Rum’s time has finally come.
As with seemingly every other spirit in recent years, rum has been transformed from a base liquor for some classic, and also it must be said, pretty ropey cocktails (The Cuba Libré, Mojito and Mai-Tai are among the former, while many of Covent Garden’s happy hour bars are host to the latter), to a refined spirit catering for those with refined palates.
Some of London’s finest establishments now stock and serve rums with the same reverence once reserved for Scottish whiskies. And yet … we have our doubts. For every high end El Dorado or Flor de Cana 18 Year Old Centenario Gold, there are a lot more Captain Morgan’s. For every twist on the aforementioned cocktail classics there is the truly horrible staple that is the rum and cola. It seems that when it comes to rum, we struggle to escape our teenage-defined bad taste. Or maybe that’s just me.
A relatively new entrant into this burgeoning market is La Hechicera [etch-ee-seh-rah] from Colombia, the only rum to win a double Master award in the 2013 Spirits Business Spirits Masters series in London. Gaining a Master award means that La Hechicera scored 90 per cent or above in unanimous judging. Given that this has been the biggest Rum Masters competition so far, with some 70 entries from 30 different companies, its win is a big deal.
And this rum is making its mark in some of London’s most prestigious bars. These include Opium, Skylon, Floridita, 5 Hertford Street private members’ club and the now-notorious Box nightclub. All well and good you say, but what does it taste like? I, with another writer, was fortunate to be hosted by the co-founder of La Hechicera, Laura Riascos, for a private tasting at 5 Hertford Street. The drink, which is beautifully, but simply packaged, is apparently traditionally 'unpolished' rum that retains the qualities of the oak barrels in which it is aged. Basically, there is no rounding up of the flavour with additives or sugar.
For La Hechicera, the producers blend matured rums, aged between 12 and 21 years in American white oak casks, using a singular and unique solera method of ageing. Which means that it is not only palatable, but also pretty damned tasty. It has the depth of flavour that you might expect to find in a French cognac, and without any of the burn or bitter aftertaste of some of the cheaper market contenders. They are promoting it with a guide retail price of £38 to £41. Which while not cheap, is not as costly as I thought (and would have recommended) it be.
So is La Hechicera a potentially great drink? I’m not sure. But it is good rum indeed. And if you are looking for rum to shift you out of the Covent Garden happy hours to somewhere a little more upmarket, then La Hechicera is as good a place as anywhere to start.