Out of all the popular spirits, rum probably has the most storied past. Distilled from various by-products of sugarcane – most commonly molasses – the liquor has long been associated with pirates, the British navy (where it was doled out as part of a sailor’s daily rations) and Tiki bar culture, which is notorious for its fruity but potent rum-based cocktails. All of which have been something of a public relations disaster for the premium end of rum’s spectrum. A group of people in Singapore’s drinks scene is hoping to change that.
(Related: Are the Nordics the next great wine region?)
Head bartender at Shangri-La’s Origin Bar, Adam Bursik, and his team have amassed the largest collection of rum in Singapore to date. At 340 labels and counting, Origin Bar sources rums from over 40 countries that run the gamut from everyday drinking spirits like three-year-old white Tanduay – the most-drunk rum in the world – to rare, aged bottles like the El Dorado 50 Years, a spirit from Guyana bottled with a blend of rums aged 33 to 50 years. Origin Bar is also putting rums through a secondary aging process where, in a stroke of almost-mad genius, the spirits are matured in vessels carved out of pure chocolate, or in emptied-out young coconuts.
The results are extraordinary – the chocolate and coconut work almost like surrogate oak, imparting respective secondary flavors to the rum while smoothing out the drink’s fiery edge. At The Bar at 15 Stamford, Capitol Kempinski’s rum-focused quaffing ng spot that opened earlier this year, the story of how Joseph Balestier – Balestier Road’s namesake – once distilled rum from his sugarcane plantation on the very site provides a backdrop to the main draw: their range of exclusive rums – single-cask labels from independent bottler and distributor The 1432; as well as a specially- commissioned bottling, the Plantation Guatemala XO Extra Old Reserve.
Besides discovering the possibilities of rum, there’s another benefit to quaffing the spirit in Singapore. If you know your rums, and can tell rum from rhum by taste, and are deemed worthy by those in the know, there might be a place for you in a “global community of rum aficionados” called The Rum Circle. We heard there’s some kind of identifying token involved, which you bring to member bars – Lime House, The Bar at 15 Stamford, Idlewild, 28 Hong Kong Street, and Origin Bar – for an extra warm welcome… but we’ve already said too much.