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The Six Essential Tiki Rum Categories...

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May or may not be controversial, but my story on Cocktail Wonk says that you can get by with as few as six bottles of rum and still be able to make most of the classic recipes.



Had I read your book 10 years ago, I might not have burnt out on making Tiki cocktails at home. But back then I tried buying everything I could find. In the end, despite having an overflowing liquor cabinet full of used-once items, I never seemed to have that one ingredient I needed. And after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I lost my interest in almost all Tiki drinks because of their high sugar content.

That said, after purging my liquor cabinet of extraneous booze, I more or less have the rums that correspond to your six categories. I mostly drink them straight. Expect for the light, filtered rums. I mix them into drinks for my guests.

Great info, thanks Matt

Terrific article, I think those categories are great.

I think there's an opening for a 7th category--high ester Jamaican Rums. They're quite distinct from so-called Aged Jamaican rums like Coruba (which are honestly very bland nowadays compared to their 20th Century counterparts). I wouldn't use Coruba and a really hogo-y rum interchangeably; I'd be more apt to blend them to approximate the flavor of the Aged Jamaican rums of the classic era (like the old Myers's, Courba, Appleton Punch or Dagger Punch). The high ester category could include Smith & Cross and Doctor Bird, and maybe Wray and Nephew Overproof. I've never had Rum-Bar Gold but I assume it's also a very hogo-forward rum?

I think this is a great primer for newbs. A bit more streamlined than Martin's categorization system with an emphasis on flavor profile rather than production method. Having the confidence to make a variety of good cocktails without breaking the bank from the get go will hopefully encourage people to continue branching out on their cocktail journey and exploring more things in the future.

Since this exercise was focusing on the most popular ingredients in the 30 classic tiki recipes you selected (presumably from the golden era of tiki), I would like to piggyback Quince's suggestion of a high ester category, or atleast a further division within the Jamaican rum category (perhaps pure pot still?). While we would likely not see such specific terms used in a traditional recipe, I'm guessing the Jamaican rums used back then would have predominately been of the moderately aged pot still variety, bottled above 40%. Maybe not as high proof as S&C or high ester as Rum Fire or some of Velier's WP releases, but maybe more in line with Hamilton Pot Still Black, Hampden 46, Xaymaca (which you included) or even Doctor Bird. Seems like those would be better fits for a traditional Jamaican category than modern day Coruba, which frankly has gotten pretty boring and might as well be alongside your basic Barbados and Spanish style rums that mainly act as the supporting cast and not the dominate flavor.

I dunno, I'm no expert. I just like rum and well made cocktails and am thrilled we have so much variety at our disposal. Everyones mileage will very and to each their own. The best thing anyone can do is keep experimenting and figure out what works best for them. And in a year from now that might change drastically. I wholeheartedly appreciate all the work you do Matt to give direction and transparency in the rum world, but can't imagine a purely flawless classification system can ever be derived because of how varied and dynamic the spirit of rum is. Keep at it!

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