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Review 14 – Mezan Rum

Social media is a wonderful thing and truly connects people everywhere. Thanks to our (relentless) posting of cocktails and rums on Instagram we were contacted by Mr. Warren Bobrow, the USA brand ambassador for Mezan rum who kindly introduced us to his wonderful partners in London.

Fast forward two months and the RumCask Family found itself stood outside Edison House on Old Marylebone Road excited about the evening ahead! Let’s sample some rums we thought. Take a dozen photos, write up the tasting notes and complete the social media circle-of-life by clicking post!

Wrong. Very wrong.

What was to ensue over the next two hours would be nothing short of a history lesson in spirits and yes, rum would take centre stage but by no means would it steal the show in this all-star cast. You see Mezan rum is but one of many brands owned and distributed by Marussia Beverages (formerly Eaux de Vie).  Established in 1984, Marussia Beverages import and distribute a fantastic array of spirits. Starting over 30 years ago with Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados they now boast a range that includes many gins, bourbons, sake, vodka, sherry and rum!

Our host for the evening was Mr. Philip Wilson, brand manager for Marussia. “Head down there and his office is on the left” said a helpful gentleman when we first stepped on to the Marussia floor. Our collective jaws hit the floor when we walked in because this truly is an office like no other. Desk to one side, a few boxes on the other, a large conference style table in the middle and a bar at the back! Actually, most bars would only hold a fraction of the bottles that Philip’s shelves held. Here stood a true library of spirits.

The ethos of Marussia we were told has always been about “the story”.  Who is the producer, why is he or she distilling this spirit and how are they doing it? Philip explained that “Once we find a good distiller we know we can work with them. We know that they will be consistent and continue to make a good product”. The mantra is organic and true and the company has grown from roughly half a dozen people 10 years ago to more than 40 today.

img_3375So to rum and specifically, Mezan. Many years ago having purchased some casks from Jamaica and Guyana the team left them to the side to mature and almost forgot about them! Perhaps they were being kept for a future staff party but when they revisited them they realised they’d bought something pretty special. This set off a chain of events that sent their Cellar Master travelling throughout the Caribbean searching for rums that were “artfully crafted from a single year’s distillation by a single distillery (some of which no longer exist). Unsweetened, uncoloured and only lightly filtered, these rums represent the truest expression of their producer and their country of origin”.

The rum is all purchased in cask and then set aside for maturation. Using only ex-bourbon casks (but sometimes re-casking) the rum slowly ages “until it has reached the height of its potential”. It is then bottled one cask at a time and ready for pouring. Mezan’s slogan is “The Untouched Rum” and that is the driving principle here. No blending (save for the XO), no sweetening, no colouring and only a light gauze filtration such that the final product is an authentic, regional rum delivered to the distiller’s demands.

Here-in lies the key to Mezan. These are genuinely unique rums. Produced from “distilleries old and new, some founded centuries ago, others no longer in operation”, these rums are one-offs and never to be repeated. In essence these bottles are time capsules from an age gone by with each drop embodying particular methods and cultures from different parts of the Caribbean all in homage to the Noble Spirit.

X.O. Jamaica

wp-1477032089889.jpgMezan’s only blended rum is a carefully composed concoction showcasing rums from 3 different Jamaican distilleries. Only 5000 bottles were ever produced and the end result is classic Jamaica.  Light straw coloured with a touch of pale gold, the Mezan X.O. has a narrow nose with tropical fruits and particularly bananas being very apparent. The flavour hits the front of the tongue and here we taste guava. Moving to the back of the mouth and throat the spices really come through. Not overly dry and the taste does not linger long in the mouth. Well balanced and flavourful, Philip even likened it to a classic Fruit Salad sweet!

Guyana 2005

wp-1477032169482.jpgDistilled in the double wooden pot still from the original Port Mourant Estate founded in 1732. After the estate closed the still was initially moved to Uitvlugt Distillery and then eventually to Diamond Distillery who produced this Guyana 2005. Diamond typically produce medium-to-heavy Demerara style rum and this offering from Mezan is no exception. A wide nose that couldn’t be more different from the X.O. and complex with a sense of big, over-ripe fruits. A lot of flavour on the palette that moves from oak and ripe bananas to leafy vegetables.


Panama 1999

wp-1477032122403.jpgProduced by the famous Don Jose Distillery in 1999 the rums in this batch go through a double maturation process whereby they are aged twice in separate sets of white oak.  Using modern multi-column stills the distillery grows its own cane for the production of aguardiente and rum. They also cultivate historical yeast cultures which add character to their rums. A beautiful honey coloured rum with a narrow nose. Baking spices and a pleasant sweetness (all natural!) are a joy to behold. The flavour profile is elegant and spreads evenly across the tongue. Vanilla and oak combine well to give a quite exquisite finish.

Our tasting journey ended here with Philip and we didn’t quite manage to get on to the Trinidad 1999 from the now closed Caroni Distillery nor Monymusk Distillery’s Jamaica 2003. However, he assures us we are welcome back any time to continue our education!

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Trailer Happiness

Trailer Happiiness

Two weeks ago, after a night out with friends for a reunion, the stragglers from the group (including yours truly) were determined for the evening not to end and made our way to Notting Hill. One of the group had recently been to a bar there and thought it would be the ideal place to continue the night. That bar was Trailer Happiness located on the very hip and trendy, Portobello Road.

So impressed were we by our experience that evening, we decided to go back 5 days later with our hats on and notebooks and pens at the ready! On our previous visit, Trailer Happiness’ enigmatic barmen, Sergio and Ronan had really impressed with their knowledge and passion for all things rum and it was with Sergio that we sat down for the second round (no pun intended).

Trailer Happiness is an “intimate lounge bar, den and kitchen” that serves some seriously wicked cocktails with a “Tiki twist”. Let’s not get things confused at this point. Whilst you are welcomed by a life sized plastic model of a topless woman, flower in hair, dressed only in a grass skirt and a colourful garland at the top of the stairs the bar (located downstairs) is no cheesy, faux-Mãori setup. In fact what we discover is a dimly lit, wonderfully eclectic room with ample seating and space for 70+ (at a guess) to sip great drinks and party the night away. For sure, the music at Trailer Happiness is taken very seriously and the mix of Blues, Hip-Hop, Funk and several other genres really gets the crowd jamming!

Specialising in rum but with an appreciation for “all quality spirits, wine, champagne & beer” the bar itself is a wonderful sight. A strong affiliation with Bacardi and probably the widest variety of Plantation rums I’ve ever seen (12+ at a glance) sets the tone. Then we see spectrums of Doorly’s, Chairman’s Reserve, Havana Club, Ron Barcelo, Don Q, English Harbour, Pussers and many more. Not just single bottles but a genuine granularity and depth of offerings from each marquee brand. The bar even has an offering of rarer rhum agricoles such as Homere Clement and Karukera. All this complimented by ranges of Jack Daniels, Hennessy and Patron amongst others. I think I’m in heaven and it’s got a bar!

Sipping many of these fine rums would have been an adequate approach to the task however we’d have learned nothing about the bar. The task here was to probe the personality and passion of Trailer Happiness and its bar tenders (Sergio hates the words “mixologist”) so we rolled up our sleeves and sampled some of their cocktails.

