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.

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Cienfuegos And My Neverending Search For Good Rum

I was in the Big Apple several months ago and I found myself quite satisfied with the sheer breadth and depth of options with which to entertain and occupy myself. Music. Food. Shopping. Girl watching. The city that never sleeps appeared to have everything I need to feed my inner insomniac. Except for rum.

At first glance it seemed that NYC, much like almost every place I’ve ever been outside of the Caribbean or my living room, didn’t really do rum. Vodka bars, whiskey bars, tequila bars, NYC and every big city I’ve visited has these in spades. But rum? For the most part bars and restaurants seem to think stocking Bacardi and/or Captain Morgan is sufficient.

I spent the better part of one afternoon wandering around SOHO and the Lower West Side, popping in and out of shops, restaurants and bars. I stopped at South Houston (which has since closed), a nice warm, modern spot with excellent bourbon and scotch selections. But I wasn’t in the mood for bourbon or scotch and had a Gin and Tonic instead.

I popped into Dos Caminos (in the Meatpacking district), which reminded me of a cross between the Drake Hotel and Reposado, two popular spots in Toronto’s west end. Predictably it had a great tequila and whiskey selections. I had a beer. I was beginning to believe that NYC was ultimately going to disappoint me on the rum front. I was prepared to tell anyone who would listen that rum doesn’t get any respect, how else can you explain an apparent lack of rum in such a world-class city.

Then I discovered Cienfuegos. A self-proclaimed “…technicolor Antillean retreat located in the heart of the East Village”, Cienfuegos is “home to everything Cuban and all things rum”. Apparently the sandwiches are very good. I wouldn’t know. I just cared about the rum. And in their cozy “Cocteleria”, Cienfuegos offers delicious rum punches (by the glass or bowl) and a wide range of rum flights. Guess which choice I made.

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