A very brief history of Jamaican rum

Wray & Nephew's, one of the most famous Jamaican rum brands on the planet

Of all the things my mum asked me to buy from the West Indian shop down the road when I was a kid, Jamaican rum wasn’t one of them (for multiple reasons – age being the main one). And while my parents never drank it, my mum still used it in fruit cakes (if you know, you know). Rum is a significant part of Jamaican culture and in this article, I’ll give a very brief history of the alcoholic beverage.

What is rum?

Let’s get this one out of the way. Rum is a liquor made from fermented molasses or sugarcane juice which is then distilled. You either get a clear liquid, where the rum is filtered and bottled straight away, or a dark liquid which is aged in charred oak or wooden casks (known as puncheons) before filtering and bottling.

Jamaican rum’s history is enslaved peoples’ history

Rum was introduced to Jamaica in 1494 by Christopher Columbus (but rum’s history goes even further back, to the 7th century India). By 1655, when Jamaica was under British rule, the colonialists brought the concept of rum-making and distilling over from another of their colonies, Barbados. Enslaved people were forced to work on plantations and their labour made rum become an even more popular drink.

Rum then became a strong form of currency, used in triangle trades with enslaved people. But when slavery was abolished in the 1800s, the rum industry suffered as enslaved people’s labour ran its production. In 1893, there were about 148 rum distilleries in Jamaica. Now, only 6 remain (the last three with an asterisk operate under National Rums of Jamaica):

  • Hampden Estate
  • Appleton Estate
  • Worthy Park Estate
  • Long Pond Distillery*
  • Clarendon Distillery*
  • Innswood Distillers Limited*

But the quantity and quality of rum are improved and without the enslaved people. Jamaican rum is sold in over 70 countries around the world.

Hampden Estate Rum

Hampden Estate Rum makes pure single rums, using wild fermentation and no added sugar. Its history goes back to 1753 when it operated as a sugar plantation under the ownership of Mr. Archibald Stirling. The estate changed hands in 1827 and during World War I, Hampden built the Hampden Wharf in Falmouth for rum and sugar shipments. Today, the wharf is a tourist destination and an entry port for some of the largest cruise ships in the world.

Appleton Estate

Appleton began rum production 4 years earlier than Hampton. Nowadays, Appleton makes its world famous Appleton Rum and New Yarmouth Estate thanks to the incredible work of master blender Joy Spence, who became the first female spirits master blender ever in 1997. In 1978, she graduated from Loughborough University with a Masters’ degree in Analytical Chemistry.

Worthy Park Estate

The estate was established in 1670 and its started making rum in 1741, 7 years before Appleton (who claim to have the oldest rum in Jamaica). Today, Worthy Park mixes the classic with the modern, having built a cutting edge distillery in 2005, but still opting to distill its rums in a traditional Jamaican Pot for a “heavy bodied rum full of esters and congeners”.

National Rums of Jamaica

National Rums of Jamaica owns three distilleries:

  • Long Pond Distillery
  • Clarendon Distillery
  • Innswood Distillers Limited

The limited company is a joint partnership between the Jamaican government, Demerara Distillers Limited from Guyana and Maison Ferrand, based in France. Between the three distilleries, National Rums of Jamaica processes over 13 million litres of rum a year, enough to fill 5 Olympic-sized swimming pool and have enough left over for a really good party.

List of famous Jamaican rum brands

In short, there are a lot and I’ll undoubtedly miss some (in which case let me know) and some of them are made at the same distilleries or not made in Jamaica but are classed as Jamaican rums (eg. Captain Morgan). Here are some of the most well known:

  • Wray & Nephew
  • Appleton Estate
  • Worthy Park
  • Hampden Estate
  • Captain Morgan
  • Koko Kanu
  • Lambs
  • Appleton
  • Cut
  • Myers
  • Blackwell
  • Jah45
  • Coruba
  • Monymusk

Jamaican rum cocktails

Don’t let anyone tell you Jamaican rum punch is the only cocktail you can make out of the island drink. There’s a history to consider so here are a few along with their stories.

Grog

The British Navy swapped brandy for Jamaican rum during the Anglo-Spanish War as their drink ration of choice. But it caused sailors to be even more despicable than they already were (they were from the British Navy after all). So in 1740, Vice Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon issued a Captain’s Order that stated that all rum provisions had to be mixed with water, although the addition of “sugar and limes” was allowed. The new drink was known as Grog in his honour.

