Rum Run – Joyal’s Liquors

This morning I went out on a Rum Run to look for some particular rums – actually agricole and cachaca. Massachusetts has lousy liquor distribution sometimes, and finding a variety of cachaca has been tough, and agricole is almost non-existent. But after chatting with Edward Hamilton and Cachaca Dave I found that Connecticut had some possibilities of both. Ed gave me some leads on La Favorite and Neisson agricoles, and Dave emailed me a list of places to look for Fazenda Mae De Ouro. I programmed some addresses into my GPS and drove over an hour to Hartford.

Connecticut apparently doesn’t allow liquor stores to be open on Sunday.

What a bust! What a buffoon! I should have known, actually, since I’ve been camping in Connecticut for 12 years. And Massachusetts was dry on Sundays for many many years. I really should have known. Oh well, there’s always next week…

Joyal’s Liquors
On the way home I went out of my way to check out Joyal’s Liquors in West Warwick, Rhode Island. Some Internet searching had implied that they had a good rum selection, and their inventory listed Appleton Estate 21-year-old. For $62. Searches on the web show $89 to be a normal price for this rum, and I love Appleton rums, so I headed over.

It was well worth it. Joyal’s stocks a very nice selection of rums (and one hell of a selection of single malts, if you like that stuff). I got the Appleton 21, a bottle of Ron Botran Anejo (a 12-year-old from Ron Zacapa), English Harbor 5-year-old (which I’ve heard very good things about) and a bottle of Clement Creole Shrubb (an orange rum liqueur – which makes sense after sampling the Pyrat XO).

In addition to the rums I got, Joyal’s had many of the “standard” good rums – Ron Zacapa 15 and 23, Zaya, Montecristo 12-year-old, Pyrat XO, Ron Pampero, Lemon Hart Demerrara (not the 151 though) and a slew of other top shelf rums. They had a few others that caught my eye – Diplomatico, Starr African, and D’Aristi – but these need some online research before I buy them on a whim. (If you have knowledge of these last three please leave a comment.)

Joyal’s definitely goes on my list of worthwhile stops for people looking for good rums. And their prices are very good, compared to what I usually pay in Massachusetts. They even have their rum inventory online.

Joyal’s Liquors
90 West Warwick Ave. Rte 117
West Warwick, RI
401-822-0536

All in all it was a good rum weekend. I just have to wait until I’m in the mood to try this Appleton Estate 21-year-old…

Rum Season 2007 Started

“Rum Season” really started for me last night. My wife and I finally opened up the trailer at camp for the summer, and that meant that I got together with a friend, Phil, who’s been exploring rum with me the last few years. (He actually lets me do the exploring, but he does provide Ron Zacapa 15 & 23 regularly, so I can’t complain.)

Phil is noted for some rather large “campfires” that tend to border on the insane. He built a 5-foot-square “camp fire pit” surrounded on 3 sides by 2-foot tall rock walls, and it’s often half-full of burning wood, and occasionally completely full. Phil starts the fire, and when the logs are burning well he’ll throw on another 8 or 12 and then “get it going” with his leaf blower. That’s one hell of a way to get a fire roaring.

Phil’s fires make a nice backdrop for sampling rums, and we’ve been enjoying the combination of Fire & Rum for years now, sitting back, shooting the shit, and sipping some fine rums.

All Sorts Of Rums
I prepared for the long Memorial Day Weekend by bringing down 6 bottles of various stuff. I had also planned on experimenting with some “rum infusion enhancements” (more on this in the future) so I had a nice variety, and I wanted Phil’s opinions on some others. To my surprise I found 4 bottles that I had left last year – 2 uncracked. But I can now add them to my collection: Appleton Estates V/X, Pyrat Blanco, one of the Plantation rums (damned if I remember which one now), and a near-empty bottle of Pyrat XO.

After opening the camper and cleaning, I headed down to Phil’s campsite with 3 rums. I wanted variety, so I brought Flor de Caña 21, Foursquare Spiced, and Prichard’s Fine Rum. He also had a bottle of Pyrat XO on his picnic table, which appeared to have a different label than I remembered. I should have grabbed my bottle and checked, as I have heard that the Pyrat XO has changed recently. According to this post on Bilgemunky’s site, there is a difference – I’ll have to check it out next weekend.

Foursquare Spiced
After the normal hellos and quick “how have you been” chit chat, we got down to business. Rum. Phil’s an old Captain Morgan drinker (which is why I “took him under my wing” years ago) so I first poured the Foursquare Spiced. As a good rummy, Phil smelled the rum first. Alas, he practically stuck his nose into the bottle and inhaled, which probably burned out his sense of smell in the first second. I really need to get some proper drinking glasses at camp.

