Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring In Seattle Brings Ron Diplomático

Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, Añejo, Blanco and Reserva
Spring is here and Ron Diplomático is in the air! Seattleites cannot complain about this liquid forecast. This exquisite line of Venezuelan rums are to behold. As the trees are blossoming, plants flowering and mating season begins, your palate will be satisfied. Four gorgeous looking bottles with reasonable prices (ranging from a $16bottle of Ron Diplomático Añejo to $37 including tax for the premium Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva) will please all the senses. I mentioned Washington State's liquor stores were going to improve their rum selection in an earlier post and here is the evidence. They are now available at the University store #96 and other select locations. Make sure you call first as they are not on the WSLCB website yet. The Rum Collective loves the smell of Spring and will be revisiting Ron Diplomático in future posts and meetings, so stay well hydrated and stay tuned.

Cheers to the University and other locations for improving the rum selection in Seattle!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Rum Collective Premiers at Liberty

The Rum Collective's first meeting marks the beginning of a Seattle-based society devoted to and passionate about rum. An agenda consisting of fine Bajan rums, informative discussion and a paired cocktail was met with discerning palates interested in learning more about the noble spirit. I will drink to that! Liberty's hidden and rather spacious back room was a perfect setting. If you were there, you may recall (or may not recall) the leather couches, high ceilings accented by mood lighting and some background reggae music to set the tone. Liberty is located on 15th Avenue East in Capitol Hill. Their attentiveness to carrying a unique selection of rums among other distilled spirits is worth a trip there by itself. The bar doesn't end with selection either, their impromptu cocktails are brilliant. Don't hesitate to peruse their cocktail menu or strike up a conversation with either Keith Waldbauer or Andrew Friedman, Liberty's owners and spirit enthusiasts, about the latest cocktail news. For example, have you tried barrel aged cocktails made popular by Jeff Morganthaler? Go there and get started. The barrels are even made locally by our neighbors at the Woodinville Whiskey Co. Awesome!

Back room at Liberty
The Rum Collective assembled to celebrate rum at Liberty and here is a brief account of the event. Barbados is the birthplace of rum, both in word and in deed. Ian Williams's Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 and Wayne Curtis's And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails are two books, which provide compelling evidence-based arguments for this origin and were displayed as invaluable references for any rummie's library. It is fitting then, that rums from Barbados were the focus at the premier meeting. The Rum Collective's first website post, Barbados Rum: A Tour of Tours may be worth reviewing as some information discussed was referenced from there as well. The meeting commenced with a short introduction, meeting overview and philosophy of The Rum Collective. There was a strong showing in number of attendees who, from a variety of backgrounds, came together for a common interest. The Rum Collective appreciates diverse crowds and all those present were assimilated!

Doorly's XO, Mount Gay Extra Old, Mount Gay 1703
(left to right)
Three premium rums, Doorly's XO, Mount Gay Extra Old and Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection were tasted in that order. Doorly's XO is unique, rare in these parts and was well received. It was a pleasure to discuss and tease out the complex aromas and flavors gained from the second maturation in oak casks previously used to age Spanish Olorosso Sherry. Who doesn't love that Blue Hyacinth Macaw on the bottle? Topics such as Martin Doorly and the evolution of brands in Barbados in the early 20th century were highlighted. As we moved on to the second rum, aspects of tasting were brought up. The perspective on tasting rums that Dave Broom details in his award winning book Rum was described and suggested as a guide for those new to the experience. The next two rums that we enjoyed are from Mount Gay Rum, made by the oldest continuously operating rum distillery in the world. Over 300 years of craftsmanship was to be consumed. No spitting allowed! Tasting Mount Gay Extra Old and Mount Gay 1703 in sequence was a treat and offered a comparative view of the two prized blends. After sharing some history and facts about the brand, including the new bottle design, we sought to find Mount Gay Rum's reported key aromas including ripe bananas, sweet almonds, moka and vanilla. Where else can one suggest practice and patience and it be so well received. In addition, determining if and too what extent diluting the rum with water personalized the tasting experience was great fun. The comments on the overall flavor balance of the Mount Gay Extra Old and the complex, extended finish of the Mount Gay 1703 were noted from various individuals. The Mount Gay Extra Old and 1703 are both available in Seattle at select stores for those interested.

"Cabin Fever"
(by Keith Waldbauer)
Finally, a cocktail to showcase the Mount Gay Extra Old was revealed. I will mention it was crafted and its name coined minutes prior to the meeting. "Cabin Fever" is its name and was inspired by Keith Waldbauer, co-owner of and rum aficionado at Liberty. He describes the recent months of Seattle's weather and without effort convinces us we need to go traveling some place tropical. No, this is not a fruit juice-based cocktail. We sip "Cabin Fever" and my thoughts linger, contemplating a trip back to the white sandy beaches in Barbados. Keith's "in the moment" palate, does not reveal the ingredient proportions, but brings forth an exquisite and well balanced libation complemented by the smiles of all those enjoying it. Delicious! A social reception a bonus. Keith brings out a nice selection of agricole rums for tasting courtesy of Liberty. The Rum Collective afterparty continued at Liberty. Oh yeah!