1) Myrtle Bank Punch

Over-Proof Rum (Woods, Plantation, Smith & Cross)

Homemade Pomegranate Syrup


Angostura Bitters


Wow. What a punch! The three over-proofs are not messing around. Packed with crushed ice and served very tall this is the cocktail to take you into another gear. Lovely sweetness from the pomegranate syrup and a hint of banana from the Smith & Cross. Caveat emptor, this is not for amateurs!

2)     Hotel Nacional Special

Aged Cuban Style Rum (Bacardi 8)

Apricot Liquor

Pineapple Juice

Dried Lime

From research this cocktail first appears in Charles H. Baker’s ‘The Gentlemen’s Companion’ (1939). Sergio however informs us that the drink in fact pre-dates this book and is from 1921 Prohibition era. The Hotel Nacional in Cuba would serve this as a sort of “welcome drink” for the American Mafia. The history of this drink could not fail to impress and neither could Sergio’s take on it. Chilled, sweet with a wonderful acidity on the final part of the sip. Beautifully and elegantly presented.

3)     Zombie

Over-Proof Rum (Woods and Smith & Cross)

Plantation Original Dark

Bacardi Gold & White

Homemade Pomegranate Syrup

Grapefruit Juice


Cinnamon Syrup

Cinnamon Shake

Falernum Syrup

Whilst this is not a cocktail we tried, it’s one we watched Sergio create for other revellers and the spectacle left us gob-smacked. As Zombies go, we’ve seen nothing like it. The initial construction was none-too-different from the Rum Punch. Heaps of ice and plenty of the over-proof..! The drink appears balanced from the sweetness of the dark rum, the bitterness of the grapefruit, acid from the limes, almonds and ginger from the Falernum, through to the sweet & spicy cinnamon syrup. The crescendo in the preparation of the drink is when Sergio lets the cinnamon shake rain down over the drink through a huge blast of fire from his blow torch! The sparks and theatre leave everyone in awe.

4)     Corn’n’Oil

Bacardi 8

El Dorado 8


Angostura Bitters

Lime Twist

We asked Sergio to make us a “girly drink”. Bad move! We quickly discovered another thing Sergio hated and that is gender-defining drinks. We felt rather embarrassed to say the least. Thankfully, Sergio being the consummate professional he is, enlightened us to the scientific notion of ‘Supertasters’.  A person who has a sense of taste, far more acute than the average is a supertaster and women are more likely than men to have this heightened sense. As a result, they are more likely to experience unpleasant bitter tastes than the boys and are steered towards sweeter drinks at some subconscious level.

Enter Corn’n’Oil. Traditionally served over ice but Trailer Happiness will present it to you in a lovely, chilled martini glass with an exquisite twist of lime. The beautiful demerara flavour of the El Dorado 8 year really shines through and the cocktail is wonderfully balanced. If you enjoy an Old Fashioned, this is not a million miles away to our mind.

We could go on and on here. Trailer Happiness has become somewhat of an institution and we cannot see that changing any time soon. However as with any great establishment, the staff are its greatest asset and for that reason alone you should head down there, kick back to some Jazz and Groove, and let us know if that Zombie tasted as good as it looked!

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Review 13 – The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum

The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum has been around for just over a couple of years and was founded by Jessica Swinfen and George Frost. George fell in love with rum during his many family holidays to the Caribbean. He teamed up with Jessica and between them they embarked on the journey which lead to the creation of The Duppy Share.

After doing their research by tasting a wide variety of rums from different islands in the Caribbean (sounds a tough job) the co-founders decided on a blend of a 3 year rum from Worthy Park in Jamaica and a 5 year rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. They decided on this mix to get the punch and fruitiness of Jamaica and then balance it out with the sweeter and more rounded elements found in Barbados. These rums are then sent to be blended in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, before bringing it to the UK to be bottled to become the final product.

The name comes from Caribbean folklore and has an enjoyable story behind it. According to their website:

“Caribbean legend has it that the dark Duppy spirits swoop
between the islands stealing the best share of the rum. Spirit masters, skilled
in the fine art of blending, the dupes take only the best.

This is the Duppy Share.”

This is also known as the Angel’s Share which I have written about previously here.

The Duppy Share have decided to celebrate a Summer of Rum by running a rum blending masterclass which is led by Jessica Swinfen. I was very kindly invited to this event in a Young’s pub to sample their rum and be transported away from a cloudy Wednesday evening in London to a beautiful Caribbean beach, if only for a couple of hours

I was greeted with a delicious Rum Punch made from The Duppy Share which they then shaved fresh nutmeg and added bitters to, to add that little extra touch which I definitely appreciated (Thanks Rosie Little). I was then introduced to the co-founders that were in attendance. They were both very friendly and very personable, exactly the right recipe for this type of event I feel.

After a second (or was that third?) helping of the Rum Punch we were ushered to the masterclass area to begin. Without ruining the experience for anybody who will go to this event in the future, you are given a short history of rum and then taken on a journey throughout some very important areas in the rum world. You are then given the opportunity to take what you have learnt and blend your own rum to take home. The whole masterclass is delivered exceptionally well and is very informative yet interactive and most importantly, fun. I think it’s an event diverse enough to be it a learning experience into rum, a wacky date, or a fun evening with a couple of friends.

I managed to get a few words with George Frost as well on the night with his plans and how he prefers to drink The Duppy Share. He’s very passionate about his rum and both he and Jessica agreed they didn’t like some of the sweetened offerings that are available today and much prefer the rums with a kick which is what they have tried to maintain. As for cocktail of choice, George said he prefers it in an old fashioned whereas Jessica says she loves it in a simple daiquiri, two very different cocktails which goes to show the diversity of their creation. A few more examples can be found here.

But let’s move onto the review of The Duppy Share. The bottle is a unique shape with a long thin neck which makes it easier to pour out. It is topped with a cork which helps keep an authentic feel to the rum. This is affirmed with the beautifully designed label which reminds me of a post card or a poster from the first half of the 20th century. All of their marketing lends itself to transporting you away from wherever you maybe to a Caribbean Island, to warmth, summer, and a beach. Not a bad thing at all.

In the glass the rum is a light golden colour. Slightly lighter than in the bottle. On the nose the first notes that are noticeable are oak and vanilla. Then we get some fruits mainly banana and a hint of pineapple. There are traces of sweetness which seem to be brown sugar. An interesting mix here on the nose. On my first sip the rum tastes a lot older than it smells. There is a fair depth to this rum. I can taste the oak and fruits I smelt on the nose but the Jamaican side of the rum does pack a punch and you get this when you swallow. However, the end of the rum leaves a spicy finish which helps to take the edge off the rum. Further investigation and I can taste vanilla and nuts as well. A nice mix, but one which needs to be taken with caution, too big of a sip and this rum would burn. But give it the attention it needs and you are treated with a solid rum which is decent value for money.

Unfortunately, other than the delicious rum punch I was handed at the start of the masterclass, I haven’t had a chance to mix this rum into a cocktail, which is where it seems the target audience is. That will be a step I take in the future but if the rum punch was anything to go by, I am in for a treat.

Overall although primarily a high end mixing rum which is diverse enough to be used in a variety of cocktails I think it has been aged and blended well enough to be drunk neat as well, or maybe with a touch of water. Their marketing approach has been to step towards rum as a drink when sat on a beach in paradise which is how I view my rum, be it neat or in a cocktail. Well played Duppy Share and I look forward to what the future holds.