The Foursquare went over very well, and that was his favorite of the night. He loved the smell, and how it tasted “real” compared to the artificial taste of Captain Morgan. I think he poured himself 3 or 4 shots of the Foursquare by the end of the night. I certainly enjoyed it, too, though I’ve never been a fan of Captain Morgan from my first sip. But I love a complex rum, and this definitely has a number of flavors to be enjoyed. It’s a very nice rum – so different from Captain Morgan, and *so* much better.

Prichard’s Fine Rum
For the second round I we tried the Prichard’s Fine Rum. I think this is quite good (though too expensive), but Phil felt that there was “something odd” going on with that rum. There is a distinct taste that I can’t place, but I enjoyed it. He did not seem so enamored, though he did mention that it was smooth. I can’t wait to get him to try the Prichard’s Crystal.

Flor de Caña 21
Next came I broke out the Flor de Caña 21, poured 2 and then put it away. (Phil and I have killed bottles of Ron Zacapa 23 in a single night, several times, so it had to get put away immediately.) We both liked it quite a lot, though he kept mentioning that a single bottle of the Flor De Cana 21 would buy two bottles of Ron Zacapa 23…. Yes, it certainly will, but I’m not complaining about buying it – you can’t let yourself get stuck in a rut all the time, right? I sipped the Flor de Caña 21 slowly, enjoying it, letting it melt in my mouth and all the way down. I was again surprised by it’s small burn – even the Foursquare didn’t have any burn (though that had an icey cube). OK, it’s a very small sensation of a burn, but I always expect more smoothness for $75. Still, it was darn tasty…

Pyrat XO
For my fourth shot I grabbed Phil’s bottle of Pyrat XO. The Hoti medallion was missing, so I again mentioned my concerns that it was different. But it appears that Stelly had given the rum to Phil – making a “yucky” face and saying she didn’t like it – but kept the medallion. Friends are very good sometimes. Stelly can keep the medallion.

The first smell and sip were all about bitter orange, a taste I quickly recognized from doing my Orange Liqueur Throwdown comparison. This did NOT taste like the Pyrat XO I remembered! (But do you really remember a particular taste from a year ago? I couldn’t be sure if it actually was different.)

Wow, was that orange strong! It barely tasted like rum, though of course the “typical” rum tastes were present. But I distinctly remember talking about this rum – long before I kept tasting notes – and remarking about the complexity of this rum. I have to admit that Pyrat was the third excellent rum that I had ever tried, and that was about 3 years ago when I made those remarks about it’s complexity.

But I haven’t had it in about a year… My memory could be off… I don’t trust “taste memory” anyway…

I really have to compare this to my bottle, which was opened about 1.5 years ago. If Pyrat changed the formula then I’ll have a good comparison taste-test on my hands. (Though I definitely believe Bilgemunky, I have to try myself.)

Rum Talk
Phil and I chatted about a bunch of things, catching up on each other’s winters, and kept pouring and sipping. While chatting Phil kept hitting the Foursquare, and I kept hitting the Pyrat XO. (Hey, I love orange.) I snuck in another Flor de Caña 21, and he even tried the Prichard’s again.

Of course we talked about rum quite a bit, and he kept going back to the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old. OK, I admit that the Ron Z 23 is my favorite rum, easily, no challenge. But the same thing over and over gets stale. I kept steering the conversation away from Ron Z by trying to give him some insight into the varieties and variations in rum. I tried explaining a bit about agricole and cachaca, and even told him about the solera process used to blend the Ron Z. But I’ll have to start earlier next time – Phil was beyond caring about much after 7 or 8 shots. And he probably had a head-start on me, too, knowing him. And I had a decent glow.

All in all it was a good night of sampling some rums.

Links to Rums Sampled
Flor de Caña: http://www.flordecana.com/
Foursquare Spiced: http://www.foursquarerum.com/
Prichard’s Distillery: http://www.prichardsdistillery.com/
Pyrat: http://www.patronspirits.com/

Kaniche Rum Martinique

I just felt like sipping a rum tonight, and felt like a “classic” sweet rum. After passing over several of the darker, aged sipping rums, my eyes landed on a bottle of Kaniche Rum Martinique. From what I remember this is not quite a “classic” rum and it’s not too sweet, but for some reason it clicked tonight.

The Bottle
The bottle says this is “From the French Caribbean” and also that it’s a “Product of France.” A article by Robert Plotkin, Anejo Rum – New Darling Of The Snifter Set, says that the Kaniche Martinique is “A blend of old rums, Kaniche Martinique Rum is aged 12-years in small cognac casks. It is highly aromatic and has remarkable finesse and complexity.” (Plotkin also wrote an article called Sizzle In The Caribbean – The 12 Most Romantic Rums which was key to my beginnings of rum enjoyment.)

My memories of my last bottle, from about 2 years ago, says that it’s a very good rum and just about exactly fits the mood I have tonight.

