I was pondering the proof of different spirits the other day and wondered why Everclear comes in at a whopping 190 proof and 151 rum comes in at 151 proof (DUH) and yet on the other side of that scale we have things like 3.2 beer which is around 8 proof while regular beer averages 20 proof.  And to muddy these alcoholic waters even a bit further most of the world is, or already has, switched from proof to ABV (alcohol by volume).  ABV is roughly half of proof so a 100 proof spirit would weigh in at 50 ABV.  Got it?

To understand this mysterious thing called proof we have to sail back to the 18th century when British sailors were paid partially with rations of rum.  To “prove” they weren’t getting watered down rum they would douse gunpowder with the rum and see if it would ignite.  If it did not, then they knew their rum contained too much water and was considered “under proof”.  Gunpowder would not burn in rum that contained less than around 57% ABV; therefore, rum that did contain at least this percentage of alcohol was considered to have “100 degrees proof”.  So, thanks to a bunch of drunken sailors, that is why today 100 proof is 50 ABV.

OK, so that explains that whole proof and ABV thing, but why are distillers producing such strong and weak booze?  My own personal take on this is fairly straightforward.  Here in Ohio, for example, we can only buy diluted spirits at our neighborhood Kroger grocery stores.  You need to go to a regular liquor store to buy the full strength stuff.  So the vodka is 42 proof instead of the regular 80 to 100 proof.  That allows me to enjoy more drinks before dinner without actually drinking more alcohol.  So I drink 4 vodkas on the rocks instead of just two and don’t drink more than I really should.  My liver appreciates this little trick and so does my doctor.  However, I do keep some of the real stuff around for special and not so special occasions.

Low alcohol content also translates to less calories and it seems that these days everyone, women and even men are weight conscious.  That’s why there are skinny rums and vodkas and other spirits as well as light beer.  Some of these very low and no alcohol spirits were produced to keep distillers alive during the prohibition.  Other low alcohol drinks were produced to accommodate “blue laws” against drinking.  These laws prevented the buying of full strength spirits in certain states and counties and on certain days like Sundays.  The higher proof stuff not only makes for good, full flavored drinking but it’s also great for cooking since the alcohol cooks out leaving just the flavor behind.  And of course that really high proof stuff is the only way to go if you just want to get shit faced falling down drunk.


Well, let’s see which category Sugar Island Coconut Rum falls into.  The bottle is clear glass and has a mermaid on the label and the biggest word on that label is “Sugar”.  Could that be a clue?  The label also indicates its 42 proof or 21% Alcohol by Volume.  Another clue? Well, here goes.  The nose is certainly a sugar rush chock full of coconut as well.  I can’t discern any alcohol or rum just from the nose.  It honestly smells like candy.  Ahh, I finally get a hint of rum on the palate and that is definitely accompanied by the coconut and that sweetness.  It is sweet and smooth with the smoothness no doubt being contributed from the strength of the rum at only 42 proof.  The finish is very sweet and coconutty and smooth and long lasting leaving mostly a feeling like I had just swallowed a spoonful of liquid sugar.  This rum is a bit to flavorful for me to enjoy straight up.

On the rocks, it mellows out and settles down a bit but it is still sugary sweet with a back of coconut follow distantly by the rum. Now, don’t get me wrong these flavors mix nicely and the coconut really tastes like coconut, but boy is it sweet.  I made a mojito with it and that worked out really, really well.  The tartness of the mojito ingredients balanced the sweetness of the rum and finally my mouth was happy.  If you can find it, it’s selling for just under or around $20.00 per 750ml bottle.


By George Brozowski