Rumfest 2011

It’s over, and was absolutely fantastic. I’ll post my thoughts on the rums I tasted there this week.

It’s been too long everyone, glad to be back.

Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Year Old Aged Rum

This marks the first time that Ross and I have collaborated on a review.

Just so you know who is who:

Graeme is speaking like this.

Ross is speaking like this.

Although when we get together for a rum tasting we often argue (Apple vs. Google in this case) there is something that Ross and I can wholeheartedly agree on; Zacapa 23 lives up to the hype.

Ross showed up with some Mount Gay Eclipse for general drinking, some Rumtopf in a glass jar and Zacapa 23 in a plastic soda water bottle! There was apparently some worry about it spilling from the real bottle whilst travelling but I think he was worried that I’d drink all of it.

Ahh, Graeme almost got it right. I somehow managed to crack the bottle-top (that will teach me to open it after a night at Rum Club!) A substitute cork was found, but not one I would trust to do anything but sit on a shelf!

There was some debate around the bottle design, but this is something that the two of us have always completely agreed on (and that’s saying something). As far as we are concerned, Rum is the primary beverage of pirates, and the bottle should reflect that. We want to imagine Erroll Flynn sliding down a sail using his cutlass. And while Ron Zacapa have certainly created a beautiful product, it just doesn’t have that “swashbuckling” feel. The bottle is more Tate Modern than Jack Sparrow. Not a bottle that would have attracted my attention were it not for the recommendation of our new rum friend, John Collingwood of Want to Impress and Newcastle Rum Club. (Top night and a great host.  Get yourself down for the next one! 25.5.2010)

zacapa-23-aged-rumAhh yes, it is a very Premium looking product indeed (the actual bottle as shown on the left, not the soda water bottle) and sometimes that isn’t such a good thing. Rum is rapidly becoming the next big thing and brands are experimenting with different presentations. The look of a bottle can make a big difference, but at the end of the day it’s all about the taste. Oh, and value.

If you are spending around £50 (apparently our American cousins can get a bottle for around $40, which is incredible value, lucky swines!) on a bottle of rum you need to make sure it’s worth it, luckily Zacapa 23 most certainly is.  So, value dealt with, on with the taste!

The colour of this rum is much darker than my regular tipples however not quite to the levels of naval rum.  In fact it reminds me more than a little of liquid bonfire toffee. The flavour is where this rum really stands out, incredibly smooth with no harsh afterburn and a distinct red berry taste with a hint of chocolate when sampled neat. Call me weird (and many have) but strangely a glass of this makes me feel like I need to buy a cabin in the woods and start hunting bears.

As my favourite way to enjoy rum is the old faithful Cuba Libre (please don’t scream “heathen” at me) this makes a fabulous accompaniment to Coke as the sweetness of both liquids really accentuate each other without the mixer overpowering the rum.

Well, I can agree with Ross on aspects of the taste. This tastes just like I imagined rum would when I discovered how it was made. When you know that rum is made from sugar cane by-products, and its colour is a lovely shade of dark brown, you expect a little sweetness and maybe a caramel element. You expect some kind of dark brown sugar feel to it. Most rums do not taste like you would imagine… This one does.

Speaking as someone who has tried many aged rums,  I can wholeheartedly say that Zacapa 23 is an outstanding rum. Well worth a spot in your drinks cabinet and well worth the asking price.

Where to get it:

The Drink Shop Ltd: £50.95

The Whisky Exchange: £49.95

Hi Time Wine (USA): $33.99

R. L. Seale’s Aged Rum 10 Year Old

We have another writer for The Dark Rum blog, he will be drawing from his experience as a relative newcomer to aged rum and rum in general. I hope he has been as thoroughly bitten by the bug as I have and will go on to be a regular contributor to this site. His first contribution is this excellent review of R. L. Seale’s 10 Year Old from Barbados.

r.l. seale's aged rumBeing relatively new to the world of dark rum outside of the token offerings of the supermarket shelves planogram, I looked forward to taking off the training wheels. Through gentle coaxing of our esteemed host I took my first steps into the epicurean delights of the dark rum connoisseur with a bottle of R.L Seales 10 year old from Barbados.

