NEW DARLING OF THE SNIFTER SET
By Robert Plotkin
Honestly, wouldn’t you rather be somewhere else right now? Someplace intriguing, like Martinique, Jamaica or on the beaches of Barbados? Perhaps lounging about in Nassau or soaking up the rays in Aruba? The allure of the islands is nearly irresistible and a perfect tonic for those of us who long to escape the day-to-day. It’s why Gauguin ran off to Tahiti.
"We all daydream about soaking up the sun on a beach in the Caribbean, but sipping a premium rum allows you to experience an island adventure regardless of where you are," said Emma Medina, Brand Manager, Cruzan Rum. "Rum truly embodies the Caribbean - from the exotic places where it's created to its rich and robust natural flavor. It's no surprise that rum is gaining popularity as Americans refine their palate and realize its versatility.
Añejo rums are poised to be the next megatrend in the beverage business. Smooth and luxurious, aged rums have more in common with a cognac or sherry than they do with their unaged counterparts. They are elegant, sophisticated spirits best appreciated in a brandy snifter.
“We’re seeing a change in drinking patterns in our hotels outlets nationwide. Sipping añejo rums has clicked in a big way,” observes Al Ferrone, director of food and beverage for Promus Hotels. “There has been in an influx of absolutely intriguing rums in the past year or so. They’re packaged beautifully, inviting people to drink them straight. Connoisseur consumerism has definitely found a new preoccupation.”
One marketing advantage aged rums enjoy over other spirits, such as brandy or single malt scotch, is that it is relatively inexpensive. Appleton Estate Extra, which is aged in wood for twelve years, wholesales for about $20 per 750ml. Compared to most twelve-year-old spirits, that’s a considerable bargain.
SELECTING YOUR RUM LINE-UP
“Rum is the number two spirit in the world, but it’s closing in on number one in the minds of consumers,” suggests Edward Blinn, vice president of St. Maarten Spirits, makers of Pyrat West Indies Rum. “Aged rums in snifters is a common sight now in bars and restaurants. That’s when you know the category has ascended to the next level. People are enjoying premium rums straight—no mixers, no ice. The category has come of age.”
Rum possesses every characteristic necessary to ignite the collective imagination. It is imported from exotic locales, there are scores of different styles, and it takes well to aging in wood. Perhaps the most compelling reason is that it downright tastes great and doesn’t require an educated palate to enjoy it. After everything is said, they are all essentially distilled from sugar. No learning curve necessary here.
Choosing which rums to stock is similar to creating a short varietal wine menu. Like wine, rum is made in many different styles, each possessing singular qualities and characteristics that make them worthy additions to your back bar. The goal is to develop a selection that will intrigue your clientele, and adequately cover the spectrum of possibilities. While you need to stock the well-known, highly visible brands, you should also consider carrying several rums that are superior in their particular style, but might not have the same label recognition as the popular giants.
So what are people sipping today? Here’s our short list.
• APPLETON ESTATE — Appleton Estate in Jamaica is the fifth largest producer of rum in the world. Appleton Estate V/X rum is rich, dark gold, and aged in wood for five years. The top-of-the-line is their elegant Appleton Estate Extra which is aged oak casks for twelve years. These are highly refined, luxurious rums with tremendous character. They have prominent bouquets, mesmerizing colors, and long engaging finishes.
• BACARDI EIGHT — Crafted using the original recipe and aging process created by Don Facundo Bacardi in 1862, Bacardi 8 is aged eight years in hand-selected oak casks. The small barrels allow the spirit to develop a rounded complexity and deep amber color. It has an oak-laced bouquet and a satiny, delicious palate. Younger, yet worthy of attention, Bacardi Select Rum is dry and light bodied with a full, distinctive flavor.
• BARROW’S COLLECTION — The romance and joy of Trinidad is a sinewy thread running through these two outstanding Caribbean rums. Barrow’s Grand Reserve is a dry amber rum. It’s aromatic, flawlessly mellow and possesses a palate brimming with of the lush flavors of mocha, vanilla extract, and oak. The Barrow’s Hors d’Age is bigger and more vivacious. It has a full, well-rounded body and a lustrous golden hue. While 90 proof, the Hors d’Age rolls over the palate without a trace of heat and finishes with the reserved elegance of an well-aged brandy. The Barrow’s rums carry within the punt of their striking bottles a fine, hand-rolled cigar. Each was selected to serve as an ideal complement to the taste experience of the rum.
