The Stolen Story
The most sought after of spirits, Caribbean rum was once stolen and run by rogues and racketeers, illicitly sipped in the speakeasies of the American prohibition.
Bewitched by the last drops of a rum that had been run into New York City in the 1920s, New Zealand rum fanatics Jamie Duff and Roger Holmes resolved to run rum to a new generation of wrongdoers.
Theirs would be a premium rum blended for a contemporary palate, but one true to the great rums of New York speakeasies and the spirit of the runners who stole and ran them.
Stolen Rum is a New World interpretation of that rare and beguiling taste, liberated from the Caribbean by the rum-runners of Downtown Auckland, New Zealand.
Laws are designed to reflect the collective morals of society. It is therefore unsurprising that rum-running became ubiquitous in prohibition-era America. Rum-runners were opportunists who relied on the rum-rich territory of the Caribbean for their supplies. They employed vessels of all description for the trafficking, evading the US coast guards and rival rum-runners to become looted up, anti-heroes in an idle America.
Parking up in ‘Rum Mile’, a stretch of ocean only metres from US waters, the rum was then slipped ashore, and sipped in the city’s underground speakeasies – illegal bars that have since been credited with the spread of jazz music in America.
Great fortunes were made through rum-running. The father of John F. Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy, has been linked to rum-running, which earned him the nickname The Baptist Bootlegger. Al Capone also used rum to forge his name into the leathery pages of history. Going from local misfit to notorious gang leader in four short years, the vast majority of his rum came from the Caribbean, due to its proximity and legend. Consequently, the Caribbean has been synonymous with rum the world over.
Jamie Duff and Roger Holmes have always been big fans of rum. They love to drink rum, they love the rich history and have spent several years hanging, travelling and enjoying the resurgence of rum in the world’s great cities.
In 2006 they traced the footsteps of Roger’s great-great-grandfather. A master mariner and shark hunter, the late Captain Christopher Welch spent his days in the 1850s on the very same seas the rum-runners would use during the prohibition era. Their journey took them from New York City to Miami and on to various Caribbean destinations.
In a Manhattan bar not far from the one in which Roger’s great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother met in 1855, they were treated to the last drops of a rare vintage rum. Dated 1923 – right in the heart of prohibition – the rum was unlike anything they’d experienced from recent years.
In 2008, with the NYC rum still in the back of their minds, the pair quit their day jobs in London and returned home to a New Zealand still at the mercy of the mainstream rum brands of the last century.
They were inspired to create something as rich, as provocative, as smooth as the blend they tasted that late night in NYC.
They vowed to recreate the mysterious blend, sure that such an amazing taste would inspire a new generation of rum drinking in New Zealand and captivate the rum connoisseurs of the world.
Three years of trial and error ensued. Upon return to the Caribbean, the boys were schooled in blending rum from various Caribbean master blenders, and happened upon a Trinidadian distillery whose flavours tasted just a little like the NYC blend. Following their noses, they found the distillery’s master blender and worked alongside him to recreate the taste they’d spent years thirsting for.
Elated, they orchestrated production and branded the rum ‘Stolen’, a reference to the felonious history of rum and to the taste they appropriated from the last drops of one of history’s finest stolen rums.