Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Angostura Global Cocktail Competition 2014 Highlights

Angostura Global Cocktail Competition 2014
The memories remain fresh in my mind after witnessing one of finest, if not the ultimate, rum cocktail competition known. Just over a week ago, 11 finalists, each representing the finest in their craft, from around the world, descended upon Trinidad. Their purpose? To compete in the highly acclaimed Angostura Global Cocktail Competition for $10,000 USD and a two year contract as Angostura's Global Brand Ambassador. Their showmanship and cocktail mastery may be best captured in their cocktail's aromas and flavors while experiencing the show from behind the bar. While this is not always possible, a series of photos highlighting the play-by-play action offers a teaser to and recap of the amount of awesome that went down, quite literally at Aria. Let's take a look!

First up is James 'Sugarfoot' Goggin of New Zealand!

Not an easy position being first, but this was an impressive start for sure. 

Left to Right: Down the Islands (Rum) & Elementary (Freestyle) 

Each competitor had to present two original cocktails containing Angostura Bitters. One cocktail may include a base spirit of choice (Freestyle) while the second required use of an Angostura Rum (Rum). Additionally, two of each cocktail had to be prepared for submission to the panel of judges within seven minutes! 

 Next up, Rohan Hackshaw of Barbados!

How about that beautiful zest?!

Passionate Thyme (Freestyle)

Third in line, was Mike Tomasic of Australia!

Muscatel clusters & tobacco leaves oh my!

Olympia (Freestyle)

Big Bird (Rum)

How about a look at the Judges!

Left to Right: Daniyel Jones, Ian Burrell, Julie Reiner, Philip Duff & Carol Homer-Caesar

Next up, Nazar Makarov of Russia!

A brilliant performance set to music with flair bartending and more...

Rum Story (Rum)
...like ristretto coffee, marchpan syrup and 100% cocoa. Yum!

Tiramisu (Freestyle)

5th in line and representing the USA was Yani M Frye!

He actually made four different cocktails representing sequential stages of attraction between two people; shaking four all at once! Oh, and this was under the seven minute limit!!

The Morning After, The Room Key, Lasting Impression (Freestyle) & A Kiss Goodbye (Rum)

Getting thirsty yet?

Next up, Barbaro Giraldes Portieles of Cuba!

Don Portieles (Freestyle) & Trinidad Farandula (Rum)

Admittedly, I was not able to taste all of them, but I did happen to taste a few in between some amazing appetizers compliments of Aria. Delicious!

Next up was Panagiotis Giovanis of Greece!

Fire it up!

Left to Right: Safe House (Rum) & Scarlet Ibis (Freestyle)

Next up, Shane Mulvany of Canada!

Elegant presentation with a butterfly garnish...

Kiss of the Butterfly (Rum)

Mate Csaltos of the UK!

Artistic style and charisma!

Beautiful Year (Rum)

Next up, Denzel Heath of South Africa!

Wolverine? Perhaps, and a finely dressed one I will add.

Ribe's Cobbler (Rum)

 It is amazing listening to the stories behind the ingredients used, let alone the attention to detail that goes into executing the elements of each cocktail. What a show!

Last up, Kester Blake of Trinidad and Tobago!

This guy can shake it!

Calypso Rose (Freestyle)

The judges carefully deliberated and winners were announced. The professionalism and comradeship of the competitors were admirable. 

And the winners are....

