Jarrod Hales adds new rums to his collection as he stumbles across them. “This is basically what’s good this month,” says the first-time bar owner, gesturing towards his custom-built timber liquor cabinet at The William Bligh. “If it sells well, we’ll add it to the family.”
When speaking to Broadsheet, Hales counts 33 rums (“…for now”) at his newly opened bar on Vardon Avenue. It’s a tongue-in-cheek tribute to William Bligh, a naval officer-come-governor who tried to stop the rum trade in the early-1800s.
Shipwreck Spiced Rum from the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts is shaping up to be its best seller. “We’ve sold four bottles in less than a week,” says Hales. One of his more recent finds is imported and spiced in-house at The Rum Diary Bar in Fitzroy, Melbourne.
The William Bligh’s signature “off-menu” item is Hales’ best kept secret. To sample it, “You’ve got to come up to the bar and ask to join the Rum Rebellion,” he says. The white rum-based mojito – and its pineapple variation – are a safe bet for the less adventurous.
“We’ve also been experimenting with spiked tea,” says Hales. To be served in a teacup for one, or a pot for a few, it’s rum with lemon-infused gin, lemon myrtle and honeyed-apricot and smoked-hickory bitters. Mulled hot-buttered rum is in the works for the winter months.
Veering away from rum, the bulk of the compact wine list comes courtesy of McLaren Vale winemaker Graham Stevens who – until now – only sold from his cellar door. “His reds sell pretty well considering we’re surrounded by wine bars,” says Hales, who neighbours East End Cellars and Mother Vine.
Grazing platters will change with the season, packed with cold cuts, cheese and fruit. But toasties take the lead: there’s an English, Cuban, Mediterranean and vegetarian option, “each to be named after a mutineer from [Bligh’s ship] the Bounty”. They’re served with dipping sauce and a handful of crisps.
“Bligh wrote a list of all the people that mutinied,” says Hales. Copies of the original list, sourced from the Australian National Library in Canberra, hang on the mezzanine-level walls. Hand-customised mirrors give a worn, antique feel that adds to the bar’s old-world charm.
Monthly tastings will get off the ground in June. The next step will be food pairings with rum. Hales also mentions a dessert toastie; “Think banana, toffee, caramel… paired with a [similarly flavoured] rum.”
The William Bligh
33 Vardon Avenue, Adelaide
Tue to Thu 8.30am–12am
Sat to Sun 11am–1am