There are people in this world who know who Ron Jeremy is and people who do not. First—and especially if you're at work—do not do a Google search on that name! Instead, simply go to the IMBD link if you need to catch up with the pop culture. Second, you're at a decision point: knowing what Ron Jeremy does for a living, if you find yourself infuriated and motivated to take political or civil action, best if you do not read the rest of this article. If instead you find yourself amused or curious and only mildly soiled, then you might be a fan of one of the best marketing stunts to hit liquor in quite some time.
The spirit in question is Ron de Jeremy. That is his picture gracing the label. "Ron" is word for "rum" in Spanish and with a little word play you end up with simply "Rum of Jeremy." The marketing website is a little less subtle where the recommended cocktail list is "DRINKXXX" and your selection of bartenders is a blond, brunette, or redhead. The jokes keep coming. Ron de Jeremy is "the adult rum." It promises a "long, smooth finish." They suggest drinking it "naked" without any other ingredients. We first became aware of this rum through a blog connection over at Liquor Snob and it is probably one of the more memorable moments in this spring of releases. The first question of "Is that what I think it is?" leads naturally to "They can't be serious," then a crescendo from "Oh my God, can they get away with that?" to a finale of, "I've gotta get my hands on that thing and try a bottle!"
Well, thanks to the brand owners One Eyed Spirits, we were lucky enough to receive a bottle. It quickly became one of the most anticipated tastings in our regular monthly tasting club. Who knew the marketing power that Ron Jeremy had? This reveals a thing very interesting and rather cool about the liquor industry. There are lots of high-profile, uber-snob spirits out there. And we love those spirits. We love the theater of drinking grains organically grown in the shade of oldgrowth oak trees blended down with Pleistocene water dug by hand from a naturally occurring sink hole in the growing rift of Ethiopia carried by buckets hauled by camel down the mountainside and carefully nurtured in the still with NASA instrumentation and the grizzled palate of the 150 year old master distiller who's a descendant of the man who invented whiskey. This ambrosia is placed in a bottle of hand-blown glass colored with the essence of 500 rose petals and designed by Gucci but painted with biodegradable soy ink and recycled. We love these spirits.
Then there's the other side. It's the opposite end of the theater where we yield snobbery for adolescence. These spirits are sweet and fun. They are to be shot—sometimes from glasses and sometimes from bodies—and they carry quirky names and suggestive bottles. They appeal to different sensibilities and are no less theatrical for it. This doesn't mean the liquor is necessarily bad (though often cheaper), merely that it's a different kind of experience. Shakespeare had his tragedy and his comedy; liquor has its elite and its groundlings.
Clearly, without question, Ron de Jeremy is tapping into that latter sensibility. It was immediately apparent from the moment the tasting started. In case there was any doubt, when asked why of all people on earth they chose Ron Jeremy, they have this to say:
Thankfully, the rum itself is a product of some substance and pedigree in its own right. It is made in Panama at one of the more storied distilleries. The production was overseen by master blender Francisco Fernandez, who personally selected the barrels of rum for blending. The rum itself is made from molasses produced on site so that they have control over the quality and aged a full 7 years in American ex-bourbon casks.
Then our own tasting started. People were as eager to discuss memories of Ron Jeremy as they were to explain who Ron Jeremy was to those who didn't already know. As the producers recommend, we did indeed taste the rum "naked" or neat without any additives. The comments were quick and enthusiastic... this really was a decent tasting, solidly crafted rum. But it was the comments themselves that cemented why this could be a market winner:
"Like the star himself, it looks rough but delivers!"
"I can't believe this is actually so awesome! I'm a fan for life... of the rum I mean! Not the man, the rum!"
"Ron de Jeremy is Ron de Licious."
"It's penetrating... surprisingly large taste with a satisfying climax."
"As a man, I can feel comfortable drinking this."
"This rum finishes long and hard... perhaps even a little salty."
In traditional terms, the rum is a drier style of rum: rich and robust on the palate without some of the sweet, syrupy characteristics one might associate with some Caribbean rums. It mixes brilliantly in cocktails that require a little sweetening because it balances out the dryness without creating a candy cocktail. It had notes of... well, never mind. What mattered was this: our little club couldn't get enough of trying to top each other on one-liners describing this rum. Overall, the rum delivers, without question. It can stand on equal shoulders with some of the most respected rums in the business. Should the rum be submitted to competitions, we feel it will do very well. The harder part is getting honest tasting notes out of people who want to keep talking about the movie star. In short, they were having too much fun drinking the rum to talk about actually rating the rum.
For the sake of due diligence, we followed up the "naked" tasting with rounds of two cocktails, which we'll record here for posterity. The first, was a recommendation from the marketing website called the Ronicane (a take on the traditional Hurricane).Ronicane
- 2 ounces rum
- 2 ounces passion fruit juice
- 1 ounce orange juice
- ½ ounce grenadine
- Squeeze of lime
- Shake, strain into a tall glass full of crushed ice. Top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and serve with straw. Garnish with slice of blood orange.
The second round of cocktails was an homage to Fernandez's Cuban heritage.Cuban Mojito
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
- 2 ounces lime juice
- 4 mint leaves
- 2 ounces rum
- 2 ounces club soda
- Place the mint leaves into a Collins glass and squeeze the juice from a cut lime over it. Add the powdered sugar, then gently muddle the mint into the lime juice and sugar. Add ice (preferably crushed) then add the rum and stir, and top off with the club soda.
Fine aged rum is often a wonder in traditional cocktails, adding a depth and robustness to the flavor much the same way aging helps out tequila in a margarita. We compared Ron de Jeremy against the market standard of Bacardi 8, itself a well-regard 8-year aged rum.
So who won? We can't say... for the first time in our tasting history, people were pretty much uninterested in even trying the Bacardi 8. Not because it was bad (it's actually quite good) but because everyone had more fun drinking and talking about Ron de Jeremy. The final summation from the group was, "I want to get a bottle because it's such a showpiece in a home bar!" The Ron de Jeremy was so good that it's vastly superior marketing power carried the day... it was a win by mob acclimation.
In the theater that is an inextricable part of liquor manufacturing, the story can be as important as the craftsmanship. Ancient distilleries can create or become their own story; others weave their stories around exotic ingredients or technologies. It's all designed to appeal to a customer, who himself wants a story to tell to guests as he pours a drink. Ron de Jeremy fills this perfectly. "This is a great rum," one person announced "But I've tasted a lot of great rums. I want this rum! I want this one because I can't wait to show it to people when they come over."
Will this herald a new era of celebrity-driven liquors? Can we expect a "Gin de Jenna" or a "Jenna Jameson Irish Whiskey" in the near future? (Maybe we should go trademark those names right now!) If there were, is that a bad thing? If the liquor is executed well, perhaps not. Getting a customer to buy the rum the first time is marketing; getting the second and third purchase means the spirit itself has to be good and well-crafted. Ron de Jeremy is that perfect balance: a great reason for the first purchase and a quality that guarantees a second and third.