SPIR­ITS RUN HIGH

WE ARE SPOILED FOR CHOICE WHEN IT COMES TO SHOP­PING AROUND FOR WHISKIES, GIN AND VODKA. BUT WHEN ALL WE WANT TO DO IS SIT BACK, RE­LAX AND SOAK UP LIFE IN THE TROP­ICS, THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE RUM

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Drink - WITH BJ FO­LEY [email protected] NEWS. COM. AU

Aus­tralia has been go­ing through a mas­sive spir­its rev­o­lu­tion over the last few years.

Our dis­tillers have been knock­ing out mul­ti­ple award-win­ning whiskies and high-end gin, ar­ti­san rums and vod­kas, along with the mul­ti­tude of im­ports you see on the shelves of your lo­cal.

I find in our long hot sum­mers, it’s all about the rum.

If you’re only fa­mil­iar with the brands best con­sumed with soft drink, or hid­den un­der lay­ers of fruit juice in cock­tails, you might think rum is pretty oned­i­men­sional.

The truth is, rum is one of the most in­ter­est­ing and com­plex spir­its, wor­thy of far more at­ten­tion than sim­ply mix­ing. In fact, it’s one of the cham­pion spir­its when you look at that sip­ping liquor cat­e­gory, with a vast range of styles and flavours, with some brands tasting so de­li­cious when sipped solo they can of­ten ri­val great Scotch, Brandy or Cognac – and they don’t need to be cooled or have wa­ter added to them to open the spirit.

The ma­jor­ity of rum made in Aus­tralia is cre­ated by dis­till­ing fer­mented mo­lasses. A tech­nique called In­dus­trial Rum or Tra­di­tional Rum, it was pre­dom­i­nantly made in ar­eas with Bri­tish or Span­ish in­flu­ences. The process is a stan­dard pro­ce­dure and guar­an­tees a stan­dard­ised product.

The dif­fer­ences in the spirit come about from the qual­ity and the ori­gin of the mo­lasses, and how many times it’s dis­tilled, how long it’s aged etc.

Mo­lasses it­self is the thick, sticky and bit­ter leftover by-product of boil­ing the cane su­gar juice, to pro­duce crys­talised su­gar. The su­gar forms to­gether in crys­tals as the juice is boiled and the crys­tals are scooped out; the longer you boil the juice the more su­gar you har­vest – but it also means it’s a lower qual­ity of mo­lasses left be­hind.

Sur­pris­ingly, you can taste that qual­ity of mo­lasses too, for ex­am­ple Sub­sta­tion 41 or Been­leigh Rum, has used quite high­grade mo­lasses, one that hasn’t been boiled for ages and still has a lot of the nat­u­ral “fresh­ness” and grassy notes – not sur­pris­ing see­ing sug­ar­cane is a grass.

But you don’t find those lighter notes in a rum that has been made from low­er­grade mo­lasses; gen­er­ally they are darker and thicker-feeling rums.

My pref­er­ence is for rums cre­ated on ei­ther the higher-grade mo­lasses or from the first press of sug­ar­cane.

These are cre­ated by tak­ing a blend of sug­ar­cane honey (the first juice of the first press of the sug­ar­cane) or that high­grade mo­lasses, wa­ter and yeast, which fer­ments and then is dis­tilled to pro­duce “ron fresco” or fresh rum.

Like fresh whisky, fresh rum can be con­sumed im­me­di­ately but is bet­ter when it takes on some aged or oak notes from time in bar­rels.

Some dis­til­leries use a blend of mo­lasses and sug­ar­cane honey, which pro­duces a wider va­ri­ety of aro­mas and flavours than a tra­di­tional mo­lasses rum.

It also means you can taste the dif­fer­ence be­tween grow­ing ar­eas, dif­fer­ent dis­til­leries and dif­fer­ent vin­tages from the same dis­tillery, where they do a vin­taged product, like the Plan­ta­tion range for ex­am­ple.

Some of the best-tasting rums have been through a blend­ing process, us­ing older aged stocks to blend with younger bar­rels to pro­duce a mix that’s more com­plex than ei­ther of the orig­i­nal two; all this time and ef­fort give a re­ward­ing rum, one that is su­perbly rich and flavour­some.

It’s very much like the old say­ing “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

RON ZACAPA 23

Hail­ing from Gu­atemala, this ex­cep­tional qual­ity rum is not go­ing to be an ev­ery­day drop, but makes a great sip­per for when you want to just re­lax or have a quiet night of cards. It’s a blend of rums age­ing from six years old to 23. Sweet aro­mas of slated caramels, vanilla and but­ter­scotch, tof­fee ba­nana notes and some woody nutty notes. It’s com­plex and has a sweet thick feel on the tongue – raisins, dried apri­cots and sul­tanas, leather, nut­meg with the faintest touches of gin­ger. It has one of the most com­plex and long, en­joy­able fin­ishes I’ve seen in a spirit. Great stuff. About $80

PLAN­TA­TION RUM 20TH AN­NIVER­SARY XO

The Plan­ta­tion range is unique in that they are made and aged in var­i­ous coun­tries in the Caribbean and Cen­tral Amer­ica, and then have a fi­nal age­ing in France in ex­cognac bar­rels, which adds an ex­tra depth to them, with the range cov­er­ing blended, vin­tage and spe­cial re­lease rums, all hail­ing from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. This 20th An­niver­sary drop is a pretty spec­tac­u­lar blend of Bar­ba­dos rums age­ing from 12 to 20 years old. It’s got vanilla, coca and dark choco­late, and pow­dery dark coca notes, along with tof­fee, orange and to­bacco notes, a but­tery co­conut-iness to it too. About $130

DIPLOMATICO RESERVA EXCLUSIVA

A blended rum out of Venezuela that is prob­a­bly the sweet­est of the bunch, ow­ing to the larger amount of sug­ar­cane honey used. It gives a rum that shows fruit­cake with baked ba­nanas and choco­late, touches of dried dates. It’s a lit­tle lighter on the wood notes, so it doesn’t have those lash­ings of cedar or to­bacco you find in come of the oth­ers, but it’s def­i­nitely still de­li­cious. About $90

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