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Archive for August, 2011

Black Tot Last Consignment Rum Tasting at Vinopolis Aug 22

Black Tot Last Consignment RumIn remembrance of the demise of over 300 years of Royal Naval tradition, London’s Vinopolis played host to a full house for the Black Tot Last Consignment Rum tasting.

Organised by The Whisky Exchange, for the 2nd August 2011, to mark the 41st anniversary of Black Tot day, this rum tasting gave those present the opportunity to try a number of representative Caribbean rums, as well as Pusser’s Rum and of course Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

Hosted by Declan McGurk of Speciality Brands, the evening started with Declan giving us an historical overview of rum and the Royal Navy, while we enjoyed a cocktail of Velvet Falernum and Rum:

After the Caribbean island of Jamaica was captured from the Spanish in 1655 by the British fleet, the history of rum became entwined with that of the Royal Navy. With access to Jamaica’s sugar cane production also came rum and it didn’t take long for rum to replace the sailor’s daily ration of beer.

As onboard water casks would often become stagnant and contaminated, sailors were issued a gallon* of beer every day. With Jamaica’s capture in 1655, rum slowly became more common place as the daily ration, until in 1731 a 1/2 pint* a day had become the regulation issue. By 1740, Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon reduced the daily rum ration further, which was served twice daily mixed with water and citrus juice, which came to be known as “grog”.

Supposedly named grog after the Vice-Admiral’s nickname of “Old Grog”, which was attributed to his habit of wearing a cloak of grogram cloth. Although it wasn’t confirmed for several more years, the practice of adding citrus juice to the daily ration improved the health of the sailors under Vernon’s command and reduced the effects of scurvy.

Over the next 230 years the daily ration was further reduced in quantity, but more importantly, it was also improved in quality. By the time of the Second World War, the British Royal Navy rum was a blend of rums from several distilleries in the Caribbean and used a 32 vat solera process, housed in London. Mixing old and new rums, it is believed that some of the rums from the final blend would have been as old as 50 years.

When the last “Up Spirits” was heard throughout the British Royal NavyBlack tot Last Consignment Rum on the 31st July 1970, the daily ration, by now known as a tot, was an eighth of an imperial pint of 54.5% ABV / 109 Proof rum, mixed 2:1 with water. In recognition of the end of the long standing tradition of rum and the Royal Navy, that day was marked down in history as Black Tot Day.

Following Black Tot Day, the Royal Navy’s rum solera was emptied and all of the remaining rum stocks were stored in one gallon (imperial) stone flagons, under government bond in the following Royal Naval Victualling Yards; the Royal Victoria in Deptford, the Royal Clarence in Gosport and the Royal William in Plymouth. With the exception of use for State occasions and Royal weddings these flagons remained untouched for nearly forty years, before being purchased and released in 2010 as Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

With a brief but informative history of the Royal Navy’s association with rum covered, Declan moved on to the rum tasting. The Royal Navy blend of rum was known to have been principally imported from the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad, as well as the British South American colony of Guyana. As such, the evening’s tastings would be representative of these Caribbean rums and would be followed by both Pusser’s Navy Rum and Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

Mount Gay Extra Old Rum – Produced in Barbados by Mount Gay Rum, this rum is bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof. This smooth, oaky rum has a subtle caramel aroma with a slightly sharp after bite.

XM Royal 10 Year Old Rum – Produced in Guyana by Banks DIH, this rum is bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof.  One of the best rums of the evening, this rum has a sweet caramel nose, which comes through in its smooth taste.

Trinidadian Live Cask Rum – Produced in Trinidad, this rum is bottled straight from the cask, at The Whisky Exchange, at 60.6% ABV / 121.2 Proof. Still being aged in the barrel, the taste profile of this live cask rum will continue to change but at time of tasting it had a smoky and spicy aroma, with a spicy, dry, oaky flavour.

Smith & Cross Rum – Produced in Jamaica, this rum is bottled at 57% ABV / 114 Proof. A blend of aged distillates from both Wedderburn and Plummer pot stills in Jamaica, this sweet fruity rum is smooth, with a slightly spicy finish.

Pusser’s Navy Rum – A blend of Caribbean rums from the Royal Naval rum blend, this rum is bottled at 54.5% ABV / 109 Proof. Produced in the British Virgin Islands, this navy rum is easy to drink despite its strong alcohol content. With a slightly sweet liquorice start and a dryer oaky finish, this is an excellent sipping rum.

In preparation of tasting the main rum of the evening, Declan handed the presentation reigns to Nick Tilt, one of the co-creators of Black Tot Last Consignment rum. Before raising our glasses to a traditional toast, Nick explained that the 6,000 declared bottles of Black Tot Last Consignment rum are a blend of the Royal Navy rums from the three Royal Navy Victualling Yards and that during the nearly forty years in storage the rum had only lost 0.2% of its ABV.

Black Tot Last Consignment Rum – A blend of the last remaining stocks of Royal Navy Rum, this rum is bottled at 54.3% ABV / 108.6 Proof. Steeped in all those years of history, you can’t help but approach this rum with respect and it’s a respect that it deserves. Where Pusser’s has captured a glimpse of what the Royal Navy rum was like, it simply cannot compete with the full bodied character of a spirit that contains rum that would have been distilled during the Second World War. With a sweet caramel nose and a smoky, spicy taste this rum is simply superb.

With the evening over and an another excellent rum tasting held at Vinopolis finished, I was left to wonder what’s next and what they’ll do for next year’s Black Tot Day? Although there are no current plans for anymore Whisky Exchange rum tastings this year, I will be keeping an ear out and will post news of any update when it’s confirmed.

