Last Call for Czech Rum

Ron de Stock Plzen-Bozkov

As the Czech Republic aims to close remaining legislative chapters in preparation for accession to the European Union, and the accession date of 2004 looms near, Czechs, too, must prepare for changes ahead that will take some getting used to in everyday life. One of the changes coming up: new names for some traditional Czech products, such as Czech rum, a beloved domestic product that has been a staple of Czech baking, festivities, and pub-life for well over a hundred years. As of January 1st, 2003 it will still be possible to buy the beverage, of course, but because it's not distilled from sugar-cane like Caribbean or South American rums, it will no longer be called rum at all. reports.

It has been the source of more heated topics related to EU accession: the worry that many local products might not survive the streamlining of food products within a single European market, for both health and business reasons. Czech Slivovice, or plum brandy - a favourite in Moravia, Moravia's Oloumocky syrecky, a kind of smelly cheese, both theoretically at risk, and of course the alcoholic beverage known in the Czech Republic as Rum Tuzemsky, Domestic Rum. In line with its aim to provide consumers with essential and accurate information, the EU has stipulated that the Czech beverage must no longer go by the name of "rum" since, by strict definition, it isn't. But, Vladimir Steiner, the production director at Stock Pilsen-Bozkov, one of the Czech Republic's largest brand-alcohol producers, says that that was never a problem in the past.

"Rum is a traditional product in European countries from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire that has been known since the mid-19th century, here it was always called "rum tuzemsky", or domestic rum. A synonym for this type of rum was also "Tea Rum", and based on this label consumers recognised it was a type of alcoholic beverage traditionally made from potatoes or sugar beets, given flavour with added rum aroma. This rum was distinguished from rum imported from countries across the ocean like Cuba, Jamaica, and Martinque. Even in the mid-19th century, there was no confusion among consumers about the beverage they were buying. Still the European Union stipulated that we had to come up with a new defining category for the product, so that there would be no confusion in any EU countries. We settled on the name "Tuzemak" to replace the original name."

The word Tuzemak is a kind of play on words from tuzemsky, loosely translated it's "The Domestic". Many different names were considered, with the company getting all sorts of recommendations from loyal customers. According to Mr Steiner, fans adapted the word rum in various forms, coming up with aurum, forum, and the terms rumajzl and rumlicek, kinds of pet names. But, says Steiner even such ideas were turned down, since alcohol producers wanted to avoid any future wrangling with EU representatives: in the end the word anything to do with the word rum was completely struck off the list of options, Tuzemak was chosen instead. And how will "The Domestic" fare in 2003? Well, there should be no real change in customer loyalty, it will be the same traditional product it has always been, used by Czech grannies for their Christmas cookies, Czech white-water canoeists to warm their bones, and some Czech pub-goers to cap a wild night. In the end, what's in a name? Stock's Vladimir Steiner believes that consumers who like their rum in the pub, will continue to refer to Tuzemak as rum whenever and wherever they order it - the same way others refer to cognac when what they're really having is brandy.