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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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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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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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Cardiff Rum Festival Preview

On Saturday 1st October, the Cardiff Rum Festival returns for its 4th year to host Wales’ largest celebration of rum. The RumCask family will be heading West along the M4 early that morning in search of rum-based delights from across the Severn!

Located in the heart of the Welsh capital and a stones throw from the Millenium Stadium, exhibitors from far and wide are putting their ranges on show for the discerning British public. Pussers (official sponsors), Angostura, Botran, Ron Cubay, Doorls, Mezan, Westerhall, Matugga, Revolver, Woods, Santa Teresa, Blackwell, Skipper, Rum Bar Rum and Salopian Spirits will all feature amongst others. We cannot wait to get our rum tasting glasses ready!

There will be several seminars over the course of the day including an introduction to rum by Peter Holland from TheFloatingRumShack.com (also official sponsor) but alas most seminars are now sold out.

Duo Flex Steel Drum band will elevate the atmosphere on the day whilst Irie Shack will provide the Caribbean culinary cuisine. The cocktail bar will be run by RumCask’s dear friend Sergio Murath, the head bar tender at Trailer Happiness, Portobello Road (Click here for our review). The Cardiff crowd will eat & drink very well that is for sure!

The team behind the Cardiff Rum Festival are very excited by the upcoming event and have even bigger plans for next year. General admission tickets are still available so you really have no excuses! http://www.cardiffrumfest.co.uk/index.php 

RumCask will be happily sipping and sampling what’s on offer on the day so please say hi.

Lechyd da!

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The Eden Project

During a small getaway to Cornwall, RumCask made it down to the Eden Project. It’s an amazing place which everybody should visit at least once; if you can pack it all in during one visit. They have two Biomes which are the main draw to the attraction. One contains a Mediterranean climate and the other a rainforest climate. The rainforest climate Biome is much larger and has diverse array vegetation throughout its different stages, not to mention the warm and muggy climate to go with it!

Once you moved along from the World’s Rainforests section, you enter the crops and cultivation part of the 50 meter tall Biome. In this section, I came across a Bay Rum Tree (Pimenta Racemosa). Obviously being drawn to it, I found it is native to Tropical America. The distillation of the leaves and stems produces an essential oil used in lotions and colognes and contains anti-bacterial properties. Although this oil is essentially rum, the concentrated oil is actually toxic and renders the products undrinkable. Much to our dismay!

Further on we stumbled across a bright colourful truck with the word sugar across it. We had reached the sugar cane! Along side the live crop, Eden had given quite a few signs with a lot of information on sugar and sugar cane. Worldwide it is grown more than wheat in around 26 million hectares in over 90 countries globally! In 2012, this attributed to a worldwide harvest of 1.83 billion tons. Although it was chewed in New Guinea 10,000 years ago, in the 14th century, European luxury consumed a teaspoon per head per year, a far cry from today’s consumption of around 30kg!

A relatively large section of Eden was dedicated to Sugar cane crop, showing just how imperative the crop is not only to the rum world, but the world in general!

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What Is Overproof Rum?

Many of us have heard of the term ‘Overproof’ when it comes to rum, the most famous examples being Bacardi 151 and Wray and Nephew Overproof.  But what does it actually mean and where does the term originate from?

The actual history of the term comes from many centuries ago when sailors in the British Navy were given rum. As rum became the norm for the sailors, they started to worry that the rations they were given were being watered down too much. The system they devised to check the quality of the rations was to mix a small portion of the ration with some of the gunpowder they had on board. This mixture was then lit to see if it would ignite. If it did ignite then the sailors knew their rum wasn’t watered down.

The sailors realised that this method would work, due to barrels of rum spilling onto the gunpowder in the past. When these spillages occurred with water, it would make the gunpowder useless. However, when the liquid spilt was rum, the mixture still ignited, much to the delight and relief of the sailors.

By using this method, the sailors had ‘proof’ the rum ration they were given wasn’t watered down. It is from this ‘proof’ we have evolved to the term ‘Overproof’ today which in basic terms means that the rum in question is flammable.

We have written a small piece on Overproof rum earlier which you can visit here. Let us know your favourite Overproof rum, and how you like to drink it!

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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 2!

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 and second posts on this process of cask aging the cocktail, and the giveaway details, click here and here.

Once again a HUGE thank you to the hundreds of people who have already entered our giveaway. We have reached our target of 1500 combined followers on both Instagram and Twitter and smashed through it! 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.

Having spent three weeks in a barrel, it’s now its time for our first taste of the cocktail. The straw worth taken from the cocktail now showcases a bigger change than before. The cocktail flavours have blended together to become softer and smoother. They seem to have blended well and the flavours now compliment each other without being too powerful. I feel this doesn’t need a huge amount of time more in the barrel. A maximum of two weeks more I think otherwise I think it may turn over-aged.

From now onwards, I will taste the cocktail more frequently to be certain it doesn’t overage. It’s a harsh task, but somebody has to do it! Stay tuned for more updates and the winner will be announced soon. Good luck to you all!

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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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Review 12: Matugga Rum – Spiced & Original

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review 11: Brugal – Siglo De Oro

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

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

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

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

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

‘Golden Age Rum Special Selection:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Angostura Aromatic Bitters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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