Today I am presenting the brand new book release “The Spirit of Rum” by Giovanna Moldenhauer. It was published in May 2018, costs around 12€ and has 143 pages.
After a short introduction, the book starts with a chapter on the “Etymology of the word rum and its origin”. Interestingly, it mentions that the word rum derives from the word “Rumbowling or Rumbullion, slang words in English and French that most likely referred to the noises produced by the distillation boilers (from rumble and boil in English and bouilir in French)“. I wonder what the source of this claim is since most books suggest that the word Rumbullion refers to an old Devonshire word meaning “a great tumult”. For further insights, check out “The Etymology of the Word Rum” by Darnel Davis from 1885. Anyhow, the chapter continues with a short description of the history of sugarcane, followed by a description of rum production from fermentation to ageing in barrels and the differences between column and pot still distillation. Unfortunately, no pictures of a pot still are included, which gives the unknowing reader no chance to compare it to the column still (pictured in the book). Overall it’s a rather short chapter consisting of only 14 pages.
The next chapter titled “Around the World in 41 Rums” introduces us to, who could have thought, 41 rums. The chapter is divided into “Caribbean Rhum Agricole”, “Rums from the Americas” and “Exotic Rums”. Each of the 41 rums is introduced on a double page: On the left, we find a beautiful picture of the bottle and on the right side, a short description of the distillery, the rum itself and some tasting notes of the bottle pictured.
It starts with the Domain de Severin XO and continues with other Agricoles. Very nicely, the book includes also the Clairin Casimir 3.1. In the “Rums of America” part, rums like Doorleys XO, Goslings Black Seal or Hampden Fire Velvet Overproof are presented. On page 79, the Flor de Caña Gran Reserva 7 years old is presented together with a description stating that it is “matured for 7 years in casks formerly used for bourbon”. This is clearly a mistake. Flor de Caña has dropped the age claim from their rums some years ago. However, it prominently keeps the number 7 displayed on their bottle. To be fair, this is really misleading so that even the author of this rum book got confused. For some more insights on the age statement issue, check out this excellent article by the Cocktail Wonk. Furthermore, many solera sugar bombs are presented in this part of the chapter, like Ron Millonario or Diplomatico. Still, to my disappointment, the book does not mention the sugar issue at all.
The book concludes with some very beautiful and fancy rum cocktails, created by the team from “The Spirit Milano” bar. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of effort to recreate the recipes at home. Pisco infused kaffir lime leaves, elemakule bitter or yuzu juice aren’t really part of the usual bar stock I suppose.
Overall the book is ok-ish. Nice pictures, black background and high gloss pages give the book a “higher quality” feeling. However, content-wise it has some serious shortcomings, e.g. age statement of Flor de Caña or completely ignoring the sugar issue. Particularly, not mentioning the later is a definite inadequacy nowadays if you want to be taken seriously as a rum book author. Besides, the first part on the history of rum and the rum production could be a little more detailed.
So, do you need this book? Well, not really. If you can pick only one book, I would rather recommend Tristan Stephenson’s “The Curious Bartender’s Rum Revolution”, reviewed here.