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Review 12: Matugga Rum – Spiced & Original

Rum can be created anywhere that sugar cane grows. As I mentioned in an earlier post about Rum from Asia although the bulk comes from the Caribbean and Latin America, there are other countries which produce a lot of the world’s supply of rum. We know that the climate in parts of the continent of Africa must be suitable for sugarcane and yet we can’t think of any premium rum brands hailing from there. Until now; introducing Matugga Rum, a British Rum with an African Soul.

Matugga (the name of a town in Uganda) source their sugar cane from the rich, red soils of East Africa. Other ingredients added are also sourced from the Easterly region of Africa and then together they are shipped to be distilled and aged in Cambridgeshire in the UK. Matugga is triple distilled before finishing off the maturation phase in English Oak casks.

Matugga Rum is owned and run by Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa and their Master Distiller is Dr John Walters. The story of the ingredients of the rum are just as important to Paul and Jacine as the creation of the rum itself. They source only the best molasses they can from their high quality sugar cane harvest in Uganda. For more insight into Matugga please visit the following article here.

Last month I went to an “Indulgence Session” put on by the team behind Matugga Rum. A very polished and professional presentation that kept the fun and excitement that goes hand-in-hand with rum. After a brief foray into the history of the brand and the team behind it, we moved swiftly into the tasting of the two offerings from Matugga followed by the participants creating a couple of cocktails. All four were also paired with different munchies (grapes, cheese, crackers, chocolate, home made rum cake etc) to help to illustrate the versatility not only of Matugga, but of the spirit in general. The two cocktails they showcased were the Golden Apple which used their Golden Rum and the Spiced Pineapple which used their Spiced Rum. I personally preferred the Golden Apple cocktail which used cloudy red apple juice to great affect to enhance the flavour of the rum. I was in the minority however as the bulk of people who attended found the Spiced Pineapple to be the better of the two. The team came across very friendly and personable and their session was a resounding success by the opinions I heard from other attendees, most of whom knew next to nothing about rum in general beforehand and left the session with the remaining bottles they had for sale. If you get a chance to experience one of these sessions yourself I would definitely recommend it.

After the session the lovely couple behind Matugga sent me a sample of both the Golden and the Spiced Rum as I mentioned I would like to review them properly. I will start with their Golden offering before moving to the spiced variety.

As mentioned earlier, both of Matugga’s Rum’s are 100% pot still distilled. This is quite rare these days as column stills are used more and more. Pot stills are where the distillation process began with rum and this takes us back to the essence. In the glass the rum is a light golden colour. It pours lighter than it looks in the bottle. I think this shows a sign of its age and length of time in the barrel. I do know there is some caramel colouring added to the rum which has helped to give the rum a more appealing look so I cant really judge anything by the colour of the rum. The rum is more viscous than expected in the glass. It has some legs on it when swirled.

On my first sniff I get an immediate sweet hit of treacle. This gives way to some dry raisins and a small hint of allspice. An interesting mix that once allowed to rest brings out a hint of vanilla and oak. On my first sip I get a fresh clean taste which is reminiscent of a young rum. There are notes of vanilla at the start and a sweet treacle taste. This makes way to a spicy finish which leaves a pepper note which seems to add to the slight burn that you feel in the finish.

I am surprised with how smooth this rum is because it hasn’t been aged for very long so the casks haven’t had a chance to help to take some of the edge off the rum. However, having spoken to the team behind Matugga, I was informed that their aging process is at a small enough scale that they can actually keep the rum moving throughout its maturation phase. To try to explain this think of the difference a tea bag makes in your tea. If you move the tea bag around and keep stirring and moving, the flavour of the tea is stronger and fuller compared to just leaving the tea bag static in the mug. Accordingly, the flavours enhance and its  interaction with the casks occurs at what seems like a much faster rate. As a result, the rum tastes like it is much older than it is.

Moving onto the Spiced, in the glass this rum is darker than the golden offering from Matugga and remains similar in thickness. On the nose I get notes of orange peel, grass, a slight appearance of treacle and raisins. I was expecting a spicier nose, but that’s not a bad thing. On my first taste I get vanilla and liquorish at the start. It is very warming and again very smooth. It is smoother than the golden rum variety of Matugga. The end of the rum leaves a spicy feeling around the tongue and the throat which could be mistaken for a burn, but on closer inspection and multiple tastes, I can confirm it’s a peppery and cinnamon finish rather than a burn in my opinion. The orange peel smelt on the nose comes in once the rum has sat for a short period, as does the treacle. The liquorish taste also dulls having sat for a few minutes and yet the spicy and sweet flavours remain at the finish.

From the indulgence session I know that these rums make excellent bases for cocktails. Matugga’s website gives a list of different cocktails they recommend which can be found here. Fruity concoctions definitely work well in bringing out the flavours of this rum. I haven’t yet but I would like to try this rum in a more citrus type cocktail to see how the flavours interact with those more citrus elements. I think the spiced rum may thrive here.

Overall these rums are surprising for what they are. Both are relatively young and yet seem to be smooth enough to sip. I personally wouldn’t sip the golden as it’s a bit too harsh for my taste but I can see how many people would. The spiced on the other hand I feel has less of a punch to it, making it easier to sip. But I am very excited to see what a few more years of aging leads to with Matugga but this must be done ‘slowly slowly’ which in Swahili is ‘Pole Pole Ndio Mwendo.’ As always, good things come to those who wait!

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Review 11: Brugal – Siglo De Oro

Brugal is a rum that is native to the Dominican Republic and has been since 1888. It is owned by Edrington which also owns other famous spirit brands including The Macallan, The Famous Grouse and Highland Park whisky amongst others. Edrington is a large Scottish distilling company which purchased Brugal & Co on February 6th 2008.

Brugal was founded in Puerto Plata in the second half of the 19th century when Andres Brugal Montaner moved from Spain to Cuba, and then later on to the Dominican Republic. He picked up his rum expertise from his time in Cuba and transferred that to Puerto Plata. Even today, Brugal continues to be run by direct descendents of Andres, the current chairman, George Arzeno Brugal, being fourth generation.

Brugal is a huge spirit and is currently the number one rum brand in both the Caribbean and Spain, quite an achievement given its competition. One part of Brugal which helps them stand out from the rest is the netting which covers the Anejo and Extra Anejo bottles. This was started after a member of the Brugal family visited India and noticed that premium products were distinguished from the rest by being represented in net bags. He returned with this idea and created the unusual process.

This Siglo De Oro was created to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Brugal in 1988. They age the rum in American white oak barrels for up to eight years. The rum is then blended and then returned to the barrels for eight more years. This is very unique in the rum world to double age rum. The sugar cane used in the rum for Brugal is locally sourced in the Dominican Republic and the rum is double distilled to remove heavy alcohols and enhance the sweet flavour that comes from molasses.

The packaging for the bottle is definitely aimed for the premium end of the spectrum. The bottle is a beautiful decanter style design with a long neck and solid cork to close off. Brugal have gone the extra step however by providing a regal blue display case for the rum. The ‘Brugal’ blue colour that is present on their range of rum, with a gold stamp like feature in the middle where the case opens (the same stamp appears in the middle of the bottle as well as the top of the cork). Inside the case there is a small blurb written in Spanish which roughly translates to:

‘Golden Age Rum Special Selection:

More than a century of time and painstaking efforts are concentrated in this bottle containing the Special Selection Brugal rums chosen by the house to reach the threshold of the new millennium.

