My first memories of rum are linked to my mother’s kitchen, when we lived in Africa – she would make banane flambées. Later, we moved to Tahiti and I can still taste the pineapple slices kept in this sweet elixir with a vanilla pod… Rum, in my world, is associated with food. Travelling in Havana recently, I discovered the pleasure of sipping rum, nursing the glass in my hand as if it were a whisky, playing dominos with locals and smoking a cigar. This triggered a new interest – I am now on a rum quest. First on my list? Mount Gay, produced in Barbados since 1703, which makes is the oldest existing brand of rum in the world. Not only that – the factory remained in its original location and still used the same raw material and same water source for 314 years. In the eighteenth century, rum and sugar cane were in high demand. Yet the waters around the island are not as calm as you might imagine: a bottle of Barbedian rum would become proof of a sailor’s successful voyage to the Caribbean and of his nautical skills… Talk about a signature!
Let’s go, in the Mount Gay family, for the Black Barrel, Master Blender Allen Smith’s latest creation. A small batch, handcrafted blend made of matured double pot distillates and aged column distillates, then matured for a second time in deeply charred Bourbon Oak barrels. And yes, small batch: Mount Gay is all about the pursuit of flavour.
No fridge back then in 1703 – Mount Gay was designed to be sipped at room temperature, which for Barbados would be around 35 degrees… Difficult to achieve in the UK! No worry : the inside of your mouth, between 34-36 deg. C, will do that for you. So don’t rush it. The first sip always focuses on the strength of the spirit, the second and third will reveal the flavours. Sweetness with an underlying strength, a spicy finish, lingering on the taste buds. Ripe bananas, toasted almonds, vanilla, a touch of cacao nibs too. A lovely silkiness – no burning here, just liquid velvet.
More of a cocktail person? Try Mount Gay rum mixed with ginger ale (not ginger beer, though, too sugary). Or a little coconut water. Fancy a more decadent-über exotic drink? Oriole mixes it with Pisco, sapote purée, amoro del capo, bread fruit soda and lemon juice…
But really, the best is to just add friends.