Nowadays, grog cocktails are still popular amongst seaborne types but also a mainstay at tiki bars.

Mai Tai

There’s a dispute over who invented this Polynesian-themed cocktail.

Victor J. Bergeron claimed it as his own in 1944 in Oakland, California. But Donn Beach said it was based on his Q.B. Cooler cocktail created 11 years earlier. The tastes are different but regardless, why is a drink, allegedly named after the Tahitian word for “good” or “excellence” (maita’i), made with Jamaican rum? Well, that’s what Victor Bergeron used in his recipes and subsequent recipes were modelled on his concoction (along with Martinique rum).

The official International Bartenders Association (IBA) specified ingredients for a mai tai are:

  • 3 cl amber Jamaican rum
  • 3 cl Martinique molasses rum
  • 1.5 cl orange curaçao
  • 1.5 cl orgeat syrup
  • 3 cl fresh lime juice
  • .75 cl simple syrup

Other rum cocktails include:

  • Blow My Skull Off
  • Fogg Cutter (not to be confused with the Fog Cutter which it is based on)
  • Hangman’s Blood (I assume this contains Jamaican rum as it comes from a book called A High Wind in Jamaica)
  • Zombie
  • Anything made with Tia Maria like Espresso Martini, Skinny Tia White Russian, and Orgasm
  • Doctor
  • Modernista
  • Mr. Bali Hai
  • Ancient Mariner

Conclusion

Phew, that’s a lot of alcohol. Jamaican rum’s colonial past mustn’t be overlooked. Enslaved people made the drink what it was for centuries before it was reclaimed by free Jamaican men and women. That’s not to say Jamaican rum has stayed within the island as the vast number of cocktails created by American Tiki bartenders and newer brands by European alcohol distillers can show. But you can’t beat the originals.

And, as always, drink responsibly.

Lil Buck dancing through Fondation Louis Vuitton

Lil Buck dancing in Fondation Louis Vuitton

Black people making their own forms of art in art museums is nothing new (just ask Beyoncé) and Lil Buck’s performance shares another common theme: Paris.

In a short film by Andrew Margetson, Lil Buck dances through a tour of the Shchukin collection at Fondation Louis Vuitton and explains his history of dance and performing art.

As performing artists and as dancers, we see everything as art.

Lil Buck

My favourite part—albeit a morally dissonant one—is when Lil Buck performed in front of Picasso’s “Three Women”, less so for the artist but more for the juxtaposition and colour tones.

It’s a beautiful film that demonstrates multiple forms of modern art from different eras.

About Fondation Louis Vuitton

The building of the Louis Vuitton Foundation (known in France as “Fondation Louis Vuitton”) opened in October 2014 and was designed by Frank Gehry. The foundation itself was started in 2006 as an art museum and cultural centre and runs as a nonprofit.

Located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, the building overlooks the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne and has featured exhibitions of the following artists:

The foundation’s collection explores four categories (Contemplative, Pop, Expressionist, Music & Sound) and contains 330 pieces by 120 artists at the time of writing including Mark Bradford, Barthélémy Toguo, and Omar Victor Diop.

Credits

  • Starring: Lil Buck
  • Director: Andrew Margetson
  • Director of photography: Martin de Chabaneix
  • Editor: David Webb
  • Music: Evgueni & Sacha Galperine
  • Executive producers: Marieke Tricoire, Christelle Tastet

Steve Harvey on getting fired

Steve Harvey in a yellow suit (with hair on his head)

When I think of Steve Harvey, I think of his bald head, terrible opinions on women, messing up at Miss Universe 2015, and Family Feud.

But I remember when Steve Harvey had hair and wore baggy 90’s suits. That used to be the norm in my mind. But before the TV presenting and awful books, he was primarily a stand up comedian and his “getting fired” sketch is hilarious.

“Black people handle getting fired different from White folk. You can’t fire us the same. It ain’t gon’ go good.”

