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"There's naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion." - Lord Byron
Rum, with its rich history and smooth, sweet flavour profile, is a unique and timeless drink. As such, we felt obligated to pay tribute to it, and what better way to do that than to delve into some lesser-known facts about this delicious alcoholic beverage.
So, without further ado, here are 10 things you never knew about rum:
Fact One: Rum is the first branded spirit to have ever been made, seeing as how it's been around longer than most modern alcoholic beverages!
Fact Two: Rum has medicinal properties that were especially useful for armies at war until a few decades ago. The British Army in particular was known to give rations of rum to its sailors as a mixture of rum and wine kept the risk of scurvy (a major threat at the time) at bay. This ration was referred to as 'tot o' rum' and what actually prevented the scurvy was the dash of lime added to the mixture.
Fact Three: In a spectacular display of a love for rum, the infamous Admiral Nelson who died in the Battle of Trafalgar, had his body preserved in a cask of rum before it was finally laid to rest. Accounts differ as to whether the cask was full or mostly empty at the time, but we do know for sure rum was referred to as 'Nelson's Blood' for a period of time after the incident!
Fact Four: Rum has humble origins. Its precursors date back to ancient India and China and are thought to have spread from here. As far as distillation goes, it was sugar plantation slaves in the Caribbean who discovered that sugarcane molasses could be fermented and then distilled for a pleasant tasting drink!
Fact Five: Rum has had a long association with piracy. While it began due to English privateers trading it as a valuable commodity, many of these privateers became pirates whose fondness for the sweet drink never vanished. This association was only further strengthened by epic literary works such as Robert L. Stevenson's 'Treasure Island.'
Fact Six: The Caribbean is undoubtedly the epicenter of all rum production in the world. Virtually every island here produces its own distinct rum style. More than 80% of the world's total output comes from here. But almost every other country produces their own rum as well--including India, whose Old Monk is a well-known brand.
Fact Seven: The most expensive rum in the world lacks a specific name but more than makes up for it in price. Bottled in the 1940s by the Jamaican distillers Wray and Nephew, it contains blends that are believed to date as far back as 1915. The bottle was displayed at Europe's first Rum Festival (RumFest), and there are only four such bottles remaining in the world, which represent the lost tradition of Wray and Nephew. They are valued at a whopping $40,000 a bottle!
Fact Eight: Rum was also at the epicenter of the infamous 'slavery triangle', which operated from the late 16th to the early 19th centuries The first leg involved the shipment of molasses to New England from the Caribbean to produce rum. The second leg was the shipment of rum to West Africa to trade for slaves and the third and final leg of this triangle was the passage of slave ships to the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and South America where these same slaves were put to work in the sugarcane fields.
Fact Nine: Modern rum actually owes a lot to advancements in air conditioning and the growth of tourism. The latter half of the 20th century saw the viability of modern-day air conditioning, which made it possible for large numbers of people to migrate to warm-weather regions where rum remained a dominant spirit. This massive increase in tourists in such regions led to a rise in the popularity of the drink.
Fact Ten: Rum, as everyone knows, is an extremely popular spirit used in cocktails. One of the most popular drinks of this variety is known as the Rum Sour. It was conceived in Barbados and is served in a conch shell!
On that inebriating note, we bid you adieu with these wise words, "Yo ho ho and a bottle of Rum!"
-Pictures courtesy Thinkstock-
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