Pirates and rum go hand in hand, thanks to the efforts of authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, who popularised the idea of scallywags downing copious amounts of rum. It’s from this rich tradition that A Pirate’s Life was born. The series chronicles the drinking habits of history’s most infamous brigands.
The Haitian pirate Henri Caesar earned a reputation for himself during the Haitian Revolution, when he teamed up with Dutty Boukman and Toussaint Louverture to change the course of history. The rum in Caesar’s collection would tell the story of Haiti and his travels across the sea.
Caesar was a right-hand man of Dutty Boukman, helping to free hundreds of slaves and remained with the revolution until Haiti became independent from France in 1804. Caesar would want to honour the memory of his comrade and drink to his accomplishments, which is why he’d keep a bottle of Boukman rhum stashed away somewhere.
Boukman is a botanical rhum infused with locally foraged ingredients, which include bois cochon, oak, bitter orange peel, boise bande, campache and zou’devant. This unique mixture creates earthy, herbal notes that leave behind a pleasant burn to stoke the flames of freedom that flicker in the gut.
Whenever Caesar was feeling nostalgic, he’d pour himself a glass of Boukman and read the label that says “listen to the voice of freedom rising in our hearts.”
One of Caesar’s favourite Haitian rum bottles to carry would be Barbancourt 15-years, a heady, complex rhum that’s bursting with flavour.
This rum is distilled twice in copper pots, aged for 15 years in oak casks and bottled at 43%. There’s tannic spicy notes tempered with potent cooked pear, pepper, cinnamon and dill.
Another rhum to remind Caesar of home is Clairin Vaval, which is produced by the Arawaks Distillery near Cavaillon on the south side of Haiti. It’s made from organic blue sugarcane that’s had its juice extracted and then fermented with wild yeast. The rhum is then put through a column still and comes out as unaged and bottled at 51.1%.
Caesar would likely bring it out when reminiscing about his revolution days and lose himself in the sight of the colourful label. The label represents the liveliness of Haitian culture and the proud tradition that the revolutionaries fought to preserve.
He’d enjoy the oily, salty notes that come through in the mouth and spread out into a fruity tang of pineapple, banana and lemon.
Santiago De Cuba 25-Years
After the revolution, Caesar set out to seek his fortune and embraced the pirate life. He adopted the name Black Caesar and became a scourge of the sea, attacking vessels that travelled from places like Cuba. During these raids he’d have been introduced to Cuban rum and would have developed an appreciation for it.
With a taste for the good stuff, Caesar would break out a bottle of Santiago de Cuba 25-years for special occasions. The rum is a prestige edition bottle that was created to celebrate the 490th anniversary of the city of the same name.
The rum is a mixture of sweet and savoury. Notes of dried fruits, coffee and tobacco linger on the tongue, combining for a mellow finish.
St Augustine Pot Still
Black Caesar operated out of Spanish Florida, so his connection to the area means he’d enjoy keeping a Florida rum brand in his collection. An example is St Augustine rum produced by the St Augustine distillery based in the eponymous city.
The rum is made from Florida sugarcane, distilled in a pot still and aged in ex-bourbon barrels that have previously been used on-site. The result is a grassy, sweet rum with flavours of honey, black tea, anise, coconut and vanilla.