The Rum Files: Bootleggers and Mythical Beasts


Rum is a fascinating and diverse category of spirits. It goes by many nicknames—kill-devil, screech, and Nelson’s blood (to name a few). The rum brands are just as interesting—Skinny Pirate, Flipflop, Bumbu, Cargo Cult, and Dead Man’s Fingers all caught my eye.

Among the funny, irreverent, and outlandish rum brands, several are named for bootleggers or mythical beasts. Here are a few to watch out for:

The Rougaroux: The rougaroux is a big, scary, creature somewhat akin to a werewolf. The legend of the rougaroux centers around French Louisiana/Cajun Country.  The name rougaroux is thought to be a localized variation of the French words loup (“wolf”) and garou (“man”)—or loup-garou (“wolf-man”). The rougaroux is a shape-shifting beast with the body of a man and the head of a wolf. He prowls the swamps of Louisiana and preys on children who misbehave, and—as some like to believe—Catholics who forget their Lenten vows. Thankfully, well-behaved youngsters (and devoted Catholics) are of no interest to him. Click here to visit the website of Rougaroux Full Moon Dark Rum.

Bill McCoy in 1921 (Public Domain)

The Real McCoy: The term “the real McCoy” is typically used to mean  “the real thing” or “the genuine article.” The saying has a plethora of backstories and possible meanings. These date as far back as 1856, when the Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a letter that contained the phrase a drappie o’ the real MacKay. However, when it comes to the Real McCoy Rum, it’s all about Bill.

William “Bill” McCoy (1877–1948) was an American bootlegger, famous for being one of the first—and best—sea captains to sail to the Caribbean and return to the east coast of America with a hull full of whiskey, rum, and all other sorts of alcohol. Bill was an experienced, savvy businessman and the owner of several boats. Bill and his crew would sail to the Bahamas, load up  with liquor, and return to the east coast—always careful to stay three miles off shore, which at the time represented the international boundary. Unlike many of the other rum runners of the time, Bill was known to never dilute his spirits with juice, water, sugar, or other additives. As such, his products became known for their quality and purity, and were referred to as “the Real McCoy.” Click here to visit the website of The Real McCoy Rum.

Photo by Rama via Wikimedia Commons

The Lugger: The term lugger represents the type of boat that the legendary Jack “Ratt” Rattenbury (1778–1844) would have used in his many years as a smuggler. Jack smuggled a range of goods between France and England. His modus operandi was to sink tubs of contraband—including brandy, tea, tobacco and silk—off the English coast for later collection.

lugger is equipped with one or more four-cornered sails, known as lug sails. Luggers were widely used by bootleggers and other smugglers in the waters around England, Ireland, Scotland, and France from the mid-18th century onward. Luggers were prized for their speed and power—which often made them able to evade and outrun the authorities. Click here to visit the website of Jack Ratt Lugger Rum. 

Colossal octopus drawing by Pierre Denys de Montfort (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Kraken: The Kraken is a legendary creature of Norse mythology. The scariest thing about the kraken—often described as a giant squid- or octopus-like creature—is that it may well be based on real-life giant squid, which can grow to lengths of 40 feet or longer (ouch). This ocean-dwelling monster is reported to dwell off the coast of Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and other parts of the North Atlantic, often terrorizing ships and sailors. The kraken is often described in literature and lore—Alfred Tennyson wrote a poem called “the Kraken,” and kraken-like creatures appearance in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as well as Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas. Click here to visit the website of Kraken Rum.

Here are a few more rum names I’d like to investigate in the future: La Hechicera, Admiral Rodney, Dead Man’s Fingers, and Holey Dollar. Any other suggestions?

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

2 Responses to The Rum Files: Bootleggers and Mythical Beasts

  1. corkprof says:

    We picked up a special bottle of Admiral Rodney Extra Old St. Lucia Rum on our way out of St. Lucia after we eloped! It was FANTASTIC for sipping…we used snifters…is that the right glass?

    • bubblyprof says:

      Sounds delicious (and fun)! A snifter is a good tasting glass. There are lots of other good choices as well; some people prefer a standard white wine glass, others prefer a tulip-shaped whisky tasting-style glass, and other prefer a Sherry copita-style glass. Captain Jimbo has an excellent discussion on rum tasting glasses on his website, here: Enjoy it all!

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