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The Spirit Show London Preview

With over 200 different spirits on offer and each ticket giving you unlimited tasting of all of them, you shouldn’t need any convincing to head down to “One of the ultimate tasting events in London:” The Spirit Show. Held in the Business Design Centre in Islington, N1 on the weekend of the 9th/10th December 2016, this event seems to be one for anybody with a thirst for not only alcohol, but knowledge too!

Alongside the various different spirits which include rum (of course), whisk(e)y, gin and vodka, The Spirit Show will also have other exciting features. The major one will be masterclasses for all of the spirits which include “The History of Rum in 4 Cocktails” held by Peter Holland of the Floating Rum Shack and “Vodka from Around the World.” A full list of them are available on their website here. You can learn enough to win at Trivial Pursuit if any booze related questions come up after Christmas dinner!

There will also be a Winter Wonderland Bar run by the legendary London Cocktail Club. Lots of wintry goodness awaits the patrons of The Spirit Show. There will also be a “Street Food Village” where you can grab some delicious food to help you keep a level head. Together with a central bar where you can purchase some other drinks like wine and champagne there will also be a spirit show shop run by Barton’s Wines & Spirits. Here you can purchase all of the spirits you have sampled as well as exclusive, limited edition blends made for this event. A Deliveroo “Roo-Fuel Zone” area where you can play games, chill out and recharge before heading out to sample some more from the show will be accessible to all.

The standard ticket package includes unlimited tasting of all of the spirits, a meal voucher and a limited edition Glencairn tasting glass, a must have to get the full experience of the aroma of the spirits. There is a premium package as well which includes all of the above and fast track entry, a complimentary cocktail at the VIP Speakeasy bar, a mixology class and a few other useful perks. Check out the ticket package page for full details.

We wouldn’t be Rumcask without focusing on the Rum and thankfully along with the masterclass there will also be the aptly named “Rum Row” showcasing the sugar cane spirit. There will be around 20 different offerings from around the globe including Westerhall, Rum Sixty Six, Revolver, Matugga and many more which can be found here. We would encourage everybody to visit Rum Row and sample the wide range of rum on offer. We guarantee you will find something you love!

Rumcask will be happily sipping and sampling what’s on offer on Friday evening so please say hi.

 

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Nottingham Forest Bar – Milan, Italy

In the middle of November 2016, The World’s 50 Best Bars website released their annual list. With New York and London strongly represented throughout the list, RumCask came across a bar in Milan called Nottingham Forest residing at number 38  (a regular since 2007!). This was of great interest as we were heading to Milan later that week anyway, and where better to have a cocktail or few?

Run by Dario Comino, this bar is known as the Cathedral of Italian bartending expression. The bar, and indeed Dario, focus on the science behind cocktails. A lovely intimate venue here with space for 20-30 people only and with a queue from the moment it opens (actually before it opens), this is not a venue to turn up late to!

Thankfully we got there 15 minutes before opening time and there were already 4 people ahead of us in the queue. We walked in and grabbed a nice cosy pair of seats with a good view of the bar. Nottingham Forest is full of wares from Dario’s travels and over 2000 bottles of spirits, an impressive showing indeed!

We were thankful as they also had an English cocktail menu, but I was forewarned it wasn’t as extensive as the native Italian version. The menu showcased a variety of different techniques used in the creation of some cocktail masterpieces which include spherification and cryogenics amongst others.

wp-1479736742379.jpgThe first cocktail was of course rum based. Well more specifically, white rhum. This was mixed with cranberry and ginger beer and was one of the Cryogenic cocktails aptly named “Chernobyl.” They use compressed CO2 which sublimates when used in a drink to pass directly from a solid to a gas, bypassing the liquid state creating white smog which they say is similar to “Merlin’s magic potions.”

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We also ordered a “Box” cocktail. This cocktail uses other senses to induce travel memories by mixing perfume and tastes in small Indian wooden cases with unusual incenses. We chose the Thai box which was vodka based and infused with passion fruit, although they had a Mandela box with liquorice infused and a Bombay box with Mango infused.

Both cocktails were beautifully presented. The Chernobyl was in a skull head glass with the cocktail bubbling throughout. The box arrived, well, in a box which the incense and a fortune cookie. As it was opened the aroma poured out and surrounded you, giving your senses an appreciation of Thailand before the first sip met your lips. A great couple of cocktails to start!

