Rum Expert Says Keep it 'Neat'

rum

hide captionRum is produced throughout the world, with some brands fetching upwards of $200 a bottle.

Douglas Hopper

In the latest edition of the program's Summer Sipping series, wine and liquor expert Scott Clime teaches the basis of rum. Clime explains the history of the sweet liquor, the difference between the white and dark varieties, and the right way to order a decent glass of rum at the bar.

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CHERYL CORLEY, host:

We are continuing our Summer Sipping Series with another beverage. Last week Michel ventured out to try some new and unique kinds of beers. This week, the libation is a bit stronger. It's rum. So potent that it's sometimes called "devil water" and "pirate's drink." The origin of the drink is sweet sugar cane from the West Indies, but its history is bitter, a slave trade triangle transporting sugar, molasses and rum between Europe, Africa and the West Indies. Though now made all over the world, rum is still largely linked to Cuba and the Bacardi family that made rum "the star of the bar."

For our tasting shindig we took a cab ride to Ceiba, a contemporary Latin American restaurant just blocks away from the National Mall. Ceiba's wine and beverage director, Scott Clime, starts our tasting adventure with Bacardi White Rum.

CORLEY: Hi, Scott. How are you?

Mr. SCOTT CLIME (Wine and Beverage Director, Ceiba Restaurant, Washington, D.C.): I'm well. How are you?

CORLEY: All right. Our producer, Wilma Consul, will be the taste tester, and I'll just take a sniff and maybe a little taste, as well.

Mr. CLIMBE: All right.

CORLEY: But tell us what should we expect with this. What kind of taste? What kind of odor in the first thing that we are going to try?

Mr. CLIME: Well, a lot of the white rum that we are going to try, obviously, we are going to try Bacardi Superior. It says Puerto Rican rum now, but it actually did originate in Cuba. In the White rum you are going to get a lot of mineral, some pineapple flavors, but it is going to be a fairly clean spirit. OK? It's not going to be- I don't want to say bland, but a lot of people do compare it to vodka. It's odorless. It's colorless. It's really not that bland. It does have somewhat complexities so we can almost get some minerality out of the sugar cane juice. A little vegetal flavor to it, but nominally it's used as mixers.

WILMA CONSUL: So we are smelling it.

CORLEY: OK. We are smelling it. Smells like - almost like rubbing alcohol.

CONSUL: Yeah. Exactly.

CORLEY: Oh, I'm not a drinker.

Mr. CLIME: I could tell by that face.

CORLEY: It's strong.

CONSUL: Once you get past the first sip...

Mr. CLIME: If you can get past the alcohol. You can do it. It does make for a good mixer, you know, and...

CONSUL: What kind of drinks would it be mixed with?

Mr. CLIME: Bacardi fruit punches, obviously, Bacardi and Coke, Cuba Libre, which is just Bacardi and Coke with a lime.

CORLEY: We've just tasted the white rum and I understand that this is pretty popular rum.

Mr. CLIME: Oh, absolutely.

CORLEY: So why is that? Is it just trendy right now, or why is it so popular?

Mr. CLIME: Bacardi, as far as rum goes, he was like the Robert Mondavi of wine. I mean, Mondavi was a marketing genius and the Bacardi family was the same way. They kind of drowned out all of these other smaller producers. A lot of people don't know there's all of these different rums out there.

CORLEY: All right.

Mr. CLIME: We carry over 20 here at Ceiba.

CORLEY: Well, let's take a look and taste of some of these other rums. What types are they?

Mr. CLIME: Well, before we get into the aged rums, and we might taste a couple of spiced rums, we'll see how you guys hold up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

This one we are going to taste here is Cabana which is a Cachaca. Now a Cachaca is basically Brazilian rum. They call it almost an agricultural rum.

CORLEY: Now, this is clear, as well.

Mr. CLIME: This is clear, as well. And a lot of times when they say just an agricultural rum, they are just basically meaning that it is rum produced strictly from sugar cane juices instead of molasses.

CORLEY: OK.

Mr. CLIME: Now, this is double distilled, and they will say that they use some pot stills in this. So by double distilling it, it takes some of the impurities out of it.

CORLEY: It's smoother.

Mr. CLIME: So you can taste it. It's smoother. You can notice that it's already a cleaner spirit.

CORLEY: OK.

Mr. CLIME: Because what you are tasting in that else is they are not taking the heads and tails off, which is the bad parts of any distil, and discarding it. They are just redistilling it.

CORLEY: What about flavored rum? Like Malibu Coconut Rum or things like that? Do you have any of that?

Mr. CLIME: You know, flavored rums, I think, are great, but they're basically used in mixers. By themselves, they taste real sweet and they do have a high sugar content. And we can taste - we have raspberry here, too, and a coconut. And you can - and they are real smooth.

CONSUL: Those are for lightweight people like me...

(Soundbite of laughter)

If you don't have to taste the alcohol and it's just a sweetness, right?

Mr. CLIME: Did you want to taste one of those?

CONSUL: Yeah, sure, let's see how it is.

CORLEY: We can say, we're ready to go now. We'll taste it.

CONSUL: Yeah, Cheryl says she doesn't drink. OK.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORLEY: Very sweet. Yeah.

Mr. CLIME: Can you taste that? And again, a lot of that is just the sugar. I mean, it's not really something that you would like to drink by itself. I'm not a big fan of the flavored rums. I truly like the more aged, the more exotic rums and...

CORLEY: All right. Well, let's go for some of those. What's dark rum? What do you have there that we can tell people about?

Mr. CLIME: For most rum, if the age label - like, we are going to taste this Flor de Cana. It's aged seven years and they call it their Grand Reserve. And technically, they say there's no added artificial colorings or flavorings, but if you think about what they usually add to make a spirit darker, it's going to be what? Well, it's going to be caramel.

