I tried and I tried and I tried. But I just can’t get into les Rhums Agricoles; at least not as much as I’m into molasses based rums. My first exposure to these French speaking rums came a couple of years back in NYC. My feelings were mixed but I vowed to give ‘em another try. Well, as fate would have it the LCBO started stocking Rhum Barbancourt 4 year old dark rum from Haiti and a recent trip to an SAQ in Montreal allowed me to pick up a bottle of Martinique’s Saint James Royal Ambre Rhum.
Now, the Saint James Royal Ambre Rhum, was one of the three I tried in NYC so I won’t say much more other than it is as sharply flavoured as I remember. It wouldn’t be my first choice to sip, but as far as Rhum Agricole is concerned it is my favourite so far.
Barbancourt? I did enjoy the nose; it was fragrant and spicy and a lot smoother than the potency of its aroma suggests. There’s a hint of burnt something (rubber??? wood???) to the finish but that’s not a criticism or problem per se, it underscores this rhum’s distinctive flavour but I imagine it won’t work for everyone. Again, I’m not going to reach for Barbancourt before I reach for, say, Doorly’s but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it. Perhaps I need to give other rums in the Barbancourt family–like their 8 year old rum for example–a chance before really making up my mind.
One more thing; both of these rums are excellent in punches or add a different character to a rum and coke. But if you want to try something really exceptional with these, and any rums for that matter, try combining them with a little coconut water. Come summer time, nothing beats the heat and satisfies my yearning for rum like a little rum and coconut water. Here’s how I do it:
Ingredients – rum, coconut water, lime, honey
Mix half a teaspoon of honey in a tumbler with the juice of 1/2 or 1/4 of a lime (depending on how juicy your lime is). Add equal parts rum and coconut water (I tend to use 1.5 oz’s of each) and fill your tumbler with ice. Stir with a bar spoon. Add a lime wedge. Et voila. Summer goodness.
Christmas is a week away and many of you are scrambling to finish your shopping. Me? I’m eating roasted nuts and sipping rum. My shopping is sorted and there’s not much left to do but wrap gifts, write the cards and put on the bows. Now, if you’ve got a drinker on your list or a rum enthusiast, this installment of my Holiday Gift Guide is for you.
First up, Blackwell Rum. Created by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records and Island Outpost among many other things, Blackwell Black Gold Rum is your typical Jamaican rum: full-bodied. A dark rum, I first sampled Blackwell Rum on my most recent trip to Jamaica. I spotted the bottle while sitting at Dougie’s Bar at Jake’s Hotel in Treasure Beach one evening and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try something new. I’d heard good things about the rum and was not disappointed.
With its deep, dark, molasses-y look I did expect Blackwell Rum to be sweeter than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, I did taste hints of molasses with the slightly bitter notes I associate with dark chocolate and coffee but it wasn’t cloying; the finish didn’t overstay its welcome and left me wanting more.
Blackwell Black Gold Rum goes for $29.95 at the LCBO and would make a fine tipple this holiday season. Check the following video courtesy the good people at largeup.com for more info on this fine rum:
What to say about Trelawny Gold Label Rum? Hmmm, let me see. Well, with everyone going through Olympic withdrawal, allow me to use track and field as a rum analog. Let’s say, in terms of quality, taste and profile (not to mention nationality) that Usain Bolt is analogous to Appleton Estate Extra 12. In that case Yohan Blake would be Appleton Estate V/X. Trelawny Gold Label? We’re talking Nesta Carter or Michael Frater.
Let me be clear here; this is no slight against the rum nor against the aforementioned sprinters–seasoned track and field watchers will recognize Frater and Carter as quality, serviceable sprinters, forming the backbone of say a world record-breaking relay team. Yet they are not the stars, they do not garner the laurels or the plaudits. Or the headlines.
Similarly, I don’t expect TGL to win any awards. I don’t expect it to highlight of anyone’s rum tasting. But, much like Appleton Special, it is a versatile rum that is perfect for punches or any rum based cocktail.
Speaking of which, I tend to consume cocktails far more frequently in the summer than I would come autumn or winter. And after bringing a bottle of TGL back with me from Jamaica I almost immediately set about whipping up libations. My current favourite? Well, I’ve been using rum in a twist on an Aperol Spritz. Here’s how it’s done:
1.5 oz rum (in this case Trelawny Gold Label)
1.5 oz Aperol
3 0z Prosecco
Orange Bitters (Angostura or Fee Brothers)
Fill a highball with ice, add rum, Aperol, Prosecco, and bitters. Stir. Feel free to garnish with a citrus wedge (I prefer orange, but have also used lemon). Et voila, a wonderfully refreshing and tasty cocktail. Feel free to whip one up and toast the Nesta Carter’s and Michael Frater’s of the world.
