Newfoundland Screech

Darcy O'Neil :: February 22, 2007 7:41 PM

Screech RumHere's a rum that suffers from both great marketing and bad marketing. The good marketing is the following statement about Newfoundlanders trading salt code for Jamaican rum: “Would they have sailed 5,000 miles for bad rum?” The other part of the marketing is based on a story from the 1940's about how this made a US Serviceman headed to Europe during World War II screech for his life after trying a shot. It has won a Gold Medal at the 2003 International Rum Fest, so it can’t be as bad as you might think based on its name. So what is the reality?

For as long as people have populated the East coast of North America there has been trade in rum with the West Indies. The northerners bring boat loads of salted cod fish to places like Jamaica in exchange for large quantities of rum. This is how salt-cod, or saltfish, became the national dish of Jamaica and how a northern province of Canada has such a love affair with rum, instead of grain spirits like whisky.

The original rum was barrel proof in strength and it seems the Newf’s liked it that way. Eventually the government applied some controls and required that it be packaged in clear glass bottles. There was no requirement for a label, nor was there a requirement to change the strength of the rum, so for many, many years this unnamed rum was the spirit of Newfoundland. Eventually it acquired a name in a way the befits the “Rock” (Newfoundland nick name).

The Story of Newfoundland Screech

Back in the 1940's when US Servicemen were heading to Europe for World War II, they passed through Newfoundland, because it was the closest land point in North America to Europe. Many of the servicemen spent time waiting to board planes and boats heading to Britain so they enjoyed the hospitality of the people of Newfoundland. Newfoundlanders may quite possibly be the friendliest people on the planet.

The story states that Commanding Officer of the first wave of soldiers was enjoying the hospitality and eating dinner when he was offered some rum. The Commanding Officer saw the local Newf down the shot of rum and showed not a shiver or grimace. The Office responded in kind and down his shot of rum and then let out a blood curdling scream as his face turned a few different shades of red.

The scream was so loud that people in the vicinity heard and ran to the aid of the victim. The first person to arrive was an American sergeant who pounded on the door and demanded “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?”

The Newf who had answered the door replied simply, “The screech?” ‘Tis the rum, me son.”

This is how the legend of Screech started. Once word got out about this potent rum, every American serviceman wanted to try it. They eventually adopted it as their favorite. The liquor board immediately pounced on the name and reputation and began labeling Famous Newfoundland Screech.

Screech Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Deep golden brown like dark caramel syrup.

Nose: Molasses and wood aromas. No harsh alcohol.

Taste: Starts slightly sweet and then there is a dry woody flavour. Slightly hot finish with a lingering molasses flavour. This rum benefits from some resting in the glass.

This is a decent young rum that is build upon tradition. Age wise it is comparable to Appleton VX, but leans to the darker side of rums, both in appearance and flavour. It’s not necessarily a dark rum like Goslings Black Seal, but it’s about half way between Appleton VX and Goslings. It is definitely not as harsh as the name implies, but it’s not a super smooth sipper either. If you like a good strong rum that provides some heat, this is a good choice. This rum would make a good Dark ‘n Stormy.

Dark and Stormy

2 oz Newfoundland Screech
4 oz Ginger Beer

Mix in a glass over cracked ice. Garnish with a lime.

The modern day version of Screech is a tempered version of the original product, so it may lack the “screeching” quality that it previously had, but the word on the street is that Newfoundlanders still continue the tradition with some off market custom bottlings at a much higher proof. The only way to get the original is to travel to Newfoundland and get “Screeched in”. That’s for another day though. 

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