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My Plantation Gran Añejo Rum Journey Oct 03

A few weeks ago I commented on a FB posting of a BBC article about a guy going off on a Rum Journey to track down a legendary Jamaican Rum. It appears that the author, Nick Davis, traipsed high and low around Jamaica like a Canadian Mountie to find his rum. And like any good Mountie, he found his Rum. Now I can appreciate the idea of an adventure, especially when it involves rum and therefore I finished my comment with:

 Personally I like the idea of going on a Rum Journey 🙂

So move forward to last week when an oft-trodden trip to the Whisky Exchange in London to pick up some supplies, started my own Rum Journey.

Plantation Gran Añejo RumOf late in the Charlosa household, Plantation Gran Añejo Guatemala Rum had become the go-to rum for the other half of #RumwiththeMrs. Having all of the qualities of one of Mrs Charlosa’s favourite but somewhat more expensive rums from the same country, but for almost half the price, maintaining a supply of Gran Añejo has always been a bit of a no-brainer. So with the previously purchased bottle lasting no more than a few weeks, I set off to pick up a couple of replacement bottles.

To my surprise, they only had the one bottle left on the shelf. However an even bigger surprise was just around the corner, because when I asked when more stock would be due in, it was pointed out that the Plantation Gran Añejo had changed; that the bottle in my hand was the new blend and that the old “family favourite” had been discontinued with no stock left…

So here was a dilemma; was the last bottle that I’d bought and we’d enjoyed, like there was no tomorrow, the old blend or the new one. You’d think I’d know, but considering I was holding a bottle in my hands and I hadn’t even noticed the difference on the label, how could I remember about the bottle that we’d already put in the recycling bin and had been taken away the day before…

So now my challenge was to try and track down some old stock so at least I could do a taste comparison, both for my own blogging purposes, but also to know whether Mrs Charlosa was going to be happy with the new blend or whether we’d need to find her a new go-to rum for her Rum & Diet Coke’s. And so begun my own Adventurous Plantation Gran Añejo Rum Journey.Gerry's 4th Limited Edition Plantation Rum Guatemala Ice Wine Cask

Now I do wish that this adventure involved a trip to the home of Plantation Rum: Maison Ferrand’s Château de Bonbonnet in the Charentais region of France or even to Guatemala to visit the Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala which is where the rum is originally produced, but that’s not to say that this little adventure wasn’t without peril. So from the confines of my desk I surfed the web looking for alternative suppliers carrying stock.

Despite indicating that the Gran Añejo was out of stock at Gerry’s Wines and Spirits I figured what harm could come of phoning them to confirm. While I may not have lost life or limb, my wallet ended up being lighter following that call. See, it turned out that the Gerry’s 4th Limited Edition Plantation Rum had arrived in that day and it was rum from Guatemala that had been aged for nine months in an Ice Wine Cask. So with my arm twisted I made the perilous journey through the jungle that is the West End of London on a Thursday evening in search of the colourful region that is Old Compton Street. While I may not have found the MacGuffin of my quest, I had in the meantime found something equally valuable. The Gerry’s Limited Plantation Rum’s are highly sort after treasures and with it being Guatemalan Rum and only 450 bottles to the cask I’d struck gold with this find. But I still didn’t have my Plantation Gran Añejo Guatemala Rum…

However, there’s a part to this tale that hasn’t been told yet. Shortly after coming off the phone from Gerry’s I’d called The Drink Shop to check whether the stock that they had listed was the new or the old blend. So after taking a yonder through the warehouse to grab a bottle, the customer services maiden was able to confirm that it had only the word Guatemala written in the red strip on the bottle. So having indicated that I was after two bottles, it turned out that there were just three bottles left. How could I in good conciseness leave one of those little fellows by itself. So after the little ones faced the perils of the courier service, travelling thousands of metres from the depths of Kent to the City of London, it would appear that my adventure is nearly at an end.

I say nearly, because now that I have both the new and old blends of Plantation Gran Añejo Rum, I need to open them up and compare them. But that’s a bedtime story for another day…

The Rum Club – Plantation Rum Sep 17

Notting Hill Rum ClubWhen I alluded in my last Rum Club Sneak Peak, to September’s Rum Club having a surprise in store, I can’t deny I wasn’t expecting it to be the one we got. Thanks to the range of drinks available through Bibendum Spirits, the latest Rum Club expanded its horizons and also became a sort of Tequila Club and Liqueur Club.

