Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Hyper-nerd rum article

fascinating article from Lost Spirits Co head distiller Bryan Davis on his approach to rum from yeast to barrel with a massive amount of detail.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Music to drink rum by

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Diplomatico Single Vintage 2000

The year 2000 saw many things, the election of George W Bush & Vladimir Putin, the launch of the PlayStation 2, the death of Screamin' Jay Hawkins (thanks wilkipedia) and an unusually good harvest of sugar cane in Venezuela. Master blender of Diplomatico Tito Cordero spotted this and thus started the creation of this rum as the packaging describes:

The year 2000 saw one of Venezuela's best sugarcane harvests in recent memory. High daily temperatures and humidity combined with lower than average rainfall created ideal growing conditions in which the sugar cane flourished.

Given this exceptional harvest, DUSA (Destiler'ias Unidas SA) more closely than ever monitored the maturation of the spirits distilled in their ancient copper Pot stills and Kettle Batch stills in the hope of one day being able to proclaim this rum a true vintage.The Master Blender, Tito Cordero, was so pleased with the results that he decided to use the very best Bourbon and Single Malt casks he could find to age this splendid spirit. 

These casks held the rums until they reached their optimal age. After that, the rum was transferred to Spanish Sherry casks for its final finishing.The result is a superb rum. Subtle oaky notes balanced with dried fruit, vanilla, chocolate and light toasty characters evoke in this elegant, complex and intense Diplomatico Single Vintage 2000, which leaves the drinker in no doubt they have tasted a truly fine rum.

Recommendations for Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva come up all the time, and rightly so, it's a beautiful rum, but cane aside how does the single vintage differ?
You can break this down into 3 sections: the mash, the stills and the barrels.
The mash
For this rum only sugar cane honey was used, cane honey (or light molasses/treacle depending where you're from) comes from the first heating of the sugar cane juice, you heat it again to get mollasses and a third time to get blackstrap molasses.
Once they've got this it's fermented for 48 hours before distillation, a slow fermantation gives plenty of time for all those lovely congeners to develop and give more body and weight to the rum. In making DRE it's a mix of cane honey and molasses that's used, so you can see it's going to be very smooth.
The stills
Single vintage was produced using pot stills & kettle stills only while Reserva Exclusiva uses pot, kettle and column with around 20% being from column stills.
The barrels
The single vintage was aged in ex bourbon and single malt barrels then "rested" (whatever that means) in Oloroso sherry casks, as this was released late in 2013 I think it's safe to assume the rum is 12 years old while the Reserva Exclusiva is up to 12 years old.

Anyways, enough waffling, is it any good?

Before tasting I've got to say that the bottle is beautiful, very eye catching. Bottle design and packaging aren't massively important to me but this is really rather lovely.

When you've poured a glass and let it warm up a bit a quick swirl shows that the legs are very long-lasting, take a sniff and there's vanilla and milk chocolate, fudge and raisins all coming together in a very, very inviting mix.
A sip and this really coats your mouth, very buttery, rich, smooth with vanilla, fudge, good quality milk chocolate all combining beautifully. It's certainly sweet but far from cloying.
This just glides down, not a hint of burn just a long, warming feeling, the fudge from the palate has become a caramel with a bit of praline as well. This finish really is a warming hug on a cold day. For a 43% rum to be quite so subtle is very impressive.
Overall this takes everything you love about the Reserva Exclusiva then refines and perfects it, gloriously easy drinking and beautifully packaged I'd recommend this to anyone.
My first thought on seeing the bottle  was that it must be around £100 a bottle, but at £79.99 no, it's not cheap but a Zacapa XO will cost you £100, an El Dorado 21 around £75 but to my mind this beats them both hands down. 
While I think that there's a different rum for every mood when I sat down and tried to think of a rum I've tasted that's better than this I really can't think of one, it is that good.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Sugar Cane

At the heart of rum is the sugar cane, an interesting article in Wired  discusses a new approach being taken by a massive Brazilian sugar producer.  Given the impact on biodiversity of traditional production techniques these guys have taken a very non-linear approach to things and have had some very impressive results.

Settle back with a glass of something good and have a read


A fascinating article from Lapham's Quarterly about scurvy, what it is, how it's treated and so on.  No mention of rum specifically but still an interesting read

A particularly delicious way to avoid scurvy

Monday, 9 December 2013

Los Valientes 20 Year Old

Individually hand signed & numbered
I must admit the idea of Mexican rum did not fill me with confidence but after tasting this, I'll freely admit I was VERY wrong.

Cordoba, in the Eastern province of Veracruz sits on the same latitude as Jamaica and Haiti and they're fairly handy with the old rum so why shouldn't these guys be? Named after the fighters in the Mexican revolution Los Valientes is a fine addition to my collection of sipping rums.

