Like many revelations, the discovery of rum was a happy accident occurring when sugar planters in 1600’s grew frustrated at the waste product of sugar, molasses. At a loss with what to do with the thick, syrupy liquid, any molasses they couldn’t give away were simply discarded, until some bright spark discovered that by mixing the molasses with water and leaving to ferment in the sun, you created a spirit – rum!
Early rum wasn’t the smooth and delectable beverage we quaff these days of course. It was strong, unsophisticated and a great cure-all for the many ills that befall those living in the tropics; probably why it was nicknamed rumbullion or kill-devil. But despite its more acerbic qualities, it soon became popular as plantation owners sold it, at discounted prices to local naval ships knowing that their presence in the area would discourage pirates. For as we well know, no one loves rum as much as pirates…
The glorious golden spirit continued garnering popularity to the extent that the British Navy couldn’t go without it, and in the 1730s they adopted a daily ration of half a pint of 160% proof rum which remained (though to a diminished strength) until 1969.
These days, rum is a billion dollar industry and there are many wonderful brands that you can happily sip neat with just an ice cube or two. So next time you’re relaxing with a finger or two of the finest rum, remember to raise a toast to the sugar planters who finally figured out why you should never EVER throw molasses away.
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