Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Evening With The Redhead (Wife-Approved)

Sometimes, it really is good to be me! Last week, I was treated to a wonderful dinner by the makers of Panama Red, a new overproof rum that has just arrived on our shores from, well you guessed it, Panama. Jim Wasson, a Florida native and fellow lover of rum, was our host at a special degustation event at Hemingway's Island Grill in Estero, FL. Our tour guide for the culinary event was Mr. Luis Ayala of Got Rum magazine, with whom we followed the journey sugar takes until it is ultimately distilled, aged, blended and bottled.

As we arrived, we were welcomed to the event with a Caipirinha and some great company. Soon we were asked to join our gracious hosts in the dining room for the rest of the nights activities. As we walked into the discrete dining room that would be our home for the next couple of hours, we were immediately greeted by three glasses of fine spirits and a tasting notes sheet. Mr. Ayala introduces himself and his topic and our evening begins.

Our first course soon arrived. A selection of smoked gouda and manchego cheeses, candied citrus, crostini and honeycomb. Being half mouse, I was immediately in a good mood! The recommended rum to accompany this course was Pyrat XO, whose sweet, citrusy notes did make a nice accompaniment to the cheeses and  crostini.

The next course consisted of maduros (ripe plantains to the non-latino reader) and grilled tropical fruit with a vanilla rum dipping sauce. That vanilla rum sauce was delicious, and should any of the kitchen staff from Hemingway’s be reading this and feeling generous, please feel free to forward that recipe to my email! The rum recommended to pair with  this course was Zaya, whose vanilla notes may have been instrumental in the tastiness of that sauce (just a theory).

To prepare for the highlight of the evening and our rum of honor, we were shown what Panama Red can do to a cocktail. This took the form of a Planter’s Punch. The recipe for this punch varies from source to source but the basics include dark rum, lime juice, lemon juice, grenadine, sugar or simple syrup and probably some bitters. Many punches try to hide the liquor, a practice frowned upon by yours truly. However, Panama Red will not be hidden away in a mountain of sugar and food coloring! She shone through and made this drink highly memorable!
Our main course was a jerked snapper with yogurt thyme sauce. To accompany these bold flavors, only a bold rum will do. Bold like “the Redhead” herself, Panama Red Rum! As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Panama Red is  and overproof rum – so this blend of rums up to 5 years old is bottled at 108 proof. Despite the strength of this rum, it is still very enjoyable neat. The spirit is a warm reddish brown and it forms thin legs that move quickly back down your glass.  The aroma (bear in mind that this rum packs a punch so let it rest before diving in nose first) has hints of vanilla and citrus wrapped up in oak that reminds you this spent some time in a barrel. The warm, spicy palate is both citric and earthy adding some tobacco to the mix.  You are left with a caramel finish that carries some of that heat that is inherent in a higher proofed rum.

But wait! What is dinner without dessert? We wrapped up the night with a delicious white chocolate, Panama Red bread pudding with ice cream and a bourbon caramel sauce. YUM-O!! The blender, “Don Pancho” set out to make a rum that was equally adept on its own or in a cocktail. While I prefer this one with an ice cube and a couple of drops of water, I am happy to congratulate him on a job well done!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rum Tasting Event (8/25/2011) - Newly Released Luxury Rums

NOTE: This post is a reprint of an announcement that was sent to the Gifted Rums listserv. The formatting has been altered from the original message to fit the theme of this page. All of the text and pictures are reposted with authorization from the original author, Robert Burr. To subscribe to the Gifted Rums, click on the link:

You're invited to an exclusive tasting event featuring three of the most exciting new prestige rums available in South Florida, presented by the Miami Rum Club and sponsored by Rob's Rum Guide and The Aging Barrel.

The event takes place in Miami at Big Game Liquors on Thursday, August 25 from 7 to 9pm. The cost is $20 per person.

These are world-class luxury rums that represent the most exceptional family reserves, some of the rarest and most magnificent blends.

