It's a Rum Job... sampling the world's most expensive

It's a Rum Job... but someone's gotta do it. When we were invited to try the most expensive rum in the world, we said 'er, yes.' Here is the story of that day, complete with mystery, intrigue, and funny costumes
Feature by Peter Simpson.
Published 14 May 2013

You aren't to know this, but the life of your neighbourhood food writer isn't exactly wall-to-wall with glamour and intrigue. Yes, we get to mock others for their hard work and argue over pieces of burger art, but it isn't a lavish existence. Just last month there was much excitement when an enormous box arrived in the office marked for yours truly. Turns out the box was filled with unrefrigerated meat pies. We couldn't be sure if it was a promotional freebie or a left-field assassination attempt.

So when an invitation to attend a tasting of the world’s most expensive rum landed on the virtual doormat, we jumped on it. Well, we wrote a very nice email to confirm our attendance, after initially sending said email to a non-existent address by spelling the rum company's name incorrectly. Same thing really.

Angostura Legacy has a list price of $25,000, or £16,000, per bottle. Being invited to celebrate a bottle of rum that is worth, objectively, more than a year of your time could be a little depressing if given too much opportunity to ponder it, which presumably explains the choice of venue. No dive bars or nightclub back rooms here; instead we were off to one of those two massive five-star hotels in the middle of Edinburgh. Not that one, the other one.

For the day, your humble food section was one of the big shots. Rather than being shooed from the hotel lobby with a broom, we were referred to as a ‘Sir’ and given incredibly detailed directions. Someone took our coat without rifling through the pockets or giving it a dissatisfied sniff. Someone else, for some reason dressed as an extra from the Galactic Senate scenes in the Star Wars prequels, handed us a daiquiri. Unprovoked. At five to 12 on a Tuesday morning. 

There are only 20 bottles of Legacy in the world. That’s it. It really isn’t a lot, which made the somewhat-excessive setting, and the four-course meal, and the constant refreshing of glasses all seem a little moot. It felt a bit odd to be hyping a product that, realistically, next to no-one will ever experience, let alone own. But then at the same time, there’s a glass of wine in one hand, a cocktail in the other, a fillet of monkfish in the middle and an enormous golden chandelier above, so it all seems fine. This must be how people agree to start wars; one minute you're having a nice steak and the next thing you know people are throwing paint at you and calling you a “murderous shit-head.”

Angostura Legacy comes in a custom-designed crystal decanter, hand-crafted by ‘Her Majesty’s number one champion decorative glass-creators’ Asprey. Thus began the long spiel about the history of said glass company, and their love of expensive things and of people who make expensive things that can be placed inside other expensive things. 

Much like a timeshare presentation or a meeting with a distant relative, the best thing to do was settle in and wait for the interesting stuff to resume. Fun fact, though: 560 man-hours went into the production of each bottle, and its individual silk and calves’ leather presentation box. That is, at the very least, £3000 of labour for a single glass bottle and a fancy box. It looks more depressing in print, but it’s still an unsettling sum to have to work out.

John Georges is the master distiller for Angostura, and one of the men behind the most expensive rum in the world. Mr Georges himself wouldn’t call it the most expensive rum, for two reasons. One – the expensive angle “is just something that the marketing people came up with” for his ludicrously pricey and rare rum. Two – to him, he said mopping his face with a handkerchief, “this liquid... it’s priceless.” 

Mr Georges wore a sharp suit coupled with some mad hipster glasses, strongly resembled the character of Johnson from TV's Peep Show, and seemed to be simultaneously channelling the spirits of an evangelical preacher and a warlord from a 1980s action movie. Mr Georges was, and we believe this is the correct technical expression, a ‘boss.’ A ‘boss’ and a ‘lad.’

Angostura Legacy is bloody lovely. It’s very rich, and a little like being punched in the nose with a bag of dark brown sugar. It’s fruity and oaky and dark and it has a nice finish to it. It also costs $25,000 a bottle. After finishing our one and only taste of the world’s most expensive rum, and overcoming the sadness of knowing that it probably won’t be repeated unless we strike oil in the back garden or end up making a late run at a career in professional football, there’s just time to ask our one question of Mr Georges.

Around the table, people are asking about barrel types, and the stills used in production, and all sorts of other technical gubbins. But our question was a bit more straightforward: “Why do any of this? Why make a bottle of rum – the world’s most social spirit – that’s so expensive that next to no one will ever suckle at its mighty teat? Why bother?”

Mr Georges wiped his glasses on that handkerchief, presumably getting head sweat all over the lenses, and smiled. “Well you see, it’s kind of like when a car company makes a really fast car, a concept car. There's no real point to it, no-one ever gets to drive it. But it shows what can be done.”

“So... this rum, the most expensive rum in the world, it’s just so you can show off?”
“Yes, pretty much.”

Our reply: “Hmm... fair enough.” And with that, the spell was broken. As your correspondent and one of his fellow journalists left trying to work out how many toiletries we could steal from the bathrooms if we put our minds to it, all was right with the world. The world’s most expensive rum – it’s just there to show off. Turns out that even in the world of the hyper-rich and super-pricey, there isn’t much intrigue – just depressing numbers and a whole host of fancy outfits. Fewer pies, too.

In a related article: Around The World in 20 Drinks heads to Trinidad and Tobago.