Published on September 5, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Rum do in city suburb
While the huge interest in gin is showing little sign of flattening, there is another spirit racing hard on its heels with the history, heritage and versatility to overtake it in the popularity stakes. Rum.
Rum is one of the world’s oldest spirits and is steeped in tradition with a colourful (though not always honourable) past. That is rum’s mystery and fascination; its production in the likes of Cuba, Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Martinique, St Lucia and Guadeloupe traces the Caribbean through slavery, piracy, smuggling, enterprise, music and the arts and the corporate wheeling and dealing that helped create capitalism and colonisation – and influenced prohibition.
“Rum can put a great big, stupid grin on your face,” says spirits writer Dave Broom. He’s right, of course, and one of the best places in the North East to experience that is Rehills of Jesmond, Newcastle, a specialist food and drink merchant offering in the region of 170 different rums alongside 200 whiskies from Scotland and 100-plus from Ireland and elsewhere, such as India, England and Japan. Then there are a similar number of gins competing for houseroom with shelves full of interesting wines and specialty liqueurs and eau-de-vie in support.
“We’re constantly adding to and changing our rum selection,” says Tony Rehill, who runs the family emporium with brother Sonny and sister Manjit. “They all go well and there are always new ones coming out. Twenty years ago we started off with Captain Morgan and Cockspur on one shelf then it just grew and grew.”
Now we can gawp at the wonders present in Bundaberg, Mezan, Caroni, La Mauny, Blackwell, Trois Rivieres, Clairin Sajous, Wild Tiger, Ron Abuelo and Ron de Jeremy, in every expression from spiced and flavoured to single-plantation, pot still, column still and multi-island blends in a price range that varies from virtual pocket money to one at £239.
Counting rum bottles is easy compared to gauging the Rehills beer selection. It’s enormous – fixtures and chillers full of local, national and world beers measuring a total of 20×2 metres with shelving stacked six high. That’s a lot of beer.
The Rehill family has big plans in store with a couple of licensing applications submitted to Newcastle City Council. These are to cover several options and ideas, however, with nothing settled and fluidity the key word.
As for rum, it’s the most versatile spirit in the world with nothing to match its diversity – or its ability to create a big, stupid grin.