My intense love affair with rum has spanned exactly thirty years this month. In January of 1989, I was living in India with a traditional Hindu family, learning to speak Hindi. This meant no alcohol for five months before I took a long train and bus journey to the seaside town of Baga in the west coast state of Goa to celebrate the New Year. This region had been a Portuguese colony until 1961 and the vestiges of Catholicism and especially port were everywhere.
My first objective was to sit down at a bar and have a drink. I have never been a beer drinker, and the port was just too sweet for my palate. I found myself a seat and a willing bartender. My world changed when he handed me a sipper of Old Monk Rum. I was home.
When I returned to America, rum was not a source of excitement here. I was dejected about the quality of rum I could find on the shelf. This lead to a long period of searching for, asking about, and tasting rums from around the world. I began traveling to regions like Guatemala and the islands to taste rums like the old-school Ron Zacapa. When I told people in 1992 that my spirit of choice was aged rum, they looked at me like I had nine heads. Suffice it to say, this was not a heyday of rum, and I felt very alone in my obsession.
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