CORLEY: Caramel coloring.

Mr. CLIME: Well, yeah. Caramel is still a natural ingredient because caramel is burnt sugar.

CORLEY: All right. So in this one, we should be smelling and tasting, you said, vanilla...

Mr. CLIME: Caramel and spices.

CORLEY: OK.

Mr. CLIME: I think almost dried apricots.

CORLEY: We are only taking small sips. I want everybody to know that, just very small.

CONSUL: It's Flor de Cana, which means sugar cane flower. I like this one.

CORLEY: OK, Wilma. And this one, again, Scott, is the...

Mr. CLIME: Yeah. It says slow aged, but anytime - and this is usually any alcohol. If they are going to put an age statement on the bottle, like seven, ten, 12, 23, 24 - whatever they put on, there can't be any younger alcohol in that bottle. So basically, by saying that this is a seven-year-old rum, nothing six-year or you know, six year, eleven months can go in this rum. It's got to be at least seven years.

But it could also have 40-year-old rum in it. Very often, a lot of people just put a drop in there just so they say, well, we add 40-year-old rum in there.

CORLEY: Ah. OK.

Mr. CLIME: You know, whether or not it's...

CORLEY: The marketing ploy comes through again.

Mr. CLIME: Exactly, but it is at least seven years old. And you can taste it. It's already smoother.

CORLEY: If you are just joining us, you are listening to Tell Me More from NPR news. I'm speaking with Scott Clime, the wine and beverage director at Washington D.C.'s Ceiba restaurant about rum.

Now rum has had a little resurgence of late. Annual sales of premium rum have really shot up.

Mr. CLIME: Yeah. Rum is really making a resurgence, you know, and this happened right after prohibition and the '40s because pretty much, after the prohibition, rum pretty much died down. It all just came back to the islands in the Caribbean and they were the only people that were buying or drinking rum were people that actually lived there.

CORLEY: Yeah, so are people ordering more rum now?

Mr. CLIME: Yeah, people are ordering rum. I say the resurgence came back with that of air conditioning because once air conditioning made its way to the islands, it brought in, you know, tourists, you know, and people to visit the islands and people with money that came down there. And then tried these different, more exotic rums. And then, you know, brought a taste of it back, and I think these aged rums are really starting to make a resurgence, you know.

CORLEY: Can we try one of those?

Mr. CLIME: Sure. You want premium white?

CORLEY: I'll leave it to you. You were the director.

Mr. CLIME: We just tasted a seven - exactly. Now we're going to have a taste of Venezuelan rum. It's called Santa Teresa.

CORLEY: All right. It smells good. And are these more expensive?

Mr. CLIME: Yes. These are more expensive rums. Absolutely. Most of our premium rums, wholesale - I mean Bacardi, it's 16, 17 dollars a bottle. But you get up to - like the Flor de Cana, it's really only 35 dollars, and then you get Santa Teresa and they're anywhere about 60 dollars.

CORLEY: And if I was going to come into the restaurant and order a shot of premium, do you say "shot"? Is that the correct thing, a shot of rum?

Mr. CLIME: Well, you know, if you are going to get a premium rum, you really more are going to sip it. You know, a shot is more of a - you know, you are just going to buy something and slam it.

CORLEY: OK.

Mr. CLIME: So usually, if you're going to order a premium rum, or a premium product, you would say, I would have that "neat."

CORLEY: I would have that "neat"?

Mr. CLIME: OK. That just means no ice. Straight out of the bottle, and you are going to sip on it.

CORLEY: So buying a glass of rum neat. It's almost like you - it sounds like you are almost ordering a glass of wine.

Mr. CLIME: Oh, yes, I would say that it would be more like you are ordering a glass of Cognac.

CORLEY: OK.

Mr. CLIME: It's a great way to finish a meal. OK? It does go great with desserts.

CORLEY: OK. Now we are going to taste the most expensive and it's called?

Mr. CLIME: This is the Pyrat Cask 1623 Rum.

CORLEY: OK.

Mr. CLIME: From Angea(ph).

CORLEY: And how expensive is it?

Mr. CLIME: Angela(ph).

Mr. CLIME: This one is roughly about 200 dollars a bottle.

CORLEY: Wow. I'd better be careful.

Mr. CLIME: Exactly. There's not an age statement on this rum, but they say it's blended with to up to 40-year-old rum.

CONSUL: I think this is my favorite. It's very sweet. It's very smooth. No wonder it is 200 dollars.

CORLEY: You know what, I'm going to take one sip and then, Wilma, you like it so much, I'm going to give you the rest.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONSUL: I have a question. If you're into like cooking and you know, some people use rum for cakes, which one would be best?

Mr. CLIME: You should never use anything to cook with that you wouldn't personally drink yourself. Goslings or any of your black rums are the best ones, or dark ones, for cooking. And you can get Goslings for 18, 19 dollars a bottle from Bermuda. Myers is a great rum for desserts or cakes...

CONSUL: Flambe.

Mr. CLIME:. Oh, absolutely. Or flambe. And basically, you would just use any rum that's made with a good amount of molasses where you could just see the dark color.

CORLEY: I want you to know that everybody I know now will be most impressed with my knowledge. So thank you.

CONSUL: Rum expert, Cheryl Corley.

Mr. CLIME: Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORLEY: Scott Clime is the wine and beverage director at Ceiba restaurant in Washington, D.C. Well, thank you so much.

(Soundbite of music)

CORLEY: To learn more about rum we tasted today, go to npr.org and click on Tell Me More. That's our program for today. I'm Cheryl Corley and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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