Founded in 1888 by Don Andres Brugal Montaner, he has allocated the generations of his family to achieve the perfection of Dominican rum, and to put in the work time and dedication enjoyed by those who truly know of high quality beverages’

A nice tough from Brugal to give a little bit of background on the company and this bottle on the inside cover. This really helps to add to the premium feel and look of this product. But let’s move onto the review.

In the glass this rum has a lovely colour which is slightly lighter than copper and heading towards amber. For a rum aged this long it is definitely a lighter hue than I expected. The liquid itself is slightly more viscous and leaves fairly prominent legs in the glass when swirled. On the nose I immediately get a nice hit of butterscotch and vanilla. This makes way for oak and slight hints of fresh grass at the end. This is an interesting nose which isn’t as sweet as I expected from the previous offerings from Brugal.

On my first sip I notice how thick this Rum is. Any further along and this texture would be heading towards oil. There is the butterscotch which I smelt in the first sip mixed with some caramel. Similar to the nose this sweetness makes way to oak and then into a small taste of aniseed which was very surprising alongside orange. In the throat there is a slight burn which I feel is more than expected for a rum of this age. However the finish leaves an oak and spicy taste in the mouth, but seems to dry out quite quickly, which has you reaching for another sip which is not a bad thing!

After having let this rum sit for about 10 minutes there is quite a change. The rum seems to have thinned out and isn’t anywhere near as viscous as earlier. The sweetness has dulled slightly and the oak has come to the forefront now. The aniseed has disappeared from earlier and the throat burn from earlier also seems to have dulled.

Overall this rum has a slightly bitter side to it rather than being overly sweet. I think this could be due to the length of time it is aged and the oak flavour from the barrels potentially overpowering the flavours in the rum. The end result is a rum which starts off sweet but seems to dry too quickly for my liking, leaving the final taste of the bitter oak in the mouth. This is a real shame as the start is so promising and it falls just short of being something really, really special. The fact remains however that this is a very drinkable rum but for the exclusivity and price point of around £125 (if you can find it) it seems to not quite reach the extremely high standards the story, brand and packaging seem to have set for themselves.

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Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Have you ever had a Daiquiri or a Mai-Tai? Manhattan or a Mojito? An Old-Fashioned (with rum we hope!) surely? In that case you’ve most likely already been introduced to “Amargo Aromatico” or as it is more commonly known, Angostura Aromatic Bitters.

Although not a rum in itself, the concoction is produced by the House of Angostura, the main producer of rum in Trinidad & Tobago. The origins of the bitters are found further afield however in Venezuela, where in 1824, after four years of experimentation, a German doctor finalised his organic remedy to assist with the digestion, stomach pains and general well-being of the soldiers fighting in the war.  Dr. Johan Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert was based in Angostura (renamed Ciudad Bolivar in 1846 after the famous general whose soldiers Siegert was administering his aid and bitters to) and it was there that he perfected his blend of water, ethanol (44.7%), gentian, herbs and spices. Angostura’s own brand bitters do not contain the Angostura bark however some other brands do.  That being said, to this day the recipe is a secret known but to a handful of people!

Such was the success of the highly concentrated solution that in 1830, Siegert set up a distillery in Angostura to keep up with demand.  In 1875, now a family business under the name Dr. J.G.B. Siegert & Hijos, the entire operation relocated to Port of Spain in Trinidad & Tobago.

The final name change for the company came in 1992, when Angostura Limited was formed and over the years Siegert’s vision and execution saw the company in its various forms become exclusive purveyors of aromatic bitters to, amongst others, the King of Prussia, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King George V and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In 2012 they even produced a limited edition bottle and gift canister to celebrate HM Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Anniversary.

The bottle is iconic for its dark brown neck, yellow cap and of course its tall paper sleeve that stretches past the shoulders. The smell is rich with spices, cloves and zest. You immediately think of Jamaican spiced cakes and sweet Caribbean chicken. Funny that the first thing the mind goes to is food and not a delicious Old Fashioned poured over a large spherical ice-ball with a twist of orange peel. It is in this cognitive moment that the very essence of Dr. Siegert’s idea all those years comes to the fore: food. Food, nourishment, appetite and digestion. The wonderfully over-sized label even tells us about some of the many, many food items we should be adding the aromatic bitters to such as soups, salads, vegetables, gravies, fish, meat, fruit juices, stewed prunes, jellies, sherbets, ice-creams, sauces for puddings, fruit pies and apple sauce.

Rich in history, rich in flavour and a rich companion of many cocktails around the world, many thankfully that contain rum! Let us know which food and cocktails you like to add your Angostura Aromatic Bitters to!

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Everyday Rum – Review 5: Captain Morgan (The Original Rum) – £14 (700ml)

Alongside its Spiced Rum which maybe more widely recognisable, Captain Morgan’s original offering is their dark rum. I wrote an earlier article on spiced rums which included the Captain’s spiced contribution to the rum world which can be found here alongside some background on the brand itself.

The bottle is very similar to the spiced variety. The label looks like a darker version which helps keep continuity in the branding. This version however states it is a “Jamaica Rum.” The rum is matured in charred white oak barrels with a very low angel share of just 2%, a very efficient process indeed.

Similar to the Spiced Rum, the original Dark Rum is designed as a mixing rum. It is an entry to the dark rum world for the general public, at a price which allows pretty much any spirit drinker a taste. It is also very widely stocked throughout the UK in bars and pubs, so you should never be too far from a bottle.

In the bottle and when poured into a glass, the rum is a very dark, rich brown colour. On the nose it is quite powerful with the alcohol at the forefront. It transitions into a very sweet smell. The strength and power of the rum indicates it hasn’t been aged for very long in barrels and that the smell indicates it has added sugar and sweeteners as well as caramel to give the appearance of an older, more mature rum. From what small information I could find, it is aged for up to 7 years, although I feel there is only a very small amount of rum from the latter end of that.

Although this rum is marketed and meant to be a mixing rum, I have decided to try it neat for the purposes of helping figure out which cocktails I think it will work with best. The first taste is quite pungent with alcohol and quite harsh. I get a small hint of aniseed but the strength of the alcohol is really overpowering almost everything else here. The ending has a very harsh burn and it’s quite bitter. I can also taste a small amount of what seems to be Benylin (cough mixture) which I also smelt in Kraken when poured out into a glass. There is definitely a small smoky taste as well to the ending, but in general I cant bring myself to keep trying this neat.

On the website and via their marketing the two main cocktails or mixers they recommend are with Cola and Ginger beer. I have had Captain Morgan with Cola a lot in my younger days as it was my go to choice of drink throughout university. It is sweeter than your average drink though and as I have gotten older I find it too sweet to drink. The sugar in the rum and the sugar in the cola make that pretty obvious. It also still leaves a burn which the cola cannot mask. Not ideal in a cocktail in my opinion.

I feel with ginger beer the rum is a lot more drinkable. The fieriness of the ginger beer does seem to make the burn of the rum, and the powerful Jamaican side of the rum gives it a punch. Its not too sweet and definitely works much better than the cola mixture. However, there is nothing special here. It is drinkable but not really what you want in a cocktail.

The final mixer I tried this with was lemonade. Surprisingly this for me was the best mixer. The sharpness of the lemonade helps to cut through some of the sweetness and also seems to prevent the bulk of the burn from occurring. But again, the flavour of the rum doesn’t really shine through. All I can taste is the power of the alcohol to give it a small kick but none of the rum flavour.