With this being at least the Trailer Happiness' Damien with Plantation Rumfourth tasting of Plantation Rum at a London based rum club this year, I can’t say I was too surprised when Paul McFadyen advised that the only rum he had brought along that evening, was the Plantation Gran Añejo Rum from Guatemala. However in addition to this excellent rum he had also brought along with him both the recently released Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao and the very smooth El Tesoro de Don Felipe Tequila Blanco.

Now considering how much Paul likes to talk about rum, it’s probably not a bad thing that we only had the one rum to taste that night, as had he brought the usual plethora of rums and talked about each one in the same manner, we probably wouldn’t have left until the London Underground had started running again the following morning…

Of course maybe it was having the opportunity to talk only about one rum and the history of Guatemala; the production of rum at Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala and the Solera aging process, that lead Paul to talk for so long in the first place.

So following a brief overview of what makes Plantation Rum so different from the rest, with its Cognac style ‘finishing’ of a select number of rums from around the Caribbean, Paul announced that there would be two new rums being added to the existing 13 rums in the Plantation range. Those lucky few that had attended Floridita’s July Rare Rum Club were already familiar with the new 5 year old Bajan and 11 year old Trinidadian rums, each finished respectively in Pineau de Charentes and Banyuls casks. While no specific release date has been given, both rums will be available for general sale, although in limited numbers.

We were then treated to a short lesson on the history of Guatemala, starting with the impact of the Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés, on the Central American region with his decree to find gold and convert the locals to Christianity during the 1500s, which culminated in the complete subjugation of the peoples of the region and the formation of New Spain. Following independence from first Spain and then Mexico, Guatemala initially joined together with a number of other countries, before civil war dissolved the Central American Federation in the mid 1800s.

Other than a series of dictatorships nothing much happened in Guatemala, from a rum point of view, until the town of Zacapa was created in 1876. However, it wasn’t until 1914 that the town’s significance to rum would show, when Industria Licorera Guatemalteca started rum production. This was followed in 1930, by the family run businesses of Industria Licorera Euzkadi and Licorera Zacapaneca started producing their own rum. These three companies were later joined in 1939 by Industria Licorera Quezalteca before the disruption of World War II on the Guatemalan economy forced these four companies to combine in 1944, forming the Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala distillery.

It wasn’t until 1976, when in celebration of the centenary of the town of Zacapa that the name of Ron Zacapa became known with Ron Zacapa Centenario. Today Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala is the only distillery in Guatemala, producing Ron Zacapa, Ron Botran and serveral other liqueurs in the town of Zacapa.

Plantation Guatemala Gran Añejo Rum and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao Triple SecGuatemalan rum differs from many other rums in several ways. Instead of fermenting molasses, they use virgin sugar cane honey, which is fermented for between 48 and 50 hours using yeasts from pineapples. After distillation is finished, using a series of column stills, the distilate is aged using the Solera system in their warehouse, which is nearly 8,000 feet about sea level, where the average temperature is more akin to Scotland than the Caribbean at 16-17 degrees celcius. Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala also differs from a number of other distilleries, in that they use only sugar cane from their own plantations and do not export sugar cane to any other country.

With the help of a handout diagram, courtesy of René van Hoven’s Ron Zacapa Part II: Solera System Explained article at, Paul explained the Solera system used by Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala for Ron Zacapa. This process was originally refined by the Spanish for sherry production and while different from the process used in sherry production, in principal it is similar. I won’t repeat the whole description here as Rene has already done a wonderful job explaining it, in detail. So in brief, rums produced using the Solera system have effectively been married during their aging process, by introducing older and younger rums together in the barrels.

The oldest barrels are stacked at the bottom, with the youngest barrels at the top, with several different aged barrels between. As the finished rum is taken out of the bottom barrels for bottling, the rum from the barrel above is moved into the older barrel to replenish the removed rum and marry the blend together. This is repeated up through the different younger barrels until the newest barrels are replenished with rum that will have been aged between 12 and 18 months. As no barrel is completely emptied, each barrel will contain a blend of different ages. The time taken to marry the rums together at each stage varies, although if the minimum age of those stages were added together it would total 6 years. Therefore Solera rums contain rums from a minimum to a maximum age. For instance Zacapa 23 is a Solera blend of between 6 and 23 years old.

