Blending rums: Dark Jamaican rum.
The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed a funny looking bottle in my recent article on the MuMu. That would be my home blend of dark Jamaican rum and it occurs to me that such home blending of rums might be of interest to some of you. Quite a while ago we talked about infinity bottles which is tangentially related and might be worth re/reading but there are specific reasons for blending rums that don’t apply to other spirits. Rum is without question the most diverse of all the base spirits with myriad varieties, styles and production rules depending on location. A bottle of Bacardi Carta Blanca is light years away from a bottle of Lemon Hart 151, which in turn is parsecs away from a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced, which is astronomical units away from a bottle of Clement Agricole. The world of Tiki drinks exploits this wide palette of rums to its full by calling for specific rums or at least styles of rum for certain drinks. Why? Because the range of flavours is so interesting and diverse. Take the venerable Mai Tai and the endless discussion on the perfect rum mix to create either an authentic one – or simply a tasty one. Indeed there are even commercial rum blends created largely for that specific drink. Arguments even abound about the categorisation of certain rums – are we using the colonisation based, colour based, age based or Smuggler’s Cove based (there are more) system. For some budding Tiki-heads it can be difficult to lay their hands on the specific rums called for in a recipe and so some substitution (aka “subbing”) of rums is often necessary. Us Tiki nuts are used to blending rums at the point of creation (as in a Mai Tai or Navy Grog) but we can go a step further and create a bottle of rum “of our own” for the simplification of the mixing of a house favourite, to plug a gap in our rum shelf – or simply as a flex. Perhaps a case study is a good way of illustrating what I’m trying to say here.
One much used rum category is as common as it is nebulous: Dark/Black Jamaican rum. It is called for in myriad Tiki classics yet the style can be funky or completely funk-free and various brands can taste of anything from molasses to brown sugar. It’s a minefield. I have used various Dark Jamaican rums but never found one that I thought “this is the one*”. And then. A kind reader – Grüße Felix! – generously sent me a sample of Hamilton black pot still rum from a visit to the USA and it was good enough to make me realise immediate action was necessary. I did a bit of experimental blending with some Jamaican rums and came up with a very satisfactory formula of equal parts of Worthy Park 109, Coruba NPU overproof 74% and filtered water. The trick is to find the key qualities you are looking for from two or more rums, combine them and then bring them to an appropriate proof. In this case the WP109 brought the deep chocolate, spice and coffee notes and the Coruba delivered the powerful ester-rich funk. Both are very high proof rums so quite a bit of water could be added to bring them down to around 43% which also made the final product pretty damn good value for money**. As a result I now have a “house” Jamaican Dark that, while not identical to the Hamilton is certainly in the zone and negates the need for having a handful of examples of that particular style. While this one just happened to work perfectly in an equal parts formula we can also make a more complex blend as long as we make sure to write down the proportions for future repeatability. If those rums are difficult for you to find a more available version might be Smith & Cross and Myers’s which is not quite as rich but serviceable. In that case a ratio of two parts of each rum to half a part of water gets you to an abv of 43%.
If you have any good rum blends along these lines feel free to post them in the comments and perhaps together we can build up a small catalogue of DIY rum blends. I’ll certainly be posting a few more here as I experiment further.
Proof Dark Jamaican rum about 500ml 42.8%
170ml Worthy Park 109 rum 54.5%
170ml Coruba (EU not US) overproof rum 74%
170ml filtered water
Proof Mai Tai rum 500ml 46.8%
200ml Smith & Cross rum 57%
200ml El Dorado 8 year old rum 40%
100ml Clement Select Barrel rhum agricole 40%
*Blackwell’s came quite close but it’s not easy for me to get and is a bit pricy.
**For me that works out at a pretty palatable €11.35 for a 500ml bottle (or €15.89 for 700ml)!