Cabin Fever
Mount Gay Extra Old
Boissiere Sweet Vermouth
Ramazzotti Amaro
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
Employees Only Grenadine
Angostura Orange Bitters

The Rum Collective sends a very special thank you to Liberty for hosting our premier meeting.
Cheers to Keith and Andrew for a fantastic evening and their gracious hospitality!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bacardi Reserva Limitada in Seattle

Bacardi Reserva Limitada
Once reserved for those visiting Bacardi's locations in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and a few select islands in the Caribbean, Bacardi Reserva Limitada is now found closer to a price less the airfare. It was initially released in 2003 to celebrate the inauguration of the Bacardi Visitors Centre in Cataño, Puerto Rico. Its origin stems from the quality craftsmanship of Bacardi's Maestro de Ron (Master of Rum), Luis Planas. He hand selected and created a personal blend for the Bacardi family to honor the founder, Don Facundo Bacardi Massó. Hence the name "Founder's Blend". Last fall, the Bacardi bat flew north and brought this family jewel to the USA in limited quantities totaling 6000 bottles! Will there be more available? Future shipments remain uncertain. The bottle design may look similar to that of the Bacardi 8, but it clearly differentiates itself in caliber and cost. It retails for $110 per bottle in Seattle, WA and is now available at store #96 in the University District. Although within reach, one should read its name literally. Bacardi Reserva Limitada is limited in number and reserved for those who act fast. Last I counted, less than ten bottles remain locally.

Cheers to the University District location for bringing in another premium rum!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Koloa Rum in Focus: The Distillery, Tasting Room & 22° North Cocktails

Koloa Rum Tasting Room
A relatively hidden distillery is located roughly 15 miles west of Lihue producing a new boutique rum from Kaua'i. The entrance is marked with a sign, reading Kukui Hawaiian Fruit Specialties, another business on site. Upon arrival, I am warmly greeted by Jeanne in Public Relations. After a short introduction, Bob Gunter, the President, and Meghan, Sales and Marketing Manager of Koloa Rum Co., lead the way through the first rum distillery on the island. We enter the warehouse and make our way to the fermentation room. The room smells wonderful! Bob informs us Koloa Rum is made using sugar cane crystals from local sugar cane grown in the western part of Kauai. 

Kukui Sign
(at distillery entrance)
There are presently a group of four 250 gallon containers fermenting. I learn the yeast utilized is from Guadeloupe, an island in the French Caribbean. The discussion revolves around many new ideas Koloa Rum has been researching. Next, we enter the distillation area. I witness a small batch distillation in progress. Perfect timing! Bob tells the story of how this 1947 copper still made by Liberty Coppersmiths in Philadelphia, PA was acquired and found its home here. Its full of character (as well as rum), composed of a copper pot still with a seven plated copper column still and condenser just above it. Koloa rum is a unaged, twice distilled rum. Moving into the bottling area, there is one worker centering labels on each bottle in a semi-automatic process for the final seal, inspection and packaging. The decorative image of the Hawaiian islands wrapping around each bottle's white seal is classy. I am offered a taste of their new Koloa Spiced Rum soon to be released. Bob takes a sample straight from stainless steel holding cylinder for tasting. Awesome!
1947 Copper Pot & Column Still
(photo courtesy of Koloa Rum Co.)
He states he wants to produce a "distinctively different" rum. Small batch distilleries can do this. Koloa Rum is unique and here are a couple reasons that may explain why. As I sip, I am told that this rum is born from water in an area receiving the world's highest annual rainfall, specifically Mt. Wai'ale'ale. This rainwater filters down through rich volcanic soil and rock on Hawaii's oldest island providing its unique character. The sugar cane crystals used are from local "tall cane" grown in Kaua'i. Quality ingredients are necessary for a quality product. I focus back to the rum at hand, literally in my hand. Spiced rums are generally not to be enjoyed neat. However, served neat, this Spiced Rum finds a nice balance in flavor, tasting of fresh ingredients with surprisingly smooth finish for a spiced rum. The Rum Collective looks forward to the new Spiced Rum addition! Koloa Rum is presently not available in Washington State but may be in the near future.

Cheers to Bob and Meghan for their time and an insightful tour!

 Koloa Rum Tasting Room

Koloa Tasting Room
The Koloa Rum Tasting Room is located on the beautiful Kilohana Plantation a 10 minute drive from the distillery. The building is surrounded with a variety of well-manicured plants, including tall sugar cane. We arrive to meet Lisa, gracious and friendly, who instructs us which room to go in and taste Koloa Rum. Okay, if I must! The tasting room has a long bar on one side and a miniature replica of the copper still from the distillery. Hina, the hostess, leads the tasting. We receive a sample of Koloa Gold, Dark and Mai Tai mix. After tasting each, she instructs us to pour the Mai Tai mix into the cup containing the Gold Rum and gently float the Dark on top to produce a Mai Tai taster. Fun! Oh, did I mention the moist piece of Koloa Rum cake for dessert? And yes, it is all free!

