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

A wiki with Wray and Nephew

For those of you who are new to this site (or for those who’ve visited before and haven’t understood), I do not use the term “wiki” to mean an encyclopedic website, or even the play on the Hawaiian term “wikiwiki” (quick).  My wiki is equivalent to week, just changing the spelling in hopes of sounding a little Hawaiian.  I know…I didn’t ever say I was clever.

A lot of people have never heard of J. Wray & Nephew’s overproof rum.  A lot of people who have hate it for its “kerosene” or “gasoline” impression on their taste buds.  Yet, a lot of people really like this rum, including myself.  One of the best ways to taste Wray & Nephew is to mix it with Ting, a lovely grapefruit pop also from Jamaica (Ting is one of the best, if you can’t find it, any grapefruit pop would work closely enough).  I felt like something different – while in the mood for this rum, I made a week of drinks.

Monday:  Windward Daiquiri is like the Papa Doble, substituting Maraschino for falernum. Windward Daiquiri

Windward Daiquiri
1 oz Wray & Nephew overproof 
3/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice 
1/2 oz fresh lime juice 
1/4 oz simple syrup 
1/4 oz falernum 
1 cup shaved ice

Shake liquids with ice, and strain into pre-chilled glass filled with shaved ice, preferably a glass with a stem.  Garnish with lime and grapefruit peels, twisting over drink.  Note:  I understand ice might seem unnecessarily over-used, discarding the shaken ice, discarding the pre-chilling ice, and only drink from the shaved ice in the served drink.  The danger is the water from melted ice:  water second-handedly added by shaking with ice, because the liquids are not ice-cold, unless wiping out the inside of the glass from pre-chilling – a small amount of water will reside before shaved ice is added, then finally shaved ice melting rather quickly.  All the trouble is to keep the drink cold for that crucial span of moments your body heat rampages through your fingers into the glass.  Meanwhile, the shaved ice slows the act of drinking, unless of course you eat the shaved ice like a snow cone.

Tuesday:  The Jamaican Sunburn is sweeter than it sounds, thanks to muddling a lemon wedge, giving it a wholesome aspect, where simply juicing a lemon would leave you wanting.  I tried both – juice only, and muddling with the peal, and liked both, but preferred the muddling flavor much better.  By the way, please do not fret – the drink in the image below is not red at all, rather should have at least a reddening.  I apologize for this, my cranberry juice was a bit bleached, and barely red at all.  I honestly do prefer fresh ingredients…it’s just…some ingredients I cannot squeeze or prepare myself, and lay in wait for opening.  Regardless, I will do better next time.

Jamaican Sunburn

Sip slowly, or you’ll get burnt and you won’t even know it …unless of course that’s the whole point.

Jamaican Sunburn
lemon wedge
1/4 oz vanilla syrup
2 oz cranberry juice
1 oz Wray & Nephew

Muddle lemon wedge and syrup well.  Fill serving glass 3/4 with crushed ice, then dump into shaker with all ingredients.  Shake fiercely (really make an effort and shake with power & speed).  Pour everything into your glass, adding more crushed ice to fill (if needed).  The muddled lemon wedge might serve as garnish (if so and it is submerged, fish it up to the surface – or if you want more, skewered lemon peel and cranberries would doll this drink up smartly).

Wednesday:  For those molasses fans, this just might blow your hair back.  Anyone ever see the movie or watch the play, Harvey?  That is a hint to one of my inspirations for this drink.Púca

Púca
1/2 oz Kraken
1 oz Wray & Nephew overproof
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz orange curaçao
3/4 oz molasses mix*
2 dashes Angostura bitters

*Molasses mix is 1/2 molasses 1/2 hot water.

Shake ingredients with ice, double-strain into chilled glass. Add large chunk of ice (as to keep cold, but melting slowly, thereby not diluting the drink’s flavor – I used a Tovolo King Cube Jumbo-Size Silicone Ice-Cube Tray to make 2 inch sized cubes).  Garnish with mint, smacking the leaves to express the oils in the leaves, but not too much – just a hint of mint aroma.

Thursday:  A williwaw is a sudden violent, cold, katabatic gust of compressed wind, specifically descending from a mountainous coast to a sea, which sometimes reaches speeds well over 120 knots (roughly 180mph/220kph) – a particular threat for vessels attempting to sail around Cape Horn.  I read a good book by Dallas Murphy a while back called, Rounding the Horn, which was where I first heard about williwaws. Williwaw

Williwaw
1 oz Wray & Nephew overproof
1/2 oz Coruba dark
2 oz POG
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
two dashes Peychaud's bitters
8 oz ice

Blend all ingredients in blender for 2 seconds.  Pour into a chilled glass.  Garnish with lime.

