The precursor to rum, known as brum, has been with us since antiquity. Marco Polo was said to have had “a very good wine made of sugar” given to him in what is now modern-day Iran during the 14th century. The first distillation of rum as we know it took place on the sugar cane plantations of the Caribbean in the 17th century.
But rum has always been popular. In fact, it was part of the founding of our nation. The Sugar Act of 1764 passed by the British parliament was a tax on molasses, which was used to make rum. The tax increased tensions between the colonists and the British parliament leading to what would become the American Revolution. Even George Washington insisted on having rum imported from Barbados at his 1789 inauguration.
Yet, something happened to rum’s flavor and popularity along the way. It became virtually flavorless and colorless, primarily due to a filtering process that removed the color and flavor from aging. What was left behind became something we mix with Coke to disguise its lack of flavor.
Sitting on a beach in Mexico five years ago, Mark Mihelich, a forty-nine year old businessman, vintage car enthusiast and entrepreneur from Pueblo, was tasting aged rum that had been imported from Cuba. Something stirred in him as he began to sip his glass. “I realized that rum could taste good. It was so much different than the products that are popular in the US. Aged rum can be very, very good.” And so a revolution was once again rekindled.
After spending some time attempting to strategically set up a business to import rum, Mihelich decided on a different approach to redeem this fine spirit. “I didn’t want to wait for an opportunity to open up. I decided to come up with my own rum product.” Working on the idea for about two and a half years, Mihelich tried various names like Revolution Rum and Anchor Rum and eventually came up with the name Forecastle Rum. “The forecastle is an old ship term for the quarters in the front of the ship.”
Working with rum makers in Denver, Mihelich has created rum infusions using the flavors of real mint, ginger, grapefruit and lemons and high-quality aged rums to make a unique product. There will even be a Pueblo Red Chile Rum. “It will be all high-quality ingredients instead of the cheap, artificial stuff most larger rum makers use.”
And Mihelich has some revolutionary green ideas to help make Forecastle Rum even more unique. “We will have a deposit on all of our bottles so that they can be returned and reconditioned.” Forecastle Rums will also be shipped in reusable wooden crates instead of cardboard boxes. All of the distribution, bottle reconditioning and crate production will be done in Pueblo. “We want people to know this is a Pueblo business – family owned – and we intend to stay that way.”
Forecastle Rums is set to be available in restaurants and liquor stores by midsummer. And that is something that would make even George Washington proud.
By John Cooper