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piced rum is one of the hottest drinks tickets in town, with
a host of new products vying for a spot on an increasingly
crowded bandwagon. But, for all its apparent newness, its
historical roots go deep.
Visit any of the Caribbean rumproducing
islands and chances
are you'll nd the local hooch teeming
with all manner of ingredients designed
to enhance its natural avour. But this isn't
generally a case of painstakingly steeping,
infusing and ltrating the spirit; instead, Caribbean-style 'spiced rums'
are more likely to be subject to the nely honed technique of shoving
all manner of leaves, fruits and spices straight into the bottle and
waiting. Well, at least you can see what you're getting.
What began as a means to mask o -notes caused by clumsy
distillation - or to calm young rum's ery power - has become
something of a Caribbean art form. In go fruit, herbs, spices, and even
sh and meat - the 'spice' in spiced rum is subject to all manner of
local interpretations. Some of this moonshine may not be strictly
legal, while other homemade spiced rums are apparently designed
to enhance certain aspects of one's physical performance…
Today, mainstream rum producers are latching onto this Caribbean
tradition and giving it fresh life, searching the natural world to nd
new avour combinations in the process.
But it's not always easy to get it right rst time. Lamb's Spiced
(which isn't technically a rum because of its lower alcohol at 30% abv)
recently changed its recipe to its current crowd-pleasing formula
(see box, right). 'We listened carefully to what our customers wanted,'
says James Wright, head of spirits and agency brands at Halewood
International, which sells Lamb's in the UK.
'The previous liquid polarised opinion - we had some core fans,
but others found it a little heavy on vanilla. After speaking with
bartenders and undertaking consumer research, our team created this
new, more balanced liquid and the response has been really positive.'
If Lamb's o ers a dangerously drinkable, light and sweet avour
pro le, The Kraken is a very di erent animal. Essentially a marriage of
traditional navy rum with its spiced counterpart, it's rapidly acquired
Four of the best
LAMB'S SPICED: Appealing nose of crushed
muscovado sugar and honeycomb. Then light
notes of ginger and nutmeg, while the palate
lls out with tangerine, dark honey and, above
all, caramel. Quite sweet. £16, Waitrose
ELEMENTS 8 'BARREL INFUSED' SPICED RUM:
Dripping with oral-scented honey, set o by an
edge of clove and cinnamon. Clove and honey
continue to spar on the palate, alongside top notes
of anise and warm orange. Grown-up, complex,
and good on its own. £30.35, Master of Malt
THE PINK PIGEON: No escaping the vanilla here -
that scent leaps from the glass and lingers long on
the palate. But room for bright fruit and an elusive
oral perfume too, and a surprisingly delicate and
elegant base spirit. £24.95, Berry Bros � Rudd
THE KRAKEN BLACK SPICED RUM: A dark,
brooding mouthful of molasses and black caramel.
Some lift from whi s of anise and honey, but a
huge presence in the glass, with a big nish of lighter
to ee and vanilla. £21.95, The Whisky Exchange
cult status and even claims to have invented a new sub-category
of the spirit: black spiced rum. It's an illustration of how diverse and
specialised the world of spiced rum is becoming.
It's also an example of the importance of
provenance to spiced rum. While the blend
of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla
and orange peel is vital to the nal avour
of The Kraken, the canvas on which they
mingle their many colours is unmistakably
of its place of origin - Trinidad.
'Rums from Jamaica, Barbados, or Cuba all taste di erent,' explains
Claudio 'Nino' Antonino, owner/manager at The Maven Bar in Leeds.
WHAT BEGAN AS A MEANS TO
MASK OFF�NOTES OR FIRE HAS
BECOME A CARIBBEAN ART FORM
PHOTOS: STEPHEN LENTHALL