Aloha! some of you dear readers might have noticed how slow this blog has become since many months…it moves at the speed of a drunken snail or turtle…but there´s a reason for that – there´s a book in the Works! “Best of A Mountain of Crushed Ice” is a book about tiki drinks with the best from this website in updated versions along with new recipes and some “mixed potions” by friendly tiki bartenders and enthusiasts from around the world.
The book is for everyone who loves tropical exotic tiki drinks and the little “tutorials” aims at those who are new to tiki drinks, both consumers and bartenders but the book as a whole is for all tiki drink lovers . So that`s what`s up…and when will the book be ready? I`m not sure of an exact date…but the plan is for this summer.
Trying to write posts for this website at the same time as writing the book plus also working with other things plus taking care of my domestic life turns out a little bit too much for this laid back flip-flop kind of lady so please bear with me when this website is taking a little temporary “half”-break. That said, I might pop in a blog post every now and then…and when the book is ready it will be announced right here.
So why writing a book? well, the blog is celebrating it`s 10th Anniversary this year! that`s ten years of collected recipes, rambles, experiments and knowledge, some better, some worse, some outright crazy…as is the nature of many cocktail blogs. But over time it can be difficult to find some of the best posts even though there`s an archive, but how often do people really bother digging in the yearly archives? blog posts and the drinks in them have a tendency to over time become forgotten. So I think putting the best from it in a book is not a bad idea, plus when I no longer is here this blog will not be either but then the book will be! So now you know why it`s moving so slow here for the moment.
In the meantime, here´s a little teaser picture collage…
If you didn`t know, today is International Women’s Day — a day to celebrate remarkable women in our life. Appleton Estate is honored to celebrate a women who has embarked on an exemplary and inspirational career, Master Blender Joy Spence. I have met her in London, at the UK Rumfest and a more charismatic person is hard to find.
Over two decades ago Joy Spence became the world’s first female Master Blender. To honor this outstanding accomplishment as well as pay homage to her bountiful years at Appleton Estate, the distillery is announcing the official debut of its celebratory limited-edition 25 Year–Old Rum, “JOY”, crafted in honor of pioneer Joy Spence and her 20th Anniversary as Appleton Estate’s Master Blender, a fitting tribute to the visionary who has spent much of her career perfecting it.
“For my anniversary blend, I simply set out to create the rum that I’d like to sip while watching the colors of my garden change in the warm glow of the Jamaican sunset,” said Master Blender Joy Spence. “It includes two rum marques, which are of particular sentimental significance to me: The first of these marques was laid down to age in 1981 – the year I joined the Appleton Estate team, and the second is my favorite marque of pot still rum. The final blend is a wonderful rum that I hope Appleton Estate fans will enjoy.”
On the palate, JOY opens with Appleton Estate’s trademark delicate orange peel, leading into a delicious mix of ginger, spice, warm vanilla, butterscotch, and coffee, with lingering layers of almond and toasted oak. With an exceptionally smooth finish of brown sugar, the new release is sure to please all those that have the privilege of sipping it.
A rum visionary ahead of her time;
As a woman in a traditionally male dominated industry, Joy is nothing short of a pioneer. At a very young age, Joy fell in love with the field of Chemistry and dreamed of working in a field where she could bring that passion to life.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and with a Master of Science in Analytical Chemistry – a rarity for a Jamaican woman at that time – she joined Appleton Estate in 1981 as Chief Chemist, and quickly became enthralled with the process of blending rum.
Over the next 16 years, under the expert guidance of then Master Blender, Owen Tulloch, Joy honed her sensory skills, developing an unrivalled palate and excellent sense of smell, until she herself was named Master Blender in 1997. Throughout her tenure, Joy has been decorated with a myriad of awards, starting with honorary doctorate degrees from both alma maters, and culminating with a national award from the Jamaican government for her contribution to the rum industry.
Both an artist and a scientist, Joy has spent the last twenty years creating some of the finest rums the world has ever tasted, and the “JOY” Anniversary Blend may be her greatest triumph yet.
In her 36 years with the distillery, Spence has spearheaded the brand’s legacy of quality, care and dedication. She is an industry pioneer with unparalleled skills at creating premium blended rums, which is in every bottle produced.
This latest and exclusive honorary release is a reflection of a remarkably resilient and passionate woman who embodies grace, devotion, intelligence, perseverance, and, above all else, joy. Born in Jamaica, Joy enjoys cooking and gardening and is even renowned within her native country for creating her own face cream – yet another example of her skill blending the finest ingredients.
Appleton Estate’s “Joy” Anniversary Blend is bottled at 90 proof (45% alc./vol.) and retails at $250. Appleton Estate’s core range offers three premium rums: Appleton Estate Signature Blend, Appleton Estate Reserve Blend and Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12 Year Old. In addition, Appleton Estate also has two ultra-premium rums: Appleton Estate 21 Year Old Jamaica Rum and Appleton Estate 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum which is a limited edition 50 year old minimum age rum.
