Thursday, September 29, 2011

Summer in Seattle Brings a Climate of Rum - Part 2

Summer Rum Arrivals
 Lake Union and the Seattle skyline (background)
Summer's shadow is receding as the season ends revealing a bright bouquet of rums new in Seattle! Seasonal blue skies and sun-filled waterways were late arriving this year, but the bounty of better rums accompanying it has created a summer to remember. Quality, not quantity, right? And now on special order shelves at select WSLCB locations, quality rum there is! Northwest rum enthusiasts, take note, for the endless days of hoping for a diverse selection of fantastic rums are no longer.

Ron Atlantico Private Cask: The bottle is smartly dressed and attractive. Its taste has won awards. Originating from the Dominican Republic, Ron Atlantico is a blend of small batch rums aged in a solera style, some of which are 20 years old. The blend includes rums that were made from both molasses and sugar cane juice providing for a refreshingly sweet, yet balanced flavor profile. The rum is versatile and can be enjoyed in many ways; chilled on ice, with ginger ale and lime or in a classic cocktail. I have always found rum drinking pairs well with Latin music. This rum did so in a big way, recently partnering with Enrique Iglesias. At a price of $37.45, it will not disappoint, so turn up some Enrique, pour yourself a glass and find out.

Lemon Hart 151: It's back and its about time! The bottle labeling looks a little different. Okay, so what? Well, it is often rumoured that for many rums, labeling changes disguise formulation changes and thus a somewhat different tasting rum. For the new Lemon Hart 151, the verdict is out. No need to worry Tikiphiles, the rum inside is the same. Period. Martin Cate (Smuggler's Cove) and Ed Hamilton (Ministry of Rum) give it to you here straight...well, perhaps over a little 151 and some exceptionally crafted Tiki cocktails at Martin's award winning bar. Oh yeah! This high octane demerara rum is the float of choice for many a rum cocktail. Guaranteed to make your next fruity concoction taste tropically better. Don't let this $33.95 deal pass you by.

Angostura 7yr: Think Trinidad and Tobago. Beautiful beaches full of dark skin against white sand. Now, picture an age-old five column continuous still, a blend of light, medium and heavier rums aged up to 7 years in once used bourbon (oak) barrels. Now go back and repeat. Welcome to Rum Therapy! From the House of Angostura comes another rum "kissed by a butterfly". Its tastes surprisingly rich of smoke with oak and chocolate notes despite it being filtered after the aging process. Give it time to breathe, open it up with a little water and sip it as the leaves begin to fall outside. It recently took Gold at the 2011 SIP Awards. If you like Angostura 1824 or 1919, it is worth a try for $40.55.

Dos Maderas P.X.: This elegant rum deserves your undivided attention. It begins as a blend of rums from Barbados and Guyana aged for five years in the Caribbean. Then it is shipped to the Sherry Bodegas of Williams & Humbert in Spain to be finished in two different sherry casks over another five years. See our previous meeting post for more details. Its flavor profile is sweet and complex, but its charm is simple. Not surprisingly it took "Best Premium Gold Rum" aged up to 12 years at one of the largest rum events in the world. Highly recommended at $44.25 a bottle.

Smith & Cross: This rum's pot stilled Jamaican, mouthful of funky flavor drops the bomb on you like the Gap Band. It is a rum for cocktails that have an underlying theme of awesome! Let me share this 114 proof idea by offering a few examples; Heaven's Dog in San Francisco uses this spirit well. Several of their featured cocktails call for it including a memorable (actually slightly fuzzy to be accurate) "Bumble Bee". A Seattle cocktail blogger, Courtney Randall, has recently depicted its merits in several posts. I will also mention a cocktail titled "Jamaican Cockfight" which I created for a dedication to my brilliant friend and highly spirited spirits guru Forrest Cokely. Smith & Cross is priced right for a night to remember or at least try to at $35.40!

Ron Botran Reserva: From volcanic, sun-baked soils in southern Guatemala this rum's story begins. The first press of sugar cane to the solera style aging process in three different barrels (in the order of American Whiskey, Sherry and then Port) brings forth an intriguing rum. Historically Guatemala is known for producing quality rum and this is no different. Full bodied and fun to sip, you will need a few moments alone with this one. Take your time and do it in style with a Ron Old Fashioned cocktail! This rum won't break the budget either at $26.80.

