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April 24, 2013

Playing up -- and ignoring -- rum's Caribbean roots

(Continued)

Blue Chair Bay Rum, which country music star Kenny Chesney is launching this spring, is a good example. Chesney chose a distiller in Barbados specifically to infuse the spirit with an authenticity he sought to represent his love for the island lifestyle, says CEO Mark Montgomery.

And as rum sales grow, you can expect to see more of that. Fueled by a cocktail revival on the food scene — as well as prominent billing on TV shows like “Mad Men” — liquors captured more than a third of the alcoholic beverage market last year, including sales of 25.5 million cases of rum in the U.S. alone, a 2.5 percent jump over the year before. Flavored and spiced rums account for more than half of that total.

“Every island in the Caribbean, every country in Central and South America makes ‘the best rum in the world.’ There’s a lot of pride in rum,” says Robert A. Burr, organizer of the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, held earlier this month.

“Every country has some sort of different history, equipment, preference. But now we’re in much more of a global world where it’s easier to try other people’s rum.”

Of course, that information isn’t always obvious. Rum can be tricky for drinkers to figure out because it can be produced anywhere, unlike Scotch whisky that by definition comes from in Scotland, says Bernhard Schafer, a professional spirits judge participating in the Miami rum festival.

The growing variety of rums in the marketplace should assuage the fears of anyone who’s been avoiding rum since, perhaps, an ill-advised bender in college, said Rob V. Burr, a self-described “rum evangelist” and the son of the festival’s organizer.

“I always like to tell people, there’s a rum for that.”

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