Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Rum and Pirates at Old Baldy, NC

For those bored with politics, I went to North Carolina at the weekend to speak about the history of rum. The occasion was fund raiser for one of the US's oldest lighthouses, Old Baldy, which used to warn shipping away from the treacherous shoals of Cape Fear.

The organizers had tied the event in with Pirates, and a properly villainous bunch of them milled round the site, firing off black powder muskets. It was a highly appropriate venue all around. Firstly, the coast was indeed the haunt of real pirates, like Blackbeard, and the island was site of British fortresses and Revolutionary attacks during the War of 1776, during which readers of Rum: A Social and Sociable History will remember, rum was one of the causes and one of the major weapons of war.

It was also the site of a Confederate fortress, and USN blockade ships shipwrecks. The Union Navy had gone prohibitionist and abolitionist at that point, stopping the grog rations for the ratings.

North Carolina is still hungover from Prohibition. In a country where George W. Bush and Rudolf Giuliani can sneer about socialized medicine, North Carolina has socialized state owned liquor distribution. It has a limited list, and any North Carolinian of more refined tastes can indeed special order of the better stuff – but only by the case, which seems a little counterintuitive if the purpose of this exercise is to cut back drinking.

The dinner and rum tasting event in the evening at the Bald Head Island Club was highly successful and if they were at all like me, all the participants felt a lot a better than they deserved the follow morning.

The organizers and the Alcohol Board of Control of North Carolina pulled together these brands, which were consumed in statistically significant samples, with the remnants from the cases being auctioned off to enthusiastic bidders after enthusiastic toasters raised their tots to "The Global Spirit with its warm beating heart in the Caribbean," and "Every tot downed helps Third World Development."

Appleton Estate 21 yr, Jamaica
Rhum Barbancourt 15 yr Estate Reserve, Haiti
Flor De Cana Centenario 12 yr, Nicaragua
Pyrat XO Reserve, Anguilla
1 Barrel Rum, Belize
Angostura 1919, Trinidad & Tobago
Pusser's British Navy Rum, Tortola (and Trinidad).

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