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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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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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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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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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The Mount Vernon Eggnog

I know its March, and the time of year for Eggnog is a long way off yet, but it’s never too early in the year to have rum, or rum based drinks! Most of us know that Eggnog is made with either brandy, bourbon or rum. However, there is a famous recipe that the first president of the United States of America, George Washington, used. The recipe was saved from Mount Vernon’s kitchen records. The fact that George Washington was the president meant he could use nothing but the best ingredients for his version and the recipe that was found was:

“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

Jamaica has a vast number of rums available in the market today, but which was most likely at the time? Well we at Rumcask feel that it would have most likely been an over proof white rum seeing as it was the most common rum available at that time. But what do you think?

As you can see from the recipe, the particular amounts of each liquor and almost every ingredient are mentioned, except for the number of eggs. As a result we may never know the exact recipe but it gives you plenty of chances to experiment!