Tonight was a heady and fun look into the use of overproof rum. Trying each rum straight was a intense way to try the rums but it enabled us to see the complexity of each rum without dilution. It's a shame in many ways that we take such pure and beautiful spirits from the barrel and then have to water it down. We see brands such as La Mauny french agricole which is never actually allowed to be bottled lower 40% and cannot be distilled beyond 75% according to a Appealation d'Origine Contrôlée for Martinique. The upper limit is important because it means that a brand can't distill higher ABV and just keep adding water to bring it down, stripping the flavour while they're at it. We more often see rhum agricole sitting at 55%, which is a demonstration of ensuring that the herbacious flavours of the rhum are preserved.
We also spoke about overproof rum in the British navy. A high-strength navy rum was vital for the ships longevity. Storage on long voyages was very limited, and barrels of rum were often placed side by side stores of gun powder, wicking and weaponry. It would spell disaster if the barrels of rum would spring a leak and render the gunpowder unusable. Herein however lies the benefit of a highly volatile alcohol with an alcohol content of 57% ABV or higher, for gunpowder will still ignite even when soaked in a spirit of that strength. This is part of the reason why we still have the term ‘proof’, by mixing a small amount of spirit with gunpowder to form a paste, and try to ignite it. If the paste ignites, it would ‘prove’ that the rum sat above 57% ABV. Gosling 151 demonstrates this strength still serves as a key indication of a navy strength rum, and the blackstrap bold flavour is unmistakably recognisable as a rum of the navy.
Seeing El Dorado 151 and the latest Lord Byron overproof side-by-side allowed us to see a interesting similarity in overproof from different regions. Rum has come along way from production during its naval times. The quality coming 'straight off the still' is remarkable. Which begs the question why to we water these high quality rums down? If we chose to just use less we would be able to control our cocktails easier, reduce the transport costs and carbon emissions, and ultimately pay less for the same product. We decided on the night to make something we called the "One Shot Daiquiri" with these overproof rums. The result was fantastic, a 30ml serve at 57% compared to a standard daiquiri of 50ml at 40% is a similar serving of alcohol with a much better quality of spirit.
Lastly we had a chance to try the latest from Inner Circle. This rum has definately found its rhythm again. Recently re-released and, more importantly, being made in Australia again! It had so much spice and balance for a OP rum. The guys at Beenleigh have done an amazing job. It is unique and interesting to see that they have only released these rums in a high-proof format and not at a generic 40% ABV. This i believe is because the distillers wanted to bring this rum back as the pinnacle of Australian rum again. Allowing the brand to stay out of the first pour will allow it to maintain a premium profile and pursuit of quality. We will see where these rum go in the next few years.
It was inspiring to see the enjoyment of straight overproof rums. This varied category has alot of room to grow, but only if we use it in the right way. Looking back to rum classics we see that one of the keys was in just using 151 in smaller proportions, as floats or as part of a melody of other rums. Overproof rums provide an intensity that isn't easily matched. In many ways its early tiki cocktail usage reminds me of how we use bitters today to bring vibrance to a otherwise flat cocktail. This could govern the future usage as a additive rather than principle ingredient. We could move toward the one-shot daiquiri as a way to enjoy 'off the still' spirits and reduce our carbon footprint. Or we could simply choose to drink slower with high ABV spirits, choosing to savour rum at its best out of the barrel.