From here we had some of the complimentary nibbles and moved along to the next couple of choices. As you can imagine, we were looking forward to round 2. We decided on the “Message in a bottle” and “The Cube.”

wp-1479736746478.jpgThe message in a bottle is a cocktail in a glass bottle with a paper message on the side infused with aroma. You can place this message into the bottle to give it the authentic feel and let the aroma blend with the cocktail. Alternatively you can eat it separately from the drink and it will give you a similar experience. The options you have on the cocktail are light and fruity, medium or dry. We opted for the dry version.

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The Cube cocktail comes in a crystal cube with a pipette on the side. Before, during or after each sip, you can add a small amount of the pipette into the drink or your mouth. A little bit of work, but the result should yield a different flavour each time. A very interesting concept.

Once again the presentation was astounding when the cocktails arrived. Both looked as good as they tasted. The message for the bottle was “save the world.” A sentiment although vague, is something nobody can’t argue with. I’m sure these are usually in Italian so we appreciated the fact it was written in English. We promptly added this to the glass bottle to allow the aromas to infuse well. The dry cocktail was a nice change to the fruity Chernobyl from earlier. The Cube was miraculous in how the flavour changed after each drop of the pipette on the side. A great cocktail extremely well executed.

img_20161118_204902.jpgFour cocktails in and we had time for another one each. We decided to go off-piste and ask the bartender for something he thought we would like. A quick chat on what we liked and he had an idea of what to make. He returned with a large box that contained a couple of cocktails. He told us the picture opportunity will come the moment he opened the box and we got ready. He revealed a twist on the famous rum cocktail called the Hurricane. The twist was that it was infused with pink pepper and gentian violet via a method of sous-vide and garnished with star anise. Finally it was smoked with Marijuana. This cocktail fitted in perfectly with what we had tasted so far.

Staying with the theme of the evening, the presentation and taste of the hurricane was superb. This goes to prove as well as their set menu, they can create masterpieces on the spot to suit your taste profile. Well played Nottingham Forest, well played.

As we left the bar we saw a queue of about 30 people. Quite amazing seeing as the bar wasn’t jam packed inside. We were told this is because they limit the number of people in the bar and give you the best experience possible. They don’t rush you or even let you know there are people waiting outside. You are there to enjoy the experience, not to be rushed in and out.

Overall, Nottingham Forest clearly takes a lot of pride in all aspects of the cocktail experience for the patron. From the visual elements, to the smells and aromas, to the taste, each cocktail takes you on a journey. A journey which we will be revisiting on every trip to Milan, without fail. If you’re ever in the city, or even close, make the trip to the bar. You won’t be sorry. Just be sure not to turn up too late!

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Tia Maria – Flat White Russian

During our recent visit to The Cocktail Village in Spitalfields market during London Cocktail week, we came across a Tia Maria & The Coffee Project stand. Having missed our afternoon coffee, we thought it was a good place to start and had a quick look at the menu. After a quick glance, the choice was obvious: The Flat White Russian. Why you ask? Easy, it was the only cocktail on the menu that contained rum. The recipe in fact was:

– Jamaican Rum

– Tia Maria

– Espresso

– Demerara Sugar

– Milk

– Ice

The result was a delicious cocktail, both smooth and sweet, with a slight punch from the rum. Put it this way, we didn’t have just one!

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The Rum & Crab Shack – St Ives, Cornwall

As some of you may know, RumCask spent some time in Cornwall recently and ended up in St Ives along the pier at the Rum & Crab Shack. A great location on the harbour and a unique selling point of having a wide selection of rum with their food – they were guaranteed a visit from me!

The Rum & Crab Shack was established in St Ives in 2012 by a team of four who were drinking rum and had a light-bulb moment to combined rum with their other favourite thing – crab.

The restaurant is set on the first floor, which is ideal to give the patrons a nice view. The house rum there is Dead Man’s Fingers which is a small batch spiced rum created by the shack itself. The menu is full of fresh seafood as expected, with a section dedicated to lobster and crab. They have a bar area where you can come in for a drink, or wait to be seated for food (no reservations here, first come, first served!).

As you may have seen on our Instagram, the first drink we tried was the house cocktail, ‘dead mans grip.’ It’s a mixture of lemon and lime juice, passion fruit syrup, Benedictine, peach bitters and egg whites along with the house rum. A delicious and incredibly moreish cocktail that seemed to drink itself!

The staff on the restaurant side were also warm and welcoming. Even though they seemed full, they managed to squeeze us in for a table for some dinner, which was hugely appreciated. It was definitely a busy night when we were told 3 of the dishes we wanted were sold out. We settled on the Whitebait and the Rum and Crab soup to start. This was followed by the Crab Claws and the Lobster Mac & Cheese. The standout dishes were the Whitebait and the Crab Claws. A top meal to accompany the rum.

