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A Brief History of Rum

The discerning customer instinctively knows that a high-quality handcrafted premium rum sits with the very best of artisan spirits. To mark the upcoming launch this Spring of Fossil Coasts "Kimmeridge Rum" this blog shall explore the heritage of rum and provide some insight into Kimmeridge's flavour profile.

Whether neat or mixed in a great-tasting fruit-based cocktail like a daiquiri or Pina Coladas or a classic rum drink such as the Mojito or Dark & Stormy. There is truly nowadays an expression of rum for every taste either refreshingly enjoyed on a warm summer’s day by the pool, garden party, or as a delicious warming winter tipple at the ski lodge on the snowy slopes.

Rum has a long history dating back to the early 18th-century sugar cane plantations of the West Indies and has ever since had a strong association with the sea as it was traded across the world. The origin of the word “rum” is unclear though it is believed to be derived from “rumbullion” meaning “a great tumult or uproar”. By 1667 the drink was known as rum.

Rum is distilled under 95% alcohol by volume, to legally be a rum in the EU the finished product must be a minimum of 37.5%ABV or 40% in the US, making it a strong spirit. Rum is derived from sugar cane. Sugar cane is processed by crushing, heating, filtering, and crystallisation to create raw sugar. During the filtering process, the remaining juice (originally called “kill-devil”) or run-off syrup is forced out to create the familiar crystals of raw sugar.

The by-product of syrup is known as “molasses” a thick, dark liquid or dark treacle the primary ingredient for rum where no additional sugar can be obtained by further crystallisation though it still contains a substantial amount of sugar.

It’s believed that colonial slaves on the small island of Nevis in the Caribbean Sea part of the Leeward Islands of the West Indies realised that within molasses, there was just enough sugar to attract yeast. And so, they set about fermenting and distilling it into alcohol. Arguably, rum was born there and then.

Molasses or by its original Portuguese name melaço which is derived from the Latin mel, meaning honey was first mentioned in 1582 as Portugal became a dominant pioneer during Europe’s “Age of Discovery” and built its empire by exploring, conquering, and chronicling its discoveries in South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

Like any handcrafted primary ingredient used in the food and drink industry, its origin and provenance are especially important. Now for the science bit! Molasses does not have an exact composition and may not always be consistent in its quality as the levels of water, sugar, glucose, and fructose or fermentable carbohydrates may vary because it is affected by climatic factors, soil structure, and processing conditions from which it is derived.

The creativity of handcrafted rum is not only knowing your molasses but also the choices in blending the type of yeast employed for fermentation, the distillation method, aging conditions, and blending.

Other techniques may include the addition of “skimming” the foam that builds up when the sugarcane juice is boiled up during sugar production and “dunder” the backset that remains on the bottom of the still after the first distillation. Dunder lowers pH, conserves liquid, provides yeast nutrients, and concentrates two critical flavouring and aromatic esters ("rum oils"). The higher the ester count, the more aromatic the rum.

For example, heavy, dark, and full-bodied rums are the oldest type and they have a strong molasses flavour. They are primarily produced in Jamaica, Barbados, and Demerara in Guyana. Such rums are usually produced from molasses enriched with the skimmings, or dunder, that remains in the boilers used for sugar production. This liquid attracts yeast spores from the air, resulting in spontaneous, or natural, fermentation.

Another consideration is environmental sustainability and the responsible sourcing of FairTrade molasses from Fairtrade certified suppliers who contribute towards helping to protect small-scale farmers and co-operatives. Food security is linked closely to economic growth, stable incomes, and reduced risk and vulnerability. The Fairtrade Minimum Price provides a safety net for farmers which can mean they are less vulnerable to price volatility.

There are many different categories, styles, and types of rum produced around the world. Unlike other spirits which are often tied to a particular geographic region and distinct style of production. Rum can be different due to the many variations of fermentation, different types of distillation, the combinations of blending styles, and aging techniques. There are no universal production regulations when it comes to making rum.

Therefore, most rums can be generically divided into two main types of rum: white rum and dark rum however they can also be classified into one or more distinct categories.

  • White Or Clear Rum

  • Gold Or Pale Rum

  • Dark Rum

  • Black Rum

  • Demerara Rum

  • Navy Rum

  • Premium Aged Rum

  • Vintage Rum

  • Overproof Rum

  • Rhum Agricole

  • Cachaça

  • Aguardiente

  • Flavoured and Spiced Rum

So why Fossil Coast Rum? Maritime history clearly shows that the ceremonial counties of Devon and Dorset are no strangers to smugglers, seafarers and their sea shanty’s dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries because the Jurassic Coastline provided privateers such as Isaac Gulliver (1745–1822), known as the ‘smuggler’s king’ of Dorset favourable coves or inlets ideal for concealing contraband.

Fossil Coast Rum will be a dark fruit flavoured rum dedicated after the Kimmeridge Clays a series of geological rhythms of four unbroken highly fossiliferous marine-shelf mudstones where only one of these is organic-rich and of importance as an oil and gas source shale rock. The oil shale was mined in the 19th century as fuel for glass making and boiling water to manufacture salt and in 1848 it powered the street lights of Wareham. Today the Kimmeridge oil field is part of the Wytch Farm one of Europe’s largest onshore oil fields on the southern shore of Poole Harbour in Dorset.


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