Guyana rum – El Dorado – is the best in the world. Naturally. In truth, it has won an international reputation and gold medals in the last hundred-odd years. According to a friend in diplomatic circles in the Caribbean, it is the rum that everyone goes for, at cocktail parties at which there is usually a whole selection of Caribbean rums from which to choose.
Drinking rum is not to be taken lightly. There is two-year-old rum that seasoned drinkers carry in their back pockets in a “flattie” for the random swig and which is used for cooking, 5-year-old for mixing with soda or coconut water, 12-year-old on the rocks, and 15-year-old, reverently, like a good cognac, after a satisfying meal. The proper respect is required. I always apologise to the Maker when I have to use a dash in my cooking. Rum goes into most dishes in Caribbean cooking – it’s the secret ingredient no one admits to. It’s good with chicken and ginger, in lemonade (called swank), on ribs for barbecuing, in chocolate mousse to be wicked … there’s always an excuse. The rum-making area in Guyana is around Diamond Estate on the Demerara river. You could tell what stage of the process they are at by the aroma as you drove by. The worst phase is the molasses fermenting when the air is thick with innocuous, sweetish fumes. They say the better the water, the sweeter the rum – like everything else, you get what you put into it. The bees know that. My father used to say that the worker bees get to go out in the early morning and drink nectar from the flowers. All the drones have to do is fertilize the Queen Bee’s eggs. He used to like the odd shot of rum or Bailey’s in the evening. Rum with condensed milk is called a white lady. Ambrosia for worker bees.