The dessert is where they really excelled. Torn between the ‘Espresso Yourself’ cocktail and the Rum Cake, a tough decision was made, with the Rum Cake being the winner. Topped with cream cheese frosting and served with Cornish vanilla ice cream, the rum (dead man’s fingers) and vanilla soaked cake was sublime. A great way to round off the meal.

Another point worth mentioning is the price of the rum in the bar. This was extremely competitively priced, and much lower than I expected. If you would like to try a variety of rums without breaking the bank, then the bar here is worth the visit.

Overall, a very enjoyable visit to a very cool rum bar which as a bonus does really tasty food with amazing views. An all round winner in our book, make sure you go down and check it out!

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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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Aged ‘12 Year Itch’ Cocktail & RumCask Giveaway! Update 1!

Happy National Rum Month to you all!

As you may or may not know, we at RumCask have decided to age a cocktail in celebration of National Rum Month that is August. We have chosen the ‘12 Year Itch’ Cocktail. To read our first post on this process of cask aging the cocktail, and the giveaway details, click here.

Firstly a HUGE thanks to the hundreds of people who have already entered. We are genuinely stunned with how well this giveaway has been received. I guess there are more rum/cocktails fans out there than we realised! The winner will be selected at random online at the end of the month and then once the cocktail is ready, we will send the prize to the winner. Please keep spreading the word of the competition, there is plenty of time to still enter.

Although a relatively simple process, there were still measures that we had to undertaken before we could age the cocktail. Once we purchased the barrel, we had to ensure it was watertight and would allow the oak to interact with the cocktail. That involved soaking the barrel in water to re-hydrate it.  Once completed, the cocktail was added and now we must wait for the barrel to do its job, as difficult as waiting is!

The cask we chose was a charred American oak barrel. It should have three effects on the cocktail. Vanilla flavour from the wood should infuse with the cocktail along with some other flavours. The second effect should be an oxidation process which will add some nutty flavour to the cocktail. The final effect is extraction. The interaction of the acidity of the cocktail and the wood produces sugars which with help to soften the flavour profile of the cocktail and smooth out the flavours and helping them meld together.

Having spent a week in a barrel, it’s now its time for our first taste of the cocktail. The straw worth taken from the cocktail now shows a small difference from a week ago. The flavours have softened slightly and seem to be merging more than before. But there is not a huge difference yet.

Thanks again to all those who have entered and look out for the second update next week!

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Ron Zacapa Masterclass – #SummerofRum

As part of Youngs Pub’s ‘Summer of Rum’ I visited the Shaftesbury Pub in Richmond on Thursday 4th for Ron Zacapa’s masterclass session. Young’s are running these rum events throughout the summer so have a search for one that interests you and there could be one next door!

The masterclass was led by Charlie who throughout the evening demonstrated not only his knowledge of Ron Zacapa, but his knowledge of the spirit world especially barrel aging, be it spirits or cocktails.

The session began with an El Presidente cocktail made in front of us with the Zacapa 23. As we sat down for the masterclass Charlie dove straight into rum, explaining its history, how it’s created and a general overview for those who knew little to nothing about it. Well broken down and simple to understand.

From here the depth of the masterclass moved to the Zacapa 23 in particular. The name itself comes from a town in Guatemala which is where the rum originates from in Central America. We were given an insight into how the sugar cane is grown in Guatemala around 200 meters above sea level. Zacapa takes the concentrated first pressing of the sugar cane juice, called the “virgin sugar cane honey” and distils this once before maturation.

However one of the main selling points of Zacapa is that their rum is matured 2300 meters above sea level, in the clouds no less! At this height, the temperature and the humidity do not fluctuate as wildly as expected in that region of the world. This helps to give consistency to the environment in which the Zacapa is aged.

We were then treated to a neat sample of the Ron Zacapa 23 Solera. Here Charlie explained the difference between the two main barrels that rum is aged in; European and American Oak. He explained the different characteristics taken on by the rum when sat in these casks and then mentioned Zacapa also uses a third barrel which has been used to age Pedro Ximenez Sherry. The entire process is overseen by Lorena Vazquez who is the brands master blender.

As explained eloquently by Charlie, Ron Zacapa has a ‘Sistema Solera’ process when it comes to maturation. Each year, rum has an amount lost during the aging process through evaporation; this is known as the Angel’s Share. Once aged for a year the barrel is no longer full to capacity with rum. Zacapa will take unaged rum to top up this shortfall in the one year barrel. The rest will sit to age once all the one year barrels are topped up. This process is repeated each year with the rum from the younger barrel used to top-up the older barrel. The two year barrel’s contents are topped up by the one year barrel and then the shortfall in the one year barrel is filled by unaged barrel. This solera process is used all the way down to rum that has been aged for 23 years. As a result the barrel which has been sat for 23 years will contain rum that has been aged for a minimum of 6 years up to a maximum of 23 years. Hence the term ‘Sistema Solera.’

