Wednesday Wisdom | 160817

Jack Sparrow, from "Pirates of the Caribbean" asking "BUT WHY IS THE RUM GONE?"

It’s Rum Day today, so I thought it was a good chance to forgo the usual format in favour of something a little different.

Rum is an everyday spirit, available in various forms from; the clear typical Bacardi versions great for cocktails, to the darker coloured rums more suitable for sipping over ice. Unfortunately, rum’s past is not as innocent as some people may realise.

The beginnings of rum were simple enough, and were first described by Marco Polo, in what would have been modern day Iran, as “very good wine of sugar”. It had been discovered by the Indian or Chinese, they had realised that fermenting sugar produced a strong alcoholic beverage- once the English knew it really took off.

The English, and other Europeans, realised that rum could be easily produced as a side product to the slavery and sugar plantations. Yep. Slavery. Sugar grew particularly well in the Caribean islands, that the Europeans had taken over, along with the growing American colonies. It’s thought that the production and sale of rum boosted the slavery income and the infamous Triangular Trade.

All in all rum was big business, so now you’re thinking- hopefully, jostled by my choice of gif- why people would hide their rum on islands for pirates, and daughters of naval officers to drink/set fire to? Rum-running was done, at least in the age that Pirates of the Caribean was set (1720-1750), was done to avoid taxation. It’s likely that the rum-runners that Jack was friendly with were trying to avoid import tax at one end of the ocean or another. Smugglers would attempt to either hide it conveniently amongst untaxable stock- or alternatively take it in under cover of darkness. I remember an interesting documentary on the Beeb showing how rope was coiled around large barrels to disguise it, and smaller bottles hidden inside produce or sewn into material.  If you want to read more, there is Wiki’s faithful page.

Fast forward to the modern day, rum has a better image. It’s use in popular holiday drinks has exploded; here is an interesting Telegraph article on rums, where it has been dubbed the “new whiskey” as people are starting to enjoy it neat. Though you may be more like me, preferring your rum in a cocktail- you don’t have to make me drink a mojito or a pina colada!

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