The subject of rum is a massive topic that spans hundreds of years of tradition and craftsmanship. It’s easy for rum novices and aficionados to be overwhelmed by the amount of information that’s out there about one of the world’s most diverse spirits. But help has arrived in the form of Joseph Piercy’s A Rum Tale: Spirit Of The New World.
Part drinks guide, part love letter, A Rum Tale takes the reader on a voyage through the fascinating history of rum. From quirky facts like George Washington’s obsession with Barbados rum, to the story of notorious figures like Captain Henry Morgan, the book contains a wealth of boozy insight.
The heroes and villains of rum
“The story of rum is complex – as complex as the blending process involved in producing the best brands in the world’s greatest spirit. It involves a cast of thousands to tell it anywhere near accurately. It includes some of the greatest heroes and villains of history: colonialism, pirates, wars and the growth of global capitalism.”
Piercy sets the scene with those words and it’s no exaggeration to say that the story of rum is truly multifaceted. The author charts the creation of sugar, through to the rise of plantations and the slaves who laid the foundations for rum production.
Against a backdrop of violence and capitalism, Piercy frames the history of rum through the lives of people who’ve become synonymous with the industry. Henry Morgan is one example and there’s an excellent summary of his life, exploits and how his name was associated with one of the world’s leading rum brands.
From the Caribbean, Piercy shifts to America and the Prohibition Era, which saw the rise of the rum runner. Colourful characters from this period include Marie ‘Spanish Marie’ Waite, a one-woman army who led a successful Cuban rum smuggling operation. Her name lives on in a rum called Bad Bitch Spanish Marie from Key West Distillery.
Championing distilleries and rums of distinction
A Rum Tale also features the stories of many well-known distilleries like Mount Gay and Havana Club. The rivalry between Havana Club and Bacardi is particularly interesting and has themes of tragedy, ambition and overcoming adversity.
Piercy recommends several rums for the reader to try, such as the extravagant Australian Inner Circle Rum Red Dot and potent Pusser’s Gunpowder Strength. What’s great about Piercy’s tasting notes is that they don’t come off as pretentious or fluffy. He gets straight to the point about what makes each rum worth trying and you won’t need much convincing.
The writer’s passion for his subject matter is what ultimately makes A Rum Tale so enjoyable to read. There’s a great balance of fact, mythology and practical advice. It all combines into a captivating book that’ll make you want to indulge your inner Jack Sparrow and contemplate where all the rum has gone.