The Usual: Rum Club

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Rum Club enjoys Jamaican rum at its most recent gathering. Back row, from left: Scott Hoyt, Vansana Nolintha, Frank Thompson, Sarah Yarborough, Matt Munoz, Tim Myers. Front row, from left: An Nguyen, Karl Amelchenko, Victor Lytvinenko, Hugh Dawson.

photograph by Tim Lytvinenko

“In everything else in my life, I’m really minimalist, and in this one other thing, I’m really maximalist. I probably have 90 kinds of rum at home.” – Frank Thompson, founder of Rum Club

Before you ask Frank Thompson about rum, find a comfortable seat. There’s a lot of ground to cover. The history of the Caribbean sugar economy, starting in 1600. The virtues of pot-stilling. Sugar cane versus molasses. His first taste (a frozen daiquiri in high school) and latest (artisanal, Jamaican, pot-stilled). When a $1,300 bottle of 1920 Martinique rum caught Thompson’s eye last fall, he hesitated at the price tag. Friend and fellow rum enthusiast Victor Lytvinenko suggested inviting 11 friends to each chip in $100 and share the bottle. Rum Club was born. Now the group gets together four times a year to taste rare and artisanal rums. They serve it straight; containers of ice, lime juice, and simple syrup (with droppers) allow everyone to doctor it to their liking. Recently, Thompson (the owner of AVMetro, a corporate event staging business), and fellow Rum Club members Lytvinenko and Sarah Yarborough (the Raleigh Denim duo) and filmmaker David Burris travelled to Barbados to visit distilleries and taste rum. And while Thompson’s favorites are from Jamaica or Martinique, he pines for a bottle of pre-Castro Cuban rum that goes for about $3,000. “Once Castro took over, the quality went way down.”