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Don Papa Master Class

The final part of Young’s and Geronimo’s ‘Summer of Rum’ event that we attended this year was the Don Papa Master Class. This was in Lancaster Gate in the Mitre pub. Hidden beneath the Mitre is a secret speakeasy called Old Mary’s which was the venue for this master class. It’s a lovely intimate setting and was part of the servants’ quarters of the original house. A very cool back-story and their website can be found here. I would recommend checking it out for future events.

Everybody was greeted with a ‘Darker Don’ cocktail. This is the Don Papa take on the ‘Dark n Stormy’ cocktail with added lime and mint to differentiate it. A refreshing start to the evening which led me to have high hopes for the master class. Unfortunately, we were informed that the brand ambassador wasn’t going to make this evening. The amazing ladies who were making the cocktails were then forced to improvise a master class on the spot with 5 minutes preparation.

The ladies had some knowledge on the history of the brand including the specific island where the sugar cane is grown (Negros Occidental known as  ‘sugarlandia’). However this was a bit sketchy due to the preparation time available to them. Have a read of our review on the Don Papa 10 Year for some history on the Don and our opinions on that offering.

After this, the ladies decided to move the session along to tasting the Don Papa neat. This was done in heavy glass bottomed whiskey tumblers. I found notes of vanilla which come from the American Oak barrels in which it is aged and some sweeter notes of honey. It was a bit tough to get some of the more subtle notes due to the lingering ginger beer from the Darker Don cocktail which was overpowering the finish of the neat rum.

From here we moved to our second cocktail of the evening which was the Don Papa Negroni which they have named; ‘Summer is Coming.’ For this they used equal parts of Martini, Campari and Don Papa. This was stirred with ice and then poured into a new glass and garnished with rosemary and grapefruit. The difference in this master class was the fact they invited some of the guests to come up to make the cocktail in front of the crowd. This was a nice touch, which added to the very fun and enjoyable atmosphere that was emanating from the room. After a few of these were created, we were all treated to our own cocktail. I found this a bit too sweet for my liking and quite far removed from the classic Negroni. I felt it also lacked the punch I prefer in cocktails, but it was generally well received by the audience.

I was looking forward to meeting the brand ambassador and asking about their production process especially. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be. The lack of communication between the team left the onus on the ladies to try to deliver some sort of information to the crowd. I think they did very well in changing the session into more of a cocktail experience rather than a master class on the brand itself.

The event attracted couples, groups of friends and yours truly. A diverse mix, but everybody seemed to be having fun and enjoyed the Master Class together, being friendly and integrating well. This is very much a compliment to the chosen setting (Old Mary’s) and the lovely ladies presenting whose hard work helped to salvage the evening.

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Review 10: Old Monk – The Legend

India – Food, Spices, Bollywood, the IPL and Rum. RUM?!

Welcome to the world’s biggest consumer of rum. Figures from 2012 according to this article state that the thirsty Asian subcontinent bought up 404.2 million litres of the good stuff (the US some way behind with 241.9 million litres). Indian rums in general tend to be molasses distilled, dark and viscous.

The number one selling rum brand in the entire world is India’s very own McDowell’s No.1 Celebration. However McDowell’s rum offering didn’t appear until 1990. Long, long before that, a different dark rum from India ruled the rum roost! Old Monk Rum (OMR) from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh was launched on the 19th December 1954 and was the world’s largest selling dark rum until McDowell took over in 2013.

OMR has a number of varieties including Supreme and Gold Reserve (both 12 Year) but the most popular is the 7 Year XXX vatted rum. In 2013 they launched Old Monk “The Legend”, a limited edition 1 litre bottle crafted in the shape of the Monk’s head itself (or some say it is the likeness of H.G. Meakin, the company’s founder). This review will focus on “The Legend”, OMR’s most recent creation. Although no indication is given as to the aging of this “Very Old Vatted” Indian Rum, we are told this blended rum has been created for connoisseurs.

Aged in Silver Oak Wood Cask and drawn from spirits from various raw materials (sugar cane we hope!) The Legend as with other OMR rums delivers 42.8% ABV. The bottle is completely clear, revealing the classic, rich, dark-brown Indian rum inside. We often see premium offerings from manufacturers these days, pair their bottles with cute corks from Portugal however The Legend, perhaps staying true to OMR’s no advertising, word-of-mouth brand loyalty pragmatism, seal their Monk Head bottle with a black metal screw cap with gold lettering. It’s almost a little endearing!

On first approach we smell soft spices, wood, cloves and with a small follow through of vanilla but nothing overpowering. Observing the rum in the tumbler, there is a beautiful dark orange, rustiness to the liquid that reminds me of certain dessert wines (check out the Hungarian Royal Tokaji). The rum leaves a high line post swirling that holds for a long time, with minimal streaking.

The first sip is stronger than the smell gives away, a greater warmth to the roof of the mouth and the back of the throat than anticipated. The vanilla and caramel give way quickly to a blend of complex spices and oak tones. Cinnamon, clove, wood dominate the palate. The flavour profile is intense, varied but brief. After a small wait, further tastes confirm the presence of dried fruits and zest but once again, the overriding flavour is wood and Indian spices.