Friday:  Hoban “Wash” Washburn, played by Alan Tudyk, was my favorite character on the science fiction television series, Firefly, which the FOX Network should not have cancelled (I repeat…should not have cancelled), let alone before the first season had completed.  The show was chock-full of adventurous, albeit archetypal, characters, and well-acted, which is no small compliment from me.  Yet, Wash stood out even more, perhaps appearing as some sort of kinship, or the first out of the characters I would choose as a friend.  Anyway…before I get teary-eyed (joking), I will describe the drink.

Wash's Cider

Wash's Cider
1/2 oz honey mix*
lemon wedge (small)
2 1/2 oz cider
1 oz Wray & Nephew
1 1/4 oz ginger beer
2 lemon wedges for garnish (because Wash deserves 2)

*honey mix:  1/2 honey – 1/2 hot water.  The hot water helps the honey mix with liquids more thoroughly.

Muddle lemon, honey mix & cider, add rum.  Shake mildly with ice and not for very long – just to mix it well enough and not bruise the cider (there may not be such a thing).  Strain into chilled collins glass, adding a couple cubes of ice.  Add ginger beer (preferably already cold) and give drink a couple gentle stirs.  Garnish with two lemon wedges.  I later regretted not adding another garnish, also add a single mint leaf, but not in the drink – try to have it hover above, likely using a toothpick into a lemon wedge, or through a straw – whatever you wish (hint:  “I’m a leaf on the wind”).

Saturday:  Here is a tasty one from The Jamaica Observer.  Since lime juice quantities vary from lime to lime, whether drier, or bigger, I have heard many times an average lime will yield 2 tablespoons of juice.  I don’t think I have ever gotten that quantity.  So the question is:  What is most important – the measurement, or how much a fruit would offer?  The reason I ask, the range of a drink’s flavor alters severely depending on the precise amount of juice, regardless if the difference is an eighth of an ounce.  I prefer my drink to taste the same every time.

On a more controversial side-note, you might find another recipe for this drink, again published by the Observer later that year (July 2012/November 2012), of a winning bartender’s recipe also entitled Independence Punch, which may not have a single similar ingredient (grapefruit sherbet, spiced pineapple, Appleton V/X, coconut water, and white rum).  Then they published one more mention of the gingery recipe in February of this year.  So I’m not sure if they made this recipe up themselves, or hid away the source of origin.  There again, I may have entirely stuck my nose where it had no business.  Or did it?  This is the internet after all, right?

Independence Punch

Wray & Nephew Independence Punch
2 slices of fresh Jamaican ginger
1/2 oz simple syrup
juice of 1/2 lime (note: I used 1/2 oz)
2 oz fresh orange juice
2 oz pineapple juice
1 oz Wray & Nephew

Muddle the ginger, syrup and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add the rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, ice and shake well. Double-strain into a chilled collins glass over ice and garnish with an orange wedge and mint.  I also added the spent lime shell, pouring a little overproof into it like a bowl, and igniting it.  The image does not show the straw I added after blowing out the blue flame.  Caution:  Overproof rum (or any overproof spirit) is highly flammable – please be careful not to burn yourself, or anything around you.

Sunday:  …must…rest…

Planter’s Punch

For anyone who has searched the internet, or hunted down books, they know there are a great many Planter’s Punch recipes out there.  It is not one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, aging as hundreds of years than thousands of years.  Yet, when considering the lifespan of rum, or what was first called “Rumbullion” (1650s), it is an old recipe, 200 years old – and still looking good.

Out of all the tiki drinks, “Polynesian” drinks, Caribbean drinks, or tropical drinks, out of the great many drinks to choose from – there were the first ones, the ones which started the craze, the originals.  Afterwards, numbering like the stars in the night sky, they opened the doors for a new creativity (or some not so much, more like stealing).  But in the beginning, which is a broad span of time, it astonishes me how most tropical drinks were not created anywhere near the tropics, but as a tribute to them, or most likely to remind people of far away exotic places.  Thanks to what I read from Beachbum Berry’s book, Remixed, when it comes to classic tropical drinks, the Daiquiri (Cuba), Planter’s Punch (Jamaica),  and Dr. Funk (Samoa) are the only originated in the tropics.  I have mentioned the Daiquiri in an earlier post, now I must pay my respects to another fostering fortification.