Blend: A select blend of aged rums each matured a minimum of 25 years, including rum aged up to 35 years.
Appearance: Beautiful coppery gold color with shimmering highlights.
Bouquet: Opening with Appleton Estate’s trademark delicate orange peel as a top note and intertwined with ginger and spice, this special blend finishes with warm vanilla, butterscotch, coffee and lingering layers of almond and toasted oak.
Finish: Exceptionally smooth with an elegant finish of brown sugar.
How time flies! we`re already in mid february and the Tiki Month is halfway through….
So, almost running late I just had to make a drink! and what could be more fitting than making a drink inspired by Doug Winship`s home made indoor volcano? if you didn´t know, Doug is the man behind the Tiki Month which appears every year in february on the Pegu blog (and by inspired bloggers around the blogosphere)
Next year Doug will celebrate his 10 year Anniversary with the Tiki Month! did 9 years pass already?? how did that happen? scary….I went to check his Tiki Month posts in his archives starting typing in february 2009 which is when it started. So many memories! that was the time when the Mixoloseum was going strong and we had the first”Mixohouse” in New Orleans. Feels like it was 100 years ago…
And then I found this post…..it´s called “How Tiki Month Began” – where he tells the story of how it started…it took me back to the golden days of tiki blogging….such nostalgia! incredible! it was a different feeling those days, it was a feeling of discovery, adventure and brotherhood among bloggers (and yes we even had our own organisation called the Cocktails and Spirits Online Writers Group with the likes such as Kaiserpenguin, Cocktailnerd and Dr Bamboo… The CSWOG was the 25 most prolific cocktail blogs at the time, come together doing events, both on and offline. Our signature drink was a communal style JWray overproof spiked Chartreuse swizzle served in flower vases.
I had no IDEA how much Doug looked up to us early tiki bloggers! and from having no tiki drink experience whatsoever to decide to go a whole month doing ONLY tiki is an amazing task to take up – and look at him now, almost ten years of tiki month blogging, and the research he have made and put together is incredible….go and read this post and all the others on his blog, Tiki Month 2017 in full swing! I have to give kudos to Doug for keeping it up for so long and I hope it won`t close down anytime soon.
There`s a video of Doug`s volcano, Mount Pegu – I posted it at last year`s Tiki Month, you can watch it here. I have admired his volcano for a long time, ever since he built it and I believe it must be pretty fun to have your own indoor volcano with erupting smoke and all, making your home tiki bar come alive!
For this drink I have put together rum, hibiscus grenadine, Cherry Heering, fresh lime, grapefruit and passion fruit. It was kind of too fruity and weak to me in flavor when I first made it but after adding Lost Spirits 61% Navy style rum the drink was kickin`and there came some depth of flavor.
If you can`t find that rum pick a rum that has a good punch both in flavor and proof. It´s a volcano after all, it´s supposed to be erupting…
1,5 oz grapefruit juice
1.5 oz passionfruit juice
0.75 oz fresh lime juice
0.25 oz Cherry Heering
0.75 oz hibiscus grenadine
1.5 oz Plantation 3 Stars Rum
1.5 oz Lost Spirits 61% Navy Style Rum
0.5 oz overproof rum (I used Meermaid)
Garnish – Dried hibiscus powder, two long lemon peels cut to look like lava streams, a pineapple leaf. Add some lime juice on the outside of a snifter and sprinkle hibiscus powder on it. You can make it yourself by crushing dried hibiscus flowers in a mortar.
Blend the ingredients in a blender at high speed for 5 seconds with 4 oz crushed ice and pour into a snifter, add more crushed ice to fill and the two lemon peels. Sprinkle some of the hibiscus powder on top of the ice and add 2 straws.
Now sit back and let that volcano take care of you…
Happy Tiki Month! next year we celebrate 10 years!!
After a time of quietness…the Lost Spirits is back with a new expression of their Navy style rum, this time with a changed formula. It`s a refined version of the old one with the smoky notes turned down a bit in favor of more fruitiness and a great deal of wood notes. It`s also drier and more balanced with an abv of 122 proof or 61% instead of the old 68%.
But they are not only back with a new rum expression, there is more….back in California from Charleston they are now in the process of building a new distillery in LA. The new distillery being built is going to be much bigger and also fully automated. For those who haven`t read the story about the Lost Spirits and how they use the Thea One reactor to speed up the ageing process I recommend reading more about the tech details over at Cocktailwonk.
This is the mad scientist Willy Wonka booze factory…it´s also most likely the only distillery using antique furniture made from American chestnut. In the 1860`s chestnut was commonly used for barrels but it`s hard to find today and so they are stripping the varnish off with a saw and using the wood in the reactor.
