Why you should care

Because if you’re going to drink, you might as well drink well.

Secret, hidden and occult societies abound, pockets of passionate people united by a compelling and sometimes fanatical interest in everything from Etruscan perfume bottles to Satan. But none of them can hold a candle to those that form around alcohol. And not the kind you rub with, the kind you drink.

Which is why it’s not in the least surprising that of all of the kinds of alcohol you can drink, none boggles the mind while it titillates the palate as much as rum does. Starting with the fact that experts can’t even agree on a single standard for what rum is because of wide variances on how much alcohol is in it, how long it’s been aged, where it comes from and what it would be correctly called.

But from the 14th century, when Marco Polo was drinking it in what’s now Iran, and pirates and colonists alike were using it for currency, to today, rum, which is made from distilled, fermented sugarcane and associated products, is still produced mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean. Making the fact that we just got our hands, and mouths, on some from Australia? Crazy, cool and as perfect as could be in terms of recreational drinking.

It’s 100 proof, which means it is to be approached with caution.

Richard Sterling, food writer

You see, since the late 1880s, Australia, probably better known for its beer, has been working a certain amount of magic on rum, spearheaded by Bundaberg. Forget that Bundaberg Rum has won awards for being Bundaberg Rum and forget that it sponsors the National Rugby League, even weathering protests for ad campaigns in Australia that some felt made it too attractive of a tipple, Bundaberg at about $30 a bottle is not the easiest to find in the U.S.

And while possibly not as coveted as the more expensive Gosling’s Old Rum, which runs about $65 a bottle, Bundaberg is eminently smooth. The kind of smooth that’s a problem in and of itself, since that which drinks easy tends to be drunk more. A math, according to one superfan, that ends up making him “crazy aggressive.”

Which is an occupational hazard with rum, claims of Australian rum’s troublemaking tendencies notwithstanding. “It’s 100 proof,” says Richard Sterling, a Cambodian-based American expat and Lowell Thomas Award–winning travel and food writer, “which means it is to be approached with caution and which makes it preferred in survival kits”

The same could be said of life. Also apropos, and what we remember of our first taste of it, Lord Byron’s sage “There’s naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms as rum.” All of this about a low drink formerly the purview of pirates and anyone else besotted enough to take it as payment for work?

Damned straight.

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