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Archive for November, 2011

The Rum Club – Bacardi (Sneak Peak) Nov 19

Notting Hill Rum ClubWhat better way to finish the year than with a bang and with no bigger brand in Rum, it’s fair to say that the Notting Hill Rum Club is ending 2011 in style. Monday 5th December will find Trailer Happiness playing host to Bacardi and the UK Bacardi Brand Ambassador, Shervene Shahbazkhani.Bacardi Reserva Limitada

Starting at 7pm, the evening will be a mix of Cuban history, rum production and the role of Bacardi in both, along with the opportunity to try some of the best that Bacardi has to offer.

From the available everywhere Bacardi Superior and its older sibling, the Bacardi 8 Year Old to the limited production Bacardi 1909 Superior Heritage Edition. In addition, Shervene will also be bringing along several Bacardi rums that aren’t easily available in the UK, including Bacardi Solera, Bacardi Reserva Limitada and the Havana Club Brand by Bacardi, which you’ll generally only find in Miami.

Those lucky enough to attend will also get the chance to explore the process of making Bacardi Superior, with samples from 8 different stages of production, from distillation to bottling.

All in all, I think that this is going to be a great night and I’m just disappointed that I won’t be able to be there. However, anyone with an interest in good rum and its heritage really should attend and if you’ve never been along before, I can’t think of a better evening to start with.

Further details on next month’s tasting can be found on the Bacardi @ The Rum Club Facebook page. For those interested in learning more about the London Rum Club, please either visit the Rum Club website or pop into Trailer Happiness and speak to the bar staff.

Floridita Rare Rum Club – Mount Gay Rum Nov 12

Floridita Rare Rum ClubDespite the complete lack of a tropical climate, it’s clear that London has an important role in the international Rum scene; what with it playing host to RumFest every year; having several great rum bars and during 2011, it’s been home to 3 different Rum Clubs.

For several years now, Notting Hill’s Trailer Happiness has been the home to the London Rum Club and while it may not always have been as regular a fixture on the calendar as it should have been, for several months now it has without fail taken place every 1st Monday of the month. It is well supported by the rum trade, the bar and it’s staff and of course the regular Rum Club enthusiasts.

Then this July we found a new Rum Club raisingMount Gay 1703 Rum Tasting its head above the parapet, at the City of London’s Tiki bar: Kanaloa. However, despite a promising start, it appears that it wasn’t mean to be. Maybe it was the format of “once every two weeks” being too much for London’s Rum Aficionado’s; maybe it was slightly sporadic nature of which evening of the week it took place on; maybe it didn’t help that on the night it managed to clash with the London Rum Club, London also happened to go up in flames with the riots this summer or maybe it was just a bit too similar to the London Rum Club.

Maybe it was all of those reasons or none of them, but what is fair to say is that following the departure of then Head Bar Manager – Stuart Hudson, priorities at the bar appeared to change. Now with Tiki Bar Tender Jamie Kimber due to depart for Lab Bar this weekend, I think it’s fair to say that August’s Kanaloa Rum Club featuring Ron Diplomático was the last Rum Club to be held at this great Tiki bar and that it’s unlikely that we’ll see another Rum Club held at Kanaloa anytime soon.

What then of London’s third Rum Club. One that I heard about as a whispered rumour. A Rum Club mentioned in quite conversations, as it was thought to be so rare and so limited in available places that those few who knew about it, were concerned that by telling too many people about it, that they Old Rum at Floriditathemselves would miss out. One that dared to be a bit different and maybe a little bit special. Special enough that even I was concerned that by writing about it, I’d either miss out on a place or maybe it would become too crowded and change the atmosphere.

So enter the Floridita Rare Rum Club, held on the last Thursday of each month. The brain-child of the bar’s Head Bar Manager, Richard Woods. Generally recognised as one of the more influential people in the Rum trade and having one of the largest collections of rare rums in the world, it’s fair to say that Richard knows and loves his Rum.

Although it started at the end of March this year, it wasn’t until July that I even heard about it. By then they had already played host to Havana Club and their Maximo Rum. The Rare Rum Club was launched with a promise that reads:

Floridita’s Rare Rum Club is designed to encourage the tasting of Premium and unfamiliar Rums through a drinks forum, bringing some of the finest enthusiasts, imbibers, blenders, distillers and experts from around the World taking part in Seminars.

And as far as I’m concerned, it has so far succeded. Since attending my first Rare Rum Club in July I’ve tried Plantation Guadeloupe Old Reserve 1998 Rum, El Dorado 25 Year Old Rum, Mount Gay Rum 1703 Old Cask Selection and on the one evening that I couldn’t make it, they had Bacardi Reserva Limitada. Each of these is clearly rare and special and some of them have been extremely premium.

