The Miami Rum Festival!! (part 2)

This posting is completely different from any other I have written – no recipes, no pictures, essentially a list of rums and nothing more.  This installment of the luxurious time I spent at the Miami Rum Festival has to do with the rums I experienced, and my immediate and brief thoughts on them.  Out of the large roster, some rums I knew of very well, some I have on my shelves at home, some I have heard of, some I have not, and a special few bottles I have waited a long time to see.  I did not taste every single rum, nor stopped at every booth, either because I knew enough, or simply did not have enough time.  Also, I did not taste every rum at each booth for the sheer reason of keeping my head and not getting so inebriated I could not discern fact from fiction.  I had to resort to near blasphemy:  Throwing into the trash an exquisite rum time after time so that I would not ingest every drop of rum I took in hand.

One of my regrets was not taking a picture of every rum I visited (or revisited).  After all, sometimes seeing a bottle with the brand’s label on it makes the description more conspicuous.  For that I apologize.  Click here to go to the festival’s website listing of rum bottle images.  I also wished I would have taken more pictures of the grand view of it all.

On my festival program, I kept track of each rum I tasted by rating it (the ranking is between 0 & 4), whether I would buy the rum (or better yet – “will” buy, or without a doubt – “MUST” buy…in a way ranking the rum in another fashion), and finally a few words to differentiate each from one another.  Below resembles what I wrote in my program, but with more words and less symbols.

Abuelo 7 year – 3 – makes a lovely mojito, I will buy this  (for the record – on Trade day, the vivacious woman working the Abuelo booth in my mind won Queen of the Festival)

Appleton Estate 12 year – 3 – maybe too good for cocktails, at which the Reserve excels (did not taste the Reserve since I vigilantly maintain a hardworking bottle at home)

Bayou Silver – 1 – would require bold flavors in a cocktail

Bayou Spiced – 1.5 – not often do I prefer a brand’s spiced rum over its silver, but not much better

Botran Reserva Blanca – 3 – nice mixing rum, and pleasant neat – I will buy this

Botran Solera 1893 – 2.5 – makes a wide variety of cocktails better – I would buy this

Brugal Blanco – 3 – a tasty white rum – I would buy this

Caliche – .5 – did not care much for this, nor appreciate the neglect by the booth (shared by other Puerto Rican rums who refused to sample) – they were late, ill-prepared, and did not wish to help people learn about them – these rums lost a customer

Centenario Añejo Espacial 7 year – (from Costa Rica) – 2.5 – I’d only want to drink this tasty rum neat – I would buy this

Diplomatico Añejo – 3 – way too good for my mixing needs, maybe as a treat – I would buy this

Don Q Cristal – 2 – separate from the group of Puerto Rican rums, I enjoyed my visit to this booth – nice clean white rum, and versatile – I would buy this

Don Q Gold – 2 – pretty good gold rum

Don Q Coco – 1 – super sweet, sugary more than coconut flavor

Don Q Passion – 3 – a lovely rum, and made a dynamite cocktail, would work with many recipes – I will buy this

Dos Maderas 5+3 years – 3 – delicious mixing rum, made a fantastic punch – I will buy this

Dzama Cuvée Blanche 40 – 4 – Good grief this rum is good, rare to give a white rum a 4.0 – wishing to drink this white rum neat, and the one below only with cocktails – not only would I buy this, I MUST buy this (too bad I could not buy at the festival)

Dzama Cuvée Blanche Prestige 80 – 3.5 – a fantastic white rum, would make perfect cocktails – I will buy this

Dzama Vanilla Amber 30 – 3.5 – probably the best vanilla rum flavor I have ever tasted, such a strong pronunciation of vanilla – I will buy this

El Dorado 8 year – 2.5 – a big fan of the 12 year, this almost tasted like fruit not yet ripe, good…but not at the level of excellence as the 12 – I would buy this

El Dorado 12 year – 4 – this rum is incredibly hard to beat, so good, so versatile, so bold – don’t know why I tasted this when I’m very familiar, but couldn’t resist – I will buy this for years to come, a constant on my shelf at home

El Dorado 15 year – 2.5 – too good for cocktails, almost as if its quality is lost on me – I’ve heard of this in cocktails, but hadn’t tasted it, now that I have, either my palate is too juvenile, or I disagree – my rating does not justify this fine rum

English Harbour 5 year – 3 – I really enjoyed tasting this for the first time, I could do many things mixing this – I would buy this

English Harbour Reserve 10 year – 2 – an excellent rum, too good for cocktails

Flor de Caña 7 year – 4 – I have waited a long time to try this year, the anticipation worth the reputation – I DID buy this (at a Miami liquor store down the street)

Gosling’s Gold – 3.5 – the Dark n Stormy is one of my favorite drinks, which of course is only made with Gosling’s Dark Seal – they made one more with their gold rum…delicious – I will buy this

Goslings Old Rum – 1.5 – where the Black Seal is versatile for me, the Old Rum is better off neat than mixing

Koloa White (excuse the spelling, I could not create a link with an ō) – 2 – not that an astringent flavor is necessarily bad every time, extremely clean in every other way, a resourceful white rum – I might buy this

