Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ron Cartavio: A Recap of the Official WA State Launch Party & Afterparty Events

Ron Cartavio Tasting at Liberty

The series of Ron Cartavio official launch party events began at Liberty in a similar style as many of our meetings. Rum-loving individuals slowly found their way to the back room and seating became scarce thereafter. This meeting marked The Rum Collective's second "official" rum launch of the year in Washington State; however in this case, there was a whole line of interesting rums, instead of a single expression. Rum from Peru, you say? Known more for its pisco and wine, rum didn't register yet as one of Peru's many fine crafts. Not surprisingly, guests left with a new perspective. This new view hastened by the refreshing greeting cocktail created exclusively for our meeting by one of Liberty's (and Seattle's) more than talented rum-oriented bartenders, Megan Radke.


Greeting Cocktail
photo credit: Andrew Friedman

Greeting Cocktail
by Megan Radke

.5oz Orgeat (Giffard)
.5oz Grapefruit juice
.5oz Lemon juice
.75oz Apricot Liqueur (Giffard)

Ron Cartavio's history surfaced as guests sipped their cocktail, looking over the five expressions in snifters set before them. This rum brand, although relatively new to Washington State (see our article from the WSCLB days here), is not new at all. In fact, it has been being produced commercially in Peru since April 29, 1929. The use of the term Rum is a bit more stringent in Peru. Fresh distillate or aguardiente, must be aged at least 1 year in a oak cask before it can be called Rum. This rum bears the name of el Capitan Espa├▒ol Don Domingo Cartavio, who acquired the land in 1675. Sugar cane began being harvested for refined sugar on the land shortly thereafter. This fertile area became known as the Chicama Valley named after the river running through it, located just south of the Ecuador border. Our meeting's discussion detailed everything from the brand's year-round harvesting of their sugar cane and scale of molasses production to their continuous fermentation and wood management program, including a most diverse portfolio of wooden casks for ageing. In conjunction with a slide show, guests got an inside look at their rum making process. To see a few of the photos from the distillery or more in-depth quality rum reviews, take a look at Rum Gallery. All of Ron Cartavio's sugar cane and the molasses, which they now use for their rums, is 100% Peruvian. That's important and not all brands can say that in today's rum business. The distillery, originally started by Jose Carnera, a distiller from Cuba, began producing their rum from fermented sugar cane syrup using a simple alembic still. Later, molasses became a more suitable base and the alembic was replaced with a 4000 liter John Dore Pot Still, made in England, circa 1953. Wait, Peruvian Rum from a Pot Still? Yes! Tell us more, the eyes in the audience nodded in approval. Today, with only a few exceptions, exclusive use of column stills are exceedingly the "norm" for most rum producers in countries colonized by Spanish. That isn't a bad thing, just a fact. In addition to Cartavio's pot still, they also employ a continuous vacuum column still in their rum making process. Here's the advantage of utilizing both column and pot stills, they can create "light" and "heavy" aguardientes, which they blend in various ratios and then age in selected casks to make each of their rums. A trivial question that was posed at the meeting regarding this was, "Which other rum brands do this?" Well, the time to taste had begun starting with their younger expressions, Cartavio Silver and Cartavio Black. The age statements on their label reflect a weighted average of the rums inside. The color, aromas and flavors of these two expressions are mostly consistent with their age statements. Here's a few notes summarized from the tasting:
Cartavio Silver reveals a light sweetness, anise notes and hints of oak in its aromas that are again appreciated on the palate. Its unfiltered and clearly darker sibling, Cartavio Black shows more caramelized sugar, vanilla, oak tannin and subtle baking spices of cinnamon and clove. Notable in these young rums is the front to mid palate mouth feel, pleasantly viscous, which transitions quickly to a mildly drying, heated finish. 
During many of our tastings, one can often identify industry (bartenders, bar managers, retailers etc.) in the audience as they raise the question of price faster than others and for good reason. In Washington State, sticker shock and pricing disappointments in rum and all spirits, are quite normal due to our leading tax and fee structure nationally. However, at this meeting, the prices announced were stunning. "I'm sorry, could you repeat that?", several people replied to the price. In fact, the Cartavio Silver (and Black) wasn't just priced competitively; it was priced to win the well and is arguably, one of, if not the best value, "light" or very young rums available by distributor in Washington State. Oh yeah! The Selecto 5yr was the next expression on the itinerary and a testament to unique harmony achieved by the various types of wooden barrels employed in their ageing program. Rums from 9 different casks were blended to produce this rather unique 5 year old rum. The bouquet of the Selecto 5yr opens up more fully after a few minutes offering soft vanilla, ripe tropical fruits (papaya, guava) and more pronounced spices amidst hints of leather and sherry. Its well-rounded flavors in the mouth progress evenly to a dry, sharper whiskey-like finish. Surprisingly, there are even soft cognac notes to appreciate, and after probing Federico Schulz, Cartavio's Master Blender, are due to the time in Slovenian oak casks. Clearly this is a rum full of potential for both classic cocktails or for simply pouring into a glass over ice. Like the Selecto 5yr, the Solera 12yr, was a crowd favorite, and with the pricing, again, solid value. This rum is aged in a classic Solera system; it's rich, complex flavors (toffee, prunes, candied nuts, cocoa) are in balance with a lingeringly smooth, yet dry finish. It begs for another glass, or let's be honest, another bottle! The final expression, Cartavio XO, is succulent, dessert-like rum of fine sipping quality with an elegant decanter to match. Released to commemorate their 80th Anniversary, it's a blend of rums with an average age of 18yr, that range from 10 years all they way up to 30 years! On any other night, the XO might be the choice rum for a nightcap, however, tonight, there was more on the agenda. Megan's closing cocktail was served straight away featuring the Cartavio Solera 12yr. Brilliantly boozy, stirred and full of big nut flavors.

