Fifteen Men On A Dead Man’s Chest
Rum has been called some nasty things in the past. Some believe it originates from the Devonshire description for a great tumult: rumbullion. However, even this is tame compared to some of rums other names: red-eye, Devils death, rumscullion, Kill-Devil and Nelsons Blood. The latter stemmed from the widespread belief that Nelsons body was brought back to these shores pickled in a barrel of rum. Yummy!
Rum has come a long way since the 17th century. It is no longer a “hott, hellish and terrible liquor” (anon.) and there are some great sippers out there that will soothe you rather than knock you out.
Venezuela produces some fine rums and a notable brand is Santa Teresa which was the fifth-largest selling rum in the world by volume, however, quite tellingly, most is sold on the domestic market. They know when they’re on to a good thing. For something really special from them, seek out Santa Teresa Bicentenario. It comes in a retro bottle reminiscent of a pineapple but don’t let that put you off. Coconut, milk chocolate and caramelised pumpkin on the nose are confirmed on the palate as soft anise flavours open up to rich coconut butter and butterscotch. It has an extremely long, well-rounded finish with nuances of grapes and melon to kiss you goodnight.
The laws of rum production are pretty relaxed, to say the least. The ease with which it is produced (Got hot weather? Got sugar? Hey, you’re halfway there!) means the majority of it never even sees either a brand or a label, let alone any form of taxation and is produced by natives, just for natives. Producers of rum are allowed to add fruit, spices, vanilla and wood chip to further enhance their individual styles. Some brands are cagier about it than others but it doesn’t take a master sommelier to guess what goes into the Pyrat range which is Anguillas first local rum. It tastes, smells and looks like oranges. Pyrat Pistol makes a great Orange Daiquiri, Pyrat XO is even orangier but it is Pyrat Cask 1623 which contains rums as old as 40 years that makes its mark as their super-premium.
For 200 it comes in a beautiful hand-made decanter adorned with a metal tag displaying Hoti, a fat little Zen-Buddha, allegedly the patron saint and protector of fortune tellers, bartenders and slightly more ominously, small children. (A quick bartenders tip: hang on to that metal tag and collect a complementary Pyrat XO Old Fashioned if you ever find yourself in the Hide bar. Thanks Hoti!)
So, obviously, this rum tastes of oranges but of the zesty, fresh and juicy variety, with vanilla nuances, nutmeg and coriander seed providing balance. The finish is sweet and spicy and keeps coming back for another slice of your tongue pie.