We were then treated to a rare portion of Zacapa 23 which had been barrel aged in a small cask for one month. The small cask interacts with the rum at a faster rate than a larger one, and in my opinion helps to soften and blend together the flavours.

Finally to wrap up, we were treated to one of my favourite cocktails, the rum based Old Fashioned. Charlie masterfully produced them with great flair, showing off how even a simple cocktail can taste amazing, to the delight of the crowd who were present. Bravo!

Overall, this was a very informative masterclass from a very well known premium rum brand. They had great cocktails to show off the versatility of the rum, but were clear that Zacapa 23 is a great spirit which is enjoyable neat as well. If you can get a ticket, grab it with both hands and enjoy a fun evening of rum and great cocktails.

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Aged ‘12 Year Itch’ Cocktail & RumCask Giveaway!

Happy National Rum Month to you all!

We at RumCask have decided to age a cocktail in celebration of National Rum Month that is August. Aging a cocktail used to be quite a rare practice but it started to increase in popularity recently. Barrel aging cocktails adds unique twists and dimensions. They can help to add flair to the cocktails you create at home and become a talking point at any party you may host. Generally it is agreed that cocktails which do not have fresh ingredients are the best choices for cask aging.

After much “painstaking” deliberation, we have chosen the ‘12 Year Itch’ to be cask aged. This cocktail is quite simple with just three ingredients which make it an ideal choice to be aged.

Zaya 12 Year Rum
Carpano Antica Vermouth
Fernet Branca

Over the next few weeks we will be tasting and re-tasting the cocktail to see how it starts to change until we feel it has reached its sweet spot. The cask will be rotated and various tricks will be used to try to help get the best flavours.

RumCask Giveaway!

To help celebrate National Rum Month we will be sharing our final creation. One lucky person could win 500ml of our aged 12 Year Itch cocktail. To enter the RumCask giveaway all we would like is for you to follow our Instagram and Twitter accounts and then retweet/like this post. If we reach a combined follower count of 1500 on both Twitter and Instagram, then one lucky person will be drawn at random to receive our aged cocktail!

Be patient, keep an eye out for our updates on how the cocktail is aging and follow our progress throughout the month!

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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 RumCask.com 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

Lime

Angostura Bitters

Absinth

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

Lime

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

Falernum

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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Cocktail in Focus: Zombie

The Zombie (aka Skull-Puncher) is a rum based cocktail made from various fruit,liqueurs and rums. It is claimed to have first been created in the 1930s by Donn Beach at Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Hollywood California. Alongside the Mai Tai, the Zombie is one of the most famous tiki-style cocktails.

The history of the creation of the Zombie isn’t 100% certain but the legend most commonly told is that Donn was creating a cocktail to help a hung-over customer get through a business meeting. The customer came back many days later saying the cocktail had turned him into a zombie for the entirety of his trip. Hence the name Zombie was born.

According to BeachBumBerry the recipe for this powerful cocktail is below. As you can see it has an extremely high alcoholic content, however the fruity taste helps to mask this and in Don the Beachcomber restaurant, they limit the cocktail to just two per customer.

“To make one, combine ¾ ounce fresh lime juice, ½ ounce falernum, 1 ½ ounces each gold Puerto Rican rum and gold or dark Jamaican rum, 1 ounce 151-proof Lemon Hart Demerara rum, 1 teaspoon grenadine, 6 drops Pernod, a dash of Angostura bitters, and ½ ounce Don’s mix. Put this mix in an electric blender with 6 ounces (¾ cup) crushed ice, then blend at high speeds for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a tall glass. Add ice cubes to fill. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Have a read of the link above to enjoy the wonderful story of the Beachbum quest on trying to track down the original recipe.

Due to the secrecy of the recipe today there are many variations of the Zombie throughout the world in different bars and restaurants. As a result there are a lot of imitations of the original Zombie. I am yet to confirm that I have tried the original Zombie as intended by Donn, but I have definitely had my fair share of Zombies. Why not try to mix it up yourself, or visit your local bar to get a professional to do it for you, just be sure to ask for the original!

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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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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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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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What Is Your Favourite Rum Based Cocktail?

a)    Daiquiri

b)    Rum Punch

c)    Mojito

d)    Other

What is a Cocktail?

