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Locals awash in trend of naturally sweetened rums


Jeff Cole (Shannon Cornman)
  • Shannon Cornman
  • Jeff Cole

When Rick Naifeh, owner of Premium Brands, a local wine and spirits brokerage, asked the Oklahoma Bartenders Guild what the state was lacking in terms of spirits, the answer was nearly a consensus: aged Demerara rum. Oklahoma has had a selection of excellent aged rums for many years, but El Dorado from Guyana, South America, is the first line of Demerara rum in the state.

Jeff Cole, secretary of the Oklahoma Bartenders Guild, said the difference is one of style and character, and much of that has to do with the process by which sugar is made. Rum is distilled from sugar cane juice, crystalized sugar cane juice or molasses, which is a byproduct of the process of converting sugar cane to processed sugar. Most rums are made with molasses, and because of that, the character of the rum suffers because the uniqueness of the cane is removed in processing.

Demerara sugar is crystallized sugar cane juice, and because it does not go through the bleaching and other processing stages, the unique characteristics of the South American region from which it draws its name are preserved.

“The Demerara sugar gives the rum rich, earthy flavors that would be removed in processing. It’s not just a matter of style; the character and flavor are affected as well,” Cole said. El Dorado Rum is distilled exclusively from Demerara sugar and then aged in oak barrels. The line is divided into fine cask aged and luxury cask aged, and Oklahoma has nearly every rum in both categories. The former includes 3-, 5-, and 8-year rums, and the latter 12-, 15-, 18-, 21-, and 25-year rums. The younger rums are considered quality enough for sipping, but they are commonly mixed into cocktails as well.

“Rum hasn’t been in style in Oklahoma in a while,” Cole said. “But these rums will enable bartenders to play around with classic rum cocktails because the Demerara will create different flavor versions of the classics.”

The luxury rums are not supposed to be mixed in cocktails; they are for sipping. The rums are made using several different kinds of stills, and Cole said that means different ages will appeal to different kinds of drinkers. In other words, just as a Scotch drinker likes aged whiskey with a cigar, they will likely find that they enjoy the same cigar with a 21- or 25-year El Dorado Rum.

The O Bar at the Ambassador Hotel, 1200 N. Walker Ave., and Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, 7 Mickey Mantle Drive, have a few selections of the El Dorado Rums, so you can try it before you buy it at your favorite liquor store or wine shop. Freeman’s Liquor Mart, 4401 N. Western Ave., and Spirit Shop, 1117 Garver St. in Norman, both have El Dorado Rum on the shelf.

Aged rums don’t just come in the Demerara style, though. Flor de Caña Centenario Gold 18 Year is made by distilling molasses, and it has been in the state for some time. The Nicaraguan distillery has been producing rum for more than one hundred years, and its rums have won Best in Class and Gold Medal awards at international competitions five times in the past fifteen years.

Everything you expect from an aged rum is present in the Flor de Caña, including cocoa, spices, dried fruit and earth. Like the El Dorado rums, this one is made for sipping, either neat or on the rocks. Cole did recommend that ice not be added to any rums over twenty years old though.

Premium rum is not sweet, contrary to what people expect, and some is downright earthy and smoky. Mount Gay is one of the finest distillers on the island of Barbados, and its Extra Old is a complex blend of rums that have been aged a minimum of eight years to a maximum of fifteen. The Mount Gay is smoky and layered with complex floral and fruit flavors.

Print headline: Rum it in: Locals awash in surging trend of cane-sweetened rums.

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