Steve Harvey

The sketch centres on the difference between how Black people take the news of getting fired compared to White people. Like all the best Black comedians, Steve nails the uptightness of White Americans in their reactions as well as the stereotypically exaggerated reactions of Black Americans. It also highlights the differences between Black and White people in working environments and expectations of employment (ie. Black people are often first to go and White people don’t expect to get fired).

If you’re familiar with his comedy, you’ll know how wild this can get and it’s top tier comedy. But let me not explain all the reasons why it’s funny before you’ve watched it.

Stream it below.

Flashback Friday: Steve Harvey on Getting Fired

Augusta Savage and her influence on the Harlem Renaissance

augusta savage

Augusta Savage was an African-American sculptor and teacher known for her activism and work during the Harlem Renaissance.

Kelly Richman-Abdou wrote a piece on Augusta and her influence on the movement, from her beginnings in late 19th century Florida to her golden age in the 1930’s.

An excerpt:

At the time of her death, Savage’s contributions to the Harlem Renaissance and to modernism as a whole were largely forgotten. But now, at a crucial point in history, Savage is finally starting to receive the recognition she deserves.

“We are in a moment where the canon is being challenged and expanded because of how history overlooks women and artists of color,” Jeffreen Hayes, the curator of the 2019 exhibition Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, said. “For many of us in the art world who have spent our careers researching, writing, and curating exhibitions about women and artists of color, these artists have always had a place in art, regardless of their social or racial identity. When thinking about Savage, her place has always been an artist who was a brilliant sculptor who used her art to forge a path for staying true to one’s artistic passion.”

Exploring both Savage’s self-described “monument” and her own striking sculptures, this exhibition revealed the artist for what she is: “one of America’s most influential 20th-century artists.”

Related: The influential art of Aaron Douglas

New Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit launched by the Brant Foundation

Basquiat exhibit

It was a revelation when I went to the Basquiat: Boom for Real exhibition in 2017 at the Barbican Centre. And now there’s a chance to see his work again from the comfort of my own home.

The Brant Foundation has launched a new online Basquiat exhibit, simply named Jean-Michel Basquiat. It has been curated by Dr. Dieter Buchhart, scholar and well-known curator. In fact, he curated the Basquiat: Boom for Real exhibit as well as the Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria.

In it, Buchart has chosen pieces from Basquiat’s collection that explore his fight against racial inequality and his unique use of language. The featured artwork includes:

  • Untitled (Yellow Tar and Feathers) (1982)
  • Untitled (the one with the black skull on a blue background) (1982)
  • Grillo (1984)
  • Price of Gasoline in the Third World (1982)

Head over to the exhibition page and get cultr’d.

(Featured image by Tom Powel Imaging. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.)

Steve Harvey doesn't wanna host the show anymore

steve harvey

I miss Vic Berger’s work, from his hilarious will.i.am futuristic edit to 30 minutes of daytime TV and advertising. But this one is probably my favourite.

It shows Steve Harvey hosting Family Feud and losing the will to live. His descent into perceived madness comes from a series of wild answers to questions, all pieced together and dramatised for effect of course. But the reactions and repetitive responses make the video.

Some of my favourite quotes include:

  • “FART!”
  • “Flatulating”
  • “Passing gas”
  • Lick himself!
  • [In response to “Name a kind of ball that doesn’t bounce”] Men’s private parts
  • [In response to “Name something you like to watch your wife do”] Me

And to complete the video, there’s a Karen who winks at the end. No wonder Steve lost it.

Stream the video below.

He doesn't want to host the show anymore

Colin Jackson's Welsh language journey

colin jackson

I love Colin Jackson.

I grew up watching him dominate athletics in the 110m hurdles and, as a Black boy seeing a Black man with a similar skin tone and body shape as me bossing it amongst his peers was super inspiring. Even in adulthood, I enjoy listening to his punditry and commentary for the BBC. So while looking up clips of his old races, I found this 15-minute video detailing his journey through the Welsh language.

Colin Jackson was born in Cardiff in 1967 but his understanding of Welsh fell by the wayside during school as he explains in the video.

We had Welsh as Welsh lessons from the age of four, so I heard Welsh quite a lot. When I went from primary to secondary school, French and German were the language that was introduced to us then and I thought to myself well I’ll try something new and that’s when I completely lost the grasp of Welsh.