Kōloa Gold – 2 – almost exactly like the white, but with more flavor aside from the astringency – I liked the white better though

Kōloa Spice – 1.5 – just like the first two, strong astringency as the foremost over-distracting flavor, leaving little room for spices

Kōloa Dark – 3 – pure vanilla flavor, yet astringent like the first three rums – I liked this rum very much – I might buy this

Kōloa Coconut – 4 – likely the best coconut rum I have ever tasted – was told by one of the owners (what’s his name – find card) they infuse for 2 years, long enough to completely obliterate any astringency…completely free of it, 100% coconut – I MUST buy this

Lost Spirits Navy Style Rum – 2 – pretty dry, pretty hot (68%) – thought it would make a good mixing rum

Ron Medellin 3 year – 3 – I liked this rum and saw it making lots of cocktails – I would buy this

Ron Medellin 8 year – 2.5 – less likely to mix with cocktails unless not the main rum, rather a background rum – seemed more like a neat drinking rum

Mount Gay 1703 – 4 – I can’t think of any better rum for appreciating neat, even large ice might insult how good this rum tasted – a sin if mixed – a treat for special occasions – I definitely would buy this

Papa’s Pilar Dark – 3 – rich and friendly, ready for a long list of cocktails, as well as mixing with other rums – I DID buy this

Plantation Guyana 2005 – 3.5 – delicious – for both mixing and neat, but I’d want to mix everything with this – I really want to buy this

Plantation Trinidad 1999 – 3.5 – Good grief this was good, tasted like an agricole, lovely balance of many flavors – I DID buy this

Plantation Original Dark – 3 – delicious, tasted like what the rep. said, “The overproof is 100% the flavor, this is a lighter version.” – I could mix so many drinks with this – I would buy this

Plantation Original Dark Overproof – 3.5 – way better than the Original Dark, like drinking the real this – at 73%…it’s a hot one – I DID buy this

Plantation 3 Stars White – 3 – a lovely white rum, it could do almost anything – I would buy this

Real McCoy 3 year White – 1.5 – I didn’t care for this one as much – seemed limited to what it might make

Real McCoy 5 year – 2 – better than the White, opening more possibilities for various recipes

Rum Fire (White Overproof) – .5 – like it was supposed to special simply because it could be hot, but nothing special about it

Tanduay Silver – 3 – one of my favorite white rums at the festival, one I would think would become one of my all-time favorite whites – I would very much like to buy this

Tiburon – 1.5 – I was disappointed with this one, hoping for it – the flavor did not call to me

Viejo de Caldas 3 year – (from Columbia by Industria Licorere de Caldas) – 3 – I particularly liked this rum, and could smell it all day – so many things this could do with all kinds of drinks – I liked it better than the Grand Reserva – I would love to buy this

Viejo de Caldas Grand Reserva – 2.5 – a bit more sophisticated, and better suited drinking neat, but still would make excellent drinks (just not as many) – I would buy this

Zafra 21 year – (from Panama) – 3.5 – very impressed with this new rum, did I hear correctly they started in 2009, and already had rum aging? – if so, in my opinion the best new rum not only of the festival, but perhaps the best new rum start I have ever tasted – nonetheless, not a mixing rum, only suited for neat imbibing – I would buy this

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Spindrift

Once again under the guidance of the Beachbum (from Remixed), I whipped up a batch of Spindrift Jr.’s for my wife and I, preferring the smaller scale to the larger original version.  However, even though the recipe sounded clearly better, not simply for its complexity, but for the abundance of flavor, my biggest challenge came when failing to find a favorable shaped glass for the Spindrift’s much larger amount.  Although I do not yet have a large snifter, a tall beer glass will have to do – either that or the huge pickle jar I use for infusing, which would of course be silly (but not absolutely out of the question).

I saw some passion fruit at the grocery store, and decided to make some fresh syrup.  Upon extracting the juice from around the seeds, very similar to pomegranate, for some reason I was surprised how tart it tasted.  Up until that point, passion fruit juice had always tasted sweet, meaning I was ignorantly surprised how much better and pure the juice tasted.  Why would this surprise me after all the harping I practice in pronouncing how much better fresh juice is to concentrate/frozen/manufactured products?  The robust passion fruit declared itself incomparable, and bolder than any attempt otherwise, from now on dragging me from Plato’s pitch-black cave into the light.

Normally I use containerized juice, prefer paying for shipping to get the Ceres brand, but am not above using Welch’s nowhere-near attempt – when the supermarket has it on its shelves.  It is simply a fact of life:  Sometimes it is difficult finding passion fruit juice.  Making your own juice takes a bit of time to prepare, yet far less time if you’re unable to find any purchasable juice, and above all worth tasting at least once.  Seriously, even if you buy one passion fruit, just one, and are able to get less than a half an ounce of juice – it is worth it.

