Nova Scotia and rum have gone together since the port first started welcoming the Royal Navy in the 1700s. I think the first words I heard when moving to Halifax over 20 years ago were “Would you like a rum and coke?”
But to this day, rum still has the stigma of being the bad boy of liquor. The pirates of the Caribbean certainly didn’t drink flavoured vodka.
Rum is made from sugar cane and has been produced in the Caribbean for hundreds of years. A formerly unwanted by-product of making sugar is molasses, and it was quickly discovered that this sticky, heavy substance could be fermented and turned into a spirit.
Many of us associate the history of rum in Nova Scotia with those low-slung “rum runner” boats that were built to avoid the law and ply their trade carrying rum, whisky and rye to thirsty Americans during Prohibition. Many Nova Scotians plied the trade. The craggy coastline provided perfect hiding for the route from the French territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon where the cargo was picked. The stop here on the way to the U.S. put us right in the path to fame and notoriety. Most of the “run runner” vessels were built and crewed on the South Shore.
Appleton’s Rum from Jamaica recently produced a limited edition Halifax edition marking the city’s connection to the rum trade. The logo shows that Appleton Rum was founded in 1749, the same year as Halifax.
Most of us have never gotten past the typical white or spiced rums that fill the shelves at our local store. But this is an opportunity to expand our palates. Aged, sipping, and premium rums are entirely different. These rums are typically aged in oak barrels for several years. The interaction of the rum and the wood adds to the smoothness, richness and subtle flavours.
Some of these barrels may be used whisky or bourbon barrels. For example Appleton rum is aged in used Jack Daniels barrels. Other distillers use sherry barrels. Some of the best of aged rums are blended from rums of different barrels and age statements to give a unique flavour to the brand.
As difficult as it has been, I have donated some of my time (and money) to experimenting with these. Diplomatico, Brugal 1888, Ron Zapaca and Pyrat, are all delicious and unique. You can find them in NSLC locations and private stores around the city. Brugal even had their brand ambassador in Halifax recently for a great tasting of all their products.
Enjoy any of these neat or with a few ice cubes, but don’t mix with Coke or Pepsi!
Bonus: These rums are a bargain when you contrast with premium whiskies.
The under-$25 wine review
Grand Pre Riesling 2013 Vintner’s Reserve
Nova Scotia, $19.99, at some NSLC locations
A Nova Scotian wine, made from local grapes and widely available $20? This is another huge step forward for Nova Scotian wines. This new release has already won many awards. Ripe apricots, floral notes and honey jump out of the glass. With only 11% alcohol there is an underlying sweetness that balances the acidity. A long and refreshing finish. Pair with a spicy dish like Digby scallops poached in curry sauce. 90/100
Tre Saggi Talamonti
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011
Italy, $16.99, NSLC
Looking for something different from Italy for your next gathering? The Abruzzo region, on the Adriatic Coast, has been producing delicious and affordable wine from the Montepulciano cousin of Sangiovese, for centuries. We now have several examples from this under-appreciated region available in Halifax and all are bargains. Old-school wine: unpretentious, quaffable and rustic. Dried cherry character, dusty finish. Pair with those fantastic Getaway Farm sausages. 91/100
80–84: A great sipper, good value. 85–89: Won’t last long, great value.
90–94: Brag to your friends and buy a case—fantastic. 95–100: A classic, run to the store, extremely rare.