So there`s a lot of work going on there now setting up the new distillery, I have added some pics at the bottom of this post. I asked if the old smoke spewing dragon pot still gonna be there and from what I understand it will but also new ones, with the same theme of course…
You can see the old dragon still in this video here by Bryan Davis who also built the still himself.
Lost Spirits also added new team partners to the team including military scientist Wynn Sanders and Theron Reiner from Rattleback. Because it´s not only rum that`s going to come out of the Thea One…but also peaty scotch whisky originating from Islay.
Small batches of whisky will be Thea aged using a variety of different woods and the outcome will be the new “Abomination” line, with each expression named after different chapters in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau…
I have yet to taste their whiskies and I`m looking forward to try out their Abomination line, I wonder what it can do in cocktails? maybe there´s a secret weapon…
This picture gives me a bit of “Vampire Lestat feeling” …..
This is not your usual stuff!
The names of the first labels are as follows –
- Concerning the Beast Folk
- The Sayers of the Law
- The Crying of the Puma
So that`s what´s happening in short…not a dull moment there, more will come.
But let´s move on to the rum and the drinks!
I wish I still had some of the old navy style rum left to compare with but from what I remember, it did mix fine but was a bit too strong for me to sip neat and so I welcome the fine tuning and lower proof of this new version of the navy style rum.
In the nose I pick up sherry and prunes, wood, molasses and spices and then something “rooty”. The nose is quite heavy on the sherry I think.
In the mouth there´s a woody explosion at first, then comes the prunes and sherry again, with warm sharpness followed by a distinctive dryness. There´s lots of dark fruits and some spice and maybe a hint of banana.The finish is long with strong and a bit aggressive sherry wood notes.
My conclusion is that this version of their navy style rum is in better balance and cleaner in taste than the first one and it shines in cocktails. A strong rum that asks to be part of drinks that can tame it a little bit…so I threw together my Banana Boo Loo and then a version of a classic tiki drink, the Pearl Diver`s Punch, just making it a bit more lush – the secret with that drink is in the Pearl Diver´s Mix…and because I happened to have a bunch of blood oranges at home I decided to try it with some of my favorite mezcal just to see how it would do.
All the drinks turned out very tasty, especially the Banana Boo Loo which secret is fresh banana and fresh pineapple juice. There´s something about Lost Spirits rums and banana…
Banana Boo Loo
This recipe is for a 75 cl/25 oz goblet (IKEA) and so it´s a double drink!
4 oz fresh pineapple juice (or equal parts fresh pineapple chunks and bottled pineapple juice pre-blended and strained)
2 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz banana-demerara syrup* (or you can mix in Giffard Banane du Brésil into demerara syrup)
4 oz Lost Spirits 61 % Navy Style Rum
Put everything in the blender and blend with 1 cup of crushed ice at high speed for 5 sec. Pour unstrained into a hollowed out pineapple (or goblet) fill up with more crushed ice if needed.
As for the syrup – make a rich simple syrup (it takes 5-10 minutes) with 2:1 (or make a 1;1 syrup if you prefer a lighter one, but personally I prefer a more rich viscous syrupy syrup, it just add that mouth feel to the cocktail and richness) with dark demerara sugar and water and when the sugar is dissolved by heating it up, add banana chunks to it from one half fresh banana and mash it with a fork then take off from heat and leave to cool and set for a couple hours or overnight ( I did overnight, it deepens the flavor)
Blood of the She Creature
1 oz Lost Spirits 61% Navy Style Rum
1 oz Appleton Signature Blend (former VX)
1.5 oz fresh squeezed blood orange juice
0.75 oz fresh lime juice
0.25 oz Macadamia nut syrup (Giffard)
0.5 oz orgeat
Float Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal
Shake with ice, strain and serve in a chilled cocktail coupe with a large piece of cracked ice chunk. Garnish with 2 pineapple leaves and a dehydrated blood orange slice.
Royal Pearl Diver
0.75 oz Royal Pearl Diver’s Mix
0.75 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh orange juice
1 oz passionfruit juice
1 oz Lost Spirits 61% Navy Style Rum
1 oz Demerara rum
1 cup crushed ice
Add everything to a blender and blend at high speed 5 sec. Pour unstrained into a goblet or tiki mug and garnish with speared lime peel and cherry, a tropical orchid and a paper umbrella.
Sweet and sour, spicy and strong, complex and velvety smooth…
Royal Pearl Diver’s Mix (enough for 4 drinks):
1 oz unsalted butter (or ghee, clarified)
1 oz honey (use liquid)
1 oz orgeat
1/2 tsp pimento dram
pinch cinnamon spice
Heat butter and honey to melt, mix in the orgeat, pimento dram and cinnamon, then set aside to cool to room temp.
The building of the distillery in pictures:
Here`s a few pictures of the new distillery to be, courtesy of Lost Spirits and Doc Fried:
The 61% Navy Style rum is available through KL Wines.
