Rum is a spirit saddled with a certain reputation. Spring break, tropical beaches, brightly colored cocktails adorned with miniature umbrellas. It’s not exactly terrible imagery to be associated with, but it also denies the liquor a sense of seriousness. Elevating its stature is a new wave of sipping rums washing upon the shores of the city. Among them is Parce (pronounced ‘par-say), a rum brand started by NYC native Jim Powers and his brothers three years ago. The story of how a former A & R man from Geffen Records entered the booze business with his family, by way of Columbia, is almost as intriguing as the barrel-aged liquid they are putting in the bottle.
“My background is in music,” Powers told the Voice. “I started the independent record label Minty Fresh in the ‘90s. I visited Colombia for the first time about five years to visit a brother, Patrick, who lives in Medellin and to check out the music and cultural scene there. I was not prepared for the stunning beauty of the country, and kindness of the people.”
Soon thereafter, Jim invited his other brother, Brian, to join him in South America, so the three siblings could collaborate on a business designed to (legally) share the beauty of Colombia with the rest of the world. Their brainstorming sessions often occurred over glasses of finely aged rum. A lightbulb went off: “We felt we could create and introduce a rum that you could simply enjoy neat by the fireplace in a New York winter as well as make an outstanding cocktail.”
As avowed whiskey enthusiasts, the brothers landed on a blend of 8 and 12 year old spirits, aged exclusively in ex-American whiskey barrels, to impart notes of toasted oak, vanilla, and cinnamon, familiar to traditional bourbons. “We enlisted the help of a Bogotá father son duo as our Master Blenders, Arthur Fernandes and Brojen Domecq Fernandes, who have a combined total of 50 years working with rum,” explains Powers. “The rum style is uniquely dry with a bourbon-like nose because every drop of Parce is aged in whisky barrels at least as long as the statement on the bottle. As our rum ages, some naturally evaporates, we don’t top off with younger rums to replace the evaporation.”
The elegantly-packaged 8-year-old Parce hit shelves in New York earlier this year. Priced at $30 a bottle, it’s a veritable steal for a finely crafted spirit. Its older brother, the 12 year, brandishes a deeper burgundy body, a lingering, complex finish and a $50 price tag. Both bottles are great gift ideas for the bourbon lover in search of something slightly outside their comfort zone.
“Many times when pouring samples we’ll invite people to try our rum and they will quickly say ‘I’m not a fan of rum, I only like whiskey’,” notes Powers. “After they pick up our whiskey notes on the nose, they give it taste, and then more often than not, they end up buying a bottle.”
For a taste of how rum can supplant whiskey in a classic cocktail, seek out the Parce Old Fashioned at TRIX in Williamsburg. Leyenda in Boerum Hill takes a more avant garde approach, working the rum into a bitter and smoky negroni variation, featuring mezcal and moscatel sherry.