BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
The beauty of being Editor of this magazine is that one can write and publish what the hell one wants. Such freedom of speech is worth fighting for, and over. (If that over-censorious Deputy Editor, young Bembridge, thinks his grooming period is over and that he is ready to seize the reins, then – since scraps at two metres are no fun at all – he can bugger awf.)
This week it was suggested I write about moral relativist Dawn Butler. I considered writing about her. It’s August and I can’t be bothered. So I am writing about rum instead.
And no one can stop me.
Since the ginaissance in Britain is now gradually drawing to a close amidst overkill – “a staggering 402 new gin brands have entered the market since May 2016, 367 of which are premium brands”, according to the Trending 2020 report – there is a veritable rumaissance in the offing.
A little known fact in these sceptred isles – a delicately matured rum brings layers of flavour and intricacy that can rival any whisky. The rumaissance is excellent news for my Venezuelan in-laws. While Venezuelans have one of the worst governments in history and the country’s food (alas, an increasingly rare commodity) is nothing to write home about, the South American basket case still produces by far the best rum on planet earth.
From personal experience I can assure you that a bottle of Venezuelan Diplomatico made from molasses and sugarcane honey cannot be surpassed after a steak dinner followed by Cohibas at one of the Miss Venezuela pageant rounds. There is no better liquor with which to toast through the window those disturbed feminists flashing their breasts at you from the venue car park.
Alas, I am out of Diplomatico. For this tasting I have five bottles of rum before me:
- Don Papa Rum 10 from the Philippines.
- Santa Teresa 1796 Rum from Venezuela.
- Parce Rum 12-Year-Old Straight Colombian Rum.
- Bristol Black Spiced Rum from Bristol.
- Smooth Caribbean White Rum from Co-op (blended in Holland but bottled in Eccles).
I confess I have already decked a solid measure of red wine before switching on this laptop to write this piece the night before publication, so forgive me if there are any typos or if the article suddenly finishes mid-sentence. For your information, connoisseurs, I shall be drinking these rums neat from a snifter…
OK, so my Don Papa review comes first. Drum roll….
- First Random Thought: Bloody hell. Bats get erections in their tongues.
- The Journey: Like fighting high speed through a Filipino jungle replete with fruit trees using a machete made of rubber. A sugar high that refuses to come down then gradually departs. A spicy tingle on the tongue leaving one with a sudden shiver. A rush to the head reminiscent of sniffing the History teacher’s snuff during a lesson without permission, while the poor man took a comfort break down the corridor.
- Next random thought: Crikey O’Reilly. Have I been rendered diabetic?
- Taste: Over-sugary. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. Think tropical Opal Fruits with a layer of caramel. Sickly. Very fruity. Orange, banana and coconut are clearly detectable. Toffee apples wrapped in candyfloss.
- Score out of 100: 47
- The price: £38.13 a litre.
- Suitable occasions for quaffing: Beside a swimming pool on a stifling evening at a cocktail party in Tarlac, waiting for the sausage-breathed Bishop to shift and permit a clear path to the gorgeous Aquino. In the course of experiencing a hypo, perhaps.
- If this rum were a car: Pink, souped-up Volkswagen Beetle with a yellow flower in the dash.
Next, the Venezuelan Santa Teresa 1796 (solera produced):
- First Random Thought: Extraordinary that Franz Kafka destroyed 90% of everything he wrote.
- The Journey: Clear taste enveloped in a subdued sweetness. A smooth and sophisticated ride after the Don Papa roller-coaster – chalk and cheese experiences. A gentle glide followed by a soft landing on a very expensive eiderdown.
- Next random thought: There is time for another baby yet.
- Taste: Light vanilla note. A hint of tobacco. Very repeatable.
- Score out of 100: 88
- The price: £47.99 (70 cl)
- Suitable occasions for quaffing: Naked, reading Cantar de Mio Cid to the sound of crickets in a steaming hot Monagas finca with a Brazilian pistol at hand, occasionally looking up for delinquentes. At a Thomas Sowell seminar on income inequality.
- If this rum were a car: Lancia Stratos in red.
Next, the Colombian Parce:
- First Random Thought: When Keir Hardie, Britain’s first socialist MP, turned up for work at Parliament for his first day in 1892, the police officer on duty thought he was there to mend the roof.
- The Journey: a slightly smoky and bourbonesque afterburn. Not over sweet and with a lovely hint of vanilla.
- Next random thought: Is Shakira’s hair naturally curly?
- Taste: So smooth. Unbelievably smooth. Genius at work here. Woody, subtle – perfect measures of sweetness and spice. Excellent.
- Score out of 100: 92
- The price: $71.99 USD (75cl)
- Suitable occasions for quaffing: During salsa classes with Shakira. Discreetly from an apple juice bottle during yet another nativity play. In large quantities before salsa classes with Clare Short.
- If this rum were a car: Aston Martin Lagonda.
Next, the Bristol Black Spiced Rum:
- First Random Thought: Captain Pugwash.
- The Journey: Kaboom. There is no subtlety here, the smell, then the flavour hits you like a brick. It is Christmas and Halloween all at once. Jumanji. Is that the ghost of Sir Francis Drake I see in the corner of my dining room? No, it is our Patterdale terrier, Angus.
- Next random thought: After meeting their mistresses ancient Egyptian husbands chewed garlic to hide any incriminating odours. Talk about obviously useless opsec.
- Taste: The strongest flavour is mixed spice (particularly clove – like you use for toothache), followed by pepper and spice. After that, some liquorice and aniseed. Is that ginger coming to the fore or is that one of the ginger nuts I dunked in my tea this afternoon revisiting? A tangy liquorice aftertaste that lingers in the mouth for what seems like an eternity…. not dissimilar to how Covid or a Fisherman’s Friend or, presumably, snogging with Harvey Weinstein deletes the taste buds.
- Score out of 100: 28
- The price: £67.19 (per litre)
- Suitable occasions for quaffing: During a flu camp? To be shared with a halitotic Great Aunt on a long train journey? Taking on the Spanish Armada, perhaps.
- If this rum were a car: Fiat Multipla in black. An amphibious version. With portholes.
Next, the Co-op Smooth Caribbean (from Co-op convenience store, Claygate):
- First Random Thought: Benidorm.
- The Journey: Ryanair or Aeroflot.
- Next random thought: Damn, I should have acquired some Coca Cola.
- Taste: Like licking the side of a skip in the early hours of a Saturday morning in Newcastle city centre.
- Score out of 100: 8
- The price: a tenner.
- Suitable occasions for quaffing: A rushed suicide. “And Britain’s new Prime Minister is…… Jeremy Corbyn.”
- If this rum were a car: Dacia Duster Joy in bright yellow (as owned, FYI, by the over-ambitious Deputy Editor of this publication. Live that one down, Bembridge.).
So, the rumaissance …. Something we can all look forward to in post Brexit Britain. Add some relevant words here before publishing, Bembers. Cheers. Blah di blah di blah.
Is that you, Sir Francis?
Has anyone let the dogs out?