Although the format has changed slightly since its inception, the principal of enjoying rare and premium rums hasn’t. Having changed to being a paid for event, the evening now includes a sharing platter of food for the group, a rum cocktail each, access to the bar’s live music and of course the tasting. Currently, numbers are somewhat more intimate than say the London Rum Club and in fact they always be will limited. But as Richard has pointed out, this is how he wants the evening to be, as it gives everyone who attends the chance to have a proper taste of these great rums.Mount Gay 1703

So following a Daiquiri (or two) and some great tapas, the evening of Thursday 27th October 2011 found a small group of us sitting down with Richard to talk about and taste the contents of a bottle of Mount Gay Rum 1703 Old Cask Selection.

Everything about this Bajan rum shouts quality, from the simple elegance of the bottle design to the weight and feel of the bottle stop. Of course the packaging is just that, so what of the contents?

Well, 1703 Old Cask Selection is a Blend of aged Mount Gay Rum from the reserves of the Master Blender. These rums would have been fermented in wooden vats for 72 hours and then distilled in either a double distilled pot still or a copper Coffey column still, before being aged in ex American whiskey barrels.

During the aging process, the Master Blender will decide that some barrels are just right, for setting aside and they’ll be aged for a longer-than-normal period of time. With these older barrels, they can then marry the rum with other younger or older rums to create specific blends or to help balance the expected taste of their normal production rums, such as the Eclipse or the Extra Old. And it is from these older barrels that the blend of pot and column, aged between 10 and 30 years old, that 1703 Old Cask Selection comes from. Like the younger Mount Gay Rum Extra Old it is bottled at a slightly higher 43% ABV / 86 Proof.

It is a rich and complex rum, with notes of spiced fruits, banana, caramel and leather. Of course with a blend of rums up to 30 years old, it also has a richness of oak, but not so overpowering that it would detract from the enjoyment and taste. It has a warm, smooth start, with a slightly spicy finish and is every bit the luxurious expression of quality rum from Barbados.

Bacardi Havana ClubAn unexpected finish to the evening off came about when Richard then introduced us to another special rum from his collection. One that due to international trade mark issues you will generally not see outside of Miami. Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the Havana Club distillery and company was nationalized and as such its original creator, José Arechabala, left Cuba and headed to the United States, taking the original recipe for Havana Club Rum with him.

Today that recipe is owned by Bacardi and is currently produced for the US market only, in Puerto Rico, as Havana Club Brand. Distinctly different from either Bacardi Superior or todays Cuban Havana Club Añejo Blanco, this is an excellent pouring rum that among many things, makes for a great Daiquiri.

Expect to find a white rum, with enough complexity to make it enjoyable to sip, while remaining light enough to mix in many a cocktail. If you are lucky enough to spot a bottle of this on your travels, I highly recommend you pick one up.

So what next for the Rare Rum Club, well I’ve been advised by Richard that there won’t be any more Rare Rum Club’s held this year as the end of November will be too busy for Floridita, with Christmas bookings and that the last Thursday of December may well find the bar closed for the evening. So all being well, the Rare Rum Club will be back at the end of January, bringing in the new year with another special rum. More news on that as and when it’s available.

So my thanks to Richard and the bar team at Floridita for continuing to offer another great event on the London Rum scene and I look forward to many more. Also expect to see write ups in the future for both the El Dorado 25 Year Old and the Plantation Guadeloupe Old Reserve 1998 Rum.

For those interested in learning more about the Rare Rum Club, please either visit the Floridita Website or email Hannah Sakellariou at for more details.

The Rum Club – Ron Botran Nov 08

Notting Hill Rum ClubWith the British Winter drawing in and the nights getting longer, what better way to get through a damp and chilly night in November then to curl up next to a fire with a glass of excellent rum. Now granted the fire at Portobello Road’s Trailer Happiness is more of a rum soaked flame show on the copper ceiling, but the warm atmosphere of the bar and the Tiki mad bar staff are just as good.

So the evening of Monday 7th November 2011, found a small group of us enjoying Ron Botran Reserva and Solera 1893, in the company of Maya and Francis from Ron Botran’s UK distributor – Distillnation. We also gotRon Botran Reserva and Solera 1893 to say hello to the latest addition to the Trailer bar team – Alex, who recently left Mahiki to find his Happiness in Portobello Road. Among many things, Alex did a great job throwing together the evening’s opening rum punch, featuring Ron Botran Reserva, a rinse of absinthe, some pineapple juice and “other good shit”. In all honesty I lost the plot as to what was in it exactly, but it actually was “good shit”…

So punch in hand, we sat down like the good little boys and girls we are to listen to Aunty Maya tell us a story of distant volcanic shores, Dominican Monks and the Solera rum production…

Although relatively new to the UK market, Ron Botran is every bit a part of Guatemala’s history of rum production, which dates back over a hundred years. Of the four distilleries that make up Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala, the Botran family’s Industria Licorera Quezalteca was the last to be established in 1939.