Here is something of interest….it was quite a while ago since I wrote about arrack spirits. I have always liked it as a cocktail ingredient since it adds a certain funk adding a specific edge to the drinks…and needless to say it suits tiki drinks very well.
The original word “araq” is Arabian and was associated with the distillation process when the knowledge of how to distill spirits spread in the Middle East and Asia during the 14th century and the term arrack was used for distilled spirits in general but “Batavia Arrack” is a term specifically for molasses based arrack distillate.
There are three completely different categories of Arrak:
Arak – from the Middle East, distilled from fermented grapes, licorice-flavored with anise seed.
Batavia Arrak – from Indonesia, distilled from fermented sugar cane and rice.
Coconut Arrak – from Sri Lanka, distilled from naturally fermented nectar of coconut flowers.
During the 18th century Arrak was used as a substitute for rum ratios for sailers in South East Asia by the British Royal Navy and Marco Polo mentioned Arrak in his 13th century diary Il Milione. Also Arrak was an ingredient in several recipes in Jerry Thomas original 1882 book The Bartender´s Guide. So it´s a very old spirit…
“By the Dutch” Batavia Arrack is a 48% abv distillate based on sugar-cane molasses produced on the island of Java, Indonesia with methods dating back to the 17th century. It’s comprised of a specific range of pot still distillates originating from the East Indies.
Local red rice is used in the fermentation process being added and mixed to the yeast before adding to the water and molasses and it`s this, which sets it apart from rum, although the base material is still molasses from sugar-cane. Distillation of Batavia Arrack is done with traditional old Chinese ancient copper pot stills and ageing is done in oak barrels up to 8 years and the result is rich and deep. The ageing and blending takes place in the Netherlands.
Some call it “Indonesian rum” due to the very similar process in the making and inclusion of molasses but personally i`d rather classify it as simply “Batavia Arrack” since the red rice is not part of rum making plus it adds a distinctive flavor to the product which also sets it apart.
As somebody living in Sweden I learnt early what Batavia Arrack was since it´s part of the Swedish Punsch which I use very occasionally as a cocktail ingredient. It`s also part of a type of punch-rolls and other chocolate candies that are very tasty. And also and this is very interesting, it´s also a part of the ingredients in the GunRoom Navy Rum made by Renbjer & Magnusson which I have reviewed earlier.
Some technical aspects:
Distilling process: 1. Fermentation of the wash from molasses (sugarcane by-product), water and added local red rice, in wooden vats up to ± 8% abv. 2. The ready wash is distilled in vintage Pot-stills up to ± 30% abv. 3. Second distillation in other pot-stills up to 60-65% abv. 4. Batavia Arrack has been stored and shipped to Amsterdam. 5. Batavia Arrack is matured in large oak casks in Amsterdam. 6. Batavia Arrack is blended according to an unique and secret recipe by the master blender and brought back to 48% abv.
Batavia was the name of the capital city of the Dutch East Indies, and corresponds to the present day city of Jakarta. The establishment of Batavia (Java Island) at the site of the razed city of Jayakarta by the Dutch in 1619 led to the Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. Batavia became the center of the Dutch East India Company’s trading network in Asia.
Virtually all arrack exported to Europe arrived in Amsterdam or Rotterdam in wooden barrels or buts (563 liters). This would than be matured and blended to create an end product of consistent quality and flavor.
I find the taste of this Batavia Arrack to be very much like a shortly aged rum and it´s not harsh at all even though it got some fire and it also got quite a bit of “herbal” funk a la Smith & Cross style actually but it´s still has it´s own distinctive taste. It´s an interesting flavor that can be had on the rocks or in mixed drinks.
So with that it´s time to drink!
Witch Doctor (recipe by Geoffrey Wilson)
1 oz By the Dutch Batavia Arrak
1 oz Smith & Cross Jamaican rum
0.5 oz basil syrup
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
Top with soda
Basil for garnish cut in stripes (chiffonade)
Shake the ingredients together except the soda. Pour into a tall glass and top with soda, then add chiffonade basil for garnish and if you wish, a tropical orchid.
One thing this drink has is pronounced arrack and rum flavors and at the same time it´s refreshing due to the fresh lime, basil and soda. The drink is slightly earthy and herbal and it´s delicious.
And here´s a take on the Painkiller:
Batavia Pain Killer
4 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz orange juice
1 oz Coco Real or Lopez cream of coconut
1 oz By the Dutch Batavia Arrak
1 oz Pusser`s Rum
Shake with plenty of crushed ice and pour unstrained into a tall glass or tiki mug. Dust with nutmeg and garnish with pineapple leaves. And a float of Cruzan Blackstrap can only do good…..
Since there´s quite a bit of juice in this the arrack flavor is less pronounced but it´s there, mingling in the middle and the drink is quietly doing it`s job!
Final thoughts – I find this product to be as nice as I thought it would be, I love the funkiness it adds to cocktails and even though I haven`t made it on the rocks here i`m sure that tastes good too. I can recommend trying this out!
