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Eat + Drink September 5, 2014

What Makes Rum Great and Other Questions with Miguel Smith, International Brand Ambassador of Mount Gay Rum

When Miguel Smith, international brand ambassador of Mount Gay rum from Barbados was in town this week to launch the label’s Black Barrell rum, we took the chance to have a chat about why more people are drinking rum these days.

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Born and bred in Barbados, Miguel Smith has over 15 years of experience in the UK and Barbados drinks industry, with highlights being his years as a mixologist at the Brompton Brands’ Mahiki before moving on to become the head bartender at Brompton Club, before finally joining Mount Gay in 2012

You said that while the Jamaican guy would be the loudest in the room, the Bajan would be the one sitting in the corner quietly drinking his rum. What’s with Bajans and rum?
Barbados is the home of rum, so rum has always been around for any celebration; the highs and the lows. It is part of life, celebrations, and deaths. Our enthusiasm does not have to be external but it is expressed in a reserved manner, conservatively.

How did you come to be so fascinated with rum?
Rum is part of life in Barbados, part of the culture. I grew up being part of a family that always drank Mount Gay rum and I have always wanted to be associated with the label.

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Mount Gay Black Barrell, launched in Singapore this month, is now available at establishments like Bitters and Love, Jigger and Pony, and Potato Head

What’s a typical day at work like?
Meeting and training bartenders, liquor stores, wholesalers, doing menu creation and bar consulting, sharing the passion about Mount Gay rum, travelling all over Europe and Asia Pacific, hosting Rum Fests. Every day is different.

What’s the worst thing you’ve heard someone say about rum? And what did you have to say to that?
Rum is not a versatile mixable liquid; that rum is only for rum and coke. I answered that rum, and for example Mount Gay rum Black Barrel, is very versatile and can be used in many cocktails and to reinvent classic cocktails: manhattans, robust classic cocktails such as vermouth and bitters.

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Mount Gay is made from the finest molasses from sugar harvested on Barbados

For all the misconceptions, more people are drinking rum these days. Why do you think this so?
There is more and more education about rum trying to fight the misconceptions about rum that has been misunderstood and misused. Rum is sophisticated, has heritage, origins, craftsmanship. Mount Gay Rum, for example, was first created in 1703 in Barbados. And as bartenders get more skilled and sophisticated, they are more into crafted cocktails and widening the spirit palette they use, paying attention to the story behind the spirit houses. As for the consumers, they are more concerned about how they spend their money. They prefer to pay more for premium quality. They are looking for crafted spirits, small batched. Spirits that they could trace the origin and superior quality.

What are the main differences between Mount Gay rum and the other labels?
The island of Barbados is formed of coral limestone, a porous stone which acts as a natural filter for the groundwater deep beneath the island. This water is subsequently filtered three more times, resulting in some of the purest water available. Mount Gay rum is made with the finest selected molasses from Barbados; the blend of single and double distillates coming from our copper pot stills that results in each individual batch of Mount Gay rum containing dozens of different distillates, both single and double; and it has centuries old heritage of blending know-how perfected by our Master Blender, Allen Smith.

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Swirl the glass of rum and observe the “legs” that slide down against the glass. Lighter rums have “legs” that slide down quicker while heavier rums have “legs” that slide down slower

What’s your favorite way to drink rum?
My favorite way to drink rum: Black Storm – Black Barrel, ginger ale and a slice of orange.

You own a rum collection. What are some noteworthy bottles?
I have some unique blends that Allen Smith, our Master Blender, has shared with me.

Real legs or rum “legs”?
Real legs!