Left to Right: Mate Csaltos, Michael Tomasic and Nazar Makarov

Grand Prize: Michael Tomasic - Freestyle Cocktail "Olympia" winner
2nd Place: Nazar Makarov - Rum Cocktail  "Rum Story" winner
3rd Place: Mate Csaltos

Congratulations to all the winners!!!
Angostura CEO Mr. Robert Wong & Grand Prize Winner Michael Tomasic


All 11 Finalists and the lovely Giselle Laronde-West


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Limin' in the Spice Isle: Celebrating Rum of Grenada

Grenada: Local Rum, Spices & Flora
Select spices courtesy of World Spice Merchants
Rum is a free spirit and throughout history has been at the forefront of several wars, some of which resulted in independence. In recognition, we mark our first event of 2014 by celebrating Grenada's Independence Day with an exploration of their finest rums. Also known as the Isle of Spice, Grenada is the home of three different distilleries, each boasting a range of unique rums. Most of these don't leave the island albeit in a tourist's luggage. There is even one brand that doesn't leave at all due to it's proof! This event we continue our mission to enhance awareness and develop appreciation of rum by bringing them to you for a first hand educational experience. Guests can expect an informative slide-show complimenting a guided tasting through a bouquet of hand-selected expressions, including the newly released Plantation Grenada 2003. Of course we will be integrating a couple of these into cocktails crafted by Liberty's finest bartenders. Please join us for an evening of Grenadian Rum!

Sunday, February 9th from 7-9pm
$30 cash / person
(bring a friend and receive $5 dollars off!)

For further details and updates, please see The Rum Collective Facebook event:

See you there!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Rum Collective's 'Hot' Harvest Cocktail Contest: The Winners

International Rum Council Flag, Imbibe MagazineRhum J.M
The Coterie Room Bar
Hot drinks featuring Rhum J.M was the theme of our Contest and the cocktails were a blazin'! Considering several of the rhums used were 100 proof, this may or may not be a surprise. The bar at The Coterie Room set the stage as the finalists prepared and the crowd gathered around the Macouba Punch bowl to refill their cups just prior to showtime. The panel of judges gave the sign and the first contestant was called. What were the cocktails, who won and what were their prizes?

Here's a look at all that steaming hot agricole action...

Macouba Punch w/ Rhum J.M Blanc
Macouba Punch
 (single serving)
1.5oz Rhum J.M Blanc (100 proof)
1oz grapefruit juice
0.5oz lime juice
0.5oz passionfruit juice
0.5oz blackberry brandy
6 drops Herbsaint
(Recipe adapted from Chemistry of the Cocktail)


The Hot Cocktails

Finalist Emily Mistell presents...
Lord Grantham
1.5oz brown butter fat-washed Rhum J.M Blanc
6oz brewed Assam black tea (hot)
1/2-3/4oz sweetened condensed milk
Prepare by steeping 2 tsp of tea in 6oz water for four mintues. Pour Rhum J.M, sweetened condensed milk and bitters in a cup and stir in the hot tea. Serve in a tea cup with a russian tea cake made with the brown butter fat that washed the Rhum J.M.

Lord Grantham by Emily Mistell

Finalist Nathan Layman presents...
A Christmas Travesty, Green Cale Edition
1.5oz Rhum J.M Gold (100 proof)
1oz Pineapple Gomme Syrup
0.5oz Becherovka
2oz Hot Water
Prepare Blue Blazer Style, served up in an appropriate hot mug with a large orange zest. Cale Green Edition includes a ham and pineapple garnish.
A Christmas Travesty by Nathan Layman

Finalist Jason Saura presents...
Le Rayon Verte
1oz Rhum J.M Gold (100 proof)
0.5oz Green Chartreuse
2oz Hot Green Tea
0.5oz Honey syrup (2:1 Honey to water)
Prepare by adding the first three ingredients into a silver Tankard and the last two into another. Light alcohol on fire, then pour back and forth 4 - 5 times in the style of the Blue Blazer. Pour into a tempered wine glass, garnish with apple slice and fresh, grated nutmeg 
Le Rayon Verte by Jason Saura

Finalist Kristen Burns presents...
Smoked Caramel Rum Cider
2oz Rhum J.M V.S.O.P
1/4oz ruby port (Porto Defino)
4oz pressed Braeburn Apple cider
1oz house-made smoked sea salt caramel sauce
Prepare by placing Rhum J.M and port to a glass mug, then add heated cider and stir in house-made caramel sauce. Garnish with a house-made rumball using Rhum J.M Gold (& spoonful of caramel)

Smoked Caramel Rum Cider by Kristen Burns

Finalist Casey Robison presents...

