Monday, October 29, 2012

Celebrating 2 years of The Rum Collective: A Tribute to Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez

A Tribute to Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez
(Left to Right) Caña Brava, Ron de Jeremy, Panama Red,
Panamonte XXV and Zafra 21yr
Our 2nd anniversary event awakened many to the charms of rum by paying tribute to a rum master, Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez. Fittingly, the evening festivities included a fine blend of cocktails, an intimate two-part tasting through his finest rums, typical Panama dishes, a Panama Red Look-Alike contest with prizes and more. If you were at our 1st Anniversary featuring Ron Abuelo, this night may well be considered a showstopping sequel. Whether you came to explore a collection of rums never before seen in Washington State, experience the mood-enhancing ambience of Rumba or simply see what The Rum Collective is all about, you won. For the beauty and power (and comedy, ehem, Mr. Jeremy) of rum could not be missed. Here is a look at the rumtastic night that unfolded...


Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez
photo credit: Carlos Esquivel
The evening, much like Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez, began in the Cuban style with a classic daiquiri featuring one of his newest blends, Caña Brava Rum. Greeting cocktails are a must! Recently released by The 86 Company, it was created to be the "ultimate daiquiri/mojito rum". Sr. 'Don Pancho' tells me, it is a "100% Old Cuban style white rum". He would know. Sr. 'Don Pancho' was born in Cuba and began learning the style of Ron Carta Blanca under Don Ramon Ferandez Corralles before his career with the Cuban Beverage Industry (Havana Club and Matusalem), rising from trainee to Master Blender and finally Director. His journey continued in Panama as Master Blender/Distiller at Varela Hermanos (Ron Abuelo). Today, he is recognized as one of the living legends in the rum industry, consulting for private brands with Proveedora Internacionale de Liquors, SA (PILSA). This year he was nominated for Rum Master Blender of the Year at the Golden Rum Barrel Awards. The tasty daiquiri, known as 'Daiquiri No. 23' made with Caña Brava set the stage as lights dimmed for a short video.

Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez provides a few kinds words to begin the event. Seeing the face and hearing the voice of the master blender for the rums we were about to taste gave the meeting a very personal feel.

Translation by Carlos Esquivel (Director of PILSA):
"Hello Nicholas, Warm regards from our plant in Panama on the 2nd Anniversary of The Rum Collective. The work done through this 2 years has been magnificent, I am pleased and humbled to have you as a friend. Unfortunately neither Carlos Esquivel nor myself can be in Seattle for this celebration, but we definitely are in spirit. I'm sending you warm hugs from our rum plant from where we keep working on the quality of our products that had gained the acceptance and respect from our friends and customers. Cheers!!!!"
--Don Pancho

Thank you!
 'Daiquiri No. 23'
by Connor O'Brien
2oz Caña Brava Rum
Lime & Pineapple juice (fresh pressed)
Shake & Strain
The first part of the tasting was underway as three snifters filled with different rums were brought out to each guest. Readers note, this recap is not meant to be a series of formal product reviews, but to summarize a few of the highlights noted in the tasting. First up, Caña Brava. At 86 proof (like their namesake), this light straw-colored rum offers mild hints of oak, anise and vanilla aromas and a surprisngly pleasant rounded mouth feel. Minimally drying with a little body and unstated sweetness, its purpose is clear. The thoughtfully designed bottle is highly informative, artistically pleasing and even has volume markings; attributes of intelligent design. Nice job by The 86 Company! Hemingway would likely approve as did our guests. Yum!
Moving on...
Enter Ron de Jeremy Spiced (or perhaps, it should be the other way around!). An important note to readers, although the base rum is produced by PILSA, the finished product does not bare the seal of Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez; but one of a different sort of master named, Ron Jeremy. Famous for his prowess in adult films, and now his Rum, this is a younger, spicier companion to his older "Adult" Rum (see below). Dark walnut colored with dominant clove, nutmeg and allspice overtones (this is not another vanilla bomb), you wouldn't guess it's 94 proof from a neat tasting. Folks, the action is in the mouth! Its creamy, almost chewy texture, offers a mixed spice basket heating the soft palate and tongue which resolves as it coats the throat with a sweet, but not cloying, syrup-like "feel good" finish. Our tasting of Ron de Jeremy Spiced, with generous use of associated proverbial puns, encouraged, even the more reserved guests, to get the jovial juices flowing.

...towards a higher proof
Panama Red, from her story to the rum she inspired, stands out leaving a favorable impression on all who come into contact with her. Her attributes have been noted on this site previously in a formal review, so I will be brief here. It is 108 proof full of body, concentrated complex flavors and a rewarding finish. Panama Red's premium blend was recognized this year when it was awarded a RumXP Gold Medal for "Best in Class". Give her a little time to open up, she won't just melt the ice, she'll melt your heart. Rumlove!

