Friday, November 5, 2010

A Rumbunctious Mistress

Never trust a man who wears a hat indoors
Rum and I have an interesting relationship. I mean every man has their type right? Scotch will always be my first love - the spirit I'll write poems for, take out to fancy dinners and moonlit walks along the beach. Scotch, well, she's a classy wee lass.

Rum, on the other hand is my mistress - it's all heated, passionate flings. It's slightly subversive and sometimes I come out the other-side feeling a bit dirty. In saying this, these are qualities I admire - not abhor - when it come to rum. My kind of rum is easy and cheap  - the sort you don't feel like you need to dress up for or take to a swank uptown joint to enjoy her pleasures. What's more she could be a local - the girl next door.

More and more these days I see bartenders go for high falutin' rums from exotic shores - rums that boast aging in ex-Cognac barrels and distillation from virgin sugar-cane honey (why would I want an affair with a virgin?). Yes, I'm talking about luxury rum brands like Ron Zacapa - brands that have elevated the rum category to the prestige Cognac and Scotch. Whilst I admire their work and the craftsmanship (in this case it's actually craftswomanship) of the product it's not personally what I'm after from my rum.

Call me base, but I'm after a hot spirit - something with a bit of fire, funk and an abundance of in-your-face character. She doesn't need any class and she speaks with an Australian twang. I'm talking about Inner Circle. 

Inner Circle pre-1986 bottlings
Coming in three bottlings: Red Dot (40% abv); Green Dot (57.2% abv) and Black Dot (75.9% abv), Inner Circle is a pot still Australian rum brand  that we can be proud of. Unfortunately, it's actually a product of Fiji - fortunately it's still pretty darned good.

I realise that championing this style of rum may be controversial, but it's this high ester spectrum of the rum category which I think is often maligned. The rum 'stink' of this unctuous spirit can be smelt the moment you pour it into a glass. Molasses, cut grass and coco fill the air and it's this aromatic quality which makes Inner Circle an amazing weapon in the mixologists' arsenal.

Cocktail historian and Author David Wondrich, who was recently visiting Australian shores thanks to the Mixxit team, is also a hugh fan of this style. He laments the loss of old skool, pot still Jamaican Rum 'redolent of funk' and recommends that Inner Circle Green Dot is the best substitute in historical recipes that call for this style. But give it a whirl in more modern recipes too. It can boost the aroma and add a depth of character in Tiki styled drinks in particular.

I guess the other reason I'm waxing lyrical about this product is because I recently came into possession of a couple of  pre-1986 bottles of Inner Circle - the original CSR produced rum that was made right here, where I live and work, in Pyrmont, Sydney. In fact, the Bartender magazine offices, as some of you might be aware, are the in the old cooperage for this very rum brand.

The two products pictured above are the 'Black Dot' and the 'Red Dot' (37.2% abv and 75.9% abv respectively). They offer a very different taste profile from today's Inner Circle, but you can see the family resemblance. The original is slightly less aromatic, but displays an almost nutty sherry-like nose with a sweeter more syrupy palate and some pleasant citrus notes almost reminiscent of Havana Club Barrel Proof, but with a heavier, lingering, cocoa finish.

A fantastic rum that unfortunately is now extinct (except at my house) - at least evolution has given us a throwback with Lion Nathan's Fijian produced, 'Australian' rum - Inner Circle (mark II).      


  1. Funky post Simon. nice words.

  2. Very well expressed. If you want to sink really low there's that right lil'scrubber naval rum that can do you job if you want to anaethetised for the odd amputation of limbs during a naval battle.

  3. Lovely writing, I tend to agree with you about the luxo-rums and their overpowering sweetness. Rum needs a little grime and funk in my book. Keep up the good work!