Rum is a chameleon-like spirit; light or dark, silly or considerable, unadulterated and impregnated. It is also an amazingly versatile spirit, mixing well and often with nearly every soft drink and juice and is likely responsible for a wildly disproportionate number of blender blade rotations, not to mention those lovely little cocktail umbrellas.
The history of rum begins with its source ingredient, sugar. Sugarcane— a tall, thick grass native to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia—was first spread by Chinese traders who introduced it to Asia and India. Arabs brought sugarcane to the Middle East and North Africa where it caught the eye and palates of Europeans during the Crusades. Spanish and Portuguese explorers and would-be-colonialists brought sugarcane to the islands of the Atlantic, planting the crop in the Canaries and Madeira in the early 15th century and later to the New World, primarily Brazil and the Caribbean islands. Cristoforo “oh, this isn’t India?” Colombo planted cane in Hispaniola (the island that now hosts the Dominican Republic and Haiti) and Cuba.
Today Rum seems to be running with equal veracity in several unique directions. Aged, mahogany-colored Cognac clones are sharing the spotlight with a wide array of fruited and spiced concoctions guaranteed to cause “springbreakers” to commit unmentionable acts inevitably caught on film. Some enhanced (flavored & Spiced) Rums are quite nice while others sport colors and flavors not found in nature, Ever more popular are the dark, aged Rums that are worthy of a snifter. These brown beauties are attracting Cognac and Single Malt drinkers who seek contemplative drams and don’t mind paying for them. Rum offers something for everyone, the consummate “spirited” politician bending to please any audience it should encounter.