An appetite for rum is growing in Singapore, which you’ll quickly discover at the charming dark mahogany bar at The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore. The Bar at 15 Stamford is one of the best rum bars in Singapore, with the largest range of rum offerings here. It’s an homage to a little piece of history in the area, as the abode of the first appointed American Consul in 1836, Joseph Balestier, was situated where Stamford Road and North Bridge Road meet. Ever the entrepreneur, Balestier juggled diplomatic duties with starting a sugarcane plantation, before going on to build Singapore’s first rum distillery.
The Bar at 15 Stamford has been steadily amassing an international range of rum bottles since opening in 2019. The task of rum curation now falls to bar manager, Edriane Lim, who seeks out established distributors such as La Maison du Whisky or Proof & Co. as well as small-time hobbyists to add to the bar’s fast-growing collection, which currently stands at 250 bottles.
Rum is mainly categorised into three styles – French, English and Spanish – depending on how they’re made and aged (in wooden barrels or stainless steel tanks). French rum is made from sugar cane juice that gives it a lighter colour and flavour, while English and Spanish rums present sweeter and spicier notes. Their Brazilian counterpart, meanwhile, is named cachaca and is made from fermenting sugar cane juice and is a crucial component in the traditional Brazilian cocktail, the caipirinha.
Lim recommends that beginners begin their rum journey by starting with any of the five different rum flights on the menu, which offer a good introduction to the three styles of rum-making and the up-and-coming Southeast Asian distilleries in countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Philippines.
Snag a limited-edition bottle
For many of The Bar at 15 Stamford’s guests, however, a preamble won’t be necessary as evidenced by the 140 bottles of Plantation Guatemala XO “Kempinski Hotel Private Cask” sold so far. (Just 80 bottles of this rum, which is only available in The Capitol Kempinski Hotel Singapore, remain.)
“Normally Plantation Rums are done in cognac casks but our private cask was re-barrelled in Sauternes casks,” says Lim, referring to the famed French sweet wine. “So you’ll get a lot of toffee and vanilla sweet notes on the nose but the finish gives you a bit more oakiness and some dryness as well.
This rum is really good for an after-dinner drink and paired with some chocolates,” adds Lim.
Explore rums from under-the-radar distilleries
It’s not just the big names who get the spotlight here – lesser-known but equally intriguing rums from other parts of the world are available to expand your palate’s horizons as well. Take, for example, “hard-to-come-by” Fijian rums that recall the English style of rum-making with notes of molasses, strong flavour profiles and a high alcohol content. (Try Lim’s Fijian picks, which include Transcontinental Rum Line Fiji rum, Kill Devil Fiji rum and Plantation Rum Fiji 2005 Vintage Edition, the latter which has been matured in both Fiji and Cognac, France.)
“The more robust rums are better drunk on the rocks to fully enjoy their flavour. It would be a waste to put them in a cocktail,” he adds.
Many distilleries have also popped up in Southeast Asia, each adopting a rum-making style as varied as their owners.
Naga Rum from Indonesia, for example, borrows from the tradition of Chinese sugarcane planters fermenting and distilling molasses to make Batavia (what Jakarta was called back then) arrack. The Naga Java Reserve is a blend of a fermentation of molasses and red rice aged in jati, or teak vats as well as cane wine that’s further aged in jati barrels for three years then American oak barrels for another four.
“As an Asian bar, we like to support regional rums,” says Lim. “Naga Rum is one of our picks because it has a sweetness from the cherry oak and a dry flavour from the teak barrels used in making it. It has robust flavours of wood and fruits but isn’t overly sweet, which is particularly good in a Rum Old-Fashioned cocktail.”
With so many distilleries and styles, it all could be a little intimidating for the uninitiated. Sidle up to Lim’s experienced team at The Bar at 15 Stamford, however, and you’ll soon see why this is one of the best rum bars in Singapore to start your taste adventure.
Chat Up: Bartender Elizaveta Iurchenko
Part of the opening bar team, Liza, as she’s better known, knows how to make a style statement – just check out her unique hairstyle, which incorporates a buzz cut and a luscious, long braid.
Originally from Kaliningrad in Russia, the peripatetic Iurchenko has travelled widely, working in Alaska and on cruise ships before finding her way to The Bar at 15 Stamford in Singapore.
Note: Iurchenko has recently moved on to new bartending adventures at Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl – Doha.
She has a secret talent.
“I illustrated the rum ‘treasure map’ menu that shows all our bar’s 16 rum cocktails. I drew them based on how the cocktails are actually served in their different glasses.”
She loves Singapore’s stinkiest icon.
“I was one of the four finalists in the Bar Star 2020 competition for Singapore Cocktail Week (it unfortunately stopped midway due to Covid-19) and won my place with the Autilla, a rum sour concoction with house-made falernum and durian shavings. I loved durian so much when I tried it that I had to put it in a drink. It’s one of the 16 cocktails on the menu!”
We almost lost her to Japan.
“I read manga and know some Japanese. I considered working in Japan before coming to Singapore as the people there are so friendly, especially when you can speak a little Japanese.”
Check out Iurchenko’s socials.
“I’m learning how to use more spice in my cocktails even though I don’t have a very high tolerance for spice. I take photographs of all the drinks I come up with and post them on my Instagram account, @tegralizzzzz, so often that some guests use it as their personal menu when they come to the bar.”
Order her twist on the martini.
“Being Russian, lots of people come in asking for vodka-based drinks. My favourite to make is the The Hulk Martini that’s essentially a dirty martini but made with smashed olives so you get even more olive flavour and, of course, lots of vodka!”
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