Elixir Tropical is a tropical cocktail created by Maurizio La Spina, made for the 2017 Bacardi Legacy Competition and the south European final will be held on the 27 and 28 February in Madrid.
The inspiration of the cocktail comes from one simply question : What really is a“tropical cocktail”? – it would be an elixir with the power to bring your mind to a tropical island. It is a celebration of the great golden age of Cuban cocktails and a tribute for the keystone of tropical mixology “the Daiquiri”.
Maurizio La Spina is a bartender / Italian entrepreneur, born in 1984 in Naples, one of the most famous cities in the world for the hospitality and the food, he studied economics and interior design and in the meantime to fund his studies began working in the bar of a beach, and there he fell in love with bartending, public relations and tropical cocktails.
So he decided to leave his studies to devote himself full time to the art of bartending and then began to study, train and work in the best cocktail bar in his city and eventually much of Italy, from in the “S’Move cocktail bar” of Naples up to the “Billionaire” in Sardinia.
During a seminar on Tiki Culture with Daniele Dalla Pola Maurizio literally received an illumination and decided to get deeper into tropical and tiki drink mixing and created a project called “The Marama Project” that still unites many bartenders and Italian artists in dedicated events and also to the tropical tiki idea and creates its own Tiki mug-line with Neapolitan artist /ceramist Catherine Cioce who has since founded a small company with handmade production of Tiki mugs called “Maka Tiki“.
A few weeks ago Maurizio managed to pass the semi-finals of the National Bacardi Global Legacy Cocktail competition in 2017, and February 27 will be in Madrid for the southern Europe final with his drink called “Elixir Tropical” which is a tribute to the Most Holy Trinity, the “Daiquiri “- keystone of the whole tropical mixing and a celebration of the great golden age of Cuba.
Today he works in his training school for bartender’s in Naples as a teacher and continues to study rum and tropical and tiki drinks.
It was through the gorgeous tiki mugs from the “Marama project” that I came in contact with Maurizio, I fell in love with the distinct style and design of these tiki mugs with all the details they have, and more of these mugs will come up on this blog later.
Here´s the recipe of the Elixir Tropical:
60 ml Bacardi carta blanca
20 ml fresh lime juice
20 ml orgeat syrup
7,5 ml Luxardo Maraschino Liquor
2 mint leaves
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake and strain into a cocktail coupe and dust some fresh nutmeg on top.
I keep my thumbs for Maurizio in the Bacardi Legacy!
This is like a candy-bag for spirited grown ups!
Do you want to know about FINE drinking and lifestyles? there´s a new bar magazine coming out of Athens, it´s called Fine Drinking and it takes you on a very interesting journey in the spirited world…
When I got these magazines I was pleasantly surprised….the mag is like a book! it´s really thick and the quality is superb both in the design, layout and content. The layout I think very well reflects the playful style of where it comes from….it´s very much “Baba au Rum“! It`s a quarterly printed edition about cocktail and bar culture as well as travelling. There´s also other reviews made of this fine magazine, for example on “Adventures of the Barstalker” which is a very fun and informative blog to read!
Fine Drinking is also a coffee table publication with high-end aestetics and timeless texts in both english and greek, a magazine that reserach and present an exciting international bar and drinking industry and culture and the type of publication you will want to save and keep. The brain behind it is Thanos Prunarus, a bartender since 18 years and the owner of the famous Baba au Rum bar in Athens and author of the bar and cocktail book “handcrafted”.
If you have been to Baba au Rum you will feel very familiar with the style of this magazine since it has the “Baba” look and feel to it despite the many different contributors from various places, because some places just happens to have that special feel about them that makes you feel at home right away and Baba au Rum is one of those places, it got some “magic” to it…and that is transformed also into this magazine in some way…maybe it´s the playful desgin…?
Or maybe because it`s informative, fun and entertaing as well as very varied because the topics talks about a lot of different things like the bar scenes in various places (like Oslo for example in an article writtten by Thanos Prunarus and Alexandra Barstalker) to “The mystery of cocktail bitters”and how to make Baba au Rum`s own Bergamot bitters (by Thanos) to “The Peruvain bark that conquered Europe” (by Francois Monti) and “From the West Indies to the World” (by Nikos Arvanitis) just to name a very few….
I also feel very honored to see my own article about the colorful history of the tiki drink Chief Lapu Lapu in issue no 2, as well as getting my contribution the “Mariner Daiquiri” for the Baba au Rum`s International Daiquiri Challenge 2016 among the ten finalists, published in issue no 1.
So far there`s two issues published and you can find them in various places and bars and events in Europe – for example even the central train station here in Stockholm has it! but if you can`t find it you can write to email@example.com and subscribe.