Overall for me I am yet to find something to mix this rum with to really help it shine and flourish. Until then I will be inclined to go for almost any other dark rum in its place when at a bar. I would personally try this with a fruitier cocktail when I am next at a bar just to see how the flavours meld together but I’m not very hopeful. However, if you have found the perfect cocktail or mixer for this, please let us know!

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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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Review 8: Revolver Rum

Revolver Rum is a relatively new brand produced by Rathlee Distilling Company (established in 2012) who are based in Cornwall, UK. Two rum lovers have come together to produce this rum, one is from Cornwall and the other from Bogota, Colombia. I would recommend a visit to their website here for some information on the brand, company and limited number of stockists which have this rum for sale.

The name Revolver is based on the Spanish verb meaning ‘to stir’ which has two main connotations. The first is that Revolver is all about mixing together and enjoying great cocktails. It also represents the mixing of the two cultures of Colombia and Cornwall, in two different countries but with one passion.

The recipe of Revolver was perfected in a pot still in the UK by the owners of Rathlee using a variety of different raw materials including a type of sugar, called panela, from Colombia. They went through a number of different recipes before deciding on the formula that has been used. This was then handed to some expert rum producers in Central America.Although being tested and created in a copper pot still, Revolver is distilled in a triple column still for its wider production. This method helps to separate the stages of distillation thereby making them more efficient. More information can be found on my earlier article on distillation which can be found here.

Revolver is aged for up to 18 months at source before being moved to the UK and is stored in white oak barrels and left to mature for another six months (possibly more). They also add some pure Cornish water to the rum to help bring down the ABV to 40% and add the touch of Cornwall to the spirit. The aging here in the climate of the UK will bring a different and unique flavour to the young rum as opposed to the warm and humid climate found in Central America.

The kind team at Rathlee Distilling sent me a bottle to review. The design of the bottle is similar to the Don Papa and Pussers 15 year style which is a heavy glass bottom with rounded shoulders and a long neck. There is a wooden cork top to the bottle which suits its design well. The label front displays the brand name and the term ‘Cask Aged Golden Rum’ alongside a few smaller details. The back label has a nice blurb which also has a few words highlighted within. These words together make up the phrase ‘Evolve beyond expectation with Revolver Rum.’

The rum is a very light yellow/golden colour. This indicates there has been no caramel added which is usually used to create the illusion of an older rum and adds a level of sweetness. On my first sniff I don’t get as much ethanol as I would have expected for a rum of this age. It is there without a doubt, but some of the other notes including oak help to tame it. I also smell a few spice notes of mainly clove and hints of cinnamon. The rum finally smells grassy and fresh which is consistent with a rum that is as young as this.

On my first sip I am met with a soft entry and then a rush of spices. These leave a small tingle on the lips. The spicy notes from the nose are evident with the addition of pepper. Following this initial spice, the oak from the barrels comes through. The rum seems very light and glides over the tongue without too much remaining in the mouth to the finish. The ethanol taste is present as expected from the nose and the age of this rum, but it isn’t overpowering.

The finish is strong and peppery with a medium burn but this burn fades fairly quickly. Having sat for a few minutes I can now taste a touch of vanilla in the rum, but the rest of the notes become a tad more prominent alongside.

Having tried Revolver neat, I decided to see how it would fair in the cocktail world seeing as this is the market which Revolver has targeted. This is especially evident with not only the name of Revolver but also how they have teamed up with The Cocktail Trading Company to create three new cocktails which they feel complement the flavours of the rum; a list of which can be found here. From their recommendations I managed to try to create the Brewbalee.

The Brewbalee is made with ginger beer and an equal amount of Revolver rum and red wine. I’ll be honest here, it proved harder than expected to get the red wine to ‘float.’ I gave up after 3 attempts. I think the red wine I chose may have been too full bodied and heavy for the cocktail. As a result my findings may not be as accurate as if the cocktail was made by an expert. I found the transition of smooth red wine to a bubbly ginger beer didn’t work for me. It contrasted too much. The burn from the Revolver that I found when tasting neat however has definitely gone in this cocktail and the finish is very much the ginger beer with a touch of the rum which is quite nice. I do feel the red wine overpowers this cocktail at the start and the rum is hard to place at all except for a touch at the finish. Overall it’s a decent cocktail but not one for my taste.

I also tried Revolver with lemonade. This is one of my staples I enjoy when mixing a rum as a nice alternative to coke. Here I find Revolver shines through. The lemonade brings forth a more fruity side to Revolver but doesn’t dull down its spicy notes. Instead it tempers the oak flavour slightly and adds a citrus side which seems to complement the rum very well. A lovely change to some of the more common mixing spirits which have a lot of sugar and caramel added and can become sweet.

Overall I would recommend trying this rum neat before mixing it. At around £25-£30 a bottle it is priced as a high end mixing rum. If you don’t like the sweeter side of rum and much prefer the more oak, spicy and summery/fresh side of rum then go and grab yourself a bottle. I look forward to experimenting in more cocktails (Mulata will be next) with Revolver in the future and definitely look forward to future releases from the Rathlee Distillers.

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Rum Used In Health And Beauty?

The British Navy gave rations of rum to its sailors until the 1970s. You can find a link to a bit more information on Rum and the Navy here.

At that time it was thought that rum was the reason for preventing scurvy. We now know that it was actually the citrus element (usually lime, sometimes lemon) which was added to help take the edge off the rum is the reason the drink aided in the prevention of scurvy. It was the high levels of vitamin C in the fruit that was mixed with the rum that helped.

The way the lime and lemon worked with the rum has led to the use of the citrus fruits in a lot of the famous rum based cocktails we know and love today.

In the 1800s, rum was highly revered as a go-to beauty product for its ability to clean hair and strengthen its roots. From my research, I believe you dip the ends of hair in rum to prevent split-ends. You wet your hair in rum and then leave it to soak in for 15 minutes. Then rinse off with a mild shampoo to remove the ethanol smell. It is said that rum is also used as a remedy to hair loss. The ingredients used in rum help to produce more hair when rubbed onto skin and scalp. It also helps to hydrate skin and scalp which aids with the prevention of dandruff.

Feel free to try washing your hair in rum or trying to help prevent hair loss, however I would stress the age of the rum would make no difference so leave those well aged, expensive rums for drinking!

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Everyday Rum – Review 4: Lamb’s Navy Rum – £14

Alfred Lamb was born in 1827. He was the son of wines and spirits entrepreneur William Lamb. Just 22 years later, he blended together ’18 superior rums’ from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana and created the worlds first Lambs Navy Rum. The rum was blended and aged for 4 years in a warehouse in West India Docks in London by the Thames River. This warehouse was unfortunately a casualty of the London Blitz and had to be rebuilt. Their website is fun and informative and can be found here.

You can find Lamb’s Navy rum throughout the land here in the UK. Pretty much every bar/pub/supermarket will have this rum and as a result of this for many it is their go to choice of rum. There are a few other offerings from Lamb’s but this Navy is the staple release and the one which Lamb’s have built their brand on.

The Lambs bottle is quite unique as you can see from the picture. It is a hexagonal shape rather than the typical cylindrical bottle that we see over most bottles. I do think it is easier to hold when pouring than your standard bottle shape. The label lends itself to the branding towards being a rum for the British Navy. However I could not find any information to corroborate that it actually is linked to the British Navy. None the less it seems to be proud to be a British rum and the label displays this.

