Monday, February 27, 2012

WSLCB Closeout Rum Prices: A Winter Warning

El Dorado 15yr

What is the WSLCB going to do with all of their liquid assets as the first of June approaches? Surely they will try to sell it. But what about those bottles left behind? Many liquor distributors are accepting returns on product that isn't sold, minimizing state losses. However, there is a special list of spirits that will remain in limbo as this reportedly feared judgment day cometh on June 1st. There were those who warned others to be careful what you vote for. Some acknowledged freedom isn't free and privatization will come at a cost. Distributors, restaurateurs, consumers and soothsayers alike have much to say about the future, but like weather forecasting in Seattle, its cloudy and there is always a chance of rain. Well, I-1183 is rolling out as planned, blazing a trail of uncertainty for many. In the meantime, here is some good advice: stay calm, drink rum. That said, you can start by taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity here in Washington. How? First, open the special list and look at the column heading titled Mrch Symb. If a "B" appears in that column, the price of its corresponding spirit (to the left) will be reduced by 50% starting March 1st. Folks, let me repeat this in my loudest and most sincere electronic voice. If a "B" is next to any given rum, then the price of that rum will be marked down by 50% on March 1st! THIS IS AWESOME!! There are over 40 rums on this list including some we have enjoyed at previous meetings, such as Dos Maderas and Banks 5 Island. There are rums we will cover at future meetings, like Deco. Lovely aged rums such as Ron Barceló Imperial, El Dorado 21yrRon Cartavio XO, Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 and Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera will be getting marked down. If you haven't had the opportunity to try any of the Kōloa Rums, now is the right time. Haven't heard of them? Read up on their Hawaiian origins first right here. Exceptional rums like Ron del Barrilito Tres Estrellas, El Dorado 15yr, Chairman's Reserve Spiced and dozens more are on the list. Rum lovers have their priorities. So cancel you plans, call in sick to work and make time to visit at least one WSLCB store this Thursday. You may find a new rum and stock up on an aged favorite not to mention save money doing both. Whether you voted yes, no or didn't vote at all doesn't matter now, because on March 1st, you still win.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Seattle Rumdrops: BOKA's Black & Red

Black & Red Cocktail
BOKA Kitchen + Bar
Get out of the cold and warm up by the fire with a rum cocktail at BOKA. Nestled under Hotel 1000 a few blocks south of the Pike Place Market, it offers a liquid escape from the weather outside. Although the bar is long and the restaurant fine, Studio 1000, their dazzling fire pit room just across the hall, will put you in the mood. Yes, fire and alcohol mix well here. What to drink? Perhaps you enjoy classical vermouth filled, spirit-heavy Manhattans or Martinis? BOKA's signature Black & Red cocktail is a rum based variation to try. The Black in this cocktail is Gosling's Black Seal Rum. Pomegranate infused in sweet vermouth for two weeks provides the Red component. Rounded out with Scrappy's Cardamon Bitters, this copper colored cocktail drinks easily. Like the Sweet Palmetto, its ratio of vermouth to rum is equal. However, the bittersweet flavor from the pomegranate and light cardamon notes give it its own unique eastern character. It's difficult to miss their happy hour, or rather hours, so go early, go often but don't go home without trying this $9 libation.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Rum with Rocky

El Presidente at Chino's
 (made by Veronika Groth)
Chino's is a relatively quiet cocktail destination in the heart of Capital Hill. Last night, their staff and all who attended, were in for a surprise. Rum with Rocky, a self-titled event, not only brought the rum, but enough people to exceed Chino's maximum capacity! So if you didn't make it, here is what happened...Menus featured several cocktails, such as the El Presidente (see photo) and a duo of rum flights. Rhum ClementChairman's Reserve and Rhum J.M. were among some of the brands present. As I began to sip my cocktail, an appetite for consumption filled the room. Standing space was all that remained. Veronika Groth, the bartender of Oz, keeps pace with a smile from behind the bar. Rhums are poured at a frantic rate as Rocky Yeh makes the rounds. Adapting to the rising tide of the rum-loving population, Rocky passes through each of the tables individually to conversate about the rum at, or rather, in hand. Standing near the bar and I can only hear the passers-by eagerly voice, "Another rum cocktail please". I like the sound of that!

Cheers to Rocky and Chino's for a rum-filled night!

For those who couldn't make it or would like to experience more of the gospel of rum, don't miss
The Rum Collective's 7th Meeting

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Taste of Appleton Estate with Joy Spence: The Perfect Blend

Appleton Estate Entrance Sign
Appleton Estate sits in the fertile Nassau Valley of Jamaica. Many visitors to this country will drink Appleton Estate Rum during their stay and a handfull of them will take the pilgrimage to tour the distillery. In a recent visit, myself and a few others had the very special opportunity to spend a day touring this distillery with their Master Blender, Joy Spence. Some people dream of meeting celebrities such as rock stars and actors; others, like myself, do as well, only they are called master blenders. Having had this opportunity, I was compelled to share my joyful (not pun intended) experience. Like the memorable impression left from sipping a well-blended, aged rum, I give you that intoxicating view here. Enjoy!

Our tour begins and we turn onto a dirt road, traversing through the labryinth of sugar cane fields that is Appleton Estate. Joy Spence instructs the driver, "right" then "left" then "right" again and again as we move towards our hidden destination. January through April is harvest time and while we make our way looking out the windows of the bus, there is only sugar cane stalks, the road ahead and the road behind. I'll admit, it provokes images from a scary movie. Children of the Cane? After 15 mintues we stop and proceed to the life blood of Appleton Estate Rum, its water source.

It all begins with the water...

