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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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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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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!