The rum is a deep red/brown colour when poured in the glass. On my first smell I find this to be quite sweet. Toffee and dried fruits such as raisins are at the forefront. There are notes of burnt sugar and vanilla and the distinctive molasses. On my first sip I taste molasses and toffee similar to the nose. This melts away into some spiciness of nutmeg and slight cinnamon. A very sweet sip, although there is a burn at the finish along with some oak notes. Whilst it is possible to have this neat, I really don’t recommend it. The taste on the palette just doesn’t work for me and the finish leaves a long lasting alcohol burn which I think needs to be mixed. Plus the Lamb’s advertising doesn’t lend itself for this to be a sipping rum.

I have almost always mixed this rum with diet coke when I have been out drinking socially. When mixed, it brings out more grass and earth flavours from the rum. This is a nice alternative to how sweet the other popular dark rums, such as Captain Morgan, become when mixed with diet coke. This is actually a surprising turn with Lambs due to how sweet it is neat. The drink is still definitely sweet, but now mixed; the coke takes the edge off making it a much better option.

Personally I would have this rum as a nice alternative to a simple dark rum  and coke when on a night out. It wouldn’t be my go to choice for a simple mixer but it’s a nice alternative. Other than with coke, I’m not sure where else I would place this rum. Potentially a sharp citrus based cocktail may help to cut through the sweetness, but I am yet to try one of these cocktails with this particular rum.

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Review 7: Ron Barcelo – Imperial Premium Blend (30 Anniversario)

Ron Barcelo is a producer based on the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic. In 1929 when Julian Barcelo travelled from Spain to Santo Domingo he founded Barcelo & Co and began to produce rum. The Ron Barcelo brand was launched in 1950 with Barcelo Blanco and Barcelo Dorado. The rum that made Ron Barcelo famous was born in 1980 and the Ron Barcelo Imperial remains the most internationally awarded Dominican rum. Today Ron Barcelo is sold in over 50 countries globally and is the 4th largest exporter of rum in the world. For a more in depth look into their history please visit there website here.

This particular offering from Ron Barcelo was created to celebrate 30 years of rum production of their signature rum in 2001. Miguel Barcelo kept some private reserves of his rum which he further aged in American white oak and French oak barrels from Chateau d’Yquem in Bordeaux France for a couple of years and then blended to create this premium blend for Ron Barcelo’s production line and is limited to just 9000 bottles annually.

The bottle and packaging are quite exquisitely done. There is a golden tin to keep the bottle safe and the bottle itself comes on a wooden display pedestal. The bottle is a very unique round shape with a short neck that leads to the cork. A huge symbol showing off that this rum is a 30th Anniversary edition is on both the case and bottle. It would be a welcome addition to any shelf and would definitely stand out. The cork is sizeable and gives a satisfying pop when removed from the bottle. Everything shouts out that this is a premium bottle of rum.

After the satisfying uncorking and pouring of the rum, the colour is a deep dark brown in my glass. On my first sniff I get notes of vanilla and to a lesser extent caramel and toffee. Then the nose transitions to raisins and dried fruit. There are also hints of oaks and wood which is to be expected for the length of aging of this production. A complex and well defined nose which increases my expectations.

On the first sip I am met with a wonderfully sweet caramel and toffee flavour which is balanced with an undertone of coffee. Having let the rum sit for a while other flavours of dark chocolate and cherry appear with a small spice hit at the end of nutmeg and pepper. The rum coats your tongue and mouth and leaves a lovely warm finish where the spiciness gives way to a sweetness that leaves you wanting another sip. There are notes of oak and wood throughout the rum, but they remain the background and do not overpower any of the other flavours but rather take the edge off them in a delightful way.

Overall, this is a lovely step up from the Imperial offering from Ron Barcelo. I understand the price point of the rum at almost £80 due to the exclusivity and limited nature of the production of the rum. This offering from Ron Barcelo is a must have for any rum collector/enthusiast. If you can get a bottle, I would say do it. It has the expected lighter style consistent with the Dominican Republic’s Spanish heritage, with some depth and an abundance of flavours which meld together in a lovely concoction of rum-goodness.

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Review 6 – Kill Devil – Uitvlugt (Guyana) 18 Year Single Cask Rum

The Kill Devil brand is owned by Hunter Laing who are well versed in the blending of whiskey and this brand is their foray into the rum industry. According to Andrew Laing they follow the same philosophy with this range as they do with their Whiskey which is to bottle single casks of rum only when they believe they are perfect for drinking and are not chill filtered or have anything added to them. There is an interview with Andrew Laing about their new rum series that you can read here. The brand, logo, illustration and packaging were developed by Sevenfive in late 2015.

This particular rum was matured for 18 years in Oak Barrels and was distilled in Guyana in the original Uitvlugt Distillery before it closed down in 2000 which means this rum was one of the final distillates produced there. As a result, this is a real piece of history and an extremely limited release I was happy to get my hands on. This was distilled in November 1997 according to the bottle and this single cask also produced just 357 bottles and is bottled at the higher than usual ABV of 46%.

The bottle is elegant looking with the kill devil logo on the front alongside the information on the distillery of where this rum originates from, the date it was distilled and other bottle information. The label on the back of the bottle refers to the name of Kill Devil being a local colloquialism back in the 17th and 18th centuries. It also mentions the casks that are selected are then shipped to Scotland to be carefully and traditionally bottled by hand. The bottle is finished with a nice cork top which definitely adds to the overall feel of a premium rum offering.

In the glass this rum is a lot lighter than I expected for a rum aged as long as this. I would have expected a much darker appearance, but I believe this is explained due to the fact nothing is added to it before bottling.

On the nose the initial hit is very oak and wood like. It’s quite overpowering to begin with. Past those notes I can smell hints of grass. The freshness of this rum reminds me of the tasting palette of a rhum agricole, very light and fresh rum. Having let this rum sit for a few minutes the oak and wood features take a real backseat and fruitier notes appear. I smell green apples and apricots. An unexpected but definitely not unwelcome change!

On my first sip I was expecting to be met with a lot of oak and wood which is the usual with a rum aged for this amount of time, especially with the nose having those notes at the forefront. However, that is not the case here. The immediate notes I taste are raw sugar cane, bringing back the theme of the rhum agricole again. There is a strange sensation when this rum first glides over your tongue. I can only liken it to a very gentle flicker or shimmer similar to the old child’s sweet of pop rocks on a much lower scale. The rum is thin enough to briskly cover your tongue efficiently without losing its flavour profile. The mid flavour profile now follows the nose and some fruit come in here. I can taste banana alongside the green apples and apricots.

The finish is where the oak and wood flavour return. I also get some spices here mainly cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is long and also has hints of grass and remains light and fresh throughout.

This rum is a bit strange. It has a profile which reminds me of a top shelf rhum agricole and not a lot of molasses which I would’ve expected. Summery and refreshing which improves once left for a few minutes to sit in the glass. Overall this rum grows on me the more I have drunk it. It isn’t what I expected by any means, but that isn’t a bad thing. The light and fresh notes make it a summery selection rather than a winter warmer. If you enjoy the rhum agricole flavour profiles then this is a great selection for you. It is more expensive than I would personally like to pay for a rum of this style, but the exclusivity of it more than explains its price point. An interesting development in the Kill Devil line and I look forward to trying others.