I myself not going to miss any issues of it! I also believe the Fine Drinking can become a collectors item with time….because it´s very original and beautiful! something to kick back with on the sofa with a daiquiri in hand…or bring along on a trip maybe? and it sure does has it place on your coffee table or bar!
Because FINE Drinking is….
And more cocktails!!
Update – no 3 is out now!
Subscribe – firstname.lastname@example.org
One more left to complete the title – FINE 🙂
The rum genie in a bottle!
And finally….finally the holy grail (or one of the grails) and wet dream of rum landed in my hands…..the Skeldon. The true genie in a bottle that can make magic is not a genie….it´s a rum!
The 1973 Skeldon, is a 32 year old rum from Guyana (abv 60.5%) by the independent bottler Velier and which over the years has earned a cult status among rum connaisseurs and collectors. Unavailable nowadays as far as I know unless you are lucky to score a sample somewhere or even a big bottle maybe, if your pocket is as deep as this rum…..
On the back of the label it says “aged 32 years in tropical weather” “Produced 544 bottles”. The angels share (the contents in the barrel evaporating over time) which concentrates the flavors, color and viscosity, must be something like 75-80%.
It´s a very long time I have wanted to try the Skeldon 73 and 78 (years) and finally my turn has come to be able to try the 1973 expression. I have a firm belief that the good rums sooner or later eventually comes to those who truly appreciates them……This little sample is to me as precious a treasure as a treasure box in all it`s glory…and this might be Luca´s very best rum ever. My mind goes to the best I know of and have tried of the rums from Velier, the UF30E – which I find incredible, will this one be as good or better or can they even compare? I`m sure not….they gotta be very different rums.
I take a look at the little sample bottle…the rum in there has a dark brownish color with hues of deep red…yes red, a pronounced dark deep red…and when I take pics of it in the glass it shows even purple hues…like a dark red purplish tinted wine…amazing.
The history of this rum goes back to the Skeldon sugar plantation which was established between 1802 – 1834 by William Ross on the far east part of Guyana, or more exactly, on the west bank of the Corentyne river, near the border of Suriname. From what I read on the pictures of the labels both the 73 and 78 was distilled in a coffey still in 1973 and bottled in 2005, so makes 32 long tropical years – but exactly where it was distilled I´m not sure…..since the Skeldon facility closed down in 1960. But during the last decade stills have been moved from one distillery to another and most likely the Skeldon still and it`s marques were moved to Uitvlught.
Ah… some of the mysteries of the old Guyana sugar plantations and their stills…will we ever know? I think not…and maybe that’s the best because when the magic is gone it´s gone…so let it remain…
And in true “Gargano manner”, Luca Gargano found the last barrels of it…(4 barrels!) – just like he found all those forgotten Caroni barrels in a warehouse at the defunct distillery on Trinidad …. and the 1980 Damoiseau…which was considered to not be “any good” since it contained a bit of molasses….(or it was rejected by the AOC) but Luca sensing a hidden gem bought almost the entire stock and and in 2002 released it at cask strength and that my friends was the beginning of the Velier era. Damosieu held back some of that rum which they released later at the same strength, probably taking notice Luca was on to something.
Luca is like the ultimate “rum finder” in the rum world…it seems that he just knows where the precious stuff is….and he transforms them into true gems of pure rums, all tropically aged and very unique, every expression is a one of a kind. When these rums are gone it`s an era that will be over.
That said, luckily for us, there`s also new rums in the making, for example the very interesting and unique Clairin rums from Haiti issued by Velier and the fabulous pure single rums from Habitation Velier which is a collaboration between Luca Gargano and the best producers of pot still rums. Also the Foursquare distillery has come out with some remarkable rums in collaboration with Velier like the single blend “Foursquare 2006” (a blend of pot still rum and twin column Coffey still rum from one distillery) – which sold out within just a few hours after it´s release….yeah….to some sort of collective chock among serious rum enthusiasts making it´s ripples through social media, it was just gone – and nope this girl didn`t score a bottle…but I scored a sample.
But back to the legendary old Skeldon…
So in an attempt to describe the taste notes of this rum from my notes made on an envelope as they came paired with the notes I got when I re-tasted it a few days later:
Nose – first hint – I first got something medical in my nose which gave way to liqorice…followed by musky dark prunes and black fruits, burnt molasses, leather, cocoa and tar…then mature tropical fruits, hint of banana peel, old wood, whiffs of caramel and slight hints of dark dark coffee…it´s a “dark” rum and I`m not talking about the color now but dark fruits and dark “stuff” and the nose is very very deep…
Taste – Hands down unbelievable, an explosion of flavors going out in all directions, but it`s balanced, complex and multi layered, so several tastings is needed. There´s charred wood, mashed tropical fruits, prunes and dark plums…liqorice, tobacco, tar and leather, black cherries…absolutely incredible and so deep and rich and full! It has kick but no burn…there is nothing that is unpleasant, nothing at all, it´s like a fine orchestra handling even the wildest and heaviest notes in full balance with both elegance, attitude and originality, it´s that exquisite.