Ron Barceló Imperial: This brand of Dominican Rum needs little introduction. A unique and elegant decanter-like bottle sheathed in a tailored box suit. Suavemente! The rum inside is silky smooth, with enough flavors to spare. It was given a "Gold" at the 2011 SIP AWARDS International Spirits Competition. You may have heard the best things in life are free. You may have heard the rumor that, money can't buy you love. From the land where Bacchata and Merengue were born, Ron Barceló Imperial follows suit in arousing the senses. I will argue that, at $29.60, it's not free, it's downright stealing.

Rhum J.M. 1997: Sourced from select sugarcane grown on Mount Pelée's volcanic slopes; its origin story can be read on the bottle. It was distilled in 1997, aged in oak casks for a minimum of 10 years and bottled at the distillery in Macouba, Martinique. Rhum Agricole doesn't get much better than this folks! Its aromas hold you captive with suspense. You contemplate trying a sip, but recall Yoda's wisdom, "Do or do not; there is no try" Upon sipping it, this luxuriously mature liquid carefully spills out herbal and earthy botanical garden notes while coating your palate. The finish is long enough to allow you to stop time briefly and appreciate each flower, fruit, or spice you come across. This Rhum is fit for special occasions,  makes a perfect gift for a rum connoisseur or when sacrifices are needed to please the Rhum Gods. Sipping it after a fine meal at Boat Street Cafe is highly recommended (see previous post). For many, once this Rhum has been tasted, the price of $128.05 is no longer difficult to digest.

Cheers to the Washington State Liquor Stores that stock and appreciate a diverse selection of quality rums!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drinks by the Dram: A Novel Concept

Drinks by the Dram
Imagine you arrive at your local liquor store to buy a bottle of a rum (or scotch, etc.) only to find yourself presented with an age old dilemma. The bottle is pricey; an unaffordable gamble without knowing if you like what's inside first. And, unfortunately, there isn't a mini size offered for that bottle of El Dorado 21yr you were just looking at. Sound familiar? Well, Master of Malt offers a solution to this dilemma. This solution is called, "Drinks by the Dram".

If you want to try a "sample" before buying the full bottle, you can. On their website next to each product, one only needs to click on the "Try a Sample" icon. Simple! The "sample" size is 3cl (one fluid ounce) and it arrives in a glass container with the top screw cap closure fashionably sealed with wax (see photo). This is ideal as glass doesn't impart or remove any flavor like plastic and the wax seal keeps the exposure to oxygen at a minimum before it arrives in your mouth. Thus, the "sample" maintains its original character and is representative of the larger bottle it came from. The samples are packaged in a neat recyclable cardboard box holding up to five samples. The box is also surrounded with bubble wrap for its journey across the pond from the UK. The "Try a Sample" option isn't available for all their rums in stock, but I am told more and more brands are becoming available as agreements are reached. So it is worth checking their site periodically for updates.

Renegade Guyana Port Morant 6yr (left)
Green Label 15yr Old Trinidad (middle)
Renegade Grenada Westerhall 12yr 1996 (right)
Their selection is another advantage. Many of the rums and other spirits on their site are not available here in Washington or other states. For example, you can find several Barbados rums from R.L. Seale, such as Foursquare Spiced Rum, or R.L. Seale's 10yr and Doorly's XO, both of which have sample options! Demerara rums are dreamy and you don't have to daydream about finding more variety any longer. For example, they list Enmore still 1988, Port Morant 1992, and O.V.D Rum to name a few. Perhaps you are looking for a that special gift? Giving the gift of a rare bottle of booze is something special. They have got you covered with the El Dorado 25yr 1980 or Jamaica Vintage Rum 1941. But what about shipping? Master of Malt ships to most locations in the United States so check out their delivery page for details. To conclude I will offer my readers this advice:

"That doctor's a fool, I tell you. If I don't have a dram o' rum, Jim, I'll have the horrors; I've seen some on 'em already."
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson 

Cheers to Master of Malt for their novel "Drinks by the Dram" concept and their selection of Rum!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Rum Collective's 4th Meeting: Tasting Dos Maderas

The Rum Collective's 4th Meeting
"Don Guido", Dos Maderas P.X., "Dos Cortados"
A warm summer evening with Seattle's Rum Collective brought a rich conversation filled with two words; Dos Maderas. Dos Maderas translated to English means "two woods" clearly representing this rum's formative years. Those present had the unique opportunity to understand that meaning on a multitude of levels beginning with the view of four snifters filled with two different types of aged sherry and rum. The view was rumtastic! Glasses of Dos Maderas 5+3 punch arrive shortly from behind Liberty's skilled bar. Rum Punch? Okay, if I must! With its fun and interesting history in cocktail lore, it can be made with the following classic saying:

One of Sour, Two of Sweet
Three of Strong, Four of Weak
Five of Bitters make it better (optional)

And so the meeting began...