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Everyday Rum – Review 3: Havana Club Rum 7 year – £20 (700ml)

Havana Club has a high pedigree in the rum community and outside. There has been rum in Cuba since the introduction of the sugarcane crop to the Caribbean. Havana Club is currently the leading rum in Cuba and uses a number of Maestros Roneros (Master Rum Maker). It takes 15 years of dedication to become a Maestro Ronero, during which the elder masters impart their knowledge to the newer trainees. Havana Club’s Primer Maestro Ronero, Don Jose Navarro explains “It’s is a cultural legacy, passed on from Maestro Ronero to Maestro Ronero, from heart to heart, from Cuban to Cuban.”

You could be easily mistaken in thinking that this Havana Club 7 year is an entry level offering from Havana due to the price point. Although it maybe entry level in terms of a potential sipping rum, there are a few younger siblings that Havana produce which would be regarded as the entry level. Those are very much regarded as mixing rums, but this rum in their range takes things up a level.

The number written on bottles can be misleading when it comes to aging. However, in this instance Havana confirm that the minimum amount any part of this rum is aged is for 7 years. Thereby sticking to the ‘youngest drop’ policy. This is done by blending individual barrels of rum.

The rise to popularity of Havana Club 7 has been rapid in the UK market and is part of the reason it appears in the ‘Everyday Rum’ segment here. This can be found in supermarkets and most bars and it is becoming popular is restaurants as well. This rum has won awards at spirits championships in the 1990s which helps to display the Havana pedigree.

The bottle is an unusual dark brown colour and has a black label with the familiar red Havana club motif. The bottle has a screw cap rather than a cork which most premium rum manufacturers add when creating the packaging for a premium sipping rum. Definitely a stand out rum packaging when sat on a bartender’s shelf.

On the nose there is an immediate whiff of sweet caramel and a slight oak-ness. There are hints of coconut and passion fruit alongside which meld well together to help give an inviting aroma to this blend. The ethanol smell is still present though and needs to be understood and navigated past.

On my first sip the taste is more pleasant than the immediate ethanol hit from the nose. Alongside some leather and tobacco notes, I taste dark chocolate, burnt sugar and an oak-ness. The finish is creamy, with a hint of burn which does detract from the rum. Having sat for a few minutes I now taste prunes and raisins countering the sweetness found from the molasses. An interesting balance. The finish now is smoke and tobacco like. It doesn’t burn as much now, but the after taste isn’t what I prefer in my rum. Although if you enjoy those smoke and tobacco flavours, or fancy something to go alongside a cigar I can see how this rum would suit your needs.

Due to the wide availability of this rum throughout the UK market it is natural for this rum to have been used as a higher end mixer in cocktails. This is also where I feel this particular rum excels and where I would recommend a more casual rum drinker to enjoy this blend. In my opinion this makes a lovely Rum Based Old Fashioned cocktail and a Cuban classic cocktail of Cuba Libre is probably the best instance of this cocktail I have tried. Why not have a look at an article written earlier on rum based cocktails and experiment with those as well?

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Cocktail In Focus: Ti’ Punch

The Ti’ Punch (pronounced “tee paunch”) is the national cocktail of Martinique and is extremely popular in the French islands in the West Indies including Guadeloupe and Haiti. The name is taken from the Creole Petit Punch and has been abbreviated over the years down to just Ti’ Punch. It is created by specifically by adding a large amount rhum agricole, with a touch of fresh lime juice and a splash of cane syrup. It must be rhum and not rum. To understand the difference between the two types please read my earlier article here. It seems this cocktail is rhum agricole’s answer to the rum based daiquiri as the two are quite similar.

One of the main differences the Ti’ Punch has with the daiquiri is the way it is mixed. It uses a unique type of swizzle stick that is usually crafted from and named after a perennial tree called the bois lele, which is native to that region of the world. This swizzle is used to dissolve all of the ingredients of the cocktail. It has a unique end to it which spreads out into five separate small sections. A bartender will usually use two hands on the stick and roll it between his palms in a fashion similar to starting a fire when mixing.

The Ti’ Punch is usually served before meals as an aperitif due to the high alcoholic strength of it. There is also a tradition known as “chacun prepare sa propre mort” which roughly translates to each prepares his own death. This is where the bartender or the host will just lay out the ingredients and the drinkers will prepare the cocktail to their own taste. I have added ice to my version of the cocktail below as I feel the ice helps to allow the flavours to meld together. However, purists agree that a real Ti’ Punch should be served without ice.

The recipe for a Ti’ Punch is (for one person);

  • 2 ounces of rhum agricole (white or aged)
  • 0.25 ounces of cane syrup
  • 1 lime wedge

Directions: In a glass add the cane syrup and squeeze of lime. Then add the rhum and a few ice ice cubes. Stir gently until all dissolved together (preferably with a bois lele) and add the lime coin garnish before enjoying!

The ingredients only help to enhance the flavour of the rhum agricole rather than overpower it. They are sourced locally and the cocktail is enjoyed by pretty much everybody who enjoys a rhum agricole. With such a wide variety of ways to add such simple ingredients, why not try a few yourselves and let us know which version you find suits you the best!

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Rum Kitchen – Kingly Court, Carnaby Street

Last week I had an opportunity to visit The Rum Kitchen in Carnaby Street with a friend. Their flagship store opened in Notting Hill a few years back which I have been to numerous times, however this was the first time I had managed to visit the one in Carnaby Street. The “Kitchen” is based in Kingly Court and on the 1st Floor so the windows give a nice view of the court itself.

I didn’t realise that it was happy hour during my time there so I decided to stick to that menu for the first couple of drinks and see where it lead me. I started with their Daiquiri which is made with Santa Teresa Claro Rum. I am a big fan of Santa Teresa as you can tell from my review of their bi-centenario which can be found here. I haven’t actually had a Daiquiri with this particular rum so I ordered it without my usual way of asking for different rum to be used.

The daiquiri that came was exactly how I like mine. Clean, refreshing and not overdone. The rum worked very well with the lime and sugar and it drank itself (along with the other two that I ordered afterwards!). The sugar used helped to take off enough of the sharp edge of the lime, which then complimented the rum. I haven’t had the Venezuelan Santa Teresa Claro neat, but I know it has been aged for a bit longer than most white rums for about three years so the youthful harshness that most white rums have would be minimal anyway. It is charcoal filtered to help minimise the darker colour and leave it clear, not white but rather a very light golden appearance. This is a very good example of a daiquiri that I would recommend to anybody.I also managed to have a bit of food whilst there with the BBQ pork ribs and the jerk chicken wings. They arrived after the first cocktail. The ribs were delicious, two large ribs with plenty of meat seasoned well. The wings were also very good and the jerk seasoning complimented them well.

One thing worth mentioning is that Plantation Rum has exclusively produced a 25 year old blend from Trinidad made for them. It is available in servings or by the bottle at either £12.50/25ml or £150 for the bottle. I missed my opportunity to sample this, but it’s on my list on my next visit.

Overall, the Rum Kitchen is a very nice place to get some lovely food and great cocktails. Fun atmosphere, great service and a large rum collection – my kind of place!

