Rum Fest 2007, NYC

Last Monday I enjoyed Rum Fest 2007, at a little restaurant called Valbella in the Garment District of New York City. This is a very nice little 2-story restaurant that was dedicated to rum for the night, with about 15 tables set up displaying about 50 rums from over 20 distilleries. I had managed to “convince” about ten other friends to go, too, and we devoured the scene quickly and dove right into the rums for the next 4 hours.

I stopped briefly at the first table, Gosling’s, but they were a little crowded as a few of my friends were sampling Dark & Stormies. I’m quite familiar with all the Gosling rums, so I passed them over for now, but did sample the Sea Wynde. I’ve heard a lot of bad stuff about this rum, but the taste surprised me since it was much better than the stories had led me to believe. It was a bit dry, with a lot of subtleties, and smoother than its 92 proof would have had me believe. I’ll have to put this on my list of rums to get since it deserves a more concentrated tasting.

I turned to find the Zacapa/Botran table and jumped over to sample the Botran Solera and talk with Ray who was working the table. But working is too harsh of a word, since the Zacapa and Botran lines sell themselves and Ray was mixing some drinks and chatting with ease. The Solera, by the way, was one of the finest rums at the event and I can’t wait to get a bottle. (I’m stunned at the price – $30! What a great rum for this price!) I also tried the Botran 12-year-old, which is very nice indeed, and makes me realize that I need to go back and try the 8-year-old again which I did not care for the first time around. The Zacapa 23-year-old remains my favorite rum, and Ray gave me a little good-natured grief for comparing it to Zaya in an older post. Even though the two are close, I always recommend the Zacapa to folks. Always.

I bounced over to the JM/Clement table for a bit and chatted with Ben Jones, who made me a fantastic Ti Punch with the JM Blanc. This is a very fine agricole and the Ti Punch is a perfect little cocktail to show it off. I also sampled the JM Rhum Vieux 1997, which I had tried some months ago at an agricole tasting hosted by Ben. I remembered it being delicious then, but when I found it at a local liquor store I was turned back by the $85 price tag. I knew it was good, but is it that good? After my second taste at the Fest I knew that I had to get a bottle, and luckily I found it locally for $70. This truly is a fantastic rhum full of luscious subtleties on par with great cognacs. I dragged several of my friends over to try it, and we all agreed that it was simply wonderful.

By this time the place was crowded, and I simply spun around looking for a relatively quiet table. There wasn’t one, so I became a sheep and allowed the crowd to push me along. Which was fine with me because I was like a lost child in a candy store, and it all looked good.

I think that I ended up at the Cabana table next, a cachaca that I found rather plain. There were a couple other cachacas at the event – Sagatiba and Boca Loca. I felt the Boca Loca was the best of the group since it had more of the fruit & floral tones typical to a cachaca whereas the Cabana and Sagatiba were both a couple steps closer to vodka due to their multiple distillations. The Boca Loca will have to go on my list and get compared to the Fazenda Ma De Ouro and Beleza Pura. A quick check shows that it is probably not available in Massachusetts, so I’m happy that the event’s goodie bag included a mini.

Joe grabbed me at that point. Joe had tried the Cockspur 12 for the first time the night before and had loved it so he brought me over to the Cockspur table where I was able to speak with Rob from Cockspur, USA. Rob had sent me a couple bottles of Cockspur and I was glad to meet him and thank him since I had put them both to good use in the tastings I had done recently. I tried their Rum Punch, with a touch of Cockspur 12 on top per Rob’s recommendation, and loved the fact that they managed to make a pre-mix that tasted very natural and quite good. Later in the night I had Kaiser Penguin try it, and I though he agreed with everything I said I knew he would rather have had a fresh-made cocktail.

I bounced around quite a bit, traveling from table to table and sampling anything that looked interesting. I tried the Flor De Cana 12- and 18-year-old rums, and they were both excellent. Flor De Cana makes a fine rum throughout their entire range, and they were prepared to show off every one of their products. I passed up the 21 since I have a bottle, and made a note to get my hands on the 12- and 18-year-olds for my collection. (As a side note, I tried the 7-year-old the other day and was extremely pleased with that, too. It’s a very nice line of rums.)

Even though I had missed several tables, by this time the downstairs section was quite crowded and I bolted upstairs which was much quieter. I found the Bar-Sol Pisco table and tried some. Though not a rum they were attending due to the Latin nature of the event. I found the Pisco to be interested, and even learned how to pronounce it (Pee-sco, not piss-co).