Our bottle is from Goa and as such purchased at the local sticker price of 500 Rupees (just over £5 GBP). Pretty good for a limited edition premium rum! However, to buy it outside of India will set you back north of £50. Therein lies the problem as sadly, The Legend, does not warrant to be in that price bracket. A good rum, short but complex, not overly sweet but lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. We would say it’s a must for collectors and enthusiasts, but overall its short flavour profile in our opinion means it could be better suited to premium cocktails rather than a high end sipping rum. We will happily experiment with it in cocktails and report back with our findings. If you do happen to find yourself or a good friend heading to India, ask them to pick up the bottle, for at £5, this bottle is a must purchase!

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Review 9: Don Papa 10 Year

“Welcome to the Don, that is Don Papa small batch rum, a premium rum, distilled in the foothills of Mount Kanlaon, Negros, Philippines.” Welcome indeed but don’t let the rather provincial nature of Don Papa’s homepage fool you. The Philippines is the world’s third largest market for rum (after the US and India) and according to this Forbes article, this brand is “Changing the Face of Philippine Rum”. Today, we’re going to sip and sample on Papa 10 Year. Inspired from the story of ‘Papa’ Isio, a hero of the Philippine revolution, Don Papa Rum is produced by the Bleeding Heart Rum Company (BHRC) founded by Stephen Carroll, a former Remy Cointreau executive.

The rum is distilled on a single island, Negros Occidental (also referred to as  Sugarlandia”) using the finest Negros sugar cane and aged for 10 years in re-charred American Oak barrels. This particular offering from Don Papa is a limited edition and was introduced in October 2015. Unlike its younger sibling it packs a slightly weightier punch at 43% ABV (compared to the small batch’s 40%).

The bottle has been designed by Stranger & Stranger who in the 2016 World Rum Awards won Best Limited Edition Design, Best Ultra Design and Best New Launch Design all for the Don Papa 10 Year bottle! They are no stranger to awards and have an impressive list which can be found here.

Don Papa himself is older on the 10 Year label, depicting his own aging and maturing process since the initial small batch offering. His gecko-monocle eyepiece is now accompanied by a thick, flowing beard on the Don’s face. The world’s smallest primate, the Tarsier, beetles, slugs and snails are joined by tropical birds in this Jumanji-esque design.  The bottle itself is very similar to the small batch; heavy glass bottom, curved shoulders and squat in nature. The elegant dark rum itself is visible to all as the glass is clear and uncoloured.

On my first sniff it is very light, much lighter than expected despite the higher alcohol content. I am met by warm oak notes and followed by some hints of sweet caramel, vanilla and candied fruits. My first sip of the rum sends it easily over my tongue where it warms the roof of my mouth with toffee and a gentle oak. Not overly sweet but very smooth and well balanced. A very tasty introduction which invites further investigation! As the rum sits for a few minutes it seems to have lost some viscosity and as a result the streaks seem thinner on my tumbler. On this sip the flavours have become deeper and stay with you much longer. The warmth found in the roof of your mouth initially has now travelled to the throat. The oak flavour steps up and there seems to be a sweeter influence of caramel complemented by an earthier, deeper cacao. Perhaps the re-charred American Oak barrels are lending an almost charcoal like edge to this dark rum.  The finish is long lasting and warming but not overpowering. This is where the dried raisin seems to have come through that was smelt on the nose earlier.

Don Papa 10 year retails at £40-£50, which is at the higher end for a relatively up and coming brand but we believe that Don Papa have produced something quite special here. Limited edition and a true 10 Year, this could become quite the collector’s item especially with the variety of talking points on the design of the bottle alone. RumCask recommends this for the left-field selection for special occasions.

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Rum From Asia?

As mentioned in previous posts, the bulk of rum produced today comes from the Caribbean and Latin America. However, rum can be produced anywhere that sugar cane grows which is over 70 countries worldwide. Brazil and India produce over 50% of the worlds supply. It would make sense then, that India and other countries in Asia also produce rum.

One of the main rums of India is known as Old Monk. It was launched in December 1954. Uniquely it has zero advertising and relies purely on word of mouth from the loyalty of its customers. It must have very loyal customers though, as it was the world’s largest selling dark rum until 2013. There are 6 different variations of Old Monk Rum, including “The Legend” which was launched in 2013.

The Philippines have one of the largest rum markets in the world. However, the bulk produced is geared towards low price points. High volume low quality mixing rums are what dominate that market. As a result, it was only a matter of time before higher quality rum was produced. Don Papa is one of those that have exploded recently due to its marketing campaign and superb packaging and bottle finish (It has won the double gold medal for packaging design and for product innovation at two different spirits competitions in 2013). In October 2015 they launched a new 10 year version to their range.

Nine leaves is the new Japanese rum brand, launched in 2013. Nine leaves use only the finest ingredients for its creation, including water refined from the Otowa Mountains and the brown sugar from Okinawa. It is the first rum brand to be domestically produced in Japan. Almost immediately after release, Nine Leaves won the silver medal for innovation at Rhum Fest Paris in 2014, less than 12 months after official release of its first product (Nine Leaves Clear) in June 2013. They have started exporting and distributing to France and other countries in Europe and North America.

The stereotype that high quality rum only comes from the Caribbean is fast being debunked by more than just the rum community. If you haven’t ventured out further than those areas I would suggest giving any (or preferably all) of these three brands a try. Or why not suggest one of your favourites below for others to experiment with?