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Review 5 – Ron Centenario 30

The Ron Centenario brand is from the Central America’s Costa Rica and is one of the last few remaining independent rum producers. The sugar cane used comes from very fertile land which is created due to the volcanic eruptions that have occurred over the years. That mixture of sub tropical climate and volcanic soil has created the ideal conditions for sugar cane and the best of which is harvested for use in Ron Centenario. The sugar cane is harvested by hand every 15 months. Ron Centenario uses American white oak bourbon barrels when aging its rum.

As we already know, the quality of the resources in Costa Rica have provided some of the best coffee in the world, so it would make sense that the sugar cane produced would also be amongst some of the worlds best.

Ron Centenario has a large selection of rum throughout its ranks, but the 30 year solera sits atop and is their limited edition jewel in the crown. They do not have a massive marketing team and as a result this rum is still relatively unheard of. This 30 year is a blend of softer column distilled rums and the heavier pot still rums.

The 30 year solera is presented in a beautiful heavy glass bottom decanter style bottle. It is a vast change to the 20 and 25 year bottle designs and I think it really highlights the fact that this is premium rum.

On the nose this rum radiates of caramel, honey and vanilla. It comes across sweet yet the hints of oak and spices seem to balance it out from the sweet smell becoming overpowering. The rum has a deep and complex nose that only draws more of my attention to it.

On my first sip I am greeted by sweetness. The molasses, honey and caramel float through coating my tongue and the oak and vanilla balance out the sweetness in a way that is just exquisite. The 20 and 25 year variations from Ron Centenario are definitely sweeter than their older counterpart, yet this aging further on the 30 year only helps to remove a slightly syrup like feel to those into a blend of rum that is extremely drinkable now. The extra time spent in the oak barrels has shone through here. The finish is also amongst the smoothest I have come across, ending with a sweet spiciness that is very moreish.

Having let this sit for a few minutes, the flavours in the rum blend together more harmoniously and the finish is a tad longer and richer. Definitely very smooth and this is a rum that you would return to again and again.

Overall if you can get a hold a bottle (and that is a big if), I would recommend you doing so without hesitation! The only drawback I have with this rum is that the 25 year is quite similar and almost half the price. Trying to remain impartial, I would say that this price differential maybe too much. Personally I think this is a rum that will remain in my collection and won’t be finished until another bottle is ready to be opened!

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Everyday Rum – Review 2: The Kraken Black Spiced Rum – £23 (700ml)

The Kraken Rum has made a massive splash recently into bars and pubs throughout the UK since its introduction in 2010. The Kraken sea creature has become quite well known with many movies (Pirates of the Caribbean) and advertising using the creature recently. The creature of legend is said to have attacked ships during the 18th and 19th century and is easy to therefore see how it would tie in with Rum. I would recommend visiting their website for a lot more information and a cool experience to boot! The website can be found here. There is a vast array of merchandise that can be purchased from the website, which all adds to the branding and advertising campaign of the Kraken Rum.

The rum itself is strong and dark. It is 94% proof and the colour is meant to be reminiscent of squid ink. It is a mix of 11 secret spices and imported from the Caribbean (no specific island mentioned). The rum is distilled in Trinidad and Tobago though no mention of this is made on the bottle.

Talking of the bottle, I think its design suits its need perfectly. From my understanding the two loops on the side of the bottle were to tie the bottles through rope so they could be placed in the water to keep their temperature regulated and save space on board ships without losing bottles. I love design features even though it would never be used today, in keeping with the theme of the rum. It has a Kraken blown on the glass of the bottle which adds to the character.

When pouring the rum out of the bottle the colour lightens slightly to a more plum or deep purple. On my first smell the spices are pungent with cinnamon and liquorice being at the forefront. I also smell cough mixture reminiscent to Benylin that I was given as a child.

I believe the marketing of this rum is as a higher end mixer, not really meant for sipping.  Nevertheless, on my first neat sip I find the spices are at the forefront.  I also get some cherry which is nice but doesn’t seem to fit well with the spices. However, this rum does have a higher alcohol volume to the usual yet is actually surprisingly smooth. Unfortunately for my taste, the cough mixture flavour comes through in the tasting as well. This flavour becomes overpowering and ruins the end of the rum for me. There are still spices and some vanilla in the end but the cough mixture taste dominates the finish.

The Kraken website says to mix this rum with either coke, ginger beer or an energy drink. Having mixed this rum with coke is where I find it shines through. The flavours work well with the coke, and it helps remove most of the cough mixture type taste which is the main drawback for me. I have also had a twist on the infamous “jaeger-bomb” shot by swapping the alcohol to Kraken and keeping the energy drink. The flavours do meld together well and the shot is actually more drinkable in my opinion. Another winner from them it seems. I haven’t as of yet tried this with ginger beer, but I will shortly.

Overall, I find this rum to be excellent mixing rum. It could be drunk neat, but definitely first-rate when mixed with readily accessible mixing ingredients such as coke or an energy drink. I don’t think it is suited to a more classic rum based cocktail though. I believe Kraken Rum is an economical way to enjoy your night out drinking with friends. As they say “To not respect the power of the Kraken is to not respect the sea!”

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Review 4 – Ron Abuelo Centuria

Last year in 2015 while at the London Rumfest, I met the Ron Abuelo Brand Ambassador Cristobal Srokowski. After enjoying the 12 year Ron Abuelo much more than I remembered previously, I was very intrigued with the Centuria. Amazingly, a friend of mine decided to give me a birthday present of the Centuria after hearing my conversation with Cris and I think being a bit too drunk a few hours later didn’t help with the decision!

Ron Abuelo is Panama’s premium rum manufacturer that is produced by Varela Hermanos. Rum was first distilled from the Panamanian estate owned by Don Jose Varela Blanco in 1936 with his 3 sons. This particular rum is a limited edition bottling which is used to mark 100 years of production of Ron Abuelo due to the estate being founded in 1908 in Panama.

This Centuria is made up of the family’s private reserve which includes rum that has been aged for thirty years. As a result it is no surprise that it has a price tag of over £100. It is a limited release as there were only ever a small number of cases exported from Panama. From my research I believe that the release contained only 3000 bottles.

The bottle is presented in a beautiful wooden case. The bottle itself is similar to the other offerings from Ron Abuelo except that it has a raised Varela logo on the bottle. It is quite thick and heavy I think due to the thicker than average glass base.

On the nose I can smell walnuts and vanilla with hints of coffee and chocolate alongside the sweet hints of caramel, toffee and burnt sugar. An interesting and great smell to start off! On my first sip I am greeted by butterscotch and vanilla. The length of time this rum has spent aging has lead to an oak and earth flavour, but it doesn’t delve further into tobacco notes and remains sweet tasting throughout, but not syrup like. It is exceedingly smooth and elegant during the tasting from first entering the mouth, till the finish in the throat.

The finish is where the spices kick in and I can taste cinnamon and nutmeg amongst others. It’s a nice warm finish that hangs about longer than expected. There is little to no burn at the end, although the spices may come across that way. This has been delightful!

A few (painstaking) minutes after the initial pour, the rum changes ever so slightly and now the spices appear slightly earlier and meld better with the oak and earth flavour beautifully. A real delight to drink, and incredibly hard to put down!

Overall this is a well balance rum which has complexity and depth. It is the kind of rum I would enjoy on a cold night to help stay warm and my high hopes of the limited edition have been met. I would recommend this to most rum aficionados, but the pricing and limited nature of the product would lead me to advise the more casual drinker to look elsewhere.