It is the irony of all ironies among proud West Indian-born rum connoisseurs that the carefully crafted enlightened expressions of the rum-maker’s art – the fine, aged sipping rums found at or near the top shelf – are among the least consumed throughout the Caribbean.
Wander into most any rum shop, beach lime, or roadside gathering of locals on most any island at most any time and you won’t find folks sipping on 1703, 1824, 1796, or even 1888. No, the numbers they’re keen on are smaller in size, though much larger in terms of strength.
We’re talking fire water… white lightening… OVERPROOF.
Just typing the word sends a shiver up my spine, memories of even the faintest sips causing my head to spin.
These rums are not for everyone, of course… at least not if you drink ’em straight up. A little mixing can go a long way, though, especially when it comes to the intimidating bottle pictured above.
That, dear reader, is Sunset Very Strong Rum from St. Vincent.
No, I’m not describing it – Very Strong Rum is actually its name!
Might as well just paint a skull and crossbones on the label, right? I mean, with a name like that you gotta’ figure this stuff can’t possibly have any redeeming qualities, right?
Well, there isn’t much argument if you sip it neat. VSR weighs in at a whopping 84.5% alcohol by volume.
- 1/2 Fresh Key Lime
- 1 oz Very Strong Rum
- 1 oz Very Cold Water
Go to your medicine cabinet. Pick out the rubbing alcohol. Take a whiff. Yeah, VSR comes close to that.
A few rum experts I know tell me there are nice hints of butterscotch and vanilla in there. My singed nose hairs beg to differ.
Still, I like Very Strong Rum, but only because I learned how to enjoy it the way the locals do during a recent trip to Bequia. Here’s how you do it…
Squeeze half of a fresh key lime into your tumbler. Next, add an ounce of Very Strong Rum. Finally, add an ounce of ice-cold water. Swish a bit. That’s it!
The combined effect of the water and lime render the extra harsh VSR flavor obsolete. You almost actually forget it’s there!
The resulting drink is light, nice, and refreshing, which of course, also makes it dangerous as you’ll find these local favorites to be quite easy-drinking.
I can also tell you from experience that the combo is a surprisingly excellent antidote for a hangover – quite the redeeming quality, indeed.
Unfortunately, owing to its extremely high alcohol content, you can’t bring a bottle of Very Strong Rum on the plane back home with you following your travels to the Caribbean. Probably just as well, though, as this uniquely powerful flavor experience is no doubt best enjoyed where you’re at your most relaxed and you can retreat to sublime seaside surroundings like these…