Parce Rum: Bringing Colombian Warmth to Chicago
Here at Gramovox, we believe great music is amplified when accompanied by an exquisite drink. To celebrate this sublime pairing, we’re launching Mixology Month with help from an impressive newcomer on the spirits scene: Parce Rum. We met up with Jim Powers at Little Goat Diner, in Chicago’s West Loop restaurant district, to sip Parce and discuss the remarkable story behind his rum.
Created by Chicago brothers Brian, Jim, and Patrick Powers, Parce launched in the summer of 2014 and immediately caught our attention. Parce (pronounced PAR-say) is the shortened version of parceiro, a Spanish slang word that means “good friend” or “buddy.” The idea to create rum was sparked when Jim visited his brother Patrick in Medellín, Colombia, where he lives with his family. Remembering their father’s longtime wish that his sons would go into business together, they began discussing possible ventures.
“We were looking for something we could we do that would be kind of a bridge between what we think is the best of Colombian culture and the rest of the world,” said Jim. They decided on rum because it was a local beverage they both enjoyed. “In South America, they would be drinking rum much more as a sipping rum, enjoying the complexity and character… Certainly sipping rums have existed here [in the United States], but I don’t think there’s been much awareness of them, and we thought maybe we could get the sipping rum on the map here, too.”
The brothers initially considered licensing an established Colombian rum for distribution in the United States, but were deterred by the extensive Colombian bureaucratic process and the difficulty of securing long-term contracts.
“We decided to just build our own company and rum from scratch,” said Jim. They began searching for the best Colombian rum distillers, and were eventually led to the father-and-son team of Arthur and Brojen Fernandes Domecq. With a combined 50 years’ worth of experience in blending rum, the Fernandes Domecq duo proved to be ideal partners. “We scheduled a trip and met with them. … They’re wonderful people, and we had a very good time hanging out. So we decided to do business with them.”
Thus began the 18-month process of perfecting a blend of rum. The Fernandes Domecq team created multiple batches for the Powers brothers to sample and provide feedback.
“What we really wanted was that intensity and that richness— like what we were sipping in Colombia,” said Jim. “I would taste it, then I would run it by some people who really know rum, that I respected.” Jim specified that he was looking for “a rum that you could sip neat by a fireplace in Chicago, in January.”
Thankfully, Brojen had experienced Chicago winter before, and the final batch perfectly captured the warmth Jim was looking for.
“[The rum] was its own experience— it wasn’t about a beach, it wasn’t about coconuts. It was really a nice, solid kind of rum. We wanted something you could enjoy year-round, across four seasons.” The experts gave the 8 and 12-year flavors a thumbs-up, and the Powers decided to simultaneously launch both blends.
Parce made its debut with a backstage booth at the 2014 Pitchfork Music Festival.
“We really want to support the creative scene and the art scene,” said Jim. “Music seemed like a natural tie-in for us, and Pitchfork was a perfect venue for us to get started and introduce ourselves.” The booth was a success, and helped generate buzz as Parce gained wider distribution in Chicago and nationwide. According to the Parce website, the rum is now available in Illinois, Colorado, and Arizona, with New York distribution scheduled to commence in April.
“The magic is in the barrel selection,” said Jim. Both the 8 and 12-year varieties of Parce are aged in whiskey barrels, which gives the rum a bourbon-like finish. “I get into the nuances of the flavors. I like them both myself; I like the little bit of heat on the back of the 8 [year], it’s got warmth. But the 12 [year]… has a softer finish, some crème brulée and vanilla notes. [Parce] is flavorful, with a lot going on.”
This attention to detail extends from the flavor of the rum to every other aspect of the Parce brand.
“We believe aesthetics are really important, and they communicate a value to people, so it was absolutely essential we focus on that,” said Jim. “The multi-colored thread, the wooden tops, the little touches… We wanted something that was appealing, that would look great in a cabinet and on a bar.”
So how does Jim Powers enjoy Parce?
“Neat or on the rocks is great, and swapping Parce into any bourbon drink tastes amazing,” he said. The Parce website features cocktail recipes by Paul McGee, partner at Lost Lake, which will satisfy a wide range of palettes. Jim recommends the Palmetto, which blends Parce with vermouth and Angostura bitters. “It’s the Parce spin on a Manhattan. Great cold weather drink.”
Always in search of the perfect beverage and musical pairing, we asked Jim which artists he listens to while sipping Parce.
“I enjoy music that’s saying something to me,” he said. “You can never go wrong with John Coltrane or Miles Davis.” We absolutely agree.