 "I always thought that a rum should be drinakble neat no matter if it is spiced, flavored or overproof, Red delivers all the punch of an overproof without compromising the palate."
--Don Pancho
Plantains and fresh Rumba Guacamole are served!
Connor O'Brien diplays his guns in The Rum Collective t-shirt

Following plates of tasty chorizo, pollo and vegetarian empañadas,
the thirst for more rum continued...

Panama Red Rum Cocktail - 'Miss Scarlet, In the Bedroom, With the...'
The second cocktail featuring Panama Red Rum arrived in time to kick off the Panama Red Look-Alike contest. Delicious!
'Miss Scarlet, In the Bedroom, With the...'
by Connor O'Brien
2oz. Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum
0.5oz Manzanilla sherry
Stir & Strain
Lime peel twist
She was a natural and many who were present knew she would win...
Elisabeth Shelley Karst


 We decided to have a vote, but she won hands down!
Elisabeth Shelley Karst
1st Place: Panama Red Look-Alike Contest
In addition to a $50 gift certificate to Rumba, she received a designer Panama Red t-shirt and an exclusive hand signed hardcopy of Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 written by and courtesy of Ian Williams.
Congratulations Elisabeth!!

Ron de Jeremy, Rum Nation Panama 21yr, Zafra 21yr and Panamonte XXV
The second part of the tasting included an amazing line of rums, beginning with Ron de Jeremy Aged. Its color is consistent with a golden suntan. The nose reveals immediate soft woody notes balanced 
underneath by toasted almond and hazlenuts. Its smooth, medium body coats the mouth arousing subtle hints of baking spices and dried banana later. It finishes surprisngly dry and mildly sweet. Versatile and a most certain conversation starter, Ron de Jeremy is fit for almost any occasion.

Rum Nation Panama 21yr
Rum Nation Panama 21yr is a single domain rum, which despite the beautiful inscription on the bottle and its remarkable contents within, is not a finished product of Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez. Although some of this blend came from 'Don Pancho' in Panama, credit for this luxurious expression is due to Fabio Rossi, the Italian mind behind Rum Nation. Rich tones of red are visible in the glass with a bouquet of aromas, notably sherry notes, dark chocolate and cherry pipe tobacco. Its delicate and complex, finite in quantity and to be appreciated like a sunset off the Almafi coast. Get it while you can!

Zafra 21yr Master Reserve comes in a simple bottle, but don't let that fool you. Golden amber with copper highlights, its aromas delight and surprise with overtones of bourbon. It is luxurious without the hype, opening up through the palate boasting blackberries, oak, light spices, toffee and smoky sweet cherry tobacco. It is consistent in character and flavor from start to finish with the potential for converting corn-based spirit lovers to rum by the masses.

Panamonte XXV Reserva Preciosa

Panamonte XXV Reserva Preciosa was the last rum of this tasting and the finale for our event. The audiences reaction when the bottle was displayed and the relative silence that ensued after the snifters arrived in front of each guest said enough. Time seemed to stand still, caught up in the moment by what was happening. It isn't every day one has the opportunity to taste the ultra exclusive enigma that is Panamonte XXV. Our anniversary event proved that in deed. The bottle reads "imported from Panama, every drop is aged 25 years". A rum of this distinction requires a little time to get acquainted with. A few words in passing does not do this rum justice, so I will suffice to say a formal review is coming soon...stay posted!

 We raise our glasses of Panamonte XXV in a toast to Sr. 'Don Pancho'.

A Toast to Sr. 'Don Pancho' Fernandez with Panamonte XXV

Our closing cocktail titled 'Sticky Nectar' came right on time.
A stiff drink, no doubt! 
Ron de Jeremy Spiced Cocktail - 'Sticky Nectar'
Like many who have seen Ron Jeremy for the first time,
this Ron de Jeremy Spiced inspired cocktail provoked expressions which are described best with photos like this...
Ms. Jocelyn Pointkoski about to enjoy herself

'Sticky Nectar'
by Connor O'Brien
2oz. Ron de Jeremy Spiced
Lime & Pineapple juice (fresh pressed)
Shake & Strain
2 dashes Bittermen's Xocolatl Bitters topper
Banana garnish

A round of applause to Rumba for their delicious food, amazing cocktails and outstanding hospitality!

Kate Perry, General Manager & Connor O'Brien, Bar Manager, Rumba
Ron de Jeremy Aged and Panama Red 108 Overproof
Cheers to everyone who has contributed to, attended meetings and raised their glasses with The Rum Collective over the past two years!!!

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