The historic revolution that went down in Egypt today has put me in the mood for some rum on this fine Friday Happy Hour. Not just any rum, mind you… Oh no, when it comes to rum and revolution, only the fine Rhums of Martinique will do.
This doesn’t have anything to do with some lame, cheeky “Vivre le Revolution” stereotype either. Rum with roots in Martinique, and other French Caribbean islands, are actually what spurred the American Revolution so many centuries ago.
I know what you’re thinking: wasn’t the Tea Tax the straw that broke the colonials’ backs? The answer: not entirely…
The ball toward American independence really got rolling downhill after those New Englanders dumped all that tea into Boston Harbor, but the thing that made them really mad initially was the Molasses Act of 1733.
You see, rum was a primary currency of the time, especially if you were involved in the slave trade. You remember the Triangle Trade from your history books, right? That’s where molasses from the Caribbean was shipped to New England, where it was distilled into rum. The rum was then loaded onto empty cargo ships en-route to Africa where it was traded for slaves. The slaves, of course, were shipped back to the Caribbean to work the plantations and the whole dirty cycle started over again.
Anyway, the most prized molasses of the time were produced in French islands like Martinique. They were so prized, in fact, that Britain imposed the Molasses Act to ensure its American colonies would opt for molasses from the British islands. This didn’t sit well with those headstrong American colonists who, history has shown, weren’t too keen on being told where they could and could not get anything, much less their molasses.
Part of the issue was business, as rum produced from the French Caribbean molasses carried a higher value on the open market. The other part was personal, as the French Caribbean rum was vastly preferred by the Americans for their own drinking habits.
Incidentally, it’s estimated that prior to the Revolutionary War, every American man, woman and child consumed an average of 13.5 liters of rum per year! But, that’s a story for another day…
So, what did the Americans do? Essentially, they ignored the Molasses Act, an early signal to England that they aimed to direct their own affairs.
I have no idea what they’re drinking in Tahrir Square over in Cairo tonight, but I’ll be raising a toast to Egypt’s newly-won freedom with a nice, neat glass of Rhum Saint James.
Dating back to 1765, Saint James is among the oldest and most celebrated Rhums of Martinique. No doubt, molasses from this distillery would’ve been among the ones so eagerly sought by the American colonists, but as those of you who have been reading my rhum posts already know, Martinique rhums do not employ molasses in their production.
Just like the Rhum Neisson and Rhum Clement 1952 blends we’ve covered before, Saint James rhums are produced in the unique rhum agricole method that begins with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice taken directly from cane stalks instead of the molasses by-product of sugar production used just about everywhere else. The bottle of Royal Ambre pictured here is one of my particular favorites, with its bold flavor, hints of fruit and pleasantly warm finish that lingers nicely at the back of your throat. It’s smooth and not too smokey, just the way I like it.
Rhum agricole blends like Saint James’ Royal Ambre are more comparable with fine cognacs than typical molasses-based rums, which make them all the more suitable for historically special occasions like today.
À votre santé!