Friday, November 18, 2011

When in Barbados...

St. Lawrence Gap
When visiting any country, there are things one must see and do to have a proper experience. When in Barbados, rum shops, beaches and rum distilleries readily come to mind. In fact, it may not even be possible to visit without running across these ubiquitous features of the isle. A little over a year ago, the rum distilleries in Barbados marked the topic of our first article. Today, we report with a fresh update from a few of our favorite Bajan spots.

Gaggs Hill Rum Shop
Rum shops are a collection of similar yet uniquely different places one can go for a Bajan rum experience. The colorful exteriors and charming decor provide a roadside attraction. Let's stop and take a look! Often their facades represent brands or local distinctions. There is even a book, The Barbadian Rum Shop: The Other Watering Hole, written by Peter Laurie, with some great photographs for reference. Inside you may find some locals slamming out an exciting game of dominoes. Join in! It's a rum shop, not a bar, so one doesn't order a "rum and coke". Instead, you would select the type of rum and order a bottle, a cup, some ice and perhaps mixers pouring it how you like it. Just as the look and feel of each Rum Shop differ, the brands of rum available, for example, Mount Gay Rum, Old Brigand, Cockspur, Doorly's also may vary. What's your flavor today? Cockspur Old Gold please! Also, you have a choice of bottle sizes ranging from 200ml or 375ml to 500ml. So, how thirsty are you? Rum lovers have tens of hundreds of Rum Shops to explore while traveling in Barbados. Time for some rum!

Cockspur Old Gold and a dash of Coke!

If you practice or preach the gospel of Rum, a trip to St. Nicholas Abbey may be equated to a Christian's experience visiting St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Whether it is your first visit or not, quality and history are always present. Arriving through the lush surrounds of the Cherry Tree Hill entrance, we find our friendly tour guide, Simon Warren, quick to deliver a smile and sense of humor. A host with the most...he orders up a round of their freshly made Bajan Rum Punch. Yum!

It is a glorious day as we make our way down to a small room and find a variety of beautiful hand-made products. Kathy is sifting sugar granules by hand to remove imperfections before bottling. Yes, let me repeat, sifting sugar granules by hand. Shall we try perfection? My spoonful of sugar goes down easy; no need for medicine here. Next, we sample the molasses. If it looks like quality and tastes like quality; you get the picture. But, just in case you don't, go ahead and take a look at the photos below.

Kathy sifting sugar
The effort and care that goes into each of St. Nicholas Abbey's products are clear. The craftsmanship performed here hasn't changed since my last visit. However, there are a few products we are seeing for the first time. For example, we admire a new, hand designed pottery jar to hold their sugar in addition to its smaller glass counterpart.
Blackstrap Molasses and Gourmet Sugar
After viewing the thoughtfully human processes behind each of these finished products, I no longer question, "which product to buy?" That question has now been replaced with "how many can I carry back?"

Gourmet Sugar in pottery

Annabelle is a sight to see. Upon arrival, she is in the middle of fermentation and distillation processes and we get a close up. It may not be rapture, but we are ecstatic! Admiring the light reflecting off of the liquid distillate in the circular viewing holes is amazing! (see photo) It gives the viewer a better understanding of what is going on inside as the ethanol condenses leaving behind other less volatile chemicals. This yields a liquid product of higher alcohol concentration we like, called rum. By way of Elvis, the distiller on duty, we receive a short course in blending to stimulate the mind and the palate on our way out. Awesome!

Distillation close up
Off to the Tasting Room!

A brief stop to cut a few stalks of sugar cane to snack on...
Fresh cut sugar cane

St. Nicholas Abbey 8yr & 12yr "Single Cask" Barbados Rum
The tasting room brings it all together in a glass to complete the tour. Literally surrounded by casks of rum, we stand before a table showcasing bottles of the 8yr and 12yr Barbados Rum. Tunnel vision sets in. Notice the difference in color. (see photo) One can easily get lost in the bottle's details, all done by hand, which I have written about in a previous post. We raise our glasses into the light and sample a generous pour of each. Cheers to Simon! Sipping the 8yr is easy. We take a brief break only to be distracted by some of the other fine goods on display. How about a Molasses cookie? (see photo) I am told they are made by Simon's grandmother. This is my type of rum communion! For those visiting the Terrace Cafe, I would only suggest saving room for a cookie or two after your delicious meal. After the palate cleansing cookie, we go forth to sip the 12yr. The first taste is more intense, showing off more woody notes in a complex flavor profile deserved of much more personal attention. Good thing they sell (and personally engrave) bottles on site! Once again it is another rewarding visit to St. Nicholas Abbey.