• BRITISH ROYAL NAVY IMPERIAL RUM — To date it’s the rarest, most exclusive Caribbean rum available in the United States. British Royal Navy Imperial Rum was served to sailors in Her Majesty’s Navy from 1655 to 1970. Since then the British Royal Navy Imperial Rum has been reserved for Royal functions and stored in vast underground warehouses near Bath. This magnificent rum is a blend of alembic spirits distilled in Jamaica and Guyana that are aged in American oak barrels and casked at 108 proof. The pure pot still rum has a prominent bouquet and a lush, full body that immediately engages the entire palate with a rush of tightly compacted flavors. Its long, warm and sultry finish is reminiscent of an aged malt whisky. Sipping this extraordinary spirit is a rare and remarkable encounter. It’s a slice of history well worth experiencing.
• CRUZAN ESTATE SINGLE-BARREL RUM — The only single-barrel rum on the market, Cruzan Estate Rum is triple-distilled at the Cruzan Distillery in St. Croix, Virgin Islands and aged—up to 12 years—in American oak barrels prior to bottling. The final aspect of aging involves a heavily charred, 55-gallon oak cask. The additional aging darkens the rum, adds the alluring taste of oak, and intensifies the its aroma and flavor. Cruzan Estate Single-Barrel Rum is impressively similar in character to a light cognac, with rum notes in the bouquet and a pronounced brandy finish. Smooth, mellow notes of vanilla and toasty oak grace the palate of this exceptional, super-premium rum.
• KANICHE RUM — Kaniche rums were first distilled in the 17th century on the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. They are made from freshly harvested, pure sugar cane juice, not molasses, and distilled in copper alembic stills. Kaniche Guadeloupe Rum is a sterling amber rum aged 10-years in oaks barrels. It is extremely aromatic and flavorful. 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.
• MOUNT GAY EXTRA OLD — Mount Gay, the oldest producer of rum, has introduced Mount Gay Extra Old. This superbly rich spirit is made from select cane molasses and pure underground spring water. It is double distilled, once in a continuous still and then again in an alembic still. Afterwards the rum is aged in charred American oak casks in open-air warehouses. Mount Gay Extra Old has a lustrous amber brown color, a lightly smoked bouquet with oaky and fruity notes, and an enticing, delicate palate.
• PAMPERO ANIVERSARIO — This award-winning rum is distilled in Venezuela and is a special reserve blend of 6- to 8-year old rums. It has a remarkably deep amber-red color that is a sight to behold. Pampero Aniversario is attractively balanced, with a silky smooth body and a complex, pleasing aroma. It has a fabulous flavor and a comparably engaging aroma. It was recently awarded a Platinum Medal at the World Spirits Championships held in Chicago.
• PYRAT RUMS — Martin Crowley, the spirits genius behind Patrón Tequila, has launched Planters Gold - Pyrat XO Reserve, a flawless blend of various barrel-aged rums made in the British West Indies. It is full-bodied with a spicy bouquet, rich amber color and long-lasting finish. Each bottle is hand-blown and numbered, its design inspired by 19th century rum bottles favored by Caribbean pirates. At $250 per 750ml, Pyrat “Cask 23” is among the most exclusive rums on the market. It is a blend of rare, old amber rums and marketed in a hand-blown decanter. Made in extremely limited quantities, it has the personality and character of brandy with a Caribbean attitude.
• RHUM BARBANCOURT ESTATE RÉSERVE — The French influence on this delectable Haitian rum is thoroughly appreciated. Made similarly to cognac, Rhum Barbancourt Estate Réserve is double-distilled from sugar cane and aged in small oak casks for 15 years. It is an elegant, sophisticated rum, highly aromatic and delectably flavorful. Equally savory, Rhum Barbancourt Réserve Spéciale is aged eight years in white oak barrels.
• RON MATUSALEM GRAN RESERVA — Originated in 1872 in Santiago de Cuba, Gran Reserva is a savory, super-premium rum that blindfolded could easily be mistaken for a well-aged alembic brandy. It is crafted using Solera aging—the classic system for aging and progressively blending Sherry and Port. The Gran Reserva is a distinctively elegant rum. It has a warm, full-bodied flavor that completely fills the mouth. The impressive concentration of smooth flavors—undertones of caramel and dark, rich chocolate— are a result of the rum’s extended barrel aging.
• YPIÓCA CACHAÇA — Distilled in Brazil from sugar cane, Ypióca (Ee-pee-oh´-kah) Cachaça is the only aged cachaça available in the US. The Ypióca Oro is aged in rain forest wood casks for 3-years. While an exuberant spirit, full of assertive flavors and character, it has a long, satiny finish. The bottle is covered with hand-woven carnuba straw just to grab your patrons’ attention.