So where does Ron Zacapa come into an evening talking about Plantation Gran Añejo Rum? Well as indicated above, Guatemala has only one distillery, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that the Guatemalan rum in the Plantation Gran Añejo comes from Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala and is taken from the Ron Zacapa Solera system.

After the finished Guatemalan rum is shipped to France, the rum is then aged for a further 12 to 18 months in Limousin Grande Champagne Cognac casks in the cellars of Cognac Ferrand, where it is tended to and cared for during this time. Before bottling, the Gran Añejo rum has a small amount of aged sugar and aged water added bringing the final bottled strength down to 84 Proof / 42 abv.

Plantation Gran Añejo Rum has a sweet caramel and raisins aroma and a sweet start, with notes of coconut, caramel and vanilla before a slightly tempered finish. To say that this rum is very drinkable is no understatement. As easily sipped neat or over ice as it is mixed in a premium cocktail, this is an exceptional rum made even more appealing with low price point for such a quality spirit. Highly recommended and I look forward to putting it through its paces with an upcoming review over the next couple of weeks.

Moving away from the rum, Paul then introduced us to the new Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao. Bottled at 80 Proof / 40% abv, this premium Triple Sec is based on a number of old style recipes and was created with Tiki style cocktails in mind. It is produced from Brandy, 10 and 20 year old Cognac’s, Curaçao orange, sweet orange and other flavours.  With an aroma of Christmas pudding, it has a sweet orange and complex fruity taste. Although it’s not something I would  drink often by itself, this isn’t a reflection on the drink itself, it’s more that I don’t often sip orange based liqueurs. However, I would certainly use it when making premium cocktails and would more than happily add a bottle to my liqueur selection.

The last spirit of the evening was the very smooth El Tesoro de Don Felipe Blanco Tequila. Before being double-distilled, the juices extracted from the sweetest parts of the Blue Agave Pina are fermented for a week. Uniquely distilled to bottle strength from different cuts of between 30% and 70%, this fruity highland tequila is bottled unaged at 80 proof / 40% abv, within 24 hours of distillation, allowing it to capture the fresh Agave flavours.

With the evening’s The Rum Club - Plantation Guatemala Gran Añejo Rum Mai Tai and Old Fashionedpresentation over, it was time to ask Damien to experiment with Plantation Rum based cocktails and in particular the new Plantation Gran Añejo Rum. So along with the delicious 5 year old Plantation Grande Reserve Mai Tai that we’d had at the start of the evening, the bar staff put together the following Plantation Gran Añejo Rum cocktails: Mai Tai, Rum Swizzle and Old Fashioned. Each of these cocktails benefited from the use of this great rum, which showed its versatility as a premium mixing rum.

As always, my thanks to Max and Damien for yet another great Rum Club and to Paul for another great Plantation Rum evening. The next London Rum Club is scheduled for Monday the 3rd October and will be featuring Ron Diplomático, with Declan McGurk of Speciality Brands. 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.

The Rum Club – Plantation Rum (Sneak Peak) Sep 04

Notting Hill Rum ClubA somewhat short notice seak peak, but as always with Plantation Rum this should be an evening worth dropping whatever you’re doing to head to this month’s London Rum Club. So if you like drinking great rum, get yourself down to Portobello Road’s Trailer Happiness, for a 7pm start on Monday 5th September 2011.

The evening will be presented by Bibendum Spirits Paul McFadyen, who will no doubt be bringing his usual bouncy charm to the evening’s tasting of what should be another great Rum Club. In Paul’s own word’s he’s “Launching the new Plantation Guatemala and with a few new surprises…”.Plantation Rum

What these surprises are, I’m unsure, but then it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore if I did spill the beans… What I do know though is that with such a large range of blended and vintage rums, Plantation Rum tastings are always legendary and any new additions are always eagerly anticipated. As such, starting with this year’s Imbibe Live Show, the focus of recent tastings has been the latest addition to the family – Plantation Gran Añejo Rum from Guatemala.

Just released to the UK market, it’s still not widely available, so if you can’t wait to get your taste buds round this excellent premium mixing and sipping rum, then you know where to be tomorrow evening.

Further details on tomorrow’s tasting can be found on the Plantation 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.