With the help of his mentor, Eleri Siôn, Colin practised his Welsh speaking skills in the best way possible – by immersing himself in Welsh culture. He taught school kids how to do hurdles, did a radio interview, showed off his dancing skills, and commentated on youth indoor athletics competition—all in Welsh.

Besides the fact it’s Colin Jackson, I found this so inspiring as an aspiring polyglot. I’ve been learning Portuguese for the past 3 years and while I’m nowhere near Colin’s level with Welsh, it was comforting to see his journey and I’ll be back on Duolingo from today, I promise!

Stream it below, or as they say in Wales, ffrydiau video isod.

Colin Jackson's Welsh Language Journey

Rememory: a creative directory for Black women and non-binary people

rememory

I wrote about gal-dem in March and now there’s another dedicated platform for Black women and non-binary people to come together in the name of creativity.

It’s called Rememory.

What is Rememory?

Founded by Mia Coleman, a Black illustrator and designer, Rememory brings together the incredible work of Black women and non-binary people of the African Diaspora. The burgeoning directory showcases their narratives and experiences through an array of disciplines including:

  • Architecture
  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Writing
  • Filmmaking
  • Animation

Mia explains that Rememory is for both creatives to “help people boost visibility for black women” and for employers to “consider hiring women into promotions above their current role” and place them in spaces often taken up by men.

Rememory is directory and blog spot of black creatives with beginner to expert experience in various creative roles. This platform aims to help people boost visibility for black women breaking into the creative industry while providing them with insight on creative paths on our #ArtCrush monthly interviews.

Quote from Mia Coleman (source)

Where does the word “rememory” come from?

The term “rememory” was coined by Toni Morrison in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved. It described a recollection of a forgotten moment by the book’s main character, Sethe, and was chosen by the directory’s founder as a homage to Morrison’s lifelong work in “centering black women and their narratives”.

How to join

You can join Rememory by heading over to the Join Us page and filling out your details. You can select up to 4 professions from a choice of 18 or include any unnamed occupations you may hold.

Rememory is packed full of incredible women and non-binary people with abundances of talent.

How to get in touch

Here are some links to follow Rememory on social media and contact Mia:

Dom Griffin's Guide To Quarantine Movie Binging

Dom Griffin's Guide To Quarantine Movie Binging

I don’t like movie critics.

In fact, I’m not a fan of any kind of critic. It isn’t because they have differing opinions from mine—I’m grown enough to accept not everyone likes the stuff I do— but the unnecessarily verbose language and a strong belief in their own sauce are off-putting. But Dom Griffin is one of my favourite exceptions.

If you don’t know, Dom is a film critic who runs The Armchair Auteur, a video project that covers weekly reviews, old and new, rants and video essays about film and film-adjacent pop culture. I’ve known him for quite a few years and his critiques have piqued my interest in films I never would have considered otherwise.

For this video, Dom gives his beginner’s guide to movie binging during quarantine. I managed 60 films in 2019 which is more than I expected but Dom was out here watching 611 last year (according to Letterboxd). How did he do it? You’ll have to watch to find out.

But one tip he gives early on is: watch shorter films, particularly around the 90–100 minute mark. It sounds obvious but it makes sense if you want to run through a larger quantity of movies. You’re also more likely to finish it even if you’re not 100% into it. Nobody wants to commit to a 4-hour movie and realise it sucks halfway in. That’s 2 hours you can’t get back.

For more helpful tips, stream Dom’s guide below and please subscribe to his channel.

The Beginner's Guide To Quarantine Movie Binging

Alternatives to ableist terms

(Content warning: this article contains ableist slurs for the purposes of definitions)

We all know how language can evolve beyond our control. The word ‘literally’ can now mean the opposite, for example. But there are words that we use that have negative connotations.

The word ‘crazy’ used to mean ‘to be sickly and infirm’ back in the 1500’s but its meaning changed to ‘insane’ or demented’ a century later. In the 20th and 21st century, it became a colloquial term to describe something that was ‘unexpected’. But that change in use doesn’t make it okay in non-derogatory ways.

What is ableism?

Ableism is a form of discrimination against disabled people or those perceived to have disabilities. An example of ableism could be:

  • Calling someone ‘mental’ for leaving their door unlocked
  • Building difficult-to-read fonts
  • Creating a movie without audio descriptions or closed captions

Using ableist terms is a common form of ableism because of our dependence on media and conversation. Words like ‘crazy’, ‘stupid’, or ‘mental’ are still weaponised against people with mental illnesses and reinforce centuries of stigma.

