This time I am introducing you the book „Rums of the Eastern Caribbean“ by Edward Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton is founder of the “Ministry of Rum” blog. Apparently the Ministry of Rum was THE rum blog and source of information some years ago. Unfortunately, the blog is already a bit outdated now and the discussions have moved to the “Ministry of Rum” and other Facebook groups.
Anyway let’s get started. The book has 208 pages and was published in 1995. I bought mine on EBay for around 25 EUR. I was lucky to get a signed 1st edition.
After a short introductory chapter on the origins of rum, covering the usual topics such as fermentation, distillation and aging, individual chapters on the islands of the Eastern Caribbean* follow.
Each chapter on an island starts with a short but informative description on the history of the island followed by a description of his visit to the island’s distilleries. The chapters are written like a travel log/ guide with travel impressions plus additional information such as “the fare for the ferry is 5 EC to Kingston” or “the tour at the distillery starts at 09:00“. Still, Mr. Hamilton always tries to put together as many information as possible on the distilleries, such as the history of the estate, the production output and of cause the main expressions of rum. Additionally, rum labels are presented in color as well. In a way this make the book a sort of reference guide for ‘historic’ bottles.
I particularly enjoyed the description of the Caroni distillery and its main rum expressions such as the ‘White magic light (43%)’, ‘Stallion Puncheon Rum (78%)’ or its premium ‘Special Old Cask Rum’. An interesting side note here: Mr. Hamilton mentions that “…in order to increase the amount of alcohol produced, ammonium sulfate is also added to the wash [at Caroni]”. I am seriously wondering if that is a usual procedure and if that might have affected the taste of the distillate. Apparently it’s a common practice for wine producers, so I am not sure.
The book concludes with a short story of his visit to a small household distillery titled “the garden”, and a rather short chapter on rum based recipes for cocktails and meals.
Despite being outdated and now probably very useless as a travel guide, the book does offer many insides on the distilleries of the Eastern Caribbean. Paired with the beautiful collection of rum labels this makes the book worth reading in my opinion.
So do you need this book? Well, if you can find a cheap copy, get it.
*Islands covered (although some only very briefly) : U.S. Virgin Islands; British Virgin Islands; Saint Martin / Sint Maarten; St. Barths; St. Kitts; Antigua; Guadeloupe; Marie Galante; Dominica; Martinique; St. Lucia; St. Vincent; Carriacou; Grenada; Barbados; Trinidad.
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Ammonium sulfate is a pretty common wash ingredient. Yeast require nitrogen as a nutrient and are helped along by sulfate ions as well. These days it seems most US craft distilleries use diammonium phosphate, although we use liquid ammonia. I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of the book!
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