Posted on

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.”

wp-1479736738544.jpg

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.

wp-1479736731223.jpg

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!

Posted on

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!

Posted on

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!

Posted on

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!

Posted on

How Is Rum Produced? (Part 4 – Aging)

The first three stages of production can be found here: part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Now we have our rum, we move onto the aging process. This is done to help remove the harsh taste acquired from small amounts of hydrogen sulphide gas which is created during the fermentation process. Due to the high cost of barrels and the relative low cost of rum when it was first aged, rum has almost always and still till today, uses oak barrels which once were used to age whiskey or bourbon. These barrels not only add flavour to the rum but also colour. If the rum is aged in stainless steel tanks it will stay mostly clear. The minimum term rum will usually be aged for is one year.

Rum can be aged for decades if desired but depending on the process we get a loss of rum known as the angel or ‘duppy’ share. The higher the share, the less rum remains after the aging process. The highest angel share I have come across was quite recently where it was over 75% of the rum in the Velier Uitvlugt ULR 1997 (Review here). The final part is next and is the blending and bottling of the rum.