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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 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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Rum Kitchen – Kingly Court, Carnaby Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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