Depaz agricole was up here, and it was very good but I’ll have to admit that it beginning to be difficult to pay attention. I have a bottle at home, so I’ll have to make a note to do a full review. I also tried their Cane Syrup, which is quite good. But I didn’t catch anything exciting about it, and I have to wonder how it would fair next to the simple syrup I make using evaporated cane sugar. I’ll have to grab a bottle some day and compare.

I sampled the Hudson River Rum, which I didn’t care for due to its smokiness. I simply don’t care for overly-smoky tastes in my spirits, which may be a reason why I don’t like whiskey, Scotch, or many bourbons. I also find it to be extremely expensive, at $40 for a 375ml.

I overhead an English gentleman say something about his book, and asked if he happened to be Ian Williams (author of Rum: A Social And Sociable History Of The Real Spirit of 1776, a very good book and highly recommended). He was indeed the author, which was a pleasant surprise. We talked about rum history and rum books for a bit, and – of course – rum. At one point the conversation drifted towards Mount Gay, and I mentioned my new-found lack of desire for it after comparing it against some other gold rums. He recommended trying it with a touch of lime, which would open it up a bit. I’ll have to give that a try some day, because Ian says so. I got the sense that I could spend a very happy night just chatting with him, but there were rums to taste, and we both had to move on.

Back downstairs I finally found the Vizcaya table had some space for another sipper, so I made my way over to try some of the rum that has some rum folks buzzing. And it was absolutely fantastic! What a great rum, and certainly one that I will put to a proper tasting soon. I had heard a lot of good things about this rum, and while that may be part of the reason why I was so enamored with it there is no doubt that this is a wonderful rum.

I then drifted over to the Khukri table, dragging Joe and Ray over to try it. Both liked it quite a bit, and then I mentioned the price – $20. Joe’s face lit up ecstatically. This is an excellent rum, one of my favorites, and probably the best bargain in sipping rums. Actually, it probably is the bargain of sipping rums, because I can’t think of any others that are as good for anywhere near the price. And this rum isn’t just about price – I tasted this from a sample bottle and easily marked it as one of my favorites, and it wasn’t until the day of Rum Fest that I found out how cheap it was when I grabbed at bottle at the New York Wine Exchange. Excellent stuff. (Seriously, buy a bottle, and if you don’t like I will refund your money. I have that much confidence in this rum.)

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur… Not just because of the rum imbibed, but there was just a lot happening.

I met Daniel Watson from Temptryst rums, and dragged a few others over to meet him since we all loved his Cherrywood Reserve the night before. I introduced Daniel and Nicole – who loved the Tropical Light since her exquisite palate was able to taste things that I could barely imagine. Nicole’s face lit up, and the two of them proceeded to discuss scorpion infusions. In case you’re thinking of trying this, note that the Black Emperor scorpion is a bit too pungent for most folks, and the Mexican Double-Pronged scorpion will give a slightly sweet, nutty flavor like hazelnuts. Though it seems crazy to do this type of infusion, it may be worth trying since it will, over time, make one fairly immune to the scorpion’s sting. (Yes, this is all true.)

I found myself at the Gosling’s table again, and asked for a Dark & Stormy. This is a very nice cocktail that’s insanely easy to make – even though I had to go begging for limes at another table since the Gosling table was out. Delicious.

I had a cocktail at the Zacapa table made with the Zacapa 23 – which might seem like a crime but the cocktail was delicious. I thought that Ray had said it was a Rum Sidecar but it may have been their Honey Martini. Either way, it was very good.

Kaiser Penguin kept reminding me how much fun I missed by not going to Tales Of The Cocktail. He especially rubbed it in when he mentioned that they always change the presentations, so it was very doubtful that something like Jeff Berry’s Tiki presentation would be seen again. Damn him. Other this these little rubs (just kidding Rick) we had a fun time all night discussing liquors – the consummate cocktail-mixer and the consummate sipper of straight liquors and liqueurs. It was quite interesting to discuss the investigation of spirits from two completely different angles. And Rick, I promise to start making more cocktails – once I really know my rums.

I had a great talk with Martiki-bird about orgeat and almonds in general. She left me a long post at Tiki Central that I have to read when I can think about it, since it contains some great info about orgeat. This means that I’ll have to make yet another batch of orgeat, but none has gone to waste yet, so it’s not a bad thing – just a time thing.