To make passion fruit syrup:  Cut the passion fruit in half with a sharp knife (worse than a tomato – the skin defends against slicing), then scoop out the fruit into a wire mesh strainer.  Mash the fruit to break the membrane surrounding the seeds, or the use of a blender on slow speed, careful not to harm the seeds themselves.  The membrane is pretty resilient, and will require a good share of elbow grease if mashing with a spoon.  Please remember to scrape off the bottom of the strainer.  Doesn’t passion fruit smell great?  Next, stir some fresh simple syrup with the juice in a sauce pan on medium heat, warming the mixture together without boiling for a couple minutes, seeing steam rise.  Or make the simple syrup in the pan with the juice, which is a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water – or 2:1 if wishing to make “rich simple syrup.”  Please remember – “rich” means very sweet.  Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature, approximately twenty minutes.

This post is about a drink, not a fruit; yet the fruit can clearly make the drink, if not make it better.  Fresh lemon juice is a must, there is no substitute.  I would say the same about orange juice.  Some oranges simply do not taste as good if they are not in season.  That does not mean I will ever choose concentrate over freshly squeezed.  I squeezed a couple oranges, and used the peel (along with the lemon) for a pleasant bouquet.  Jamaican and demerara rums go very well together with their independently rich flavors and complexities.  I think the vanilla and passion fruit stand as the true character of this drink.  I was tempted to make a strong syrup from a vanilla bean, but did not want to tamper with the undeniable strength and straight-forward essence of the extract, or over-reach with sweetness.  As it is, the Spindrift is very well-balanced between tartness and sweetness.

If this drink sounds too big, or the combined ounces of rum sound too much for a work night, split it with a loved-one, or make a friend.  There’s nothing in the rule book about straining a Spindrift into a pitcher for two.

Spindrift

Spindrift
3 oz fresh orange juice
2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz passion fruit syrup
3/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz dark Jamaican rum (Coruba)
1 1/2 oz demerara rum (El Dorado)
1 oz light Puerto Rican rum (Bacardi)
20 oz crushed ice (2 1/2 cups)

Blend for 10 seconds, pour unstrained into a large, chilled snifter.  Garnish with orange and lemon wheel, and if you freshly made the syrup – a spent half shell of passion fruit.

Tahitian Knockout

I have a passion for travel, whether in my region or country, or the vastness of our planet.  An enormous thrill to travel to the Pacific and all her islands:  Tahiti (and Moorea…not Moria), Bora Bora, Fiji, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, the Samoa Islands (all on the top of the list), all of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia – if I could I would visit every island.  If I could choose which to visit first, I want to go to Tahiti most.

I’ve had different Tahitian punches, some were good, but some were not so good, instead tasting ordinary, like any rum would replace another, and the same with juices.  The Tahitian Punch does not have a fill-in-the-blank recipe, and deserves respect.  I was thinking about writing about a few recipes, sort of like a taste test type of thing, but decided against it after I bought the last ingredient in the recipe below.  I finally got my hands on Coruba rum.

If you are unfamiliar with honey cream, it is easy to make, but has a ticking clock attached to it.  If it cools too much, it will harden, and shatter when shaken with ice, then float…an understandably undesirable result, and causing an emotional response when looking down into the glass – precisely the opposite effect you want when looking at your drink.  The goal is creaminess, a taste sensation of both flavor and texture.  You want to control the butter, making it work for you, and in the end an enjoyable instrument for the drink.  Boiling butter is not the goal either, as it will separate on itself.  Simply warm the three together in a microwave, slowly, or if you prefer in a small pan on the stove, just as long as there’s not too much heat.  So you’ll need to make this just a little before shake time.  Papa Jules cooks his honey cream every night at his Mahiki nightclub in London.  His recipe is equal parts butter (no salt kind), honey and brown sugar.

And in case you don’t want to hunt down the definition, Toere means “drum” in the Tahitian language, and I’ve heard it is pronounced “toe-eddy”.  If that is correct, it seems reasonable with the “rolling R” mechanic, and perhaps a percussive quality.

One last thing, I floated orange juice, not an overproof rum, nor a dark rum – but juice.  I have never heard of anyone doing this, and probably am “doing it wrong” by choosing this technique.  In my defense, I chose orange juice as a garnish, not a mixed ingredient, mostly for the scent of smell.  In many Tahitian Punch recipes with orange juice as an ingredient, this time I did not want an orange flavor, but its aroma…that is if orange juice truly defines this specific punch.

Toere

Toere
dash of Maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
3/4 oz passion fruit juice
1/2 oz Don's Mix*
1/2 oz Jules' Honey Cream**
1/4 oz Bärenjäger
3/4 oz light rum (Mount Gay Eclipse)
3/4 oz demerara rum (El Dorado 12 year)
1/2 oz dark Jamaican rum (Coruba)
dash of Peychaud's bitters
splash of fresh orange juice

Chill double old-fashioned glass.  Season the interior surface of the glass with Maraschino, then discard.  Shake rest of ingredients with crushed ice.  Pour unstrained into glass.  Float orange juice.  Garnish with spent orange wedge and a lime wedge (pineapple too, but I didn’t have any at the time I made the drink).

*Don’s Mix:  2 parts grapefruit juice with a half part cinnamon infused simple syrup..

**Jules’ Honey Cream:  Equal parts butter, honey and brown sugar.