10 Pivotal Moments in Rum History

1 17th Century – Plantation Rum. The 1600’s saw the ‘invention’ of rum by slaves working the Caribbean sugar plantations. It was found that the by-product of sugar manufacturing – molasses – could be fermented and then distilled into alcohol. Debate rages whether the first discovery was made in Barbados or Brazil. 1664 saw the first American rum distillery open on Staten Island.

2 1655 – Royal Navy switches daily ration (or ‘tot’) of booze from brandy to rum. This was eventually diluted and had lemon or lime juice added for prevention of scurvy. This mix is known as ‘grog’. The RN discontinued the tradition of the daily rum ration on the 31st of July 1970 – and this date has been mourned by British sailors as ‘Black Tot Day’ ever since.

3 1674 – Sugar Act. Also known as the ‘Plantation Act’ was a tariff applied to all non-British Caribbean sugar and molasses entering the American colonies. The act granted a virtual monopoly of the American market to British West Indies sugarcane planters. Early colonial protests at these duties were ended when the tax was lowered two years later.

4 1862 – Bacardi Founded. The Bacardi brand was founded by Bacardi Masso in 1862. Today it is not only the largest rum brand in the world, but is also the largest privately held, family owned spirits company in the world. Some say their success stems from the use of a proprietary strain of yeast which is still used in fermentation to this day.

5 1900 – Cubra Libra invented. Perhaps the most popular – and even iconic – rum cocktail. Rum, Coke and lime. Many claim it was invented during the Spanish-American war of 1898 when US troops entered Cuba bringing Coca-Cola with them.

6 1920 –Prohibition. Prohibition of alcohol in the USA in the 1920’s saw a huge wave of American tourists heading to Cuba where the rum flowed like water! This both changed America’s taste for rum and propped up many rum distilleries whilst their contempories in Scotland and Ireland struggled with the closure of the US market.

7 1953 – Viva La Revolution! The beginning of the Cuban civil war in ‘53 saw the Bacardi family on the side of Castro. By [what would turn out to be] a bad lack of judgement they switched sides and supported Che Guevara. However by 1959, Che was defeated by Castro, and the the Bacardi family was stripped of their assets and sent into exile. Luckily, the Bacardi family had established facilities in and assets in the Bahamas, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

8 1962 – Cold War politics. After the communists under Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959, America placed commercial, economic and trade sanctions on Cuba. This meant that any Rum made in Cuba could no longer be sold in the US.

9 2012 – World Trade Organisation complaint against the USA. IN 2012, Caribbean nations threatened the USA with a complaint to the WHO about US subsidies to major companies (Bacardi and Diageo). These concerns still simmer with the small Caribbean producers. By offering large tax incentives for companies to move to US territories (ie the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico), it is felt that the USA is unfairly eroding Caribbean market share of the rum market.

10 Current Day. A new age has begun in the last 10 or so years with the ‘discovery’ of premium rums that stand on their own as a drink. Whilst rum-based cocktails remain hugely popular, a new breed of craft distilleries had blossomed both in Australia and abroad bringing many independent offerings to the market. More and more people are finding that good rum can be enjoyed, savoured and explored without the need for mixers, juice or cocktail shakers. And that’s where we come in…