Horchata & Rhum Milk Punch
2oz Rhum J.M 10yr. '97'
4-4.5oz home made "Horchata Milk Punch Mix"
(rice, milk, vanilla, condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, agave, aromatic bitters, chocolate bitters)

Prepare in a tea kettle, heated up and served with a stick of Mexican cinnamon

Horchata & Rhum Milk Punch by Casey Robison

The Prizes

Take a look, they're vintage... Oh hell yeah!
1st Place Prize: Rhum J.M 1994, 1997 & V.S.O.P,
'Ti Punch gift set and a 2yr Imbibe subscription 
2nd Place Prize: Rhum J.M 1994,
'Ti Punch gift set and a 1yr Imbibe subscription
3rd Place Prize: Rhum J.M 1997,
'Ti Punch gift set and a 1yr Imbibe subscription


1st Place: Horchata & Rhum Milk Punch by Casey Robison
2nd Place: Smoked Caramel Rhum Cider by Kristen Burns
3rd Place: Le Rayon Verte by Jason Saura

Left to Right: Jason Saura, Kristen Burns & Casey Robison

How About a Big Round of Applause for the Winners!

Thank you to the judges, Rhum J.M, Imbibe Magazine an Spur Gastropub for your support!

Rhum on!!
Rhum J.M Blanc & Rhum J.M Gold


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Rum Collective's 'Hot' Harvest Cocktail Contest: The Finalists

One of Martinique's most celebrated rhums is about to spill out of its typical 'Ti Punch role into the realm of hot toddies, warmed punches and coffee drinks. That's right, Rhum J.M is breaking away from its historic mold. Wait, what? Aren't rhum agricoles just for making 'Ti Punch? Perhaps, but not if we have something to say about it! Just as other lesser-known spirits have come to achieve over time, rhum agricole will expand out of its traditional cocktail like tequila to the Margarita, cachaça to the Caipirinha and pisco to its Sour. This contest is set to expand the agricole envelope and after reviewing many amazing entries, it's clear there are many talented individuals capable of this. We are pleased to announce the following contestants have been selected to present their cocktails in a live competition at The Coterie Room on November 24th, 2013 from 5-7pm just following our tasting event. Outstanding!


The Finalists

Casey Robison
Spirits Director, Heavy Restaurant Group

Emily Mistell
Bar Manager, Rum Club

Kristen Burns
Bartender & Owner, Clever Bottle

Jason Saura
Bar Manager, Naga Cocktail Bar

Elizabeth Powell
Bartender, Liberty Bar
Nathan Layman
Bar Manager, The Tin Table

Want to experience this steaming hot agricole action live? No problem. Grab a ticket to our meeting, Giving Thanks to Rhum J.M: Tasting the Harvest and receive a complimentary VIP Pass!



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rhumerie de Fonds-Préville: A Journey to the Center of the Agricole World part 2

Rhum J.M blanc and sugar cane: The Harvest
Less than 48 hours in Martinique and intoxicated by its nature and the spirit of Agricole it yields, quite literally, I begin again. Today, we were off to see the harvest at Rhum J.M; those robust agricole legs viewed inside my glass last night, now, firmly underneath me. The journey up north is post card perfect; spectacular cliffs and ocean views to your right, long sugar cane stalks blowing in the wind to your left. The truth is, Martinique views demand a leisurely journey and suggest that stop-off for a 'Ti Punch is more than necessary. Oh yeah!

Rhum J.M sugar cane fields beneath Mt. Pelee

The arrival to the cane fields of Rhum J.M is magical. We drive up an unmarked pathway into what resembles more of a sugar cane labyrinth at the base of Montagne Pelée. Our first stop is at the water source, an underground volcanic spring. This mineral laden spring water is used periodically to water the crops but has significant influence on the soil below.