Initial Tastes
This is a medium golden rum, and smells quite fruity yet not too sweet, with the barest hints of barrel and apple and some other delicacies. Given Plotkin’s description above, I can certainly detect some cognac overtones here.

The taste is quite like the smell described, though quite a bit dryer than expected and a touch more wood. Generally I don’t care for wood tastes in my rums, but this is quite subtle and far from the smoke or char tastes that I truly dislike. The mid-tastes are good, not too strong and with some very subtle tastes rolling around. The finish is short, with a very mild burn that makes this very sippable. It’s definitely a dry rum, which is to be expected from a French Martinique rum. It’s also quite tasty, and very much a fine sipping rum.

Second Round
Another taste makes me think deeper about those delicate tastes inside, and my thoughts tend towards what is almost heresy: This is probably a damned fine mixing rum. It’s bold enough to stand up to being mixed, yet it’s not overpowering and would complement many mild fruits. Yet its dryness does not lead towards one of those “typical” overly-sweet fruit-and-rum drinks. It’s sophisticated, and would deserve a sophisticated cocktail. I’ll have to keep this in mind…

Summary
Another small glass gets poured as I contemplate this rum again… It’s dry, not sweet like I normally like, yet I don’t mind that lack of sweetness. The dryness works well here. It certainly has complexity, but in very subtle ways – most likely a carry-over from the cognac casks. This is quite smooth, and very sippable as I’ve said. The predominant flavors are fruit, a little wood, and the rest is all subtle tastes with a great balance overall.

This is certainly a high quality rum, and when I checked the label for the price I was pleasantly surprised: $27. But I snagged this on a whim at a rather ritzy little wine shop in an overpriced town, so I would expect to pay closer to $23 or $24 normally. For that price, this is a very good rum indeed.

Overall, I highly recommend this rum – especially if you get a better price than the $27 I spent.

Flor de Caña 21

Some time ago, while rum-hunting, I scanned the shelves behind the cash register looking for nips of anything that might interest me. I did see one, a nip of Hennessy X.O. for $15. That was for a nip! Well, I was interested, but I already had 4 bottles of rum in a bag, and a decent bill to pay, so I skipped it. As I walked out I saw a bottle of Flor de Caña 21 high on the shelf behind the register.

Now I was really interested.

But for $75, I had to pass.

I can resist anything except temptation…
For weeks that bottle beckoned me, calling my name over the distance of many miles. Every time I desired a sip of rum I thought about that bottle. That blue ceramic bottle needed a home, and I heard it whimper and cry. I was heartbroken.

I finally broke down, made a special drive to that liquor store, and purchased that lovely blue bottle and a bottle of Ron Matusalem Platino. Carefully, I packed them safely for the drive home, went directly home, and tossed the Platino to one side before I lovingly placed that bottle of 21 on a shelf.

Where it waited.

And waited.

It was no longer crying my name, but rather teasing me with it’s presence every time I walked into the room.

And I ignored it, as I never had simultaneously the desire nor the time to give it the respect it was due.

Time to Taste
Flor de Caña 21 is not 21-year-old rum, as one might assume from the name. It is actually “slow-aged” for 15 years, and the “21” signifies that it is a rum for the 21st century. The term “slow-aged” is trademarked by Flor de Caña to somehow signify that they age their rum. Their web site divulges nothing but marketing fluff about this term or process. It sounds like regular old aging to me.

But the rum itself… Let’s see what that’s like…

Initial Tastes
This rum is a dark gold, almost copper color. It smells a bit sweet, but with a balance of darker smells and a bit of spice and barrel. As I sip, the sweetness is not as apparent as in the smell, but the spiciness and dark fruits achieve some balance and then go far beyond. Several tastes mingle, and then a rush of spiciness hits, leaving the mouth tingling quite pleasantly. The finish is short, but very pleasant, while the tingling spices continue. Overall there’s a bit of a burn, but it seems to be more spicy than alcohol.

I added a touch of water, and swirled to mix and aerate. This brought up the sweetness a bit, and drastically cut back the spiciness and what little burn it had. There are more flavors now, fairly complex. Toffee or dark chocolate, maybe? Raisins, and a hint of sherry? There are many similar tastes in there now, and they all work quite well together. The water tames the harsh side a bit, while letting some other flavors come out. Very nicely done.

Summary
All in all, this is a very good rum. Decently sweet, quite complex, quite smooth with a mild burn and everything finishing with spices that leave the mouth tingling. The balance of flavors, the flow from start to finish, is very well done. There’s no doubt that this is a high quality rum, and that great care has been taken to make it.

I can easily recommend it – as long as you can handle the price. I paid $75, but have seen mention of $60 on the web. If you don’t mind paying this much for a rum then you won’t be unhappy. It really is quite good.

Flor de Caña: http://www.flordecana.com/