It´s a heavy rum and strong, but the high proof is not difficult to handle.
Finsh – One thing surprised me, the long finish! it´s epic….!!! After I took my first small sips I decided to check the clock and see how long the finish stayed. After 30 minutes I said to myself, ok, this is long….and I`m impressed….but my dinner was ready so I decided to cut it and have my meal. I could always take the time again at the next session. After the meal and a lot of water – hints of the aftertaste was STILL there! incredible! and that has never happened to me before.
I also decided to do a glass-smell-test, by leaving the tasting glass unwashed and see for how long the smell of the rum stayed in it…something only a geek would do…well, it`s been three days and the smell or shall we say fragrance? is still there but today all of a sudden, I detect more buttery notes of caramel…
What a rum! it shows how a really excellent rum can be…and what the potential is…between two rums there can not only be “another world” it can truly be a whole other universe! in my opinion, this kind of rum can rival or equal anything of the best of anything in the spirits world. And the best thing is, there is nothing added to it, it`s just pure rum!
And last I want to thank the opportunity to officially thank my friend Lance for making it possible for me to try this wonder of a rum and also providing the pics of the big bottle and the pic of the back of the label. I want to add that he has what to me is the very best of all rum blogs, the “Lone Caner” containing an incredible amount of excellent reviews.
Another excellent source which is the most complete and in-detail writing on the history of the rums, sugar plantations and stills of Guyana where I have found lots of valuable information is the Barrel Aged Mind.
“The first Lady Drink competition took place in 1996 in Perugia. It is still a unique competition as in any other countries, until nowadays, there isn`t an event like this” – These are the words of the founder of the event, Danilo Bellucci. In the past 20 years he has been taking care of the organization and the selection of the competitors.
In the past years Lady Drink aimed to reward the excellences in the bartending world. More and more often in Cocktail bars, we find numerous barladies and professionals constantly increasing along with creativity. That’s why every year a bigger and bigger number of bar ladies not only decide to dedicate their passion to study and improve themselves but send their recipes to the Lady Drink competition who is meeting a rising challenge in selecting what they believe are the most innovative ones.
The Lady Drink is the most important European competition for Bar Ladies and celebrated it´s 20th year Anniversary this year at the competition at Excelsior Palace Hotel in Rapallo, Italy on oct 17.
Rapallo is a charming little town near Portofino on the north-west coast of Italy. The Excelsior Palace Hotel offers some of the best views you can imagine…you have the whole sea right in front of your balcony!
Before the competition started we had a half day off and went on a tour to Portofino and had coffee at a little cafè in the harbour right at the water´s edge and all the boats, and we took a steep walk up to the church on top to see all the stunning views of the sea and the cliffs from two sides and to do some souvenir shopping on the way. The Portofino area is just stunning with amazing views around every corner you turn and I can really recommend a trip there.
Back at the hotel, it was time for lunch and then getting ready for the competition which also had masterclasses by the sponsoring brands. In the competition were 40 contestants that had 7 minutes each to create 3 each of their cocktails…which then was presented to us at the judging table to evaluate until there were only two contestants left.
It was so fun to see so much creativity and to try their cocktails from which only one could be the winner…it`s not easy to beat 39 others and there were more than one great cocktail in the bunch! …so not so easy to judge either. There´s many aspects to look at and think about and at the same time you cannot be too slow because the cocktails keep coming!
I saw so many creative presentations but the taste and the overall impression also has to live up to the beautiful presentation…and I think the winner lived up to all aspects of a great tasty cocktail without beeing too sweet or too anything! it was just perfect balance and innovative beautiful garnish fit for the cocktail and the theme.
L’ American è Don Raffaè
Here`s the winning cocktail created by Bello Ilaria (Bar Talea di Tor Vaianica (RM)
The text on the note in Italian is the quote from a song by De André, that says “you like Campari or want the coffee”? They are 2 of the ingredients of the drink and the title of the song la Don Raffaè. The quote on the note makes the whole drink theme with how it tasted even better! just excellent! and very creative!
L’ American è Don Raffaè
2cl Red Vermouth Carlo Alberto
2cl bitter Campari
1cl China Martini
1,5cl Patron XO Caffè
O,5 Bitter Cioccolato (Bittermen`s Xocolatl Mole)
Congratualtions to the winner! and cheers to all the contestants! Here`s a little picture parade of the contest, the hotel and beautiful Portofino:
Excelsior Palace Hotel, Rapallo
The view from the terrace at the beautiful Excelsior Palace Hotel where the contest was held.
This hotel was built in 1901.
From my balcony…
The Lady Drink Competition:
Stage is ready for the contestants…
And so are we…(me on the right and on the left, Laura Marnich (Zuma bar, Dubai) the third judge, Elizaveta Evdokimova (Moscow) is unf missing in this picture)
Getting ready to work…
And it`s on!
