As our readers know, for a few years I have been studying the history of rum, and in particular its origins. The results of this research are to be found in the articles published in this magazine, and in those which will follow. Most of them are about Great Britain and the British Empire, owing to the early, massive diffusion of rum among British people.
While studying the history of rum in XVII and XVIII Centuries, however, I came to realize with astonishment the enormous importance that rum had in the Thirteen Colonies. More, the very birth of the new American Republic is dripping in rum.
As a matter of fact, colonials drank a lot, a great deal. And they drank mainly rum.
But rum was not only a very popular commodity. Money was scarce in the colonies and rum of ten replaced it as currency and the real indicator of the value of goods. Moreover, taverns were the focus of political and social life and rum was present in all the rituals which mark life: births, weddings, all kinds of festivals and celebrations including funerals.
Rum also played a crucial role in the infamous slave trade which greatly enriched the new nation and was a key factor in the subjugation and destruction of American Indians. Above all, sugar, molasses and rum were among the real reasons of the rebellion of the American colonists against their homeland. It is not without a reason that it has been written that rum is the real Spirit of 1776.
All this, I was saying, has kindled my interest in the role that rum played in the birth of the United States. At the same time, I have become aware that something extremely interesting is happening at the moment in the USA around rum.
First of all, it is evident that there is a substantial growth in the sales of quality rums, with higher prices, the so called “Premium Sector”. Moreover, and I think the two things are connected; it has been some years since they started producing rum again in the US.
There are now hundreds of rum distilleries. They are usually small craft enterprises, with a strong territorial bond, which of ten use locally grown sugarcane. New ones are starting, month after month. Each of them produces small quantities, but all together they already represent a considerable, and ever growing, proportion of rum consumption in the USA.
This in itself is of great interest to the rum enthusiast. But the historian is truly impressed also by the political demands of many of these small producers. To put it simply, and I apologize with them and with the reader s for this over simplification, American small producers of rum come up against the great multinationals and ask for lower taxation and greater freedom of enterprise. And their pressure is growing.
In short, prompted by the importance that rum has had in the past, and the renewed importance it has in the present, I have decided to write a series of articles on the history of rum in the United States, from the first settlers until today.
I don’t know yet how many articles there will be, my research in this field is a sort of work in progress and I do not quite know where it will take me.
We’ll see. Wish me luck.
-Article written by Marco Pierini-
My name is Marco Pierini, I own and run a small tourist business in my seaside town in Tuscany, Italy. A long time ago I got a degree in Philosophy in Florence, Italy, and I studied Political Science in Madrid, Spain. But my real passion has always been History. Through History I have always tried to know the world, and men. Life brought me to work in tourism, event organization and vocational training. A few years ago I discovered rum and it was love at first sight. Now, with my young business partner Francesco Rufini I run a bar on the beach, La Casa del Rum(The House of Rum), and we distribute Premium Rums across Tuscany. And most of all, finally I have returned back to my initial passion: History. Only, now it is the History of Rum. Because Rum is not only a great distillate, it ’s a world. Produced in scores of countries, by thousands of companies, with an extraordinary variety of aromas and flavours; it has a terrible and fascinating history, made of slaves and pirates, imperial fleets and revolutions. And it has a complicated, interesting present too, made of political and commercial wars, of big multinationals, but also of many small and medium sized enterprises that resist trivialization. I try to cover all of this in my Italian blog on Rum, www.ilsecolodelrum.it.