Friday Happy Hour: Puncheon, It’s Not Just for Baa-Johns Anymore
All rums may not be created equal, but at their inception, they do all start out as clear, colorless and wikkidly strong. Distillers add water to bring down the potency, of course, with color, complexity, spices, flavors and other assorted bits of magic added later during the aging and blending process.
At least that’s what usually happens.
In the case of Forres Park Puncheon Rum, they tend to leave well enough alone…
This stuff is pure fire, a horrendously devilish distillate with the type of punch (pun intended) that suggests it could just as soon power your car as it can power your all-night party. Clear and bearing a clinical odor along the lines of rubbing alcohol, Puncheon proudly proclaims its strength in all-caps right across its label:
NOT LESS THAN 75% alc./vol.
I guess that means there could be more alcohol in a given bottle, but either way the point is clear: this is some seriously strong stuff!
Personally, I hardly ever drink the stuff, but in Trinidad & Tobago, it’s among the most popular choices no matter where you might be settling in for a drink – from fancy bars like Flair the Restaurant in Port-of-Spain, to the grittiest rum shops in San Fernando, and everywhere in-between.
The allure is as much about the mystique as anything else. I mean, you have to be a real badass to drink Puncheon, and in our uber-macho West Indian society, everyone wants to be badass. This is especially true of young Trini men keen on impressing the ladies with their ability to withstand this most pugnacious rum.
It wasn’t always this way, of course.
Puncheon’s roots go back to the 1930’s and an old sugar estate called Forres Park located in Claxton Bay. It was at that time (1933) that one of the leading rum families in Trinidad, the Fernandes’, acquired the estate and began converting it into a rum distillery. Success soon followed with the family continuing to build on its strong following for Vat-19, its flagship product. Puncheon, however, came about more by accident…
In those days, the Fernandes’ aged their over-proof rums in over-sized barrels known as puncheons. This special rum was reserved for the family and their workers, but once word of it got out, mass-production ensued, making Puncheon available to the world.
Initially, Puncheon was mainly popular with baa-johns, tough and dangerous guys bent on mischief or worse. There was a stigma to drinking Puncheon then that’s obviously long gone today.
So, let’s say you’re in Trinidad or Tobago, you’re feeling especially manly and you want to give this stuff a try. How should you take it?
Well, a lot of folks simply enjoy Puncheon neat, sipping the full brunt of it, or throwing it back in a shot, a chaser of ice-cold water the only respite for all the fire. As a mixer, it adds a hefty kick to everything from coconut water to Lemon Lime and Bitters, Peardrax or any fruit juice.
Then, there’s the donkey injection…
I only just heard of this recently, but apparently it’s popular to chase your Puncheon with a Guinness, the donkey injection name an obvious nod to the purported sexual prowess this combo can engender in a man.
No matter how you take it, Puncheon is sure to be one taste of the Caribbean that you’ll never forget… even if it makes you forget everything that happens after you try it.