So my thanks to Declan McGurk of Speciality Brands, Nick Tilt and the Whisky Exchange team, for a great evening and the chance to try so many great rums, especially the very special Black Tot Last Consignment Rum.

Black Tot Rum Tasting

* It is worth noting that the pints and gallons referred to here would have been based on what has today become known as a US Pint (0.473 litre) and US Gallon (3.785 litres). Imperial pints and gallons were not introduced in Britain until 1824 and equate to 0.568 litre and 4.546 litres respectively.

Kanaloa Rum Club – Ron Diplomatico (Sneak Peak) Aug 18

Kanaloa Rum ClubIt is with great pleasure that I can confirm that next week’s Kanaloa Rum Club is set to take up it’s alloted Tuesday night slot and on the 23rd August 2011, Kanaloa Tropical Island Bar & Grill will play host to Declan McGurk of Speciality Brands and the full range of Ron Diplomático.

Also known as Ron Botucal in some parts of the world, Ron Diplomático is produced in Venezuela by Destilerias Unidas. Produced from both sugar cane honey and the more traditional molasses, the sipping rums from Ron Diplomático have a sweeter taste, when compared to most other rum in this category. They also differ from many other rum brands as due to Venezuelan law, the rums used in their blends have to have been aged for at least 2 years.

Ron Diplomático currently consists of the following four rums:Diplomatico Rum

Ron Diplomático Blanco – A blend of rums aged between 2 and 6 years this super premium Blanco is richer and more intense than would normally be expected for a white rum.

Ron Diplomático Añejo – A blend of pot and column still rum, this golden rum is aged for a maximum of 4 years.

Ron Diplomático Reserva – Again a blend of pot and column still rum, Reserva contains a blend of rums aged between 2 and 8 years and also contains rum distilled from sugar cane honey.

Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva – Made almost entirely from sugar cane honey, this sipping rum is a blend of heavy and light rums that are aged up to 12 years.

Having tried the range of Ron Diplomático at this year’s Imbibe Live show, I can happily say that I am looking forward to spending more time savouring these excellent rums and the cocktails that the Kanaloa bartenders will no doubt be throwing together. The evening starts at 6pm for a 7pm presentation.

For further details about the Kanaloa Rum club, please email or if you’re passing by, simply pop in to Kanaloa Tropical Island Bar & Grill and ask the bar staff.

Rum Review – Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum Aug 11

Appleton Estate V/XWith so many rums on the market, picking one for my first full rum review was never going to be an easy choice. However that choice became a lot easier, thanks largely to the generous support provided by the lovely people at J Wray & Nephew, the parent distillery of Appleton Estate Rum.

With a history dating at least as far back as 1749, Jamaica’s Appleton Estate is known for its hand crafted blended rums and their unique taste and quality.

The flagship rum of their range, the Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum is a blend of fifteen rums of varying types and ages. Golden in colour, with a rich orangey aroma and a smooth, rich and sweet taste, this rum makes for a great premium mixing rum, while still retaining enough character and complexity for sipping over ice.

Presented in the distinctively shaped Appleton Estate 70cl bottle, with its depictions of a traditional sugar plantation and the rum distillery, Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum  has been bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof.

The tastings and cocktail making were done over several evenings, allowing an opportunity to properly assess the qualities of the rum.Appleton Estate V/X - Daiquiri Tastings included sampling the rum neat and over ice, as well as the base rum in the following cocktails: Cuba Libre, Daiquiri, Mai Tai and Mojito.

Tasting Notes

Neat – In its most basic form, the Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum has a smooth start with a slightly spicy after-bite. Notes of honey and burned sugar come through in the mouth, while the aroma has a noticeable orange peel scent.

Over Ice – Adding ice to this rum really lets it open up and gives it a silky smooth finish. Given a choice between drinking this rum neat or over ice, over ice would always be my preferred choice.

Cuba Libre – Despite the strong flavour of the lime, the complex flavours of this rum really shine through, giving this cocktail a more noticeable and robust taste.

Daiquiri – Again the stronger flavour of the V/X rum stands out in this classic cocktail. While not quite as refreshing as when made with a good white mixing rum, this Daiquiri had plenty of taste and made for an excellent cocktail. If trying this one yourself, you may want to add a touch more sugar to compensate for the more complex flavours of the rum.

Appleton Estate V/X - MojitoMai Tai – With this cocktail calling for both a golden and a dark rum, I feared that the flavours of the V/X might be lost among the stronger flavours of the Myers’s dark rum. This fear was proved unfounded as, despite being more subtle than in some of the other coctails here, the character of the V/X came through and helped this drink come alive. Definately a good combination of rums in this great drink.

Mojito – Like the Daiquiri, this is another cocktail that is known for its refreshingly light taste and is most often made with a white mixing rum. Adding a golden rum was clearly going to change the taste profile of this cocktail, giving it more character and flavour. And with the quality and complexity of the V/X, this change was certainly a positive one. Although it still made for an excellent Mojito with white sugar, you may want to experiment making this with some form of brown sugar, thereby complimenting the rum with the more complex sugar taste.

In summary Appleton Estate V/X Jamaica Rum makes for an excellent mixer, deserving of its premium label. It brings a smooth and complex taste to all of the classic cocktails (Cuba Libre, Daiquiri, Mai Tai and Mojito) without being too overbearing or distractive from the expected taste. It is also easy enough to sip and enjoy it over ice making this rum a great all rounder.

Further Information – Appleton Estate Rum

Rating – Great Mixer to Sip