Evolution of the Rum Guy (or How the Hell Did I Get Here?)
I was recently trying some rather obscure (and very tasty) rum at my friend the Rum Daddy’s place which, if rum thieves knew about it, would require a security system to rival Fort Knox and the Pentagon…combined. Because the Rum Daddy’s personal rum collection is, shall we say, rather extensive. Much like Lindsay Lohan’s tawdry exploits, it never seems to end. Luckily, as far as I know, there are not a lot of rum thieves or organized rum crime in the world. At least not yet.
But it got me thinking about my own evolution with rum. How is it that a guy who as a young dumb college student swilled Malibu from the bottle went on to become a rum aficionado, and the Rum Guy at the Rum Barrel?
As most of us did in college, I drank. And as a student at one of the biggest party schools of all time–Arizona State–I drank a lot. School pride, keeping up tradition–you know how it is. And as many of us did, I tried out many different drinks and spirits. What I quickly discovered was that, while I really didn’t like gin or vodka all that much, I really DID like beer and rum. Being a young, dumb, poor college student, some of those earliest experiences with rum were with what was available, what I knew, and what was inexpensive. In short, Bacardi, Captain Morgan’s, and as previously noted, Malibu. My taste for rum was sparked, and over the years it would grow. Slowly at first, but more so once I got to Key West. I originally meant to be here for just a month, but my stay on the island has now stretched to almost 15 years. Time really DOES fly when you’re having rum!
Early in my time on The Rock, my friend Matt turned me on to Captain Morgan’s Private Stock. It was my very first sipping rum, and it was unlike anything I’d ever had before, having never had a sipping rum. But my eyes were opened, the fire was stoked, other cliches were written, and I continued seeking out new rums. Flor de Cana 18 and Pyrat XO Reserve were two of my earliest such discoveries. I became such a rum lover that, when I first got hired at the Rum Barrel, several of my friends actually asked me, “Do they know about you? Do they keep their rum locked up?” I’m still not sure if they were joking.
But there I was, a neophyte rummy, working at a bar that specialized in rum, and the Rum Barrel had more rum than I’d ever seen. I was overwhelmed. So I did what any other reasonable person would do in such a situation: I took advantage of my good fortune. After my shifts, I’d try new rums. Boy, did I. I was like a kid in a rum candy store. We had rums from Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, the Virgin Islands, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Trinidad, and many other places, some of which I had never even heard of. Some of these rums I liked. Some I didn’t. And some were absolute revelations, seemingly kissed by the angels themselves.
But the more I tried of the Barrel’s stock of rum, the more I wanted to try. White rums. Gold rums. Dark rums. Flavored rums. Rums aged slightly, and rums aged for years or even decades. Rum cocktails, rum on the rocks, and rum just by its lonesome. I became more and more interested in my favorite spirit, and the more I tried, the more I learned. It was (and still is) a very pleasant cycle.
Somewhere along the line–and I’m still not sure when–I became the Rum Guy, having tried the vast majority of our rums. I certainly never set out with that goal in mind. And yet, here I am. Seven plus years at the Barrel, and I’ve revised the Rum Bible on multiple occasions, created rum cocktails, helped design rum dinners and events, and often been relied upon to advise people about rum, from customers to management, including Pat Croce himself.
That is not meant as a boast. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to work at a bar like the Rum Barrel that allowed me to get to this point in my “rum career.” Not only has it allowed me the opportunity to learn about and taste so many rums, it’s afforded me the chance to help other people discover new rums themselves. Whether they’re trying sipping rums for the first time or are experienced veterans looking for something new to add to their repertoire, it’s always fun to be able to guide someone else in their own rum journey.
So drink up, my friends. Try some new rum. If you’re in Key West, come on down to the Rum Barrel and check out our 200+ different rums. Who knows? One day you too may find yourself lucky enough to get paid to talk about rum!