White rum – the next tequila?

white rum cocktail

Grassy and citrussy. Clean and fresh. Floral and fruity. They’re words you might associate with a characterful blanco tequila, the white spirit made with blue agave. But they’re also qualities often found in white rum – a category long underappreciated by spirits connoisseurs due to widespread preconceptions about its quality and profile.

‘Rum is the most diverse spirit category there is,’ says Lewis Hayes, owner of Black Parrot, a London specialist rum bar listing more than 700 bottles. ‘Yet inevitably in the UK, if someone is asking for a white rum, they have one expectation: a light alcohol that may as well be vodka in terms of flavour. It’s often just something to mix with cola.’

Yet despite white rum’s uninspiring image, premiumisation is slowly underway. Thanks to new producers focused on flavour and transparency, increased availability of global bottlings and wider consumer interest in traceability, there is more to draw white spirits lovers to the category than ever before. As the prices of coveted blanco tequilas soar, could quality white rum provide an affordable yet interesting alternative?

Conjuring up complexity

Renegade’s Hope sugar cane farm in the southeast of Grenada

What Hayes says is true: rum is perhaps the single most complex spirit category there is, with colour only providing a fraction of the picture. There are myriad different production methods, stylistic profiles and local regulations at play. Rum can be made from molasses, fresh sugar cane juice or sugar cane syrup – or some combination of all three – and using many different cane varieties and yeast strains. It can be distilled using both characterful pot stills and more neutral column stills, and blended across different countries as well as different age statements. And unlike, say, Scotch whisky, it can be distilled anywhere in the world. ‘I make an overproof white rum with sugar cane syrup and a long fermentation – it’s off-the-charts full in flavour,’ remarks Hayes, who distils in Britain through his brand Dropworks.

We tend to think of white rums as being unaged but that isn’t necessarily correct. While some never see cask ageing, many others are aged for short periods in wood – typically a few months – to mellow any sharp edges. Others are aged for years before being charcoal-filtered to remove traces of barrel-imparted colour, much like a cristalino tequila. And others still combine unaged rum with small quantities of darker rum to achieve a very pale tint. For example, British B-Corp brand Hattiers blends five- and eight-year-old Barbados, Australian and Trinidad rums with three unaged Jamaican rums to create its honey-hued Eminence Blended Aged White (available from Drink Finder, Hattiers, Spirits Kiosk).

However, most connoisseurs would agree that at the root of white rum premiumisation – the style that most excites spirits purists – is unaged sugar cane juice rum. Unlike molasses-based rums (which represent the majority of the market) these are true agricultural products, made seasonally with freshly harvested cane that must be processed quickly before spoilage, much like grapes for wine. Many consider unaged sugar cane juice rums as the most authentic form of the category; a true reflection of the land.

Terroir expression

La Mauny distillery in Martinique. Credit: Robert Harding / Alamy Stock Photo

‘White rum is the purest expression of terroir you can get,’ says Devon Date, head distiller at Renegade Rum, a farm-to-bottle distillery in Grenada. ‘Then once you put it in the barrel you get all these different permutations.’ Founded by Mark Reynier, a whisky industry veteran, Renegade started out in 2020 to make aged sugar cane juice rums from half-a-dozen cane varieties specially imported and planted across the island. But the team soon realised they didn’t need to wait years for the rums to age; even pre-cask the spirits were tasting hugely characterful, with bold grassy, vegetal…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/spirits/white-rum-the-next-tequila-509718/

White rum – the next tequila? White rum – the next tequila? *White rum – the next tequila?