I hope you can join us as we explore, savor and appreciate these gems together.
RSVP required.
-- Robert Burr

August 25
 -- 7 to 9pm

Big Game Liquors
930 S. Lejeune Road
Miami, FL 33134

just south of SW
 8th Street at 
LeJeune Road
free parking in the
Midas Muffler lot 
after 6pm
$20 per person

RSVP Required 
or call 305-443-7973

Brugal 1888
Truly a prestige expression that spotlights a great Caribbean rum family's legacy, double distilled and double aged Brugal 1888 aged rum delivers first-class upscale flavor at a surprisingly affordable price.
Be the first to try this amazing new rum which sells for less than $50.
read more -->

Abuelo Centuria
The crown jewel of Panamanian spirits features a luxurious blend of up to 30 year old aged rum, presented in a first-class package to celebrate the company's first century of success.
The list price is $139, but ask Eddy for his special price at this event.
read more -->

Mount Gay 1703
From one of the oldest rum producers in the world comes one of the finest rare aged rums ever bottled, Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection. Blended entirely from the treasures of Mount Gay's prized reserve, each aged for 10 to 30 years, the rare 1703 is a masterpiece of perfect sumptuousness, a deliciously complex nectar created by artisans and rum masters with centuries of skill and expertise.
The list price of this rare Bajan rum is $99.
read more -->

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

National Rum Day / Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva

With today (8/16) being “National Rum Day,” I thought I’d reminisce a little about the rum that started my love affair with the sugar-derived distillate. But before I go into the rum itself, I have a confession to make… I was a whisky drinker long before I was legally able to purchase a drink. It’s what the old man used to drink, so it’s what I would sneak sips of before I could pronounce many of the names of the single malts in my collection (but let’s be honest, I probably still butcher some of those names today). So how did the big switch come about?

Well, several years ago, I received an email advertising a rum tasting. Rum tasting? I thought once you add some Coke you were done? Boy, was I ever wrong! So I happily head off to this tasting figuring “What do I have to lose? At worst, I’ll have a couple of drinks and tomorrow I’ll go back to the well-known product of Scotland named for a famed pedestrian that can be found at any bar in Miami.”

Of the many rums that were sampled that day, I can still recall a handful of the expressions offered. I can also still recall my amazement at just how varied the category really is -- the subtle differences that the methods of fermenting, distilling, aging and blending the rums could have on the final product. And there were a few rums that day that I still count amongst my favorites. But one bottle stood out that day because of it’s approachability and, well, for lack of a better word, it’s deliciousness. It was the one bottle I purchased that day (lucky for me this tasting was held in a liquor store) and one of the bottles that I’ve made sure to always have on the rum shelf… Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva – a blend of 80% pot stilled rum blended with 20% column stilled rum aged for 12 years in small white oak barrels from Venezuela.

The stout green bottle bears a portrait of Don Juancho Nieto Melendez, who in the 18th century developed a passion for rum and whose personal rum collection was the stuff of legend matched only by his generosity in sharing his findings. It’s only fitting that the bottle and the label reminds me of currency because, if I may borrow a line from Swingers, this stuff is money! In fact, such was my appreciation for this fine spirit that, at my wedding a few months ago, I was happy to present every guest with a small token of thanks that (I think) represented a little piece of me: 50ml of Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva!

The rum itself is fairly easy on the eyes, liquid the color of cherry wood that grips the glass and forms delicate, slow-moving legs. The aromas of baking spices, caramel and vanilla waft toward you before your nose even meets the glass. A small sip coats the tongue with a layer of vanilla, accompanied by all of the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg your nose first picked up on. As sweet as the rum is on the palate, its finish is slightly drier than you would have expected, with earthy tobacco notes. No mixing here folks… no ice necessary… this one’s an easy sipper!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Visit to a Drum Circle / Siesta Key Silver Rum

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to join some like-minded rum enthusiasts in a visit to Florida’s distilleries that included Drum Circle Distilling just outside of Sarasota, FL. Drum Circle produces the (deservedly) award-winning Siesta Key rums (Siesta Key Silver was recently named Best in Class by the RumXPs at the 2011 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and Siesta Key Gold and Siesta Key Spiced took home Silver Medals). Quietly hidden away in a converted warehouse, we were welcomed to the distillery by owners Troy and Tom. I, and the rest of our troop of “rum nerds” pull out our array of photographic equipment (what a bunch of tourists) and after the prerequisite round of “lens envy” we embark on a guided tour of the distilling process.

