The Dominican Republic is a piece of paradise, known for its outstandingly beautiful beaches, the vibrant and sensual rhythms of merengue and bachata, baseball, coffee, tobacco and, of course, one of the finest liquors in the world: rum.
Rum is originally from the British Antilles, and traditional studies suggest Barbados as its birthplace.
It is prepared on a base of fermented sugar cane juice. Sugar cane is autochthonous from Asia and was brought to the Caribbean isles from the Canary Islands, a Spanish possession in the western coast of Africa.
Some historical accounts state that similar beverages were produced in India and China in ancient times, and Marco Polo also recorded a 14th-century account of a "very good wine of sugar" which was offered to him in Persia.
In the 16th and 17th century the cultivation of sugar cane and the manufacturing and commercialization of sugar propelled enormously the economic development of the colonial regimes.
Legend establishes that the genesis of rum is owed to a mere accident.
Slaves used to drink sugar cane juice as a source of energy and as a refreshment to help cope with the hardship of working in the fields.
Sometimes they hid the wooden containers leaving them behind for several days, finding afterwards a sweet fermented substance which mysteriously alleviated their sorrows and lifted their spirits.
Later on they started manufacturing this elixir systematically in a clandestine way, which they called garapa and used during their festive and religious celebrations.
The colonial masters uncovered the concealed practice, and started experiments to improve the rustic technique, achieving positive results and finally benefiting from the extraordinary discovery.
There are many theories about the origin of the word rum.
The most probable is that it comes from a truncated version of rumbullion or rumbustion, both terms were British slang for tumult or uproar, which at the epoch made allusion to the wild parties thrown by sailors and pirates.
The Rum industry started to prosper in the islands, especially due to the thirst of the British Naval Forces.
It was later exported to Europe, and its association with piracy began with English privateers trading on the valuable commodity.
As some of the privateers became pirates and buccaneers, their fondness for rum remained. The association between the two was strengthened by literary works such as Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson.
In the Dominican Republic, rum was produced customarily by ancient methods.
However, in the 19th century, Spaniards like Don Erasmo Bermudez, founder in 1852 of the oldest Rum distillery in the Dominican Republic, landed on the island and immediately started implementing the best traditional methods of aging and refining, applying top Catalonian mechanisms for brandy and wine crafting.
The process is very simple: It is obtained through the distillation of fermented sugar cane molasses, and then matured in oak barrels for at least eight months. Rum called "anejo" (aged rum), has to spend a period of at least two years inside the barrels. Its alcoholic content is normally around 33 to 55 percent.
Rum can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or in some of the world`s most famous and refreshing cocktails, such as in a mojito, a pina colada, a Cuba libre and my personal favorite, a rum tonic.
As a native of the Dominican Republic, proud of my Caribbean origins, and a humble connoisseur of the spirits produced in our region, I`m proud to announce that our embassy is organizing an event to promote the entry of "Casa Bermudez" and its masterpieces "Aniversario" and "Don Armando" into the Korean market.
"Aniversario" is a unique blend of extraordinary quality, texture, color, bouquet and taste, aged for 12 years in oak casks; while "Don Armando" is a well balanced, wonderfully structured spirit, gold medal winner in many international competitions, aged for 10 years in oak casks.
We invite you to submerge in the sortilege of these magical Caribbean spirits, which represent the finest examples of our region`s alcohol industry and Dominican pride.
Ernesto Torres-Pereyra is the minister counselor at the Dominican Embassy
By Ernesto Torres-Pereyra