The first definition appeared in Hudson, New York in 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository. The editor is quoted as answering:

“Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any
kind, sugar, water and bitters –
it is vulgarly called bittered sling.”

An alcoholic drink which contains a spirit or a mixture of spirits mixed with a variety of other ingredients. The term cocktail has a variety of myths and legends about how it came into existence. Rooster’s tails being used as a garnish, the colour of the first ones resembling a roosters tail, drinks being stirred with a roosters tail (my personal favourite) etc.

Daiquiri

Whatever your choice is on your favourite, it’s clear that rum’s versatility  lends itself to the ability to create a wide variety of world renowned cocktails. The Daiquiri is probably the most famous rum based cocktail in the world. There are a multitude of variations which include a wide spectrum of fruits and extra ingredients, but in my opinion after trying the original last year made by an expert, it can’t be beaten.

The story of the origin of the Daiquiri is said that in Cuba a man called  Jennings Cox was entertaining guests one night. He was an iron miner on the island and was earning a healthy profit. Whilst entertaining those guests, he ran out of the gin he was accustomed to and he went to the nearest shop and purchased the easiest liquor he could find in bulk, rum. He added what ingredients he had at his residence to the rum to try to make it more drinkable as the white rum of the day was harsh and unforgiving. Those were lemon, sugar, water and ice. The drink went down a treat with his guests and they wanted to know what it was called. As he had just made it up, he decided to call it the Daiquiri after the nearby beach.

To make the original Daiquiri bartenders use the rhyme, one of sour (lemon), two of sweet (sugar), three of strong (rum) and four of weak (water). After it was introduced into America, as all good bartenders do, twists and alterations were added to the cocktail to create the variety of Daiquiris that are available globally. Next time you order one, ask for the original if you haven’t tried it, and maybe even recite the rhyme to the bartender as a conversation starter!

Rum Punch

As many people know, punch is a term that is used for a mixture of drinks. Usually these contain fruit juice and/or fruit pieces. There are a number of different rum punches out there. Usually rum punch is quite common amongst the younger drinkers. This is because they can be made with cheaper ingredients and has the ability to mask very high alcohol content. However they also can, and in my opinion should, be treated as a refreshing and tasty cocktail, drunk sparingly to be enjoyed. Rum Punch was created by sailors travelling to the Caribbean. Any beer/wine and other alcoholic drinks they took with them, turned rancid by the time they landed and rather than complain, they decided to become resourceful and use the local ingredients and meld them together with the local spirit to create something drinkable. They added bitters and nutmeg which are also found locally.

One of my favourite is Planter’s Rum Punch. This was invented at the bar of the Planters House Hotel in St Louis Missouri. The recipe for this particular punch differs and usually contains a mixture of rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, lemon juice, grenadine, curacao, soda water, cayenne pepper and Angostura bitters.

Mojito

The Mojito is a world renowned rum cocktail similar to the Daiquiri. However, unlike the Daiquiri, its original recipe still is the most popular and widely used. The five ingredients are white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water and mint (bruised not shredded). These are mashed together using a muddler and topped with crushed ice.

The birth of the Mojito is still subject to debate. One version says it was created from local ingredients and used as a treatment for scurvy and dysentery. The sugar and mint were helpful in hading the harshness of the unfiltered rum. The other version says it was created by slaves who worked in Cuban sugar fields.

My favourite of these three purely depends on where I am. I love a rum punch in the Caribbean on a white sandy beach. I love an original Daiquiri in the summer in the city as a cooler. I love the Mojito as a bookend drink on a night out. An excellent start or finish to the night, whatever the hour!

I know there are other rum based cocktails out there. The Mai Tai, Dark and Stormy, Rum Based Old Fashioned etc. Leave a comment on what is your favourite, or your favourite twist on a classic cocktail and next time you’re in a bar, why not ask your bartender where he thinks the term cocktail comes from?

 

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A Brief History

In the Caribbean during the 17th Century, sugar farming was rife and a major source of income. However, once the sugar cane (Genus Saccharum) was harvested, crushed and boiled, it would leave a viscous liquid by product when producing the sugar. This by product was molasses.

As well as having no practical use at the time, the molasses were produced at an astounding rate of 50% of the amount of sugar created. The sugar plantation owners fed the by product to cattle and the slaves, but there was still too much being produced.

Miraculously, the plantation slaves discovered that the molasses could be fermented into alcohol. This initial process was refined and distilled to remove impurities to create the first rums ever.

I recommend the following couple of books if you are interested in finding out more about rum and its history:

1) Rum – A Global History by Richard Foss

2) And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis

Please feel free to add any others in the comments section which you think are worth a read.