Given the English language’s penchant for stolen—sorry, ‘loan’ words—there are plenty you can use in replacement of these terms. Here are some alternatives.

Note: context is key so some alternatives might not make sense for the same words. That’s for you to decide. These lists are also:

  1. Non-exhaustive
  2. Imperfect

So if I’ve included a term that is considered ableist and you have a better alternative, let me know in the comments and I’ll remove it. Nobody is above reproach regarding ableism and it’s all about doing better by people.

Are “idiot” and “moron” ableist?

Yes, they are but in varying degrees.

Here’s what disability activist and Paralympic medalist Elizabeth Wright had to say on the term “moron”:

Moron is a term attributed to Henry H. Goddard who was a psychologist and, perhaps most disturbingly, a eugenicist. He came up with the term to describe someone who was “feeble-minded.” According to MuseumHack, Goddard felt that the term “feeble-minded” wasn’t scientific enough, so he had to come up with his own.

From this point the history of moron gets even more disturbing. Remember Goddard was a prominent eugenicist at the time… he had his word, so he now had to figure out how to classify between people who he perceived to be intelligent or not. The tests that he came up with resulted in a stack of people, namely immigrants, being labelled as morons. This included Jews, Italians, and Hungarians.

Goddard decided that the best way forward was to sterilise people he identified as morons. Essentially anyone who was offensive or deemed “unfit” could and would be sterilised.

And for idiot:

Stepping right back into the history books, the origins of the term idiot are not that questionable. In fact the word idiot etymologically derives from the Greek word idiotes meaning “private person.” It was a term used to describe someone who kept their affairs to themselves.

In later years the word passed into Latin, becoming idiota. It is here that we start to see the problematic connotations of the word; it became synonymous with “ignorant person.” This meaning passed with the term throughout history, resulting in our use of it today to mean someone we perceive as being ignorant or stupid. You can read more about the history of the word idiot here — Tales of Times Forgotten.

I use the word idiot every day. I use it to describe myself sometimes and other people a lot. It is almost like a slip of the tongue, a common word in my linguistic insults dictionary. This one will be the hardest to stop using because it is literally everywhere.

Alternatives to crazy/mental/nuts

  • wild
  • unreal
  • incredible
  • bizarre
  • ridiculous
  • absurd
  • comical
  • farcical
  • silly
  • ludicrous
  • foolish
  • nonsensical
  • outrageous
  • shocking
  • astonishing
  • unbelievable
  • unthinkable

Alternatives to stupid

  • asinine
  • banal
  • clueless
  • fatuous
  • foolish
  • frivolous
  • gullible
  • ignorant
  • inept
  • insipid
  • irrational
  • misguided
  • misinformed
  • mistaken
  • naïve
  • oblivious
  • obtuse
  • uninformed
  • unwise
  • vacuous
  • vapid
  • wrong

Alternatives to idiot/moron/cretin

  • fool
  • asshole/arsehole
  • chump
  • jackass
  • jerk
  • melt
  • silly-billy
  • wally
  • git
  • muppet
  • tit
  • turkey
  • goofball
  • goof

Further reading

James Baldwin on the meaning of liberty

James Baldwin

What is liberty?

That was the question posed to James Baldwin in a 1985 documentary called The Statue of Liberty, directed by Ken Burns.

After quoting the Declaration of Independence—and a clip of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech—Baldwin returns to the question and attempts an answer with a reflective poignance:

“I suppose it occurs on two levels. One is inside and one is outside. So that finally, or first of all, perhaps liberty is individual freedom or will to be free. But this passion, this will is always contradicted by the necessities of the state. Everywhere—for as long as we’ve heard of mankind, as long as we’ve heard of states. I don’t know if it will be like that forever. For a Black American, for a Black inhabitant of this country, the Statue of Liberty is simply a very bitter joke meaning nothing to us.”

You can watch further clips from the documentary on the PBS website. Stream the clip of James Baldwin below.

JAMES BALDWIN: "QUE REPRÉSENTE LA STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ POUR MOI?"