What Makes Jamaican Rum Unique?
When you think of rum, what comes to mind?
Maybe you’ve asked a few bartenders to make you that classic rum and coke. Or perhaps you have some memories sipping piña coladas on a white sand beach. But if you’re not thinking about those drinks with Jamaican rum, you’re missing out.
But what exactly is this rum and why is it unique? Keep reading to learn all about this amazing drink and what makes it so special.
Before we can learn about Jamaican rum, let’s talk about its history.
In 1494, Christopher Columbus discovered Jamaica and was soon followed by Spanish Colonizers. They began growing cane sugar (an ingredient of rum), which was tended by slaves who were brought over from Africa. It was here that rum production began.
In 1655, the British conquered the Spanish, taking some control over Jamaica. And in 1670, it was officially declared a British Colony. The British had prior knowledge of rum production from their endeavors in Barbados and took advantage of the Jamaican slave labor to perfect the trade.
Cane sugar and other crops were produced in mass amounts as plantations began popping up all over the island.
Jamaican rum was booming. But, nearly all production stopped in 1833 when slave labor was abolished in the British Colonies. And after that, it dwindled even further following the war between France and England.
But today, 6 distilleries remain on Jamaican soil. They are Appleton Estate, Long Pond Estate, New Yarmouth, Hampden Estate, Worthy Park Estate, and Monymusk Estate.
How Is It Made?
This spirit starts with a base of molasses, which is a byproduct of sugar making. It forms after liquid from the cane sugar plant boils down and has the crystals removed.
The molasses is then combined with water and yeast and left to ferment for weeks at a time. This is much longer than most rums, which are only fermented for a few days. After that, it is distilled in “pot stills,” which are best for distilling high ester rum (more on that later).
Following distillation, the rum will go on to age in oak barrels, which impart intense flavor and color. Some white rums skip this step altogether, so the darker the rum, the longer it has been aged. And while rum barrels aren’t always aesthetically pleasing, they certainly do their job!
Why is Jamaican Rum Unique?
There are all kinds of rum, but Jamaican rum is known for its wonderful complexity.
It is a high ester rum, otherwise known as a funk bomb. Esters are organic compounds that result from chemical reactions during fermentation. And the longer and less controlled the fermentation process is, the more esters there will be.
Rums that are high in esters have a wide spectrum of flavors and smells. Common notes you will likely notice in Jamaican rum are berries, pineapple, bananas, molasses, caramel, and spice.
Other special elements unique to this funky spirit are the additions of dunder and muck. Dunder is the leftover goop from distilling the molasses (also called stillage), teeming with acids that aid the fermentation process. Muck is rich in bacteria and fatty acids and is formulated from sugar cane, molasses, and dunder remnants.
And while it may sound less than appealing to add these to rum, it’s for a great reason. In the course of fermentation, a reaction happens between the alcohol and acids, turning them into esters that create those wonderful aromas.
And even though this rum may be sweet and flavorful, it is illegal to add any additional sugar or flavoring after distillation. So you know you’re getting a completely pure product!
The Best Ways to Drink Jamaican Rum
Even though piña coladas are delicious, you might want to give something new a try!
With all the flavor packed into this rum, you have to taste Jamaican rum punch, which is a mix of rum, fruit juices, and sliced fruit. This drink comes from the time during British rule where Jamaican plantations didn’t have access to water, so they drank alcohol and fruit juice instead. And just like that, rum punch was born.
Or if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the tiki culture, look no further than the mai tai. This delicious rum drink has a few variations, but typically includes lime juice, orgeat, and orange liquor. And you can also add a sprig of mint if you’re feeling fancy.
But while this rum can be enjoyed in fruity drinks, many people enjoy it by itself, like drinking a glass of whiskey. If the alcohol is 80 proof or below, you should try drinking it neat to really taste the funk. But, if it’s higher, you might want to try it on the rocks, or maybe even with a splash of coke.
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