There is an incredible galaxy of gourmet delights that we Americans never have access to. Whether it’s that we get stuck in our tracks, can’t travel as much due to global health concerns, or just there’s limited distribution, it doesn’t really matter. What’s more alarming is that we’re missing out on some really great stuff.
Yet when something really does explode it tends to find its way here. When it comes to the big exports of Japanese drinks, we first saw it with sake and more recently we see it with whiskey. It is been reported that the value of Japanese whiskey imports rose from just $ 1 million in 2010 to nearly $ 86 million in 2019. What’s on the horizon? If we put money into it, we would make a decent bet on rum.
The timing and location seem right. Japan currently enjoys a certain fame, especially when it comes to a world-class Japanese whiskey program. It’s a program that continues to push grain and sources of expertise elsewhere to the whole process that takes place within the borders of Japan (not to mention a touch of local creativity and craftsmanship) . With rum, this makes sense not only because drinkers around the world love this particular spirit right now, but because Japan has a history of growing its own cane that goes back four centuries, at least in the warmer southern parts of the country. In short, the formula is there.
Right now there are only a few brands doing this in the US and we’ve covered them below. That, however, will almost surely change in the not-so-distant future, especially as we emerge from this supply chain hiccup. Rum drinkers around the world aren’t talking about it all the time yet, but there are murmurs, especially where it is already distributed, such as in other parts of Asia and parts of Europe. If Japan can put its own unique and delicious imprint on things like whiskey, gin, craft beer and more, why not rum? It happens.
Here is mainly what currently exists. For the more intrepid enthusiasts willing to shell out import fees, check out websites like Dekanta.
The biggest takeaway from this Okinawan rum is the nose, a very aromatic affair. It is made from local molasses and, although not aged, offers a nice creaminess. It offers tropical fruits and even a little toast. Overall the rum is clean which makes it enjoyable on its own but just as good in a drink as a Mojito.
Jar distilled and aged in American oak, this rum is made from indigenous sugar cane and distilled in Okinawa. This is the work of a brand that has been working there since 1961, generally aging the product for a few years in casks before releasing it. The result is a honey-colored alcohol with notes of coconut, tea and pastry. This one looks very elegant all by itself in the glass.
Also native to Okinawa, this rum is made from sugar cane harvested from smaller and nearby volcanic islands. The result is something like an agricultural rum, with more herbal, nutty notes and even some minerality present. There are a few versions available from this brand now and there will likely be more later. Good news, because it’s an expensive import right now.