And the drinks start coming in, so much creativity!
So many beautiful drinks!
Speaker and co-organizer of the contest, Gianni Merenda and one of the ladies preparing her three cocktails.
And in the end…the two finalists….out of 40 cocktails, where the L’ American è Don Raffaè won…
The winner, Bello Ilaria with the founder of the event (on the right) Danilo Bellucci.
The harbour in Portofino
They say the emerald waters in this area comers from the deep cliffs underwater creating layers of light…
This is so mediterranian….
Portofino seen from the church on top.
Wild cliffs and sea on the other side.
And last…yet another view from the hotel in Rapallo, sunrise on the last day and time to leave this beautiful place. Thank you Lady Drink and Italy for having me! hope to come back.
It was a very long time ago I wrote about gin even though i`ve used it here and there in my tiki cocktails but it`s rare, so it´s time for some tiki libations again that contains gin….and the gin I pick for this post is Martin Miller`s.
When i first tasted Martin Miller´s gin years ago I found it had a special flavor and I really like it, it has a smooth and a bit earthy-bitter juniper flavour paired with an overall pleasant spicinress and slightly bright citrus and herbal flavours in between.
This is the gin that uses pure soft glacier water from Iceland because this water is said to be cleaner, softer and full of life force. I find that pretty amazing that they actually ship the gin all the way to Iceland! There its blended with more neutral spirit and glacier water, then its shipped away again. There´s no doubt that this is very soft clean water.
As for steeping the herbs and spices the old traditional methods are used where the botanicals are steeped overnight in spirit and hot water and this gentle maceration is what is needed to create a premium gin.The dried citrus peels are also separately distilled in order to achieve a brighter citrus flavour.
The dried bitter seville orange rind is the most important botanical after juniper in gin making and personally I love the bright seville orange flavour – it has such a refreshing aromatic aroma.In Martin Miller`s gin lemon and lime rinds are also used.
These are the botanicals used as far as i know, surely there are some secrets too…
Juniper, seville orange, lime, lemon, coriander, angelica, liqorice root, cassia bark and to bind it all together and impart a floral aromatic flavour – Florentine iris.
The alcohol must be re-distilled and made from grains of the highest quality, there´s a lot of herbs, spices, roots and citrus peels involved which are picked from all over the globe and individually treated. The distillation is a whole process of its own. Martin Miller`s gin is distilled by a single pot still (as opposed to most gin`s using three pots) using only the heart of the distillate.This single pot still is called Angela and was made in 1904.
What I`m using here is Martin Miller`s traditional gin (40%) and the Westbourne Strength (45.2%) I like their freshness and that`s also why it´s one of my favorite gins, goes well in tiki drinks together with other rums and mixers.
As for gin in tiki drinks in general I think it can make really tasty tiki drinks and one of the tastiest I`ve had is the “Outcast of the islands“, a refreshing ice cone adorned libation which you can find at Jeff Berry`s Latitude 29, one of the best tiki bars on this planet.
0.5 oz fresh lemon juice
0.5 oz passionfruit syrup
0.25 oz falernum
0.25 oz orgeat
1 1/4 oz Martin Miller`s gin
Float Rational Spirits 141 Cuban or other good floating rum!
Put it all in a blender and blend until smooth with 8 oz crushed ice, pour unstrained into a suitable glass and fill up with more crushed ice if needed (originally it was a pilsner or other tall glass but I used a snifter….bec I love them! This is a take on the Saturn found in Jeff Berry`s Total Tiki App, the original drink was made by J “Popo” Galsini in 1967 and awarded Popo at that year`s IBA World Cocktail Championship in Majorca.
Pololu Nui – a little potent mix of Martin Miller`s Westbourne Strength Gin, Jamaican and overproof rums, fresh pineapple, Creme de Cacao, Coco Real and Curacao… spiced up with a heap of fragrant ground cinnamon….served in Jeff Berry`s Latitude 29 Coco mug! And while Ku from the Floating Rum Shack carrying a pineapple on his head is laughing i`m drinking!
The original Pololu was made by Dr Bamboo and was a take on the good ole Painkiller…The name Pololu Nui means “the big Pololu” in this case “big in proof” with Martin Miller`s Westbourne strength gin and the overproof rum float combo.
2 oz Martin Miller`s Westbourne Strength Gin
1 oz Appleton Extra Jamaican rum
2 oz fresh pineapple juice
0.5 oz Ferrand Dry Curacao
0.5 oz Creme de cacao
0.5 oz Coco Real Cream of Coconut or Lopez
1.25 oz fresh lime juice
Hamilton 151 rum to float
Shake everything except cinnamon with ice and strain into a glass or tiki mug.
Add a generous float Hamilton 151 on top and dust with a heap of cinnamon powder and garnish with something tropical.
I hope you like these drinks as much as I did!