We all stop to taste the holy water as the clouds pass quickly above almost dancing with the light of the Martinique sun. The climate at the North end of the island is noticeably more arid than its southern parts. If the powerful view of tall sugar cane going up to the footings of Mont Pelée doesn't make your mouth open wide in awe, the view of it directly behind you may pull on a few heart strings and confirm you have found some sort of heaven on Earth. Indeed, one need not die to experience such bliss, simply visit the region of Martinique known as Habitation Fonds-Préville.

The view

Rhum J.M sugar cane fields above the Atlantic Ocean

Banana bushel
There is a small factory located just before entering Rhum J.M's sugar cane fields; however, it is processing the fruit of a different sort of crop, bananas. One can see banana trees growing adjacent to the sugar cane fields; their bushels wrapped up in blue bags. It is between the sugar cane and banana plants that a synergistic microclimate exists. The soil's composition and water are influenced by the banana plants which positively influence the sugar cane quality and quantity each year.

Premium Banane

The sugar cane and banana crops are rotated every few years to create optimal soil conditions. One can plainly see how sugar cane, growing in this unique environment, impacts the character of fresh-pressed cane juice and its subsequent distillate known as Rhum Agricole.

Tally me bananas!
Banana trees at Rhum J.M

Harvest time at Habitation Bellevue, Rhum J.M
We arrive just in time to witness the harvest. The scene is rather impressive and slightly terrifying. Up until 1998, the fields were harvested the old fashion way; men baring machetes. Now, The Harvester is employed. A machine to improve efficiency of the process for sure; cutting low to the ground while simultaneously decapitating the cane's grassy head. It moves forward capturing each sugar cane stalk, cutting them into shorter segments before being emptied into the container following the tractor behind. This machine not only decreases the amount of time it takes to cut the sugar cane, but more importantly keeps cane cutting in pace with the distillery tempo. This sort of control, in effect, improves the quality and quantity of the sugar cane juice yield. Wow!

Let's get a closer look!

The Harvester

 Take a look at The Harvester in action during the Harvest!


We followed the truck full of fresh cut sugar cane stalks through the dense foliage down the hill to the distillery. The sugar cane was emptied into a gravity-fed holding bin just before it was pressed. I will note here that it took around 30 minutes from when the sugar cane was cut until it was pressed. Rhum J.M's sugar cane is fresh-pressed without a doubt!!

La Distillerie du Fonds-Préville
Today, their distillery, which began in 1845 by Jean-Marie Martin, is alive and well. Sugar cane stalks are first shredded before they are pressed for their juice. Water is used throughout to maximize the amount of sugar cane juice obtained during the three cycles of pressing. The juice or vesou is collected and pumped into containers for fermentation. It takes 2 hours to fill each container holding 23,000 liters. If you do the math, that's 3.2 liters per second. There are 11 containers on site. We are told that baker's yeast is added to each container before being filled to agitate the mixture amidst plenty of oxygen. This ensures the proper conditions for fermentation.

Below are a few moments capturing the Distillery scene up close

Water irrigation in sugar cane press

Sugar cane juice collected before fermentation

Fresh-pressed vesou or sugar cane juice

Fermentation occurs for 36-48 hours yielding a vin de canne (sugar cane wine) of 5-7% ABV.


Where Rhum Agricole is made!

Rhum J.M Créole Copper Column Stills

 A tasting directly off the still?
Well, alright, if I must!

Fresh Distillate

We have discussed that Agricole must be distilled to between "65 and 75 degrees" per AOC requirements. But, just in case, here's the proof...

