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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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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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Review 2 – Santa Teresa Bicentenario

I was given this bottle by a friend who knows how much I love rum as a thank you present (Thanks Steve!). Imagine my surprise when I opened it. It’s taken quite a while for me to find the right occasion to open it and that happened today thankfully!

Santa Teresa is the 4th biggest producer of rum in the world and is still a family owned business. It was opened in 1796 in Venezuela in Aragua Valley by Martin de Tovar. Rum production however began in 1896. The master distiller there is a man called Nestor Ortega who I was lucky enough to meet last October at a master class he gave on Santa Teresa and got a brief word with him before a picture and birthday present!

When I showed him a picture of the rum I had been given, his face lit up with a great smile. He told me that most rum should be shared with your friends and spent having a good time and to bring people closer. However, he gave me the advice that the bicentenario is a rum not to be shared. It’s to be enjoyed maybe with a Cigar and savoured alone or at the most with a few special people. Not for general consumption! A pleasure and an honour to meet the great man himself!

This rum was introduced as part of the company’s bicentennial in 1996. They only produce 1000 bottles a year. This bottle I have is number 7743. The rum is a solera which means it is a mixture of different ages of rum. From what I have found the oldest batch of rum that is part of this is over 80 years old. As we know the angels share at 80 years must have been a huge number, which goes a long way to understanding the price point of this rum.

The bottle itself is very unique as you can see. The bottom is shaped like a grenade or a pineapple. Extremely distinctive and noticeable even from a distance. I can see people being divided on it. I personally like the shape and feel of the bottle. It definitely lives up to its premium price point. The downside on the packaging is the cork. Or rather the lack of it. I like the authenticity and the feel of a cork. This is a quite basic screw top. Really detracts from the style of the bottle in my opinion. The rest of the packaging and bottle however is excellent.

On first pour the rum doesn’t seem very viscous which is what I was expecting. It is also a light shade than I was expecting, but still a beautiful golden brown as you can see in the glass next to the bottle. On my first sniff, I smell light citrus and pineapple notes. But something is strange. This rum is very complex yet unlike most rums also very soft and subtle. I can take a deep inhalation of the rum and it doesn’t burn or become overwhelming, like every other rum I have done that with. This really is something special that Mr Ortega has done to keep it subtle yet still have the oaky notes to finish the smell.

On my initial taste I get soft vanilla,hint of oak and something akin to blueberries. The back of throat is left with no burn as the rum seems to evaporate yet still leave a warming sensation. The only other rum I can say which has anything remotely similar is El Dorado 21. As the rum sits and warms the citrus side picks up a little bit more and now I can taste slight spice as well, potentially small hints of liquorice. The feel is creamy and delicate, warming and very smooth.

Overall I had very high hopes for this rum as the 1796 that Santa Teresa produce is one of my favourites. I have not been disappointed. It is obvious a lot of work has gone into this rum. It’s a rum which is soft and delicate, yet complex and deep at the same time. A real sipper to enjoy. I would recommend this to rum fans and non-rum fans alike as it’s not incredibly oaky to those who aren’t used to rums and shows the real versatility that rum can have with unique fruity flavours and an amazingly light finish. However, at this price point I fear it will be out of the grasp of most people. And no, you can’t have any of mine!