Welcome to In-Depth With VIP. This is the first in a new series we are proud to be launching that will be getting into the nitty-gritty of some of our favourite brands, spirits, regions and much more. You can expect to learn something new about your favourite drinks every time!
For our first In-Depth, we thought we would help warm us all up a bit and go to (Central &) South America. A region well known for its politics, food, drugs and most definitely its drink too; we felt this would be one of the best places to start looking at the culture and the influences that have created Tequila, Rum and even some beers!
Let us start with a quick overview of the region itself. Boasting mountains, rivers, the Amazon Rainforest and white sand beaches it almost feels as if South America has something for everyone, no matter if you’d prefer to be on a sun lounger or I’ve a nomadic life travelling across the continent’s most beautiful countries. Some of the standout countries in this part include Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana & Peru. Just listing these countries will have painted a picture in your head and we’re going to help you paint that picture by delving into some of our favourite spirits from the region.
Although technically in Central America, Mexico’s biggest or most famous export (after mariachi music) is most definitely tequila and its a spirit we have fallen in love with over the years. The original conception of this drink is shrouded in a little bit of mystery with a number of tales being told throughout the region, but we’ve put together our best bet as to what really made it the drink it is today.
According to our sources, the Aztecs were amongst the first to take the sap from the agave plant and ferment it into something that made their weekends a little more interesting. They loved this drink so much that they actually worshipped two gods who were best associated with alcohol. For a number of years, the Aztecs would have continued to make and ferment this drink which could be classified as the start of the Tequila family tree. Years later, once the Spanish Armada arrived, things got a little bit more interesting for everyone.
Fast forward just a few years to the 1500s and the Spanish started to experiment with mud and the agave plant to create something to help fill the hole that was left once their brandy was all finished. Through this process of experimentation, they landed on something we now know as a mezcal. Although not all mezcals are tequilas, all tequilas we know are a form of mezcal and so perhaps we should really give the credit to the colonising Spanish?
300 years later two of the biggest Tequila producing families, the Sauzas and the Cuervos had set up their distilleries and identified the blue agave plant as the source of everything that makes tequila what we know it to be today (hangover inducing, correct). Interestingly enough, it was not until 1974 when Tequila has formally recognised property of Mexico and the rules and regulations around the production of the drink today including ingredients and ageing. This made it necessary for tequila to be made and aged in certain areas of Mexico, and it also made it illegal for other countries to produce or sell their own “tequila.” The Tequila Regulatory Council was additionally created to ensure quality and promote the culture surrounding the spirit.
Rum has a varied history which is deeply rooted in the sugar production process and so begins its journey in one of the most famous sugar-producing countries, India. Although India may have been the birth of the spirit, it was in South America and the Caribbean where Rum was really brought up and shoved to the forefront of the spirit world and for that, we will forever be grateful.
One of the key ingredients in Rum is molasses, something that was known as a nuisance to sugar plantation owners way back when as the molasses would seep out during the sugar making process. It was only due to the ingenuity of the workers on the plantation to use the molasses and mix it with the liquid skimmed off of cane juice during its initial boiling and fermenting it, creating a serviceable starting point for distillation. We are sure there were probably a lot more complicated bits to getting this process right but essentially the distillation process of Rum as we know it began right here, from a waste product.
One of the biggest Rum houses in the world, Bacardi is proudly from South America and to this day continues to expertly produce some of the most exciting flavoured and dark aged rums on the market. From their fruity flavours to the Bacardi Oakheart, you are able to really taste the full spectrum of rums from this brand. A proud export of South America, Bacardi’s story begins in Santiago de Cuba in 1872 and spreads across Mexico and Puerto Rico before finally settling in Bermuda where the headquarters is currently based. The distillation process perfected and cocktails such as Cuba Libre created in with the brand’s name as a driving force, it is difficult to think about rums without Bacardi and Cuba in the conversation.
We must also notably mention the likes of Bumbu, Wray & Nephew and Malibu who all have their roots based within the South American and Caribbean.
We wish we had the time to get into much more about the region, but hopefully our first in-depth review of the year has wetted your appetite and set your tastebuds alight for some of the most exciting spirits in 2020!
You can explore our full range of rums and tequilas onsite now!