Canada is not particularly famous for producing rum, and Alberta even less so. I’m not even sure that we can lay claim to the Screech from Newfoundland, as that famous Newfoundland Rum was popular hundreds of years before Newfoundland became part of Canada.
Picture if you will, the weatherbeaten faces of the 19th century fishermen of Newfoundland, delivering shiploads of salt cod to the West Indies. Rather than return with an empty hold, the wily captains would trade their salt cod for equal measures of rum, which was in abundance in the West Indies.
Screech has been the official rum of Newfoundland for centuries, although it is now produced and controlled by the provincial government. Until recently, Screech was the only rum that could be called Canadian. Fortunately, the rising tide of craft distilling here in Alberta means we finally have rum that can be called our own.
The Secret Barrel Distillery in Calgary was quick to realize that sugar cane does not grow well in our cold Alberta climate, so they import the base sugarcane liquor from Demerara Distillers in Guyana, and then distill, age in oak barrels, and finally bottle the finished rum for sale in the Alberta market.
The world of booze is full of red tape and regulation. Whisky must be aged in oak for a minimum of 3 years. Champagne must be produced in a very specific region of France from very specific grapes. Rum has similar rules, chief of which is that the spirit must be made from sugarcane.
The Rig Hand Distillery in the small town of Nisku found a crafty way around those regulations, and we are all the better for it. Rather than importing sugarcane from the Carribean, they decided to make a rum-like spirit from locally grown sugar beets, cheekily referring to the finished product as brum instead of rum.
Rig Hand Distillery makes a dark brum, a white brum, and a spiced brum, all from locally grown sugar beets, and the taste is pretty much the same as the famous rum brands that are in your liquor cabinet right now.
I hosted a little blind tasting session with a few of my regular drinking companions last week, and no one could tell the difference between mainstream rums and our locally produced crafty Alberta brum.
My favourite is the Rig Hand Sugar Beet Brum, made in the style of a dark rum. It is slightly sweeter than mainstream dark rums, and contains a richer bouquet of floral notes.
If you are the type that drowns your rum in sweet cola mixers, just pick the cheapest generic rum you can find on the shelf of your local bottle shop, as any flavours in your rum will be overpowered by the mixers.
However, if you prefer to slowly sip your rum neat, or perhaps over ice, these are the brums for you. I enjoy mine on the rocks, and can taste Alberta in every sip!
Fans of fancy cocktails will enjoy the Rig Hand Ghost Brum, made in the style of a white rum. I like to pair this with some muddled mint sprigs from my garden and a bit of sugar and lime juice, for an Albertan version of a Mojito.
Those with a piratical bent can replace their bottles of Captain Morgan with the Rig Hand Bucking Bull Spiced Brum. With spicy notes of cloves and vanilla, this spiced brum holds its own against any of the spiced rums at your friendly neighbourhood booze merchant.
With our world-class malting barley and fresh mountain water, it is no wonder that our local craft distilleries are taking the boozing world by storm with vodka, gin, and whisky.
The addition of rum (or brum) to our locally produced cornucopia of spirits has made Alberta almost entirely self-sufficient for all our boozing needs.
The only thing we are lacking is a local tequila industry, which is challenging since the agave cactus only grows in Mexico. However, the Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley makes a tequila-like spirit from the Prickly Pear Cactus that grows right here in Southern Alberta, so consider that our own homegrown tequila substitute!
Whatever your spirit of choice, you will likely find it offered by our local Alberta craft distillers, with new ones springing up every month. Taste the Alberta advantage by picking one up today!