My previous Barbadian rum experiences had come from Mount Gay Eclipse and Cockspur’s 5 Star, both solid all round performers and stable of the ‘mid week mixer’ so I was looking forward to yet another positive experience from our main event.

R.L Seales 10 year old comes from the only distillery still family run and owned in Barbados and you can tell that rum making passion from the off in the bottle. Colonially inspired by the early Caribbean sailors, the bent neck bottle looks like its been freshly plundered from some recently undiscovered booty and is simply stunning.

Given other aged rums I’d seen I was surprised firstly by its colour, brilliantly light with a stunning amber glow. With the nose too I was equally surprised, syrupy sweet with hints of vanilla and almonds, like being smashed in the face with a Tortuga rum cake. This gently dissipated on tasting as its characteristics changed in the mouth showing off its full 10 years. Incredibly smooth with a devilishly morish butternut taste, moving to a subtle but clean hint of oak with hardly any after burn to speak of.

Suitably impressed and with a newly found ‘masonic’ sense of belonging R.L Seales has made the beginning of my journey into the world of aged rum a memorable one.

Newcastle Rum Club

newcastle rum clubA rum club opened last month in Newcastle upon Tyne and looks to be well worth a visit.

Newcastle Rum Club takes place at “Tiki-O” at Tokyo (Google Map) on the last Tuesday of every month.

The Rum Club is organised by John Collingwood of Want to Impress. Be sure to check out their site as they run other rum related events in the North East.

The idea is quite simply to open your eyes and taste buds to thirty six of the most distinguished and distinctive rums that money can buy, letting you try brands you’ve never heard of or tasted before.

Once you’ve been expertly guided through all thirty six of our house rums on our exclusive and unique menu, you’ll be automatically upgraded to the high status of Tiki God, thus gaining access to rare & limited edition rums.

You can become a purveyor and connoisseur of the finest rums money can buy, guided by our expert bartenders and placed into your individual choice of cocktail, be it Mojito, Mai Tai or Daiquiri.

Hopefully I will see you there!

Merry Xmas

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at the dark rum blog.

More Rumfest – Brugal Ron Añejo

Brugal Ron Añejo

This stand at Rumfest 09 seemed very lively, and since I’m not exactly the shy retiring type, I felt compelled to see what all the fuss was about. The Brugal staff were friendly and enthusiastic, with a strong knowledge of their product. They had a couple of drinks on the go, so I felt obligated (any excuse!) to write a few words about one of the rums they had on offer. They made a very refreshing fruit punch using Ron Añejo, along with their own version of the infamous Mai Tai.

Ron Añejo is a delightful tipple. It has a deep golden colour and smells of warm fruit. Now I feel it’s important to mention the scent again as most rums have their own scent, but you can always smell the alcohol. Brugal differs in that there is no alcohol scent, just a gentle aroma of citrus and grapes. This is somehting that carries over when drinking neat. No overbearing taste of alcohol, but a gently warmth as is slips down your throat. There is still the hint of summer fruits in the taste, and I am starting to prefer the Dominican rums when drinking straight as I feel they are a little smoother.

As a cuba libre Ron Añejo still stands up well. Very enjoyable with lots of ice and lime on a warm autumn evening. And since the mai tai we tasted at Rumfest was so good, I have a feeling that Brugal will be my rum of choice for that particular cocktail.

My Rumtopf Recipe

rumtopfTraditionally part of German Christmas celebrations, rumtopf is a winter food that requires a little patience, as the process starts in summer. I have a very vivid memory of my grandfather having this in his kitchen when I was a child. I was fascinated by what was hidden in the giant earthenware jar in the pantry, and knowing what I know now, I can understand why I was never allowed near it!

After some searching round the net, I compared a number of recipes and took the bits I liked to make my own version, which I am happy to share. You can change any of the fruit you like, but try to avoid too many citrus and soft/mushy fruits.

3 Litre sealable container
1 litre of Dark Rum of your preference (I chose Cockspur)
3 Red Apples
3 Green Apples
4 Peaches
8 Plums
Bag of cherries
Portion of blueberries
Tin of pineapple chunks
2 Limes
Clear Honey

Chop the fruit into bite-sized pieces (removing any stones/pips) and for the small berries, prick the skins with a pin. Weight the fruit and mix in an equal weight of sugar, along with 4 dessert spoons of honey, then leave to stand for an hour. Transfer the fruit to the sealable container and then pour in the rum (the rum should cover the fruit totally by an inch) and pop it into the fridge.

