All rums may not be created equal, but at their inception, they do all start out as clear, colorless and wickedly strong. Then color, complexity, spices, flavors and other assorted bits of magic manifest during the aging and blending process. At least that’s what usually happens. In the case of Forres Park Trinidad Puncheon Rum, they tend to leave well enough alone.
What is Puncheon Rum
This rum 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 Puncheon is on the menu.
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 Rum history
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 family acquired the estate and began converting it into a rum distillery. Success soon followed with the family and their estate 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 casks known as puncheons. This special rum using its special wooden casks was developed for the exclusive enjoyment of the family and the estate 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.” Think tough and dangerous guys bent on mischief or worse. There was a stigma to drinking Puncheon then. But those days are long gone.
Enjoying Puncheon Rum
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. You just sip the full brunt of it, or throw 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…
What is a 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.