Molasses Cookies

A round of applause to Simon, our brilliant tour guide, for a wonderful tour and learning experience!

Sugar Cane and the Sea
Cherry Tree Hill

Touring the Foursquare Distillery and having the opportunity to be part of a tasting with Richard Seale is a real treat. At the UK Golden Rum Barrel Awards, he was endowed with a suitcase full of awards to bring home. More recently, at the 2nd Annual Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival in Barbados, many of his rums took the gold in the CAB Awards. Richard is full of knowledge and insight. Ask questions, listen closely and rum knowledge you will gain. This brief visit has also brought some exciting news to share!

Doorly's Fine Old Barbados Rum

Doorly's Fine Old Barbados Rum
The beautiful new bottles for the line of Doorly's Fine Old Barbados Rum are here! The consistency in size and shape with new labeling designs is fun to look at. (see photo) The new labels are thoughtful. The age statement appears at the top of the label, proudly centered above the brand name.The left side of the each label displays a different Macaw. We are told as the age of the rum goes up, so does the rarity of the parrot. In fact, the Macaw chosen for the Doorly's 12yr Rum is extinct. We get to taste the newly released 12yr. Winning!

St. Nicholas Abbey
Having just visited St. Nicholas Abbey, I recalled the bird at their entrance upon looking at the new bottle design for Doorly's Rums. The new bottle's rounded dome shape just below the neck appears to resemble the top of this classic bird cage. Similarly, the Macaw on the label looks as if it represents the one in the cage. (see photo) The parallel is remarkable and the combination of the bottle shape and artistic depiction of the Macaw on label are fitting. Coincidence? Things that make you go rummmmm.

An impressive first tasting!

Cheers to Richard Seale and the Foursquare Distillery on their awards, new bottle design and their exciting new product - Doorly's 12yr!

A final note to my Northwest readers, the rums of St. Nicholas Abbey and Doorly's are not available in Washington State at present. However, one may find Doorly's Rum if traveling up north to British Columbia, Canada. Check out BC Liquor Stores website for more details. A vacation to sunny Barbados is another idea to consider. If these suggestions are not in the cards, you may also find some of these rums being tasted locally at one of The Rum Collective meetings in the near future. So stay tuned rum lovers! 
St. Lawrence Gap Sunset
Until we meet again Barbados...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Barbados: 2011 Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival

Official Poster
Taking advantage of another opportunity to visit the land that gave birth to rum (as we know it) is a labor of love. I arrive just in time for the 2nd Annual Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival to kick off. It is nothing short of perfect timing for any rum lover to visit Barbados. This young festival began only a year ago, but its concept has won the hearts and minds of many and is back to rum it up again. This year they secured a place at the Prime Minister's house to enjoy some of the Caribbean's best rum and beer. Party time!
The event was sponsored in part by Divi Southwinds Beach Resort. Located in an area known as St. Lawrence Gap, its a short walk away from a beautiful beach, a variety of different restaurants overlooking the water and numerous places to quench your thirst for some of that Barbados water. The judging for the 2011 Caribbean Alcohol Beverage (CAB) Awards (see previous post) took place here followed by a welcoming reception the night before the main event. What is like to judge 40 rums in just under four hours? Yes, that is approximately 10 rums/hour, if you did the math. Well, our friend and fellow judge, Steve Bennett from Uncommon Caribbean, gives you an uninhibited account of the details in his recent article. Now, off to the reception!

First, a quick detour to the beach!

At the reception, we enjoyed a wide selection of great rums and tasty appetizers as the festival's art mural was unveiled.

Art by Oneka

There were some brilliantly decorated deserts in the form of cupcakes from the local company, Infusion. Several of the cupcakes utilized traditional Bajan cake recipes......Yum and full of rum!

Cupcakes by Infusion

Adrian Elcock, Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority

The first day of the event began with Adrian Elcock, Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority, who gave the introduction, welcoming back the Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival. There was an emphasis on the importance of rum in tourism, particularly within Barbados. Spreading the gospel of rum is fun!

