Ask An Expert: Seriously, How Do You Drink Rum?

Miguel Smith spills on age, maturity, and the exuberance of this 'lawless' liquor


Ask An Expert: Seriously, How Do You Drink Rum?
Spirits October 16th, 2018

Rum, you could say, is the stepchild of the spirit world. Whisky has a huge following, and don’t get us started on gin.

When it comes to rum, there’s a tendency to think of it as unsophisticated, hanging in the balance without provenance. Yet it is without a doubt the most diverse spirit category in the world, whether you’re talking about flavour or geography.

Distilled from sugarcane or sticky molasses, it’s a liquor that can be made anywhere. It can be distinctive and exuberantly delicious, even in its youth. Does age matter? And beyond your basic rum and coke, what – really – is it good for? Miguel Smith, brand ambassador for Mount Gay, spills on the thrills of the lawless liquor.

Rum is tasty enough neat. It has flavour, and unlike vodka, not just an alcoholic component. Photo by Alfredo Seow

Does rum improve with age?

Ah, well, does maturity improve with age? I don’t know. You’re ageing, but you know, the artist in the adult is the child that never went away. That’s how I live my life. 

Similarly, we could say that time well spent in a barrel makes a spirit rounder, bolder and more confident. With time, you can look back and think how some things could have been done differently, but you know you’re in a good place. Unlike spirits distilled from grain, rum doesn’t need to be quite as old to be palatable. Sugarcane spirits mature faster and the warm climate helps speed things up. So, maturation over age, anytime.

What’s the difference between the light and dark?

First of all, there’s a misconception that we should separate rum based on colour. It’s the same with whisky. While white rums are usually meant for mixing (like in a piña colada) because of a lighter body, and dark rums (aged in charred oak barrels) usually denote maturity, colour is irrelevant. It’s the character that matters.

That’s what we look for in humans, too. The character of a person means more than anything else.

Maison Ferrand’s Plantation 3 Stars (left) is a white rum blend which crispness and clarity comes from a process that filters out the wood tannins. It’s light in body with hints of brown sugar, honey, coffee and cocoa. The Diplomático Ambassador, aged in a white oak barrel for 12 years before finishing off in a sherry cask, is full of dried fruit, chocolate and spices. It is best served neat.

What’s the most unlikely base for a dark rum?

This might sound strange, but here it is: Pineapple juice! Rarely will you find this combo at a bar, but it works.

If I’m stuck on a plane and itching for a cocktail, how can I MacGyver one?

There are always fruit juices, sparkling mixers and limes on board, so you can get creative. I once smashed up some dried cranberries and stirred down a glass of dark rum to make a Cranberry Rum Old Fashioned somewhere over the Atlantic. Add a bit of water and bitters, if you have any. Delicious.

But you should know that it’s hard to find good rum on a flight, unless you bring your own.

What forgotten cocktail should we make great again?

The Palmetto, the Manhattan’s creative and cool younger brother. It comprises of equal parts dark rum (the Mount Gay Black Barrel is good) and sweet vermouth, and a couple drops of bitters, stirred with ice.

According to Miguel Smith, a hearty meat dish will stand up to a more mature, full-bodied rum. Seafood works, too. Wherever a spirit is made, look around for what to pair it with. If the rum is from Barbados, it’s definitely going to be seafood, fruits and nuts. Photo by Alfredo Seow

What’s one alternative use for rum?

Some people say the reason that locals of Barbados aren’t often bitten by mosquitoes is that they drink rum, whereas newly arrived tourists tend to get bitten quite a lot. After a few days on the island (and some rum), they, too, become immune… No scientific evidence offered here!

With whisky, there’s the Hot Toddy. What’s the rum equivalent?

Some might argue that the Rum Toddy came first! I like mine with fresh ginger for an extra kick of antioxidant power.

To beat a flu, you need the following:

30ml rum

120ml hot water

A small piece of fresh ginger

Lemon peel

A spoonful of Manuka honey

A Netflix subscription and a warm bed

Lastly, what would you say is the best rum on earth?

Some would say, the one that you didn’t pay for. If you must know, rum is not the star, but the glue… The best rum is great company, great views, and if you’re lucky, an infinite amount of time, so you’re not in the hurry to go someplace else.

Maison Ferrand and Diplomático can be ordered via the Keyyes Membership App

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