Migrating from Spain in the early part of the 20th century, the family brought the Spanish sherry production techniques with them to Guatemala. Initially making a name for themselves for their sugar cane production, the Botran family started producing rum using a technique similar to the production of sherry and called it “Sistema Solera”.

Unlike most other rums, which use either sugar cane juice or molasses, Botran uses virgin sugar cane honey, which still contains 72% – 76% of the sugar. This gives a much higher sugar content for fermentation, which is also unusual in that the fermentation period is approx 120 hours as opposed to the usual 24 – 72 hours for most other rums. This much longer fermentation period is possible due to the use of yeast derived from pineapples. Because of the unusually long fermentation process, more of the sugar is converted into alcohol, giving the resultant distillate from the column still a much fuller taste.

As shown in the diagram below (courtesy of Rones de Guatemala), the distillate is then put into American whiskey barrels, that have previously been used in the production of Jack Daniels, where it is left to age. After a period of time, this aged rum is then married in a 400 liter intermediate vat with older rums, before it is put into re-charred American whiskey barrels to continue aging. Before final marrying, the last vat of blended intermediate rum is then put into either ex-port barrels or ex-sherry barrels and aged for a period of time to impart additional flavours. Finally and depending on which Botran rum is being produced, the final marrying will take a blend of rums from the port barrels, sherry barrels and older lots of previously aged rum.

Ron Botran Solera Process

All of this marrying and aging takes place at the Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala warehouse in the city of Quetzaltenango, which is at a height of over 7,000 feet above sea level which also means that unlike most other climates in the Caribbean, the temperature is cooler. Both the higher altitude and the lower temperature have a major impact on the aging process and therefore the taste of these fine rums:

Reserva -A Solera blend of rums aged between 5 and 14 years, using some sherry barrel aged rum, with a larger proportion of port aged barrels. This is a complex, dry, slightly woody rum with hints of chocolate, almonds and caramel. Although smooth to start, it still has a slightly peppery bite on the finish. This makes for a great pouring rum, while still being approachable enough to sip.

Solera 1893 – Again and as the name suggests, a Solera blend of rums aged between 5 and 18 years, but using a higher proportion of blend from the sherry barrels. This is sweeter and richer in taste and makes for an excellent sipping rum. Like the Reserva, it has aromas and tastes of chocolate and caramel, but also has notes of dried mixed fruit.

Ron Botran TastingTo finish the evening’s tasting off, Maya treated us to a little trick she’d been taught by the guys and girls at the distillery and had Francis pour us all out a measure of chilled Solera 1893. Knowing that the addition of ice to neat rum often makes it easier to drink, due to both the chilling effect and the dilution, it didn’t come as much of a surprise that chilling this particular rum made it even easier to sip.

Both the Reserva and Solera 1893 are bottled at 40% ABV / 80 Proof. With both rums being aged for a minimum of 5 years and using the same production techniques, it’s fundamentally the time spent aging in the sherry and port barrels along with the proportion of each in the final blend that sets these rums apart from each other.

Today, Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala is responsible for the production of Ron Botran, Ron Zacapa, the bulk rum used in Plantation’s Gran Añejo Rum, as well as several other rums and spirits from Guatemala.

So with Maya having finished her wonderful impersonation of Jackanory, the more astute among you may be wondering what happened to the Dominican Monks, the tales of adventure on volcanic shores and what either of these things have to do with  Guatemala rum production. In a nutshell, if it wasn’t for the Dominican Order of Monks, who it is believed first took sugar cane and planted those same canes in the fertile volcanic soils of Guatemala, we probably wouldn’t have the rums of Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala. So next time you’re drinking Ron Botran, Ron Zacapa or Plantation Gran Añejo Rum, remember to raise your glass and offer a toast to those Dominican Monks.

As usual, my thanks to Max and Damien for yet another great Rum Club and to Distillnation’s Maya and Francis for a great evening with Ron Botran. The next London Rum Club is scheduled for Monday the 5th December and will be featuring Shervene Shahbazkhani, the UK Bacardi Brand Ambassador, along with some of their fine rum. For those interested in learning more about the London Rum Club, please either visit the website or pop into Trailer Happiness and speak to the bar staff.