exclusive country club. Anyone can make it. Anyone can drink it. And anyone sure as hell can write about it on their own website. The real question is whether anyone will read and enjoy my reviews. I hope so but, at the end of the day, I enjoy writing about rum enough that it doesn't really matter.
What I lack in expertise I hope to make up for with honesty and a lack of pretension. Reviews here will aim to convey my thoughts and feelings about a rum from an every day person's point of view. I'll tell you how the rum tastes to me, not how it should taste to you. I won't describe a rum by referencing a food item you have never heard of, let alone tasted. I see no value in comparing the taste of a rum to marzipan, sweet cicely and crisp oak.
Come along for the ride. Maybe you'll learn something. I know I will. Maybe you'll discover a new favourite rum, or even the one that sets off your obsession.
If you have a rum you want me to taste and review, let me know.