I have so much fun learning about rum’s history, where it first introduced production, the infancy of how to drink it – other than straight, development throughout the world, and the shining celebration of what rum is today because of it all.  Planter’s Punch had its own say in history, a voice which echoed into modern ears, a timeless recipe all on its own, as well as a blueprint for brilliant variations.  Here are two ways the recipe was remembered:

"Planter's Punch! A West Indian Recipe"
A wine-glass with lemon juice fill,
Of sugar the same glass fill twice
Then rub them together until
The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice.
Of rum then three wine glasses add,
And four of cold water please take.
A Drink then you'll have that's not bad —
At least, so they say in Jamaica.
-- published in Fun magazine, London, September 1878
__________________________________________________________________
"Planter's Punch" 
This recipe I give to thee, 
Dear brother in the heat. 
Take two of sour (lime let it be) 
To one and a half of sweet, 
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong, 
And add four parts of weak. 
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong -- 
I know whereof I speak.
-- published in the New York Times, 8 August 1908
Note:  Back then, a “wine-glass” measurement was considered 2 ounces.

I need to say something about the garnish, because in this case it has to do with Jamaica more than it has to do with this drink.  Garnishing basically does two things:  It makes the cocktail look nice, and it gives off a scent, or sometimes many scents.  Of course there is the option of eating your garnish.  With that said, I’m throwing all of that out the window for this drink, just this once, and intend a garnish to mean more.  This garnish means something else.

jamaica-flag

Jamaica.  Please go there, and have the best time of your life.  Please spend lots of money on the island, please eat all you can and as many different things you can find.  I went with a group of finicky eaters, except for one.  He and I ate like kings on what the rest refused to eat, or too frightened to swallow.  I could go on and on about how many delicious foods and drinks come from that phenomenal island.  I’ll leave that between you and your internet.

I was lucky to study for a short time in Jamaica, far too short, and still miss the friends I made there.  My school sponsored a semester abroad, allowing me attendance to two universities (and a home-stay) in both Kingston and Mandeville.  When not in the classroom, we drove all over the island to celebrate “weekends” or “vacations” for the sake of exploration and curiosity.  It was simply glorious.  Ninety-nine life-changing days, ninety-nine days of paradise, ninety-nine days of beautiful scenery and beautiful people, including ninety-nine days of widespread poverty, yet always the wondrous sensation of the Jamaican spirit.  Please do no go to Jamaica for the place alone – it’s the people who make the place.  The nation is both land and people – the people become the land as the land becomes the people.  Please go there on vacation, and meet as many people as you can.

When I thought of making this drink, I wanted to separate the garnish from the thought process by using it to reflect my time on Jamaica, instead of provoking the flavors of the drink.  I drove by a banana plantation, noticing only for a moment a few banana pickers.  They wore next to nothing.  The term “rag” held more of a definition to that of fabric than what those men wore in the jungle.  Then on a northern  beach, on holiday, as a marching band played one of my favorite Bob Marley tunes, I bought the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever tasted from one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met.  And finally, while staying in Kingston at the Cole’s, at least two different mango trees fed us daily (of course not the only thing – some of the best food I’ve ever eaten was made by Mrs. Cole).

I will always remember Mrs. Cole (and her family, as well as Velita, the woman who worked there).  When I see a mango, or eat one, my mind immediately takes me to the comfort she provided under her roof.  I will always remember the kind woman who sold me the little pineapple before a rain came.  Regardless if it was such a short conversation, that spectacularly-filled moment marked itself in my memory whenever I eat pineapple – a moment so full of powerfully remembered events, making an ordinary day a holiday in its own right.  I will always remember those men walking along the road, wearing  strings for clothing under the dark shade of the dense banana fronds, foregrounding a waterfalls in the distant mountains.  I asked myself in that VW bus, “How long until jungles no longer exist?”  That moment is a permanent memory, and one I think of often, since I am able to buy bananas anytime.

These three fruits do not sum up all of my experiences in Jamaica.  However, this is the most honest representation I could think of without the use of a Jamaican flag.  Inhale deeply when you drink this, as with all drinks, but in this example inhale and imagine Jamaica.

Planter's Punch
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 oz honey
1/4 oz falernum
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Bärenjäger (honey liqueur)
1/2 oz gold Jamaican (Appleton)
1/2 oz dark Jamaican (Smith & Cross)
1 oz gold Virgin Islands (I used Pyrat, from Anguilla)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
6 oz crushed ice
 

Warm honey so it will shake more easily into other liquids.  Shake ingredients with crushed ice until frost begins to form on metal shaker. Pour unstrained into chilled glass.  Add more ice to fill if necessary.  Garnish with sizable chunks of pineapple, banana and mango (if the mango is too thin after cutting from the seed, join pieces and trim to look like one big piece).

I called the next recipe a Fizz because of the definition of a Fizz, which takes after an older invention – the Sour.  A Sour is a spirit mixed with an acidic juice and sugar.  The Fizz is basically a spirit mixed with an acidic juice and carbonated water, whose fame grew