Monday, December 5, 2011

Rum at the WSLCB: A Final Harvest

Long live Rum! In Washington State, a new era in liquor regulation is upon us. For with the passage of Initiative 1183, the prohibition era laws dictating state controlled liquor came to an end. A celebration with serious imbibing has passed to yield a sobering time of uncertainty. What will come to be of all the quality spirits we have taken for granted? Rum lovers need not fear. This truly American spirit has not only seen times of change here in the United States, but it ignited the flame that brought about our independence long ago. It is called the Spirit of 1776 for good reason! As June 2012 approaches, the WSLCB will be making changes towards their going out of business. Today, they are no longer accepting requests for special order rums, nor are any new rums going to arrive anytime soon. Thus, the variety and availability of all these tasty rums will decline at an unknown rate. Thankfully, we are still at the beginning of this phase out and the selection at present marks the pinnacle of a significant increase in the types of rum we have enjoyed this past year. This year's harvest brings a few more new rums to Washington we can look forward to as we sip our way into and through the holiday season. Read and rum on!

Chairman's Reserve Spiced Rum: I have mentioned how undervalued this brand's Rum is in a previous article. Now, like a variation on a theme, the black labeled Spiced version is an upbeat and lively next movement in this line. "Infused with Caribbean spices and flavors such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and vanilla" can be read on the label. If you have tasted a few spiced rums, sensitive palates may notice something else. A robust combination of spices is not all that's inside this rum! It is infused with Bois Bande, a bark used for ages to increase libido in the Caribbean. In addition to the smile on your face now, it brings an element of traditional culture to this mixture. The noticeably mellow aroma and slightly sweeter herbalesque flavor gives the rum character, not to mention offers a topic sure to provoke conversation in the most reserved circles. (no pun here!) Forward in its flavors, this blend of double distilled pot and column still rums are thoughtfully blended for drinking. In current times, where waves of spiced rums are flooding the market, this $21.95 bottle is sure to be a hit at any holiday party!

Deco Distilling Silver Rum: The bottle's cool Art Deco influenced label will take you back to the era of prohibition before you open it. How about a Marie Pickford Cocktail before you sit down to watch Coquette? This rum will work fashionably well for that. In fact, pause your film to try it out in a Hemingway Daiquiri. Charcoal filtered and crisp with mild notes of anise and wood followed by a semi dry finish make this rum a good candidate as a mixer in quite a few classic cocktails. Also important, is the fact it is made by our über-cool neighbor, Portland. This Northwest boutique rum's silver lining is a winter holiday decoration by itself and worth a go for your next cocktail party. At a price of $22.80, its a perfect fit to celebrate your freedom to drink commemorated today. Cheers to Repeal Day!!

Crusoe Organic Spiced Rum: The label you see is 100% post consumer waste recycled paper; its ink, soy-based. The bottle you pick up off the shelf weighs 600 grams. Lightweight is a quality that reduces transport costs and secondary environmental effects. Throw a planted tree in Bolivia for each bottle sold and you're buying a carbon footprint neutral rum. Awesome! Let's not forget the rum and spices you reveal inside the synthetic cork are certified USDA Organic. Yes, folks, organic rum is here. Distilled from molasses and sugar cane and blended with hand cut spices, a quality product is expected. Named after the famous character in Daniel Defoe's novel, one should take to this bottle of rum with nose for adventure. Orange zest and allspice dominate above the delicate vanilla, cinnamon and clove aromas laying below. Its utility as a mixer in a few tiki cocktails comes to mind. Light bodied and 35% ABV, this rum finishes smoother than expected. A rum that is about showing respect to the Earth at a price you can respect, is, well, respectable. At $35.65, it's perfect for your eco-sensitive friends or anyone who appreciates thoughtful gifts. Don't delay this opportunity to show your green-friendly rum side with a bottle today!

Downslope Distilling Wine Barrel Aged Rum: If you ski or snowboard, you will recognize the significance of the double diamond logo sign on the bottle's neck. Downslope, vertically positioned just above the label, gives you notice. The barrel and bottle numbers as well as the date it was bottled are visible at the base giving it a bit of a limited edition, aged appearance. In fact, it is aged in wine barrels for 6 months after being made in Colorado from cane juice dried in Maui. Filled with big wine and oaky flavors, it will warm you on that cold winter night. This young Rocky Mountain spirit has some terrain to navigate and suggests some potential as a fun mixer. Give it a try at $31.95 and build your next sangria a mile higher!

Roaring Dan's Maple Flavored Rum: Milwaukee, Wisconsin makes rum. No, this is not a rum with an origin story of beaches, island trade or Caribbean pirates. This is about a guy named Dan, who became a notorious rum runner, charged with piracy on the Great Lakes for capturing ships and their booty. Outside of providing cheap hooch from Canada, he was also a man of the community; running a tavern and brothel sometime between other acts of good will like saving a drowning boy and sharing apples with the local kids. This strong rum of 45% ABV has the essence of north woods bottled in a cider style bottle capturing Dan's story. To give it a north woods quality, maple has been added in prior to its second distillation, resembling processes in some gins. This addition may give it a softer yellow leaf-like color seen in the fall season. This rum has a bittersweet bite served neat, perhaps as Dan would have liked it given the frigid conditions of Wisconsin and Lake Michigan. Enjoy it in a hot toddy or hot buttered rum for $41.45 or give it as gift to a special friend named Dan!

Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum: Bacardi's first appearance in the spiced rum market is here dressed for success. The bottle has a modern cut, slim to fit almost any hand behind the bar with a checkered pattern of concave indents for a steady grip, wet or dry. Go ahead give it a try! The label spells it out for you. Smooth Spiced Rum marks its distinction; the price of $16.95 seals the deal. Imagine smelling the scent of smoke from wood coals beneath a pot of fruits in caramelized sugar stewing away. As you get closer, you detect a dash of cinnamon and vanilla. Tasting confirms a rich and silky texture, overall surprisingly smooth with a mild spice finish for a spiced rum. This spiced rum could be sipped neat or on ice but may be best used with a dash or two of a simple mixer. I emphasize less mixer as this rum's smooth character may be missed in larger ratios of mixers, like Coca Cola. It is 35% ABV, which may explain some of its smoothness, so for those looking for something with big spice notes and an afterburn, you may want look further. However, the back of the label boasts that it is a rum, "that stands up to any challenge." You can take this confidence to the bank without losses with this rum and to any challenges, bring'em!

Brugal Extra Viejo: The white fishnet stocking fitted on top a new black background is eye candy. Lacing the exterior of Brugal's long tapered bottle sets the stage, offering an appearance of luxury. It was the first release in Brugal's premium line of rums. It is made from a blend of rums aged from three to eight years in used bourbon barrels. The color is a deep golden amber. Aromas of vanilla and cocoa resonate against notes of fruit. Brown sugar sweetness mixes with roasted nuts and spiced woody notes for a pleasantly dry finish. Could this be a chocolate lover's rum? Find out! At a price of $28.40, you will be more than satisfied.

Blackheart Spiced Rum: This rum tale is about the woman who you dream of meeting and then wish you had never met. She was called Blackheart. Sugar and spice minus everything nice, need I say more? You get the picture. And if not, the label provides a classic centerfold style pin up that says more than words do. Take a look! She was known to hold her sword as well as she held her liquor and this bottle of rum is a representation of what she drank in time to finish men off. The smell is sweet and robust with spices. At 93 proof (46.5% ABV), she wasn't playing around gentlemen. Then again, after glancing back at the label, I suspect she was playing; playing for keeps! This rum is meant to mix and be social without losing your wallet over at $14.95. The bottle looks like a provocative piece of art on any bar and may offer up an icebreaker if you find yourself drinking near that woman you may wish you hadn't met.

Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21: Dominican rums are, one might say, some of the sweeter, smoother sipping rums out there. Vizcaya is yet another example of this. Although new to Washington State, it is an old favorite for many who enjoy quality rums. The beautiful decanter style bottle is something to behold and is built like it holds something special. The real cork enclosure exposes a fragrance that would give the makers of Givenchy a smile. Look forward to a full bodied, silky smooth texture giving your palate a buttery coating. Lively aromas including caramelized brown sugar, smoky tobacco, butterscotch and cocoa make for a delightful pause before sipping. In fact nosing it is half the fun! The complex flavor profile fading with a long extended finish is perfect for any after dinner sipper or nightcap. If you smoke cigars, this rum is a must! Try opening the aromas and flavors up with an ice cube or water to suit your taste. At $51.20, it's perfect for that special event coming up and will make a elegant gift for any fine spirits' lover...even if it is yourself! If your budget dictates less, consider Vizcaya's latest addition, Vizcaya Cask 12, which comes in a one liter bottle and at $28.85, it's almost half the price. It is aged 6 years, maintains less character but offers more versatility if premium cocktails are in order. That said, you get what you are paying for with this rum. That what being, awesome!

Ron Cartavio XO: Beneath the shroud of a distinctive black box enclosure lies a Peruvian treasure. From the fertile Chicama valley on the north coast of Peru, a rum has been released that attests to 80 years of rum making. Taking in all the grandeur and regal markings of the bottle requires time. The website reads, "no detail is left to chance" referring to the bottle design and they are serious. It is a masterpiece for which the eyes feast upon. To open, one must untwist the golden wire to remove the wooden cap seal. The rum's color is a deep red tinted mahogany appearing ripe with passion. It has been aged in American, French and Slovenian oak casks, blended and further matured by a solera style aging process. In a snifter, chocolate and spice aromas pervade to lace your sense of smell. A layered bouquet of flavors from which initial notes of ripe bananas and caramelized sugar turn into cocoa and toasty oak resolve with raisin, plum and a blend of spices. Sophisticated and complex, its satin finish leaves you over time like watching a sun set into the ocean. Ron Cartavio XO is a fine sipping rum best enjoyed neat. Whether you want a rum to impress your guests with or just embellish your home collection, converting $67.05 into this liquid asset is a wise investment.

Remember rum lovers, no one knows how fast the variety and quantity of all special order rums will decline over the next 6 months. That said, I recommend buying sooner rather than later to ensure you find that special rum! Starting with the following stores first may save you time and money: #78, #96, #101, #136
Cheers to the WSLCB for their efforts to improve the variety and quality of the rums in Washington State!

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