Just before Christmas I came across this most amazing book and proceeded to learn more about rum and its relation to our history. Wayne Curtis is a spectacularly good writer. I was originally attracted to the book for its section on Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic and the invention of the Mai Tai. It's still my favorite chapter.
Walk down the rum aisle and you'll see lots of choices, and lots of labels, but in the background at the corporate level, there are only a few major players. But thanks to Mr. Curtis, I've discovered two that deserve your attention.
Who would have thought that Guatemala would produce one of the finest rums in the world? Mr. Curtis participated in a 2003 International Rum Festival as a judge and the rum that the judges chose as their baseline to compare all other rums in the competition to was Zacapa.
"Zacapa is considered by many who can and do argue at length over such things to be the best commercially available rum today. I have seen bottles of Zacapa hidden on shelves in the offices of competing West Indies distillers, who have sheepishly admitted they were striving to produce it, as yet without success." For more on the history of Zacapa, check out pages 250-251.
Whereas Zacapa is a lightly medium colored rum and one that I drink straight, Prichard's is a clear rum that is excellent for mixed drinks. It is a domestic rum, manufactured by one Phil Prichard in Kelso, Tennessee! The story of Prichard's begins on page 253 and tells the tale of a man obsessed in creating a perfect rum. Table grade molasses, Rube Goldbergian distillation equipment, meticulous fermentation of the molasses are all part of the tale. Again, from the Curtis book:
"Prichard's rum, about a million dollars worth at any given time is aged in a pair of forty foot steel cargo containers that sit in the distillery'rs yard surrounded by a chain link fence. Weeds sprout lavishly, stray dogs wander through, and you'd need an exceedingly fertile imagination to conjure up the Caribbean."
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Now, both of these are available at Spec's and Richard's here in town. Zacapa is $40 and Prichard's is $20. You can't go wrong.