Blue Hole
There is another "Blue Lagoon" in Jamaica, but you won't find Brooke Shields or Christopher Atkins here. It is significant in more ways than rum..I mean one. It is known locally as the blue hole, an underground limestone spring supplied by runoff from the Trelawny hills and is also the beginning of the longest river in Jamaica, the Black River. The rumor that Appleton Estate's water source begins with a mystical blue hued water hole is true and it is beautiful. Its blue color, attributable to the limestone, turns to green just several meters downstream. I learn that the little raindrops I see appearing on the water's surface are not drops at all, but bubbles from small fish called "tiki tiki". Tiki?! Awesome!

"Kill to mill" in 24 hours...


Truck full of sugar cane ready to be cored
The discussion of sugar cane harvest ensues as we make our way back to the distillery. Presently, the majority of Appleton Estate's sugar cane is harvested with machines, however many local men are also hired to cut cane by hand in certain sloped areas. Joy laughs as she later tells us the fact that only the old men cut cane today; the younger ones just want to listen to dancehall music and cut a record deal. Its delightful to listen to the age old process and what a day in the life of a harvest worker is like. We all smile hearing it starts and ends with Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum! Once loaded on the trucks, the sugar cane is brought to be cored (see above photo) to determine the quality. Local farmers are contracted for their sugar cane as well and quality is important. The higher the sucrose content, the higher the quality and their payout. The time from the cutting of the cane to the mill is critical. Sugar content in the cane decreases due to bacterial growth and this process is directly proportional with the time lapsed since it was cut. After 24 hours, the cane is no longer usable. Readers take note: from the water source to the sealed bottle; when you drink Appleton Estate Rum, you're drinking homegrown Jamaican!!

Appleton Estate Distillery
In addition to hiring local workers,we learn Appleton Estate displays their social responsibility by completely funding the local area primary education schools and supporting the electricity in the region. We pass the new containment site being built to hold the Vinasse Dunder from the distillery. This waste material is high in postassium and is used to fertilize certain areas replenishing the depleted soil. Waste not, want not! For each hectare of land used, 110 tons of sugar cane are harvested. Once the cane stalks are milled, the sugar cane juice is processed for its raw sugar, which is sold, and the by-product, molasses, is the base for making Appleton Estate Rum. The morning passes with a round of house made rum punch and soon lunchtime approaches. However, our palates must be fresh for the tasting and blending class following the upcoming seminar. We shall drink first, then dine. Priorities!

The Joy of Rum: A midday seminar

Various Appleton Estate Rums
Blending Competition 
We all sit down in an wooden shed, apparently built from old wood used in the distillery some time ago. Not only is it a relic itself, it is filled with old photos and century old iron tools used at the Estate. The class begins and all goes quiet as Joy tells us a story about rum. The powerpoint slides bring me back to an earlier point in time. If only graduate school lectures had this appeal! The presentation is highly-informative and flows naturally, well, like the rum going from my glass to my mouth.

Appleton Estate Rum Flight
(V/X, Reserve, 12 year, Master Blender's Legacy, 21 year)
Joy addresses the important aspects of their fermentation and pot distillation while discussing how the marks or unique flavor notes they target are used to make a rum. We learn about their barrels and the effects of aging in the Caribbean relative to other climates. They have over 240,000 barrels of rum aging! She explains the renaming of their white rum to "Genesis" for the local market and its recent success. Our tailored tasting is interactive and engaging. Listening to Joy explalin how she tastes rum as we sip Appleton's aged rums in their little rum shack, literally, is a highlight of the tour. Life is good!

Now for the blending competition...

Mike Streeter of RumConnection with Joy Spence
1st Place Prize: Appleton Estate 21 year
The goal was to blend our own mixing rum similar to the Appleton Estate V/X using five different rums (see photo above). Undergoing this short rum practicum not only gave us a hands on training in the art of blending, but also a renewed appreciation for the sort of refined skill set necessary to create a blended rum. It was fun and surprising. Joy judged all of our creations one by one. Her professionalism dictated a quick and painless period of waiting. First, second and third place was announced but in the end all of us won something more. We walked away with a more well-rounded understanding of Appleton Estate, their rums and a day of memories to last a lifetime. Winning!

Every distillery tour review must have a picture of their stills...

Copper Pot Stills at Appleton Estate Distillery

A very special thank you to Joy Spence and Appleton Estate for their
gracious hospitality and a most memorable day in Jamaica!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Seattle Rumdrops: Barrio's Corn N' Oil

Corn N' Oil at Barrio
It's not raining in Seattle, but not to worry, for I captured another rumdrop to wet your whistle. Barrio, a Capital Hill favorite, is the setting to indulge in a classic Bajan cocktail known as Corn N' Oil. Its ingredients of falernum, rum, lime and bitters when mixed in proper proportions forms a concoction that does the trick. Falernum, you say? Although it is delicate, it should not be confused during a conversation with the term frenulum! That said, most falernum is made of sugar cane syrup and rum infused with spices and lime giving a slightly sweet taste and a unique mouth feel. It provides this charming cocktail's silky oil-like texture. John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum is the classic choice for many cocktails and is made by the award winning distiller R. L. Seale in Barbados. Need a bottle? Well, it can be found locally at the WSLCB. However, you can also make your own. Barrio does this using Cruzan Rum as the base. Although Bajan Rums have traditionally been used in the cocktail, the Cruzan Blackstrap Rum is the most popular choice with reason. It works well due to its dark color and dominant molasses and burnt sugar notes. Twofer! Floating it on top of the Falernum gives the spectacle of an oil spill-like appearance. So, what about the corn? Good question. Try it yourself and find out next to a bowl of tortilla chips and fresh salsa for $6 during happy hour (3-6pm daily). For those living in today's economy, be sure to go on Sundays when all specialty cocktails are $6 all day...and they have more than a few rum-based selections on the menu. Yum!