There is no better way to start off a party, then with drum beats and dancing surrounded by booths full of awesome rums and beers! A traditional dance turned heads. Short and sultry, it ended with the breaking of the calabash gourds and indicating the beginning of the festival. Let's go have some rum!
The El Dorado booth had a great jungle presentation to accompany their line of delicious Guyanese Rums! How about a El Dorado 3yr swizzle?

The Appleton Estate booth was full of flavor and fun. Those present were able to sample their full line including their Master Blenders' Legacy and 21yr old Rums. Another round of the 21yr please! Plus, if you liked them, you could simply buy the bottle at prices that made you wish you had an extra suitcase. Awesome!
If you were lucky, you had your Appleton Estate Reserve daiquiri made by David Barker of Tapas.
Next time you are in Barbados, stop in for one of his tasty cocktails and say hi!

If that wasn't enough, welcome to Edwin Charlie Proprietor's Collection

The Banks Rum and Beer booth kept you coming back for more and more...

Cheers to Cheryl Collymore and Dr. Williams for putting on another rumtastic festival!
Looking forward to the Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival next year!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The 1st Anniversary Meeting: Celebrating Rum

The stars were aligned and all was right in the universe as The Rum Collective gathered for an evening marked with new friends and good spirits (pun intended) saturated by a special line of rums from Ron Abuelo. Liberty offers a perfect setting for such events, ambiance balanced by a devotion to thoughtful cocktails and the skill to craft them. And craft them for the masses they did. This sold out event found attendees from diverse backgrounds with varied imbibing experiences assimilating for one common purpose; to celebrate rum as Seattle's rum society turns one year old!

Those attending were in for a treat. Included in Ron Abuelo's complete line of rums to be tasted were Seco Herrerano and Ron Abuelo Añejo. The Seco Herrerano is made directly from fresh pressed sugar cane juice grown on the Varela Hermanos plantation, unlike Ron Abuelo Añejo, their youngest rum, which is molasses based. For more information, see the previous post on Varela Hermanos. Neither of these spirits are available locally at present, however this may change after exploring their utility in a couple of tasty cocktails. Oh yeah!

Keith Waldbauer, co-owner of Liberty, known for his impromptu-style cocktails that need no encore, provided another fitting example with his greeting cocktail, Isthmus. The selection of two absinthe fountains to fill glasses was fun to watch and gave a classic twist to this contemporary rum libation. Yum!

Isthmus Cocktail Dispensary

Ron Abuelo Añejo
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
Rhum Clément Créole Shrubb
The Bitter Truth - Creole Bitters
Angostura Bitters

by Keith Waldbauer

Jake Mutscheller brings out the Ron Abuelo Centuria
"Hell yeah we're having Centuria tonight!"
After a kind welcome by Keith, Jake Mutscheller begins discussing where Ron Abuelo comes from, how it is made and what makes it unique. The formal tasting commences with Ron Abuelo Añejo as snifters are raised, swirled, nosed and sipped. Yes, that simiple yet satisifying hand to mouth motion is repeated...again and again. It's a beautiful view. As the tasting sequentially moves from younger to more aged rums, discussion and commentary erupt from multiple areas of the room. Questions such as, "What aromas and flavors are changing in the rum as it spends more and more time in the oak cask?" prompt careful consideration. Preferences are voiced, some lean towards the Ron Abuelo 7yr, others, the 12yr, but the vote is not unanimous. Diversity in personal tastes and the diverse nature of rum itself is what makes this spirit great and unique. Despite the differences, there was a consensus on one thing; more rum and rum cocktails!

Andrew says "Liberty loves you" and he means it. The refined awareness of flavors he communicated into the second cocktail of the night, called Viva Panama! speaks for itself. Andrew Friedman, co-owner of Liberty, needs little introduction. His subtle charm spills over into this very sippable potation. Despite this cocktail's lush flavor profile, to say the least, Viva Panama! does not live very long in your glass. Rumtastic!

Viva Panama!
 Viva Panama!