I’m not a complicated man. I enjoy simple things. Simple things make me smile, allow me to forget the frustrations of the day, enable me to drag myself out of bed and head to work each and every morning. Simple things bring me pleasure.
And very few things bring me more pleasure than sipping rum.
People often ask me for rum recommendations or try to ascertain my favourite rum but to be honest I’m not sure if I could choose one. Having said that, I am a sucker for Appleton rums, and not out of patriotic or jingoistic fervor. No, I believe Appleton rums (and I’m talking VX, Reserve, 12 yr old and older here) are perfectly balanced; not too much heat, just enough bite and the right amount of smooth to ease it down the throat.
My current bottle of Appleton 12 yr old rum was a recent purchase; I’d gone a long time without tasting this rum and had almost forgotten how good it is. Now, this is not meant to be a rum review but I had forgotten how the mere sight of its rich bronze colour in a glass promises so much. I had forgotten that it is that rarest of items that makes good on its promises.
I am writing this at the end of another in a long line of spectacularly unspectacular days. This isn’t a lament, it’s merely an observation. As is my belief that Appleton 12 yr old rum is one of (my) life’s simple pleasures; the kind to put a bow on the most unspectacular of days. This is a rum drinkers rum. And I am nothing if not a rum drinker. A simple rum drinker.
If you’re a foodie, live in Toronto and enjoy a well conceived cocktail you need to drop by The County General if you haven’t already. Now, I’m not going to bother with a proper review; Mr. James Chatto, blogTo and a host of others have already done the honours. No, I’m interested in one thing and one thing only:
Okay, those who know me understand that family, friends, music, rum and good times are my passions. And not necessarily in that order. And those who know me also understand that I’m often b*tchin’ and moaning about this city’s lack of respect for my favourite spirit. The rum selection at too many establishments in Toronto is the liquor equivalent of buying a suit at Value Village; it looks like what you want or need but doesn’t really fit that well and is of questionable quality.
So I was quite skeptical when a friend told me about the great rum selection at CG. Then I went on their website and checked out the menu for myself. Ka-ching! Not only did/do they carry some of my favourite rums but I’ve also been getting into a little bourbon these days and their bourbon selection is pretty sweet.
But you want to know the best part? Want to know how I knew they were serious about providing quality? Well, the minute I walked into County General, sat at the bar and realized that Bacardi and Captain Morgan were nowhere to be seen, I knew I was in an establishment that really respected rum. I knew I was in a place that would make me happy. Sometimes, the thing you don’t do is just as significant as the thing you do.
So do yourself a favour, grab your girl/boy, grab your friends, grab your rabbi, whatever; just get yourself to County General. The food is good. The staff is great. And the rum is excellent. I promise you won’t regret it.
There are rums, there are white rums, and then there’s Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum. I know, I know, you’re thinking overproof rum might not be appropriate for a gift giving guide or you might be thinking that white rum’s aren’t for sipping blah, blah, blah, boom, boom, boom. But believe me, this rum is a killer. And I mean that in a good way.
First things first, this rum isn’t for everybody. It is potent, it’s nose is potent and it really lives up to the “guaranteed full strength” written on the label. I have friends who claim it smells like rubbing alcohol or petrol or embalming fluid. They exaggerate. The nose is powerful and distinct but for me it is fruity and tropical, perhaps because it reminds me of time spent visiting family in Jamaica. (Sidebar, this rum is ubiquitous in Jamaican households, even among non-drinkers. It is used not just for drinks but for cooking and baking too.)
Second, though my cousin Stitchy and I tend to drink this on the rocks with a twist of lime and maaaaaaaybe a splash of water, this rum isn’t a sipper. I repeat this isn’t a sipper. Did I already mention this rum is potent. How potent? 63% ABV potent. So unless you’re a seasoned drinker you shouldn’t even think about trying this neat or on the rocks. But if you must, I urge you to add a little citrus (lemon or lime is fine).
Now I’m sure you’re thinking this doesn’t sound like much of a ringing endorsement for a holiday gift giving guide. But you’d be wrong. This rum is perfect for holidays. Use this rum in a mojito and you’ll see what I mean. And don’t even get me started on rum punch. Just a few weeks ago I made punch for a party. I mixed Wray & Nephew with a dark rum, grapefruit juice, an orange mango juice, a smidgen of grenadine, cinnamon, nutmeg and a few splashes of bitters. The drink “sell off“.