Hina in the Tasting Room
In addition, there is a souvenir gift shop where one can purchase bottles of Koloa Rum, Koloa Rum Cakes, among other items like a miniature oak barrel to age your rum in. Nice!

Koloa Dark Rum & mini oak barrels
Tasting Room

Miniature still replica
Tasting Room

Feeling hungry after the tasting? Enjoy supporting environmentally friendly, scintillating cocktail bars? No problem. 22° North, is just next door! Don't be confused by the sign, which reads the previous restaurant's name, Gaylords. Once inside, Todd Oldham, the general manager, informs us all the ingredients used in their cocktails are grown on site. Literally, you can walk out back to verify. They even press their own fresh cane juice from sugar cane grown there. Their water glasses are reused bottom portions of wine bottles. Local and fresh sounds great and tastes amazing! A discussion with Laurie, the bartender, yielded four seasonally fresh Koloa Rum libations to consider. See below!

A big thanks to Lisa and Hina for a memorable visit!

22° North

Cocktail #1
by Laurie
Cocktail #1
1oz Koloa White Rum
0.5oz Koloa Gold Rum
Muddled strawberries, African Blue Basil
Splash of lime sour, top with seltzer
Garnish with Blue Basil

Cocktail #2
1oz Koloa White Rum
1oz Koloa Gold Rum
Muddled tangerine, 4 mint petals and African Blue Basil
Several scrapings of vanilla bean
Top with seltzer
Garnish with tangerine peel 

Cocktail #4
by Laurie
Cocktail #3
1oz Koloa White Rum
1oz Koloa Dark Rum
0.5oz Cointreau (orange liqueur)
Splash of lemon grass and lime sour
Top with sugar cane juice (freshly pressed)
Garnish with a sugar cane stick

Cocktail #4
1.5oz Koloa Gold
Muddled blood oranges and cranberries
Splash of 7UP, top with seltzer
Garnish with blood orange wedge

The Rum Collective would like to thank Todd, Laurie and the staff at 22° North for their dedication to local, sustainable, and remarkably fresh rum cocktails!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Westerhall Vintage Rum: A Review

Westerhall Vintage Rum

Westerhall Vintage Rum

Origin: Westerhall Estate, St. David's, Grenada, West Indies

Age: Blend of rums aged a minimum of 10 years in oak barrels

Strength: 40% ABV (80 Proof)

Size: 750ml

Year: Batch #21002

Cost: Not available in Washington State

In the Bottle: Its presentation is unique. A bottle freshly sealed in dripping wax. But even the wax isn't typical. Its gold color hints of royalty displaying an element of metallic brilliance. The wax, although hardened, appears to be almost flowing down the bottle's neck slowly solidifying. The bottle's shape is simple and robust, resembling its younger sibling, Westerhall Plantation Rum, albeit shorter. The label design also shares similarities, but more refined. Black coloring is employed, as opposed to dark green, suggesting maturity. In addition, the images of Grenada and a sailboat appear removed in the distance as sketches accenting the rum name. I will note that a wax pull tab protrudes at the top to assist in opening the bottle and exposing a plastic cork seal underneath.

In the Glass: The rum's color is a warm rich golden brown. Upon tilting the glass slightly at an angle, a light green reflection on the surface is visible. The color lightens a shade as it approaches the walls of the glass snifter. The reflection in the liquid is bright and clear. After swirling the rum, the residual legs appear relatively thin, moving almost briskly.

In the Nose: At first, soft oak and brown sugar overtones are readily apparent. Upon more exploration, notes of caramel, dried fruits and banana come forth with very subtle hints of toffee crunch and marshmallow. A 15% dilution with room temperature water unearthed smells of charred wood chips mixed with waves of musk and leather.

In the Mouth:  The texture is silky smooth as it moves across my tongue and hard palate. I detect an aged oakiness and sweet caramelized brown sugar which gently mingle without any overly dominant order. Subtle notes of molasses, cocoa and bananas decorate the palate leaving traces of cinnamon oil.

The Finish: The experience of swallowing provides a pleasant buttery coating throughout. The succulent brown sugar oakiness remains for several moments against a mild cracked pepper like heat that lingers. There is little to no burning or astringent sensations from alcohol after swallowing and exhalation. The smooth finish resonates for a short time and disappears.

Overall Impression: I find the bottle, like its contents, unique and attractive. The overall design is elegant and suggests a 'gold seal' of quality and maturity. The rum's flavor profile is delicate and balanced and the finish is pleasantly smooth. I would recommend it be enjoyed neat or with a little room temperature water to taste (diluting with ice seemed to limit the flavor potential). I found a 10% dilution with water to be perfect! The label's description of the rum is clear and informative. I cannot comment on the rum's value without a price as it is presently not available in Washington State or any other state to my knowledge. Finally, it is a rum to be tasted and if the price is right, sought after, displayed and most importantly enjoyed!