Seco Herrerano
Leopold Bros Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur
Marolo Chamomile & Grappa Liqueur
Fresh lemon juice
Peychaud's Bitters

by Andrew Friedman

Ron Abuelo Centuria
There are very few ultra premium rums available today that capture the attention that Ron Abuelo Centuria has. Its awards are numerous, recently receiving Best New Rum at the UK Rumfest. F. Paul Pacult in his Spirit Journal, gave it 5 stars recommending one, "Do whatever it takes to buy a bottle". It premiered less than a year ago in the USA (see earlier post) and just recently in Seattle (see earlier post). This blend of rums, some aged up to 30 years, is poured and a toast to The Rum Collective is made. Pausing to consider what 100 years of rum making tastes like, I look into my glass of Ron Abuelo Centuria and take a long sip to coat my palate. It's enchanting taste is best described in the facial expressions of those who just tasted it and went to Rum Heaven.

Guests sip their Centuria as official t-shirts of The Rum Collective are unveiled for the first time. Each person present received a complimentary t-shirt in one of the three fashionable designs

"I'd tap that" t-shirt (back)
The Rum Collective
to take home. The t-shirts all have The Rum Collective's brand logo centered on the front but differ on the back side. If you weren't able to make it to the meeting or are interested in one, they will be available on the website soon. Here is a preview of the first design. (see photo)

Generally, meeting reviews do not include photos of guests. For the review of the 1st Anniversary, an exception has been made. Enjoy!


Although The Rum Collective is intended for enhancing awareness and developing appreciation in humans, we do not discriminate against those with a highly acute sense of smell, such as Lilly, our first
canine guest.

 A round of applause to everyone who attended The Rum Collective meetings over the past year! 

Nathan Layman (Mistral Kitchen) and Evan Martin (Ba Bar)

The Rum Collective would like to thank Keith, Andrew and the staff at Liberty for an awesome event and their support over the last year!

Andrew Friedman (Liberty) holding Ron Abuelo Centuria

 A big "Thank you" to Ron Abuelo for their generosity and assistance in making the 1st Anniversary meeting a success!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2011 Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival: CAB Rum Awards

The 2nd Annual Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival has ended and this year's CAB Awards have been released. The Divi Southwinds Beach Resort in Barbados was the setting. Forty rums were judged by seven individuals. Not bad odds, eh?
Judges included Luis and Margaret Ayala, editors of the magazine Got Rum?, illustrious RumXP members, such as Bob "Rumelier" Davies and Dave Russell of RnD Rum Reviews as well as Steve Bennett from Uncommon Caribbean to name a few. This blind tasting was held in a closed room where samples were rated using four criteria; Appearance, Aroma, Taste and Overall Impression. Let's take a look at the results!

2011 Caribbean Alcohol Beverage Awards

Category: White Rum

GOLD - El Dorado White (Demerara Distillers, Guyana)
SILVER - Mount Gay Silver (Mount Gay Distillers, Barbados)
BRONZE - Clarkes Court White (Grenada Distillers, Grenada)

Category: Overproof Rum

GOLD - Mount Gay Eclipse Black (Mount Gay Distillers, Barbados)
SILVER - Wray & Nephew Overproof (Wray & Nephew Distillery, Jamaica)
BRONZE - Rum Bar Overproof (Worthy Park Estate, Jamaica)

Category: Flavoured Rum

GOLD - Bois Bande Rum (Belfast Distillery, Dominica)
SILVER - Four Square Spiced Rum (R L Seale, Barbados)
BRONZE - Kweyol Spiced Rum (St. Lucia Distillers, St. Lucia)

Category: Brown / Gold Rum

GOLD - Old Brigand Rum (R L Seale, Barbados)
SILVER - Mount Gay Eclipse (Mount Gay Distillers, Barbados)
BRONZE - Special Barbados Rum (R L Seale, Barbados)

Category: Aged Rum (5 - 9 years)

GOLD - Banks DIH VXO & Year Old (Banks DIH, Guyana)
SILVER - Rum Sixty Six (R L Seale, Barbados)
BRONZE - Doorly's 5 Year Old ( R L Seale, Barbados)

Category: Aged Rum (10 - 14 years)

GOLD - Appleton 12 Year Old (Appleton, Jamaica)
SILVER - XM Royal 10 Year Old (Banks DIH, Guyana)
BRONZE - Mount Gilboa Pot Still Rum (Mount Gilboa, Barbados)