I ran into Ben from the Rum-Bar in Philadelphia, and we had a rousing, passionate talk about rum. He introduced me to Adam, another from Rum-Bar, and the three of us spent some time in our own little world discussing rums. It’s great to find other folks who are so passionate about rum. If you’re ever in Philly, give the Rum-Bar a try. These guys really know their rums.

Ypioca Cachaca was listed in the pamphlet, but I somehow missed their table. I did see a nice gift box of the 160 on the auction table… Either I was blind and didn’t see their table or they weren’t actually there.

Speaking of that, I was kinda bummed that Fazenda Mae De Ouro did not attend. That is a mighty fine cachaca and I would have dragged several folks over to taste it.

And not a single American distiller of rums attended. No Hurricane, no Prichard’s, no Rogue, no New Orleans. Bummer.

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12 Responses to “Rum Fest 2007, NYC”

  1. Wine Database » Rum Fest 2007, NYC Says:

    […] Scottes’ Rum Pages wrote a fantastic post today on “Rum Fest 2007, NYC”Here’s ONLY a quick extract … until the day of Rum Fest that I found out how cheap it was when I grabbed at bottle at the New York Wine Exchange. Excellent stuff…. […]

  2. Adam Says:

    Good times! Good times!

    It’s interesting to see your take on rums compared to mine. We have two very different palates. Yours is much more refined, I need to give a few of the rums that you enjoyed a second or third try.

    I’m not a fan of agricole rums, which is why I actually enjoyed the Cabana due to its neutral flavor from its triple distillation process. I did love the J.M. 1997 though, amazing!

    I was kind of bummed that New Orleans wasn’t there also, I hear their amber rum is top notch.

    You missed the Ypioca table which was between the Flor de Cana table and Goslings. They were making strawberry ginger caipirinhas, very tasty! As far as the cachaca itself, I found it to be overwhelming. My colleague, Brianna loved it, shes a huge cachaca fan.

    Im not a huge fan of Khukri. I think its good and adds excellent flavor when mixing with cola or ginger ale, but i didnt enjoy the finish. The bottle is fun though. I saw (somewhere) a liquor bottle in the shape of a Colt Pistol. You ever see this?

    This was my first Rum Fest Ive ever attended and I had a blast. Once I saw who was going to be attending, I was sold. I only wish they would have had some master blenders and distillers as it said on their website. It was mostly marketing guys, dont get me wrong, theyre my favorites! but I was hoping to meet blenders and distillers. I was lucky enough to spend some time with David Morrison of Appleton’s and I learned a lot in just a short time.

  3. Rick Says:

    Scott,

    Your write-up put me right back at rum fest. What a great time! I’ve already had several people chide me for not mentioning it to them, and I must recommend it to everyone next year.

    It was quite a pleasure to sip alongside of such an encyclopedia of rum. I knew when I saw you taking notes that I would be able to sit back and relax, reassured that you would share even the subtlest of hints with our readers.

    The Vizcaya was probably my favorite of the night, though I avoided discussing tiki drinks with the reps for fear of evisceration.

    I really hope Daniel replies to my loving request to try some of his rums; the cherrywood was eye-opening.

  4. Scottes Says:

    Adam,

    The Cabana is a cachaca, but there are many similarities of taste between them and agricoles, thanks to their use of fresh cane juice. Do you like Ten Cane or Barbancourt? These two also use fresh cane juice but don’t have the huge fruity & floral tones – they exist, just not to the extent of a cachaca or agricole. You might also want to try the Clement VSOP, which is an excellent intro into agricoles. Aged, it’s a bit milder, but still has those tones.

    I still have no idea how I missed the Ypioca table… Strawberry-ginger caipirinhas sound delicious.

    I can understand your statement about the Khukri’s finish. I just feel that the rest makes up for it – it has so much of what I like in a rum.

    Rick,

    Glad I could bring you back and save you from writing notes! I think I’d have a hard time mixing the Vizcaya – though in the right cocktail it would make for a delicious night.

    And please believe me when I say that I will keep my eyes and ears open for Daniel and his rums… I will let you know.

  5. gwen sutherland kaiser Says:

    great post. made my head spin just reading it. gotta get some of that castries peanut rum all ready!

  6. Adam Says:

    Scott,

    Don’t get me wrong, there are some agricoles I like. The Barbancourt Reserve is on my top 10 list (not sure where exactly) Its the only agricole rum that I go out of my way for. Not a fan of 10 Cane. I do like the Clement VSOP. Have you heard of Chauffe Coeur? I find it to be a pretty good Martinique rum, it’s gold version reminds me a lot of the Clement VSOP.