For those uninitiated into the intricacies of distillation a basic description follows. Furthermore, while the topic at hand is rum, the same basic idea holds true for other distilled spirits. Our journey begins with sugar cane. In the process of making your favorite coffee additive two things are produced: crystallized sugar and molasses. Originally considered a waste product, molasses was soon treasured for what it could be… Rum! (Note: some rums are made from sugar cane juice and “sugar cane honey” but the vast majority of rum is molasses-based). Upon arrival to the distillery, the molasses is mixed with water and yeast is added to begin the fermentation process wherein a mash of approximately 6-12% Alcohol is produced. This mash is distilled several times until it pours from the still at anywhere from 160 – 198 proof (80-99% alcohol).

But that explanation is way to simple! Where does the extra alcohol come from? Well, distillation doesn’t add alcohol – it takes everything else away. Well almost everything. You see something is left behind to give it flavor, and that something is the congeners. These are the substances produced by fermentation, including small amounts of chemicals such as acetone, acetaldehyde, and other higher alcohols, esters, and aldehydes. Which congeners are kept and which congeners are distilled away is what gives a spirit it’s flavor. What you are left with is a very high proof rum. And if you ever have the opportunity to try rum or any other spirit straight out of the still, TRY IT! You’ll be surprised how flavorful it is even at that high concentration.

But our story doesn’t end there. The distilled product is then placed into aging barrels (hey, that sounds familiar) and allowed to pull even more flavor from the wood used to make the barrel as well as the prior spirits that resided in the barrel (most rum uses used bourbon barrels although sherry, cognac and other barrels are frequently used too). Here is where the blender’s expertise comes through. Through careful tasting (although it actually involves a lot more smelling and less tasting) rums from different barrels are mixed together with a little bit of water to come up with the perfect rum – although ask any two rum lovers the best rum and you’ll receive at least 3 answers!

So enough about how it’s made… How does it taste!?!?

Well, lets concentrate on the award winning Siesta Key Silver rum.

A quick swirl in the glass quickly forms medium legs . The initial aromas are floral and grassy with just a hint of sweetness that stays in the back of your nose. A few drops of water really opened up this rum and helped me to identify what that familiar sweetness was - butterscotch candies! A small taste of this rum and you are pleasantly surprised by the flavors of caramel, honey and anise that weren’t really jumping out at you in the nose joined with a light peppery bite that reminds you that this is a young rum. Normally, I think of white rums as mixing rums more than sippers, but I can easily recommend this rum “on the rocks.” The best part of this rum is the finish, which reminded me of the Danish butter cookies my grandma was so fond of!

How do I mix this rum?  That floral note I mentioned in the nose of this rum immediately made me wonder how it would taste in a Martini-inspired drink. At this point I will jump up on my soapbox for a second to yell out that the only thing that should ever be called a Martini is a mix of Gin and Vermouth…. A cocktail glass (the one with the "Martini" shape) does not a Martini make! That being said, this cocktail will not use gin but 2 oz. Siesta Key Silver Key Silver Rum as a centerpiece. So for my re-interpretation of the ubiquitous classic, I have decided to replace the dry vermouth with ½ oz. Lillet Blanc (an aperitif wine) and ½ oz. St. Germain (a liqeuer distilled from elderflowers).  STIR your drink in a mixing glass with ice and strain it into a cocktail glass. (I will jump back up onto my soap box for my thoughts on stirring vs. shaking later) Maybe someone out there can help me come up with a name for this drink that doesn't end in "...tini"?