Nuttin' but rum yum! 

Closing Cocktail

Closing Cocktail
by Megan Radke

.5oz Dry vermouth
.25oz Black Walnut Liquor
.25oz Raw sugar
3 dashes Black Walnut Bitters

The After Party part 1: Rumba

Entering the hottest rum bar in Seattle, one will always find something new and attractive; on this day, it was an exclusive menu to further highlight some of Ron Cartavio's mixing potential. Jim Romdall, Rumba's bar manager and bartender extraordinaire, offers a simple, yet diverse array of cocktails to satisfy each palate in the crowd. Here's a couple of our favorites...

Peruvian Punch

Peruvian Punch
by Jim Romdall

Make oleo saccharum from peels of 4 lemons and 8oz sugar...

Add 32oz black tea and dissolve sugar...

40oz Cartavio Silver & Selecto 5yr blend
10oz Macchu pisco
10 dashes orange flower water
6oz lemon juice
6oz lime juice
750ml sparkling wine

(Note, when I asked Jim for the recipe afterwards, there wasn't total recall...but isn't this the case with all Incan secrets?)

The Esoteric Industry Drink

The Esoteric Industry Drink
by Jim Romdall

The After Party part 2: Tacoma Cabana

Tacoma's Tiki game is strong and Tacoma Cabana doesn't hold anything back. If you have been in to visit Jason Alexander, co-owner and 2014 Iron TikiTender champion, then no introduction is needed. Jason went all out with the Cartavio cocktail only menu in light of Halloween. In fact, they were so spooky good, he literally ran out of a few of the rums to pour before the night was over!

Take a look at his menu!

They all looked as good as they tasted!!

Creepy Cartavio Cooler
by Jason Alexander

.75oz lime juice
.5oz Don's mix
.5oz honey syrup
.25oz curacao

A sincere thank you to everyone who came out to join us and learn about Ron Cartavio.

Big respect to Andrew Friedman, owner of Liberty and the talented Megan Radke for their support and generosity.

 Cheers to Jim Romdall (Rumba) and Jason Alexander (Tacoma Cabana) for their time and dedication to awesome rum cocktails and their help in making the Ron Cartavio After Parties so much fun!!

Lastly, a big round of applause for American Northwest, who distributes Ron Cartavio in Washington State and Jim Driscoll, owner of Ekeko Fine Wines & Spirits, their importer.
Thank you very much for your support!


  1. Thank you very much for sharing recap of Official WA State Launch Party & After-party Events. Everything looks fantastic in these events. I am fond of attending such shows at local event venues Chicago. Wish, I could have attended this one too.

  2. A party including rum? Count me in. They are so elegantly presented. If it was up to me I would drink that straight out of the bottle.


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