    Ive heard that Zaya and Zacapa are both made from cane, not molasses. Based on the flavors, I find this hard to believe. Can you clear this up for me?

    And by the way, I just HAD to pick up a bottle of the Flor de Cana 18 yr. What a great eye opener at rumfest, I never gave flor de cana any love, I dont like their 5 or 7 year or even their 21 centenario.

  7. Scottes Says:

    Zacapa and Zaya are made from cane syrup, per Ed Hamilton’s Ministry Of Rum database. http://www.ministryofrum.com/rumdetails.php?r=444

    I should have a bottle of the Flor 18 any day now…. I’m waiting patiently…

  8. Adam Says:

    Hmm…

    Correct me if Im wrong (Please!):
    To make sugar cane juice (guarapo), you crush the cane to extract the juice.
    To make molasses, you cook the guarapo several times, each time extracting more and more sugar out of the tarry molasses until none is left and you are left with black strap molasses.
    That being said, what is cane syrup? I sampled some at the Depaz table, tasted like a mix between honey and molasses.
    Also, what other rums are made from Cane syrup?

    Boy am I glad I met you, some tidbits ive learned from you in the last two weeks I should have known to begin with!

  9. Scottes Says:

    Cane syrup is simply concentrated cane juice, or cane juice with some of the water removed. There’s a wide gray line between cane juice and cane syrup.

    To “make” molasses, somehow* get the sugar to crystallize and remove as much sugar as you can.

    *Somehow = let the water evaporate, boil the water, or place the mixture in a vacuum so that water boils at a lower temperature and eliminates the risk of burning the sugar. You won’t get the sugar out until it crystallizes, and sugar won’t crystallize until it’s in a super-saturated solution (or near enough). Crystals like to grow on crystals, so to help the crystallization process start one can add sugar from a previous batch – preferably very, very small crystals.

    In effect, one doesn’t “make” molasses – it’s a by-product, left over waste. Once it’s not economically feasible to extract any more sugar, you’re left with molasses.

    Other rums made from cane syrup include Ron Zacapa, Zaya, Ron Botran Solera, and Barbancourt. There’s more, I’m sure, and many that could be said to be made from cane syrup since there’s a wide gray line…

  10. Adam Says:

    The Barbancourt is cane syrup? so its not made from sugar cane juice. And here i am, saying thats the one sugar cane rum that i like. It makes sense though, as its got a great rich smooth flavor unlike an agricole.

    Thanks for your knowledge!!

  11. Dori Bryant Says:

    Scott,
    I cannot believe the wonderful comments–very thoughtful & thorough–about the brands at RumFest in NYC. Thank you–from me and from each of those who participated.

    As host of the event, I do not imbibe until after the event begins to wind-down–so, at about 8:30, I finally had a chance to taste some of the brands that I had not had an opportunity to previously sample. The range of Flor de Cana Rums was my target–and I’m glad I finally had a chance to taste their 18YO–simply amazing. And, the Anejo from Don Q put a smile on my heart too.

    I’d been at the Tuthilltown Distillery earlier the week previous and had a taste of Hudson River Rum. As I am a big fan of bold & smokey–I loved it. (But, then, I’m a Laphroaig & Ardbeg Whisky consumer too)

    I, too, was sad not to see Mae De Ouro there; they have been at every Rum event I have hosted since they launched in 2004. When I spoke with David Catania, he said he had a conflict for that date.

    You mentioned that you did not have a chance to visit the Ypioca table. I tried my best, to encourage anyone around me, to bid on their Ypioca 160. I have never tasted anything similar on the market (unfortunately it’s not available in the US yet but a quick trip down to Fortaleza would get you a bottle).

    I don’t mean to rumble on, rather, just want to thank you for attending and for your terrific comments.

    Best Regards,

    Dori Bryant
    Polished Palate, LLC

  12. Scottes Says:

    Thank you, Dori, for organizing such a wonderful event. Believe me, I did want to bid on the Ypioca 160 – but there were two people going neck in neck all night and I did not want to get into the middle of that!

    We’ll have to talk some time to give me a chance to convince you to do a Rum Fest in Boston. I managed to get a dozen folks to this one in New York – imagine what I could do in my own back yard! 🙂

    Thanks,
    Scott


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