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

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