Myself and Mr. Nazaire Canatous, Master Distiller (right)
Rhum J.M Creole Copper Stills
I don't generally include photos of myself in reviews but here is a special story necessary to appreciate the continuity of care found in the distillation of Rhum J.M. Their Master Distiller, Nazaire Canatous, can be seen in the photo on the right. Rhum J.M has been distilled by him and his father, Pascal (aka Emile Bolnet), continuously for the past 83 years. His father, nicknamed, "Misie Paco" meaning Mister Pascal in Creole, distilled 40 vintages. His son, Nazaire, began working at the lowest level cleaning bottles and has risen in rank to fill his shoes. Today, he oversees his 43rd vintage of Rhum J.M this year. Knowing that the knowledge and skills of this art has passed from father to son over this many years is remarkable. We taste the distillate and it speaks for itself. It is wonderful learning that Rhum J.M is not only the oldest "single-domaine" rhumerie remaining in Martinique, but that its distillation may be regarded as "single-family" too. It is clear the brand's owners appreciate time and tradition. The golden idea set forth by Jean Marie-Martin continues today. Respect!!

Now off to the aging cellars...

Retrieving barrels at the Rhum J.M Aging Warehouse

 Aged rhum in caks are being pulled down and drained for bottling
Rhum J.M cask being emptied

The cellar was noticeably humid, but not muggy in a bad way, for the air was concentrated with aromas of aging agricole and wood, almost drinkable. Despite what one learns about osmoreceptors in medical physiology, another thirst meter was at work and I was overwhelmed with an intense urge to satisfy it with all the agricole before me. We enter one of two aging cellars each holding 1700 barrels. Yes! Emmanuel Becheau of Rhum J.M interjects how they label the casks as we try to decipher which vintage is in which cask while making our way deeper within the cellar. At the other end, tulip shaped glasses are passed around for a tasting. My mouth slowly opens. Wait, what's this going on in front of us? Casks are being pulled down by several men to be emptied prior to bottling. Emmanuel tells us that each year rum is being set aside for the 10yr and 15yr vintages to be bottled at cask strength. The tasting commenced with samples taken straight from the cask. We begin with younger rhums, moving on to 10yr and finishing with the oldest vintage (1996) in the cellar. The rhum enters the barrels at 60% ABV; first in new barrels, then finished in once used bourbon. The wood is all American Oak. We are told the angels share includes a 8% volume loss annually with a change of 1 degree alcohol due to humidity loss. It doesn't need to be stated, but the angels are rather spoiled here at Rhum J.M.

Rhumerie J.M

We finish the straight-from-the-cask tasting and proceed down to the boutique tasting room. Inside one finds a thoughtful design. The entry includes education on the history and production of Rhum J.M as well a channel to display the spring water. The action, however, is over to the right, wherein lays the tasting room and retail area. Bottles line the display encompassing an entire wall. Once distilled, each vintage is rested for four to six months in stainless steel containers. Then, It may be reduced by approximately 2 degrees (percent ABV) every 2 weeks to bottling strength in the case of rhum blanc or go directly into casks for aging. My eyes, slightly overwhelmed by the range of expressions on display, begin to focus on Emmanuel as he started discussing 'Ti Punch blanc, then "Ti Punch vieux and then, more mature rhum education ensues...

'Ti Punch o'clock!

Emmanuele Becheau preparing 'Ti Punch Blanc

For the full story (with video presentation) on 'Ti Punch, read our article here.

The display of Rhum J.M bottles for sale is brilliant!
Elegant Rhum J.M display

It isn't enough to end with another round of 'Ti Punches. We sample them all....
Rhum J.M tasting bar
 Seeing first hand, this unique mountain-side climate, is believing. It is in fields of volcanic soil and mineral rich springs, co-habited with banana plants under the tropical Martinique sun, this rhum's true character is born. It is in this unique microcosm of Martinque terrior their famous sugar cane rises and Rhum J.M is grown. It would seem, even on Martinque, we are not just talking about "Rhum" any longer, but of a special variant where the parallels with wine and terrior are much more heavily involved. Folks, let us be clear with our words, we are talking about a certain Rhum Agricole; specifically that of the J.M lineage.

I enjoy another sip of the Rhum J.M Cuvée du Fondateur (only available on site) before departure.