Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dictador Rums: From Colombia with Love...and Gin?

Meeting Event at Liberty

Dictador is not your typical rum from Colombia, nor was this meeting typical for The Rum Collective. Several weeks after we explored a full line of rums from Peru, we continued this South American tour into Colombia. Now, Colombia is well-known for many of its quality exports, but rum, and definitely gin, are not among them. So, what was so different, you ask? Instead of a full range of rums, from unaged to aged expressions, we tasted only well-aged, mature rums and a pair of gins. Yes, you read it right, GIN! But, but...this is a purely rum focused society, isn't it? True, but these Colombian Gins are not only made from sugar cane honey (reduced sugar cane juice), but they are both aged, one of which is done in rum casks. So, technically, they're related to rum and quite interesting to contrast in this context. Intriguing, eh? Let's move on then. Here is a brand that didn't want to produce just another Colombian Rum; they wanted to change the way you think about Rums from Colombia. Their rums seem to transcend tradition without losing any of its class; from how it's made to how it's marketed. First, and most importantly, Dictador Rums are not government run or produced. I'm not going to mention names, but quite a few rums from this country are. Second, take a look at the photo (above), their bottles are visually attractive on the shelf. They could have simply used a plain-Jane transparent bottle and a paper label, but they didn't. They used a squat, tapered neck bottle and added a bold, black polymer coating from Japan giving it a hint of technology and style, not to mention a better grip for pouring. Its black, matte finish concealing the contents within is no nonsense and grabs your attention prompting the question, "I wonder what is inside?" Their age statements highlighted in color are distinguished. Seriously, before you pop the cork, rum lovers might as well admit crushing on their package (no pun intended, funny though:). The compliments paid to the bottles at our meeting were of that tone. But, let's get serious, it's what inside that counts, right?

The meeting started and one of Liberty's rather quiet and humble bartenders, Andrew Dalan, brought out the greeting cocktail he created for this meeting. Now, if you have had a few of his inspirational cocktails before, there wasn't any surprise, he nailed it. Here's a look at his cocktail presentation and its recipe (see photo below).

Fitzcarraldo Cocktail

by Andrew Dalan

1oz Grapefruit juice
.5oz Honey
.25oz Raspberry Liqueur

Shaken and served up, orange peel garnish

Our tasting began with the gins. The Ortodoxy - Colombian Aged Gin (white bottle) is bright, with only a select few dominant aromas and flavors, notably, Juniper and mint. Of interest, it is made from fermented sugar cane honey, which is then five times distilled, extracting its fruits, spices and botanicals during the last distillation before ageing 6 months in oak casks. Its more aged sibling, Treasure - Colombian Aged Gin (black bottle), is rounded, more mellow in its bouquet possessing a gentle sweetness in its balanced aromas. It reveals a soft lemon zest and orange peel amidst hints of vanilla. It ages for roughly 35 weeks in previously filled Dictador Rum barrels and its medium bodied mouth feel is appreciated neat. Remember, we are talking about Caribbean ageing, where spirits age 2-3 times faster than that of temperate weathered England. While many of the guests were enjoying the Treasure, both in and out of the cocktail, other rum lovers commented on how they just found their go-to Gin for their next Caribbean Gin & Tonic!

Now, onward to the Rum!

The transition from tasting Gins to their Rums required only an open mind and some hand-to-mouth that was found most enjoyable, particularly when starting off with their 12 year old Rum. First, a discussion of Dictador's history and brief orientation about their rum making process was due. Dictador Rums are made at Distilleria Colombiana, located off the Caribbean coast of Colombia in the city of Cartagena de Indias. The distillery was founded by Don Julio Arango y Parra in 1913, when Colombia was known only as Nueva Granada. Legend has it, Don Julio Arango y Parra was the 3rd generation descendant of Severo Arango de Ferro, who emigrated from Spain in 1751 and became well known for making Cartagena the most important trading post for the Spanish Armada. Severo's duty there was to "increase trade" or in other words, improve tax collection, between Nueva Granada and the mainland. His reputation grew as did his power, which aptly landed him the name, Dictador. This nickname became branded and still remains today.

As the excitement to taste the rums grew, we paused to experience Dictador on screen.

Oh yeah!

We tasted through the first two expressions and a few notes were taken...

The 12yr, a blend of alembic pot and column distilled rums aged 8-14yr, offered up a pronounced honey like sweetness amidst balanced aromas of roasted almonds, toffee and marzipan. In contrast, the 20yr was chock-full of raisins, vanilla bean, currants, cherry tobacco, oiled leather and aged port under the nose. Both expressions had a silky, medium bodied mouth feel, however the finish on the 20yr (blend of rums aged 14-24yr) was notably more extended as one would expect. These two rums have a certain elegance; sipping like a fine brandy, no doubt.

Dictador Rums are made from sugar cane honey that is pressed from cane grown in the area's surrounding fields. Use of sugar cane honey is relatively unique, so why not molasses? In Colombia, molasses is earmarked by the government for biofuel making it economically undesirable with practical challenges. They employ an alembic copper pot still and a column still to distill their 12yr and 20yr Solera System Rums. Their rums are aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry oak barrels in a solera system, as Spanish sherry has been done traditionally in Jerez for years and are then blended by their master blender, Hernan Parra Arango.

The final two samples we tasted began with the XO Insolent and finished with the XO Perpetual, both distilled using only alembic pot still. Rums aged up to 25yrs were selected from their finest barrels including ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry barrels.

Although both XO expressions did not have the forthcoming bouquets as the younger expressions, the XO Insolent presented subtle aromas of sweet coffee cake, dark chocolate beneath oak-driven vanilla nougat and caramelized honey over marshmallows. The XO Perpetual was overall more on the earthy side with notes of moist tobacco leaves, new leather, charred oak, dark cacao, vanilla nougat. The silky smooth mouth feel was present in both, however the finish of the XO Perpetual was less drying and more pronounced in duration than the XO Insolent. These Rums would do well in cigar pairings, and despite attempts, Dictador's Cigars were not yet available in Washington during our meeting. It is worth noting that each of Dictador's rums are distinctly different from one another and may be tasted individually or in another order just as well. Overall, our small sample of refined palates were partial towards the XO Perpetual. However, both XO expressions are complex and well worth another visit to further explore their unique attributes.

Andrew Dalan's closing cocktail was served just after we finished tasting our final expression. With his reported idea of a Cuba Libre, reconstructed for better (or worse, as they are very drinkable!), this cocktail far exceeded any idea of just 'free'. It's simple, classic presentation, yet rich flavors embodied living life in style, refined and sexy. Dictador style!!

The Rum Gods bless you Andrew Dalan for this thoughtful gem of a cocktail!

Cartagena Libre

Cartagena Libre
by Andrew Dalan

.25oz Lime juice
.25oz Simple syrup

Build on rocks, top with soda water
lime wedge garnish

We sipped our Cartagena Libre while the next Dictador video began...

The end.
But if you fancy more, there are a few additional videos on YouTube

A big thank you to Andrew Friedman (owner of Liberty) for his generosity and continued support of The Rum Collective!

A round of applause to Andrew Dalan for a pair of rum-tastic cocktails!

Cheers to Dictador Rum for their support and to American Northwest for making this remarkable brand available to rum-lovers throughout Washington State.


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