Tall & elegant
The bottle definitely stands out amongst most other rum bottles being
taller and slimmer than most, it's an elegant, simple bottle that showcases the liquid very nicely indeed. For the 20 year old each bottle is individually numbered, signed and dated by the head distiller.

As for the liquid itself it comes in at a punchy 43% and is around £45 for a 50cl bottle. Now this is definitely pricey but first consider this is a genuine 20 year-old rum rather than a solera, so it's not outrageous to my mind. 

Interestingly Los Valientes is a hybrid of rum styles, being made with locally grown sugar cane from which the sugar cane juice is taken, slowly fermented and then double distilled in a pot still.  This gives effectively an Agricole rum.  Next the molasses from the same cane is fast fermented and column distilled, making a lighter rum and then these two are blended in a 70:30 ratio.  

Now, with the angels' share being so high in tropical climates how on earth can anyone do a "true" 20 year old rum?  Well, the canny guys of Licores Veracruz got round this by using 180 gallon barrels of white oak, this is less reactive than the standard ex-bourbon barrels most people use so the rum can stand a longer ageing and the angels' share is reduced. 

Pouring out a glass you see the gorgeous dark amber colour with very thick and persistent legs, as the rum warms up and opens you get a sweet, slightly pungent aroma followed by dried fruits and nuts.  

Taking a sip there is definitely a good bite to it but it's far from harsh, the sweetness is tempered by a spicy almond & cloves note.  A splash of water does take the edge off it but personally I like the bite.

On the way down that extra 3% ABV makes itself known but there's no burn at all, just a gorgeous warmth complemented by a nice, dry dark chocolate finish.  In the course of tasting this rum I found that to get the best from it you needed to take a good big sip, which is no great hardship with a rum like this. 

Overall this is an exceptionally well balanced rum, the bite of the slightly higher ABV compliments the sweet, spicy notes, this is definitely a rum to savour and sits very comfortably amongst higher-end sippers.

Colour - Dark amber
ABV - 43%
Bottle - 50 cl
Price - £45
Nose - sweet, pungent, dried fruit, nutty
Palate - Spicy, cloves and pralines, definite bite
Finish - dark chocolate, dry, warm

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Ron Millonario - Paddington's favourite tipple?

Paddington bear - coming over here, eating our marmalade..
Peru, home to Paddington Bear, the charming Marmalade-scoffing illegal immigrant beloved of a generation of British kids has now given us another great export.

Ron Millonario is a relatively new rum brand, brought to us by an Italian who started off in wine, was an independent Scotch Whisky bottler and then came to rum.

Now, somehow, in the North of Peru there are three Scottish column stills working away to make this most International of rums.

Millonario make a point of mentioning in their materials that their wash is slow fermented, now this isn't something I'd ever really thought much about but a perusal of the excellent "Rum" by Dave Broom enlightened me on a few things (and I'd really recommend the book, it's a great read).  The longer the ferment the more acids and esters there will be in the wash, and esters give those lovely fruity aromas we all love.

Once it's distilled the rum goes into a 4 row solera consisting of American oak ex-bourbon barrels and Slavonian oak as well.  On average the liquid that comes out is around 7 years old.  As discussed elsewhere on this blog the age statement on a solera rum refers to the oldest rum in the blend, rather than the youngest as you'd see with a rum from a former British colony. Still, as long as you know what's what it doesn't overly bother me.

Toquilla, it makes me happy..
The bottle itself is definitely eye-catching, wrapped in toquilla straw from Northern Peru which is the same plant used to make Panama hats.  My only quibble is that it's a bog standard screw cap underneath, I can completely understand why but I love the sound of a cork popping out of a bottle.

Once you've poured yourself a glass it's a lovely dark amber colour with thick legs that linger.  As the rum warms up the room is filled with a cinnamon and a fruity, slightly smokey aroma, almost like fruit pudding that's been fried too long (for horrified non-Scottish readers think fried fruitcake).

Take a generous sip and you get a big hit of sweetness followed by stewed dark fruits, a little of the obligatory vanilla and banana bread (those esters again), and then a slight tart, almost citrusy edge to the flavours that's very refreshing and makes for a very moreish drink.  This definitely coats your mouth and has an almost syrupy mouthfeel.

Millonario - dark, rich and fruity
On the way down there's a pleasingly gentle warmth that brought a definite smile to my lips with a lingering fruity aftertaste that invites another glass. 

Ron Millonario is definitely a winter rum, ideal for sipping on a cold night to warm yourself up.  I've had a glass sitting next to while I type this and the room is suffused with the fruitcake aromas of the rum, the longer you leave it the more this opens up and develops.

Overall this is a very good rum that could be a great rum, evening out the slightly burnt edges to the aroma and flavour would elevate the rum markedly, but I suspect that's being saved for the XO version. Other than that it's nicely balanced, the fruity notes stop the sweetness being overpowering and the warmth of the finish is very appealing indeed. Retailing at around £35 for a 70cl bottle this is a great quality rum at a very reasonable price.