Rhum Agricole Revisited

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.

RhumAgricoleNow, 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.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Blackwell Black Gold

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.

BlackwellFirst 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:

Sunday Vibes: You Got What I Need

Ask the average person if they know Freddie Scott’s music and your likely to be met with shrugs and blank stares. But trust me, everybody knows Freddie Scott. If you’ve ever drunkenly sung along with Biz Markie’s ‘Just A Friend‘ or if you’re a hip-hop head who swears that Ghostace Killah is the man, then you’ve probably nodded your head to ‘Save Me Dear‘; both of which sample ‘You Got What I Need’, as classic a slice of soul music as I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, it’s Sunday, it’s as hot as Hades and I recommend whipping up a refreshing cocktail to help make it through the day. A little Freddie Scott couldn’t hurt either.

A “Non-Review” of The County General

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:

Rum.

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.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Barbados Plantation Grande Reserve 5 Y.O.

It’s holiday time and around these parts that means a Holiday Gift Giving Guide. More specifically, it means a guide to quality rum. As an intro I was going to write something clever but then remembered that last year’s intro was pretty good. At least I thought so. So, I thought I would just cut and paste it here:

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 theLCBO. 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 teetotallers 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?

Am I right or am I right? Anyway, the first entry in this year’s guide is Barbados’ Plantation Grand Reserve 5 year old rum. First, a little background; this rum is aged in the Caribbean before finding its way to the Ferrand estate in France where its flavour is further tweaked for several months in oak casks used for bourbon.

Sounds good doesn’t it. This is the part where you ask me if it tastes good. Then I remind you this is a gift giving guide and I wouldn’t be here sharing this rum with you if I didn’t feel it was worth it. Want more detail you say. Okay, well Plantation Grande Reserve is a warm medium bodied rum whose honey brown hue promises sweetness and delivers in grand style. The nose is fresh and slightly sweet as is the flavour whose hints of fruit and vanilla remind me of a less sweet version of the candies my mother used to give us in church to keep us quiet.

In fact the subtle sweetness and smoothness of the finish reminds me a little of Angostura 1919, except I think this rum’s flavours might be subtler and dare I say it might even be smoother. This rum is great for sipping neat or on the rocks. And though I’ve yet to try it in a cocktail I’m sure it would punch up any beverage. “That sounds great, but how much does it cost?” you say. Well, in my neck of the woods Plantation Grand Reserve retails for a reasonable $32.45 at the LCBO. And trust me (would I steer you wrong?) if you have a rum drinker, mixologist or cocktail enthusiast on your shopping list they won’t be disappointed with this very smooth offering.

Speaking of smooth, I’m a bit of a Marvin Gaye fan. This just might be an understatement. Anyway, I thought I’d pair this item on my gift giving guide with a little dose of Marvin (and James Jamerson on bass!). Enjoy.

Things I Dig: Beatface

It’s summer. The temperature is rising, the barbecue is on fire and drinks are flowing. Friends you haven’t seen since the Christmas holidays are mingling in the backyard, talking slick, cracking jokes and catching up on old times. Oh yeah, and the music. Summer isn’t officially here without tunes that capture the right good time flavour.

Enter Beatface.

Because I’m fortunate to know someone, who knows someone who knows a guy who met a girl, I happen to possess an advance copy of Amy, Beatface’s soon to be released EP. My verdict? This summer’s soundtrack is about to get better.

Clocking in at a shade less than 28 minutes, length is the only thing Amy is missing. This release has variety, from ‘A Bottle of Wine’, the acoustic tinged opening track to up-tempo floor fillers like ‘Amy’, ‘In Your Bed’ and ‘We Don’t Need to Pretend (whose sound is reminiscent of Phoenix) where slinky synths meet dance-floor beats. I’m a sucker for this sh**. Straight up, this EP is a fun listen.

Take a listen to this clip if you don’t believe me.

‘We Don’t Need To Pretend’ – Beatface

FYI, Beatface is hosting an EP release party on July 11. Fore more info on the band and the release visit Beatface @ www.beatfacemusic.com

Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Havana Club Cuban Barrel Proof Rum

Simply put, Havana Club Cuban Barrel Proof rum is a winner. Now, my rum drinking roots are firmly planted in the English speaking Caribbean, specifically Jamaica, but recent years have seen me expand my rum drinking horizons and frankly I leave no rum stone unturned (Not quite true. I’m known for my disdain for Bacardi and Captain Morgan rums, but that’s another story for another day). One of the joys of my broadened rum horizons is my appreciation for Spanish speaking rums (Think Brugal, Flor De Cana).

Everyone’s palate is different, but in my experience Spanish-speaking rums tend to have a woodsier character and pack a little more bite than their Anglo counterparts. This member of the Havana Club family manages a fine balance, staying true to its smoky, woodsy, oak-barreled roots on one hand while being smoother than crème brulee on the other. Medium bodied and amber in coloring, it is sweet without being cloying or tangy with a pleasing aftertaste that begs to be consumed neat.

According to their literature, Havana Club’s Cuban Barrel Proof rum “is an exquisite rum…bottled straight form the cask. This powerful, supremely smooth elixir can be sipped neat or over ice, as untainted as when it left the barrel”. I couldn’t agree more and with the New Year fast approaching this rum would make an excellent gift—assuming you are attending a party. Planning on staying home for the New Year’s festivities? Well, you could do a lot worse than sipping on this rum while ushering in the New Year. Feliz Ano Nuevo indeed!

**A 700ml bottle of the Havana Club Cuban Barrel Proof rum retails for $44.20 at the LCBO