First look: Inside Norwich's new bar Bermuda Bob's Rum Shack

PUBLISHED: 15:47 21 December 2018

Rum is expected to overtake gin in the popularity stakes in 2019  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rum is expected to overtake gin in the popularity stakes in 2019 Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto


Charlotte Smith-Jarvis talks all things rum with owner of Bermuda Bob's Rum Shack, Mike Baxter.

Roll over gin- you’ve had your turn. For 2019 heralds the beginning of a new dawn in the drinks industry. It’s time for us to raise our glasses in appreciation of rum.

There have been mutterings of a rum revolution for a few years, but the owner of a brand new bar in Norwich says the time to get behind the spirit is now.

Mike Baxter, who also owns Gonzos in the city, opened Bermuda Bob’s Rum Shack a few weeks ago in response to the growing hype for the drink in other cities around the world – London included - and he’s determined to make us all love it.

So Mike why is everyone going crazy for rum?

Rum has always been considered a mixer. People knew Bacardi and spiced rums, but in about the year 2000 there were a bunch of guys (the biggest being Foursquare in Barbados) making very very serious rum, but they wanted to wait 10 to 12 years to release it and that’s exactly what’s happened. They treated it with all the care of a whisky. A lot of rum makers didn’t have rules or regulations so these guys have made the rules. They don’t have everyone following them yet but those who want to do well will start following them.

What are these rules – it sounds very strict?

It’s still very region to region and some are under development. A lot of rums are now declaring whether they add sugar post-processing and being very aware in today’s craft culture people want to know everything that’s in it. Good rum is now about being very transparent. They are not trying to dumb it down to the market.

The big well-known rum producing nations where the pressure for rules exists are Barbados, Cuba and Jamaica. Then you’ve got places like Mauritius which is a wonderful French island that’s really interesting. Everyone else makes rum with the leftover residue from sugar canes but Mauritius didn’t produce sugar because the French didn’t need it – Napoleon was so far into Russia that the French had sugar beets, so on the island they press sugar cane directly and it becomes a very very different product. They’ve had rules for years because of the style they have – a bit like their rules for wine. That rum’s very green and grassy and wonderful in cocktails. Aged ones are fantastic too but they’re very Marmite. Some people don’t know what to make of it – it’s almost like a white tequila.

What’s one big thing we need to know about rum?

Colour means absolutely nothing. There’s no such thing as white, gold or dark rum. What it’s really about is where it’s made and how it’s made – with a column still or a pot still. Column gives a cleaner flavour and something closer to vodka and easier to make, whereas pot still rum retains a lot of identity and flavour and is harder to do. When it distils it doesn’t go to such a high proof that it kills off the flavour molecules. It’s a similar thing to Scotch whisky. When makers have had to replace their stills over the years it’s had people terrified because they have to have exactly the same shape and put all the dents in the same place so the steam runs up the sides the same way. Your still is one of the most important things. I can give someone 10 white rums that will taste amazing, and a dark rum that tastes like a ‘white’ rum.

When did you first get a taste for rum?

As I grew up it’s one of those things. I followed in my father’s footsteps. My dad always drunk Bacardi and raised me on things like Jimmy Buffet. I was destined to fall into it. And it falls in with the cocktail culture which I love. It doesn’t have that reputation like whisky where you think ‘oh you have to have that sitting by the fire’. I’d go so far to say it’s the Millennials whisky.

How many rums do you have at the bar and what are your favourites?

We have around 170. We’re currently writing our rum bible and going through them one by one- we’re about 80 in!

At the affordable end if someone’s moving up from Bacardi they should try the Plantation 3 Stars. It’s a blend from Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica. Or there’s the entry level rum from Foursquare – Doorley’s XO, made in Barbados. It’s an absolutely fabulous, fabulous rum which rich flavours and is a great starting point for someone who wants to spend a bit more but not break the bank.

If you want to spend more there’s the Velier Collection. It’s from an Italian rum bottler – one of the people in the early 2000’s who really started the resurgence of rum. A guy with too much money and a lot of passion. He goes off and sources barrels and barrels of fabulous rum and a lot of it is very limited. I have bottles of 2006 Foursquare from him and any release of his shoots up in price. About £600 for a lesser known bottle.

Also, I would say, there’s a closed distillery in Trinidad which no longer exists. They weren’t very well known in their day, but it’s a bit like a dead artist. The gentleman Velier was on tour there, found this closed distillery and met a guy who showed him the warehouse with thousands and thousands of barrels. He bought them all and started tasting them and they were amazing. People went nut. It’s a real treat and when it’s gone it’s gone.

I’ve also just had in a new rum called Bimber from London!

How do you drink yours?

I like mine neat or certainly I love a daiquiri. That’s the best way to test a rum – if it doesn’t work in a daiquiri it’s not a good rum. We have about 10 rum cocktails on our menu at the moment and are slowly introducing more.

What else should we know about the bar?

We’ll have food soon – we will be the brand new home for Voodoo Daddy. Also we want to become a bit like a community art space. We’re hosting drag nights to jazz DJs to spoken word, to comedy.

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