As I write this I”m enjoying a mix of Wray & Nephew with guava puree, tonic, lime and bitters. Magic. The complex flavours of this rum add character, heft to any drink. I highly recommend it for your private bar or as a gift during the holiday season. Oh, and it is a most welcome gift for any Jamaican on your gift giving list.
I’m going to keep this short but sweet. I was at the Harbourfront Centre a couple weeks back and checked out Rum Chef Paul Yellin’s food demo. How was it you ask? Well, the food was good (I tried Coo -Coo for the first time) and I drank rum. I think that’s a win. Anyway, I know a guy who dates a girl who knows a guy who knows another guy (okay it wasn’t that convoluted but I like how mysterious it sounds) who introduced me to Chef Paul. A small group of us ended up sharing rum later in the evening. The highlight? Probably this:
Yeah, you’re reading that right. Mount Gay Rum. Eclipse Black. 100 proof. Now, it wasn’t good for sipping, but it was magic mixed with a little orange juice and bitters. Unfortunately for me the LCBO doesn’t carry this gem. Anyone heading to Barbados?
Oh, and for your troubles I thought I’d share another gem. If you don’t know Darondo, you’ll want to after checking out this video clip. If you love soul music, you’ll love this tune.
Apparently an ad campaign launched last year by Angostura rums is causing a bit of a kerfuffle. Seems the ad, featuring a comely lass in a fetching skirt in the foreground, a bottle of rum and a jigging, beklilted Scotsman in the background and a caption that reads “In Scotland men dance in skirts. In Trinidad, men dance with WOMEN in skirts” has touched a nerve. I can’t see what the fuss is. Tell the Scots not to get their knickers in a knot. Oh, wait. They don’t wear underwear ‘neath those kilts!….
….okay, I know that joke was lame, but I couldn’t help it. Sue me.
I know next to nothing about Spain. But this past summer I did spend five days on the Costa Blanca eating Spanish food, soaking in the Spanish sun and eyeballing Spanish women. And continuing my affair with Spanish speaking rums. It started innocently enough. A Havana Club here. A Havana Club there. A little Brugal for spice. Next thing you know mi colección del ron está toda en español. Zacapa. Flor De Cana. Cacique. The Spanish speakers were everywhere. Por todas partes. Equilibrium has been restored but it was touch and go for a little bit, my Appleton’s and Mount Gay’s and El Dorado’s surely feeling neglected.
Anyway, on one evening my friends and I found ourselves sitting on a restaurant’s patio in Algorfa, a small town on the southeastern coast of Spain. Our server came to take our order. For the first time in dog years I ordered a rum and coke. Or as I know prefer to call it, a Cuba Libre (sidebar: I’ve avoided this drink for years because I associated it with girls gone wild and drunken frat boys looking for a “sophisticated” alternative to beer. In case you weren’t sure, I’m neither female nor am I a frat boy. And I’m never drunk).
What a revelation. One sip of my Cuba Libre (made with Brugal, which I guess means it’s not strictly speaking a Cuba Libre) and I began to immediately reconsider my long held opposition. Maybe it was the Spanish heat. Maybe it was the fact I was on vacation. Maybe it was an absence makes the heart grow fonder kind of deal. Regardless, I fell hard. I continued drinking Cuba Libres for the rest of my time in Spain and I’ve been drinking them regularly since. And I’m never disappointed.
What’s the secret? What makes the Cuba Libre so…so…so…good? Like anything we eat or drink it’s all about the ingredients. Now, making a Cuba Libre seems simple enough; one part rum, two parts cola, glass filled with ice and a lime to garnish. Well, that’s fine if you like things middle of the road. When it comes to my drinks, middle of the road doesn’t work para mi. So without further ado, let me present my tips for making a quality Cuba Libre:
- Rum: Try using a medium bodied or dark rum. Yes, I know white rum is the traditional call. But tradition is overrated. Any good medium bodied/dark rum will do but Flor De Cana 7 year old Grand Reserve is my pick. Just make sure that the rum isn’t too sweet.
- Citrus: I’m not talking about garnish here; I’m talking about a nice lemon mix. The fresher the better.
- Ice: For me, big and chunky works best. Large chunks or cubes of ice dissolve slowly, chilling the drink without diluting it too much.