Pouring of the Dos Maderas P.X.
Ron Dos Maderas begins as a blend of rums from two of the most famous rum-producing nations, Barbados and Guyana. It is aged in the Caribbean for five years before traveling to mature in the sherry bodegas of Williams & Humbert in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. This rum's namesake, two woods, begins with a first transformation in used bourbon (American oak) casks and is then finished in Sherry (oak) casks. This dynamic dual aging process is rare among aged rums. The result you ask? Let's find out...

Dos Maderas Teaching Kit
We are soon educated with a comprehensive tasting highlighting the processes shaping the spirit's character. Rocky Yeh, a local rum aficionado, provides the rum didactic. The Dos Maderas training kit (see photo), a dark mahogany colored wooden box with engraving on the front sliding lid, is revealed (provided courtesy of Lindsay Gorton, Kindred Spirits). Each guest had the opportunity to learn from this training kit as the meeting progressed. The kit includes samples of the crystallized sugar (Azúcar de Caña Meloso), the unaged distilled spirit (Aguardiente de Caña) and the rum aged five years in the Caribbean (Ron envejecido 5 años en el Caribe) before being sent to Spain. Additionally and in order, it also contains samples of the 5 year old rum after aging three years in "Dos Cortados" sherry casks (Dos Maderas 5 + 3) and this rum after aging an additional two years in "Don Guido" Pedro Ximenez casks (Dos Maderas 5 + 5 or P.X.) plus samples of each sherry and cross-sectional pieces from their wooden casks. Awesome!

Dos Maderas 5 + 3, Cigar, Dos Maderas P.X.
Dos Maderas teaching kit samples
We begin tasting the "Dos Cortados" Rare Old Dry Palo Cortado Solera Especial Sherry. It is made with Palomino grapes and aged 20 years in oak. Light bodied and dry with notes of nuts and oak, it finishes clean. After its Caribbean birth, the rum to become Dos Maderas 5 + 3 bathes in the casks once filled with "Dos Cortados" for an additional three years. The Sherry notes come out of this smokey, oak and charred tobacco flavored "drink you all day" rum. Their relationship is clear in the first taste and spending a little time to get to know them side by side only fosters positive dialogue. The label reads, "Dos Maderas: one spirit, two cultures." Rum's Foreign Policy 101?! The visual of rum's color and its smell, provided by the kit, as it transforms in the aging process was remarkably clear. The tasting experience moved on to the "Don Guido" Rare Old Sweet Pedro Ximenez Sherry and the Dos Maderas P.X. The "Don Guido" provides a delicious and naturally sweet raisin, chocolaty-fig and prune medley of flavors coating the inside of the mouth. We taste the Dos Maderas P.X. Notes of that luxurious and sweet flavor are passed on by the Sherry giving another dimension of richness and maturity to the Dos Maderas P.X. Yum!! Savoring the aromas that fill the air, tasting the Sherry, then exploring the mature features of Dos Maderas while eyeing (with light touching) the wood they are both aged in is a rum lover's Ménage à trois, only Spanish. The kit is a perfect compliment to the tasting experience! The relationships between the two Dos Maderas rums and their Sherry counterparts are worth exploring further. For my Northwest readers, The Spanish Table may be able to facilitate locating the "Dos Cortados" and "Don Guido" Sherry as they are difficult to obtain locally. Both the Dos Maderas 5 +3 and the P.X. can also be found at multiple Washington State Liquor stores in the Seattle area. As conversations ensue and deciphering which "PX" is being referred to, another cocktail arrives. How about a Dos Maderas P.X. Flip with a Pedro Ximenez Sherry float, anyone? Yes Please! The Dos Maderas P.X. holds up well in the cocktail, finishing smooth and dessert like. Each member of The Rum Collective present at the meeting received a complimentary Dos Maderas Cigar. The cigars are rolled exclusively for Dos Maderas and include wetting the tobacco leaves with their rum. Outside in the sun, the meeting continued with cigars and, of course, more Dos Maderas Rum!!

Cheers to Andrew Friedman and Liberty for their continued support and quality rum cocktails!

A special thank you to Rocky Yeh and Lindsay Gorton for facilitating an über tasting experience!!

Hats off to Williams & Humbert for an exceptional Rum!!!