Perhaps helping recast the tragic history of the slave/molasses/rum trading triangle of old with some positive global-sharing innovation, new Equiano Rum (about $60) splendidly marries the best of East Africa’s cult rum distillery on the island of Mauritius (Grays Distillery) and the legendary FourSquare distillery on Barbados into a unified Afro-Carib spirit that is wholly unique and decidedly island-tropical in nature.
With its use of limousin oak and former cognac casks for barrel-aging, Mauritius’ rum tradition is marked by its history as a French colony; typically rums are brewed from agricole cane juice as well as molasses. And Grays has been growing a following with its premium New Grove and Lazy Dodo bottlings.
Meanwhile, the Seale family, owners of the Four Square Distillery, can trace their Bajan roots to the late 1500s, and lay claim to five generations of rum-making expertise with a focus on very British colony-style sweet-molasses aged rums.
Now Four Square scion (and IWCS rum producer of the year) Richard Seale is taking expertly cognac-casked Mauritian rum (with a 10-year aging) and carefully blending it with his own former-bourbon barrel-casked rum in Barbados to create Equiano, a flavorful rum that has no added color, spice or sugar. The sweetness rings clear as a bell, light without any hint of treacliness. The mixture of African and Caribbean island terroirs, as well as the balance struck by the two distinct barreling approaches, delivers a product with extraordinarily sophisticated fruit, spice, and smoke notes that certainly deserve appreciation on its own. But those same flavor subtleties will make for a masterful rum cocktail as well.
Equiano is named after, and inspired by, Olaudah Equiano. An African-born child kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Caribbean, Equiano made his way to the U.K. and earned his liberation trading in small amounts of rum, eventually becoming a strong voice, writer. and leader in the burgeoning abolitonist movements in the U.S. and England. In fact, the distiller donates 5 percent of its profits and $2 of each bottle purchased through its website to its Equiano Foundation, supporting diversity, equality, and freedom projects worldwide.