What does the Spirit of Georgia mean to me?
Asked by Richland Rum to explore what inspires me to ignite my creativity, it was only fitting that I took the celebrated American rum along for a weekend on my friend and artist Arend Louw‘s farm in the South African countryside.
Far away from city pressure, the sense of adventure is present in everything – from hurtling along dirt roads next to the railway line, to swimming in the cold Atlantic off a beach devoid of people, to days spent in the hot sun, climbing over wire fences to photograph cattle, their liquid brown gaze and soft whiskers coming within inches of my camera. In the deepening dusk, small bats fill the air and a huge yellow moon rises up over the salt bushes. This is when I truly appreciate the value of close friends, the scent of a braai fire newly lit and a measure of Richland Single Barrel Select rum.
Georgia’s famed southern hospitality is present in every sip – a noteworthy characteristic that can be matched on our own shores. Although still new to the South African market, Richland Rum has been tipped to be at the forefront of the craft rum revolution in this country. While Richland rum is ideally enjoyed neat, our balmy climate often calls for a cube to two of ice – or even perhaps served as the main ingredient to a classic rum cocktail.
What sets Richland Rum apart from other spirits is it’s strong history. Granted, we’ve heard many a tale of rum – this most dauntless of drinks – but what about rum’s origins? First distilled from sugar cane in the 17th century (then the world’s largest cash crop) rum is made from molasses – a by-product of sugar production. It was only later in the 1700s that rum begun to be refined through concentrating the alcohol and removing impurities. In modern times, rum production is immense to keep up with global demand, with distilleries often speeding up the fermentation process to create more stock. Richland Rum is not one of those. Crafted on their Georgia estate, Richland is one of the few rums that can claim to be of Single Estate origin. Deep green fields of sugar cane are cultivated in the fecund soil (hence the estate’s name) using water from a natural aquifer on the farm and zero pesticides. The crop is then harvested using sustainable methods to ensure that the farm’s environmental impact is as gentle as possible. This pre-industrial style of production is what sets Richland apart from other estates. They aren’t afraid to take their time, to pay attention to detail, to let the rum decide when it’s ready for bottling.
A blend of pure sugarcane spirit aged in American oak, each barrel is unique – a detail that gives every bottle of Richland rum its own personality – and age. A bottle of Richland is as filled with flavour as it is with history. Using a single barrel method where Wisconsin White Oak barrels are used to impart flavour into the rum, the notion is that no two trees are the same so no two barrels are either. Thus, each bottle of Richland Rum comes with it’s own tag outlining it’s origins – the barrel number, bottle number and the year of inception. There is no notion of a 10 year-old or 18 year-old rum, but rather the rum dictates to distiller Roger Zimmerman when it is ready for drinking. Thus, each bottle of Richland Rum has it’s own personality, flavour quirks and signature scent. Pretty much like us.
Back to a different sort of Deep South, we spent the weekend curled up in the old hippie touring bus that sits on the farm. Bought by Arend’s grandfather in the late 1960’s, the bus evokes all my Woodstock anemoia – especially when sipping on the exquisitely amber-hued Richland Single Barrel Select rum. That’s the thing about rum; it has this adventurous quality that makes me dream of far-off places and weekends spent with the wind in my hair and the open road ahead.
Even when I happen to be sitting at home, my favourite tipple in hand.