Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Review: Caribbean Rum – A Social and Economic History

Caribbean Rum – A Social and Economic History
By Frederick H. Smith

Over the past couple of decades I have read and studied most rum books available in the market. I can honestly say that this is the first book in a very long time to contribute new knowledge to the industry. Rather than following the true-and-tried formula of including a bit of history, overview of some rum companies and their products and offering a plethora of rum cocktail recipes, this book focuses exclusively on the social and economic impact of rum, from the slave plantations to modern society.

I was impressed by the level of research performed by the author to document the stress-relieving effect of rum on slaves (their owners would often make rum available and would encourage them to drink it in order to give them frequent escapes from reality), the ratios of rum production to rum consumptions per country in the Caribbean through the years, the social acceptance of drunkenness and its relationship to violence, etc.

Another area of the book that I was very impressed by, is the section devoted to describing the emergence of the rum economy, the threat it posed on European alcohol industries and the subsequent legislations that were put in place in an attempt to control the proliferation of rum.

All in all, this book is full of interesting facts and tables, all pearls of information for the true rum aficionado. Those seeking colorful pictures of ornate cocktails with palm trees on the background will be disappointed, but then again, there is a plethora of books to satisfy those consumers. This book is well researched, well written and I’m certain will be quoted by many future works on rum.

Luis Ayala is an author and rum consultant with Rum Runner Press, Inc. To learn more about rum, please visit or

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Book Review: Moonshine!

Moonshine: Recipes * Tall Tales * Drinking Songs * Historical Stuff * Knee-Slappers *How to Make It * How to Drink It * Pleasin' the Law * Recoverin' the Next Day

by Matthew Rowley

An extremely engaging book about an excellent subject! Behind each page a new jewel: be it an anecdote, a recipe, a quote, an illustration or a fact, each and every page was worth reading. Most books about fermentation and/or distillation fall short in one area or another: some lack technical information, others lack historical facts; this book has it all and is written in a very clean and concise manner. If you are interested in makin’ your own and only want to buy one book, this is it! Here is a list of the chapters to give you an idea:

Chapter 1: A Wet Goods Primer
Chapter 2: A Long And Storied History
Chapter 3: Moonshine Today
Chapter 4: Mashing And Fermenting
Chapter 5: Stills And How To Build One
Chapter 6: Distilling
Chapter 7: Recipes

To top it all, the book is attractive enough to make it a coffee table item, where I’m sure it will be the subject of many conversations.

Luis Ayala is an author and rum consultant with Rum Runner Press, Inc. To learn more about rum, please visit or

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rum: Gate Of The Imagination

Traveling is like flirting with life.
It's like saying, ‘I would stay and love you,
but I have to go; this is my station.’
-Lisa St. Aubin de TerĂ¡n

Traveling to the Caribbean always brings a few days of sheer pleasure into my mind. No amount of airport delays or missed connections will ever make me give up visiting the islands. As the trips approach their end, however, I'm always filled with sadness, since I know that a return home is imminent. Perhaps that is why I enjoy bringing back so many rum bottles with me: it is as if each bottle holds a memory, an image, a dream of living in the tropics, and every time I drink from that bottle, part of me is magically transported back.

I like drinking other spirits, Tequila for instance, but they never have the same effect on me: I rather be surrounded by sugarcane fields and palm trees than by blue agaves!

Following are some of my fondest memory from the Caribbean:
  • Drinking "Corn and Oil" and eating fried flying fish in Barbados after a long walk on the beach. Corn 'n Oil is a cocktail made with Falernum (an alcoholic symple syrup with some spices) and rum, very tasty but also very sweet!
  • Drinking "Dirty Bananas" at the Half Moon Villa in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Dirty Bananas are very similar to banana milkshakes but with rum and coffee and/or chocolate liqueur.
  • Drinking a Lime Daiquiri made with Brinley Gold Lime Rum at the Brinley Bar and Shop in St. Kitts.
  • Sipping Seventh Heaven or Bois Bande-infused rums at the St. Lucia Distillers visitor's center, a heavenly reward after spending time in Soufriere.
What are your most pleasant rum memories? Where does your mind wander when it needs a break?

Luis Ayala is an author and rum consultant with Rum Runner Press, Inc. To learn more about rum, please visit or