Rum! For me the very word conjures up images of sun-soaked Caribbean islands, or sailors waiting for their daily ration of rum.
But now I have two more images– one is of a pub close to the sea in Cornwall, and the other of an elegant stylish bottle, and inside it a glorious rich amber liquid – Mainbrace rum.
The Mainbrace story begins in Cornwall
The story goes that the idea for Mainbrace rum originated at The Ferry Boat Inn, at Helford Passage in Cornwall where members of the Haigh family were watching the comings and goings of river craft.
They were joined in conversation by the then manager of the pub Liam Jones. The conversation turned to the origins of rum and its association with the navy and also its taste characteristics and complexities – some rums they decided were too sweet, others too harsh: an idea was born, there was nothing for it but to make it themselves.
Mainbrace follows a naval tradition
It would be called Mainbrace – following in the naval tradition. The main brace by the way was the long, thick heavy piece of rope/rigging vital in the days of sail. Should for any reason it be broken, the vessel was in serious trouble, indeed battles could be lost, so it had to be spliced back together again – dangerous and highly skilled work.
As a reward the men were issued with an extra ration of rum. Over time ‘splice the mainbrace’ became the ship’s order for the crew to have an extra ration of rum usually after a victorious battle, or a significant royal event and along with the rum an appropriate toast to the monarch was made.
Why is rum associated with the navy?
But why was rum the navy’s choice?! The water on ships was usually stagnant, beer frequently ran out, wine turned to vinegar, but the high proof rum from the Caribbean kept well, and when mixed with water, sugar and lime juice (to help fight scurvy) was palatable and quickly became part of naval tradition.
It was a tradition that lasted until 1970 – when it became apparent that consuming alcohol was not exactly conducive to operating the modern warfare equipment on board today’s ships.
Why is Mainbrace different to other rums?
Mainbrace rum takes the splicing of the main brace to a new meaning, because this rum is actually unique – ie, it is the skilled and happy blending/splicing together of two different rums – one from Guyana, the other from Martinique.
Guyana and Martinique
From Guyana with its heritage of rich, full-bodied molasses blend rums Mainbrace draws on rum from three different-aged rums produced by three different historic stills of the Diamond Distillery – Guyana’s last surviving distillery.
Whereas from Martinique comes a lighter, fresher tasting, unaged rum – rhum agricole (the French term for rum made using freshly squeezed sugar cane) from La Favorite a steam driven distillery on the island dating back to the mid-19th century.
Why is the bottle the shape it is?
And then there is that elegant, stylish bottle. The shape is taken from the shape of old rum barrels used on board ships from which the daily rum ration was taken. Around the barrels were bands of shining brass and the words of the toast.
The bottle continues the tradition with ‘The Queen – God Bless Her’ written on each bottle stopper along with the gold star which originated on the original barrel covers. And to make the bottle even more special once the original contents have vanished – it can grace any sideboard as a decanter.
What does Mainbrace taste like?
And the taste? There’s a definite hit of rich demerara sugar along with some luscious dried fruit but there is also a cleaner, fresher note to it and lurking in the background warming peppery spices – toffee apples and gingerbread came to mind. Try sipping it neat, but it’s also great in cocktails
Mainbrace is on sale at the retail price of £34.99, ABV: 40%; and is available from many bars and pubs in Cornwall, or online The Whisky Exchange, Drink Finder, Vino Direct, Ellis Wharton Wines, Master of Malt and Winebuyers. Alternatively, email Liam Jones, Brand Manager of Mainbrace Rum at firstname.lastname@example.org.