Fill a glass, preferably a highball, with ice. Then add 1 part rum and 1 part lemon mix and top it off with cola. I don’t care all that much for the garnish but a lime wedge is cool. Now you’re good to go. Viva la Cuba Libre (no politics). Enjoy.
Maybe the less than tropical conditions outside are to blame because I have the strongest urge to lay around all day cuddled up in bed. Preferably with a lady. And with reggae tunes playing. Lover’s shots. A dose of Gyptian will do. And rum. Can’t forget my rum. Anyway, here’s a run down of today’s (not so) guilty pleasures:
Hold Yuh – Gyptian
Gyptian’s ‘Hold You’ apparently caused a bit of ruckus in Jamaica. Seems some folks found the lyrical content objectionable. What do you think? Personally, this issue gets a Kanye shrug from me. But what do I know. Anyway, for those who are patois (oh, and it’s pronounced patwa NOT patwauze. It does not rhyme with gauze) illiterate, here are song lyrics. Actually, come to think of it, reading the lyrics still won’t help some of you. If that’s the case I’m not sure what else I can do. You should probably just ignore me and listen to the song. And imagine me wrapped up in my sheets with my lady. Or not.
- Gyptian’s album has done well but apparently reggae sales are down. Can’t say I’m surprised.
- Add this to the list of places I’ll be visiting this year. I hope.
- Do you like Caesars? If so, you need to give this a try. Trust me when I say it’s well nice.
Christmas was good to me. Either my friends and family read my blog, my Holiday Gift Guide or they just know me really well because I received lots of rum this year. And not just any rum but excellent ones like Flor De Cana (7 year old) and El Dorado (15 year old).
But the best gift of all: An empty bottle of Angostura 1919 (that I had the pleasure of finishing) converted into a brown sugar soap dispenser (see the picture below). Washing my hands has never felt so hip and sophisticated. Many thanks to the Chinese Empress aka Ms. Choi for such a thoughtful gift.
Anyway, the New Year is upon us and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year. May 2011 bring you all that you desire or at the very least all that you deserve. Cheers!
How can I put this? Well, you have rums, good rums, really good rums and then you have Barbados’ own Doorly’s XO. This rum is off the charts good. One of the first things I noticed when I first cracked open the bottle was the aroma; unlike the seductively sweet nose of an El Dorado rum, Doorly’s was light and buttery. I don’t remember ever smelling a rum quite like it.
The holiday season is upon us and many are caught in the hustle and bustle that is holiday shopping. I myself have finely tuned my seasonal shopping habits in such a manner that it takes one or two outings at most to check every name from my list. My secret: highly personalized gift cards/baskets and fine spirits from the LCBO. I think the gift card/basket tactic is self explanatory, but the LCBO tactic may not be as obvious. But it should be. Unless you come from a family of teetotalers and/or all of your friends and acquaintances eschew alcohol, then the LCBO should be a no-brainer. Won’t you be attending countless parties and get-togethers after all? Isn’t alcohol the finest social lubricant?
Several months back, my friends Mas Robbie, Stichie, urbansteve and myself were gathered in my living room listening to some heavy roots riddims and drinking in preparation for an evening on the town. As the music got heavier and our spirits lifted I decided to host an impromptu rum tasting. I randomly selected four rums from my collection with little regard for any discernible order; the rums were from different nations and spoke different languages, the only commonality being their location on my shelf. (more…)
It was well past midnight. I was riding the subway. Traveling eastbound. The young lady whose head rested upon my shoulders jerked forward. She wore a hopeful and inquiring facial expression. One I recognized from watching children begging their parents to go outside and play.
“Do you wanna go to the wine and spirits festival with me” she asked.
For years now, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that Bacardi rum is not fit for consumption. I’ve held court countless times in countless bars, lounges and living rooms and enumerated a laundry list of reasons why this well known brand will never find its way into my liquor cabinet. In fact, in reference to Bacardi rum I’ve often said:
“I would rather drink toilet water than drink Bacardi rum again”
7:17pm. February 28th, 2009. I was visiting family in Montego Bay. My birthday had passed a few days prior and I’d spent a lot of the time reflecting on the past year and the year to come. Being in Jamaica has a way of making me contemplate the great issues of life. Anyway. I sat on my aunt Dor’s veranda in Westgate Hills overlooking the city. I watched the sun set as Jah Cure’s tune “Jamaica” rolled gently from the speakers in the living room. I could feel the breeze coming up from the water, over the hills and into my lap where my hands sat comfortably cradling a glass filled with rum. Appleton Special*. Neat.