Forget Becherovka or even slivovice, it’s Czech rum – tuzemák – which is the biggest selling spirit in this country. Despite its popularity here, however, the drink remains virtually unknown abroad. Now though, one south Bohemian distillery has started selling its product in North America and is hoping that Canadians will develop a taste for tuzemák as well. Earlier today, I spoke to Tomáš Petrů from the Fruko-Schulz distillery, and started by asking him what the difference was between tuzemák and better-known rums from the Caribbean:
“The main difference is in production technology. Because we produce our tuzemák from sugar beet spirit. But, for example, in the Caribbean they produce rum from sugar cane spirit. So this is the main difference – the difference in raw materials, and the different materials make a difference in colour.”
Is there a difference in taste too? And what is that difference?
“Actually, the taste is hard to describe. You have to taste it. The taste of Czech tuzemák is highly sweet, with cinnamon and caramel notes.”
Can we call tuzemák a Czech speciality? Is it only in this country that it is made?
“For sure, for sure. Tuzemák is a very, very Czech speciality. It is also known in Slovakia, because for a long, long time Czechoslovakia was one country. And also in Central Europe you can also find some producers – for example, in Austria, they produce ‘Stroh rum’; they call it rum. And this is also on the same base as tuzemák, so it is a very similar alcohol.”
Now, you are exporting tuzemák to Canada as of this August. Who are you exporting it there for? Is it predominantly for the Czech population in Canada, or are you thinking that this will appeal to other Canadians’ palettes as well?
“Actually, I will be happy if other Canadians like it. My first try is really focused on the Czech community living there. Also, the quantity exported is quite low. The first try is to focus on the people who live there who know the product, who know the taste. And I hope that they will find the product on liquor shops’ shelves and they will buy it and bring it also amongst their Canadian friends and drink it together. I also hope Canadians will like it.”
As you yourself just said, the first batch of tuzemák that has been exported to Canada is really pretty small. But still, you’re saying that this has been a great success. In what sense is this a great success?
“For a European liquor company it is quite complicated to get onto the
North American food market. Because if you produce a spirit, you have to
register the product with a commission - with a liquor commission - and
they have to approve the product, they have to taste the product, they have
to check the composition of the product. So, that’s the thing that was
complicated for me and that I consider to be a success; that I passed the
registration procedures and I got the product on the market.”