Give it a good stir every other day for the first 2 weeks, then once every 2 weeks after that. Once it has had 2 months in the fridge, give it a taste. You may find that it is very pungent, or a little stronger than you anticipated. If this is the case, transfer half the rum & fruit to a similar container, add some more seasonal fruit (including the same wight in sugar again) and pop back in the fridge.

Now if you started this around August, it will be perfect in time for xmas parties.

Serve the Rumtopf fruits with its syrup (hot or cold) over ice-cream, cake, flan, puddings, or cheese cake, in brandy baskets or tall glasses topped with whipped cream or crème frâiche (my preference). You can also add two tablespoons of the strained liquid to Champagne for a unique and elegant cocktail.

Just don’t let the designated driver have to many!!

Rumtopf Glass

Appleton Special Jamaican Rum

Appleton Special
Appleton Special is a blend of full-flavored traditional pot still rums and lighter character modern column still rums. Aged separately in oak barrels and afterwards hand-blended to produce a fine, medium-bodied golden rum. Appleton produce rums with a very distinctive taste which is hard to miss – gentle undertones of fruit and caramel with a soft after-taste. Where I can drink the standard Appleton straight or with ice, unfortunately Special is a little too harsh for my tastes. There is a strong edge to it which is reminicent of sour mash bourbons, but this is to be expected for a low-end bottle.

This weekend I was in the mood for an evening of rum & coke, and as a generic mixer, this delivers the Appleton brand taste at a low price. It’s perfect for party mixers and cocktails, or for those nice evenings at home where you just want to enjoy a simple rum.

Rumfest Recap – Part 3 – Appleton Estate White Rum

Appleton Estate White Rum
I was a little reticent about this as my previous experience of white rum has been limited to another well-known brand (coughBacardicough), but I was feeling a little adventurous so I took the plunge and picked up a bottle on the way home from work.

Appleton White, unlike many other white rums is aged and then filtered slowly through special charcoal. This results in a rum that is smooth, brilliantly clear and light bodied with a subtle taste and delicate aroma. It doesn’t have the scent I have come to expect from rum, and oddly enough has a similar scent to vodka, but sits nicely on the tongue with almost no aftertaste. As a sipping rum it is a suprising drink, and although quite enjoyable it’s not my preference.

One of my standard tests for all rums is the classic Cuba Libre, and Appleton White makes a refreshing alternative as a mixer. Where most dark rums bring out the caramel in the cola, this takes away some of the over-sweetness of the coke and gives the drink a little bit of an edge. I have a feeling that mixed with fruit or coconut juice is where Appleton White will really start to stand out. And it will certainly play a major part in the cocktails when I throw my rum tiki party!

Rumfest Recap – Part 2 – Pyrat XO

What more can I add to my compatriot’s initial comments. This was our first trip and I am certain it will not be our last. The sights and aromas that greeted us were simply astonishing, and I cannot wait for next year’s RumFest.

And now on to the review.

Pyrat XO is distilled on the small island of Anguilla and aged upto 15 years in French Limousin and American sweet oak barrels, before being decanted into handcrafted bottles. These bottles are based on traditional rum bottles of the 1800’s and each bottle is hand numbered by the cask. The length of time they spent crafting an authentic looking bottle is an example of the effort they put into creating this blend.

Sat in the glass, this aged rum looks like liquid cinnamon. Swirling it around gently, it sticks to the side of the glass and using a wine-tasters phrase ‘has good legs’. Pyrat XO smells sweet, with a slightly citrus edge to it. It sits very gently on the tongue with gentle overtones of orange and caramel, and slides down the throat with an unexpected smoothness and none of the afterburn I was expecting. A very subtle sipping rum.

As a secondary drink, Pyrat XO used in a Cuba Libre is a very pleasant suprise. I was expecting the coke and lime to mask the subtle taste of the rum, but far from it. The coke and rum bring out the caramel flavours in each other, while the lime brings the citrus to the fore.

This will be a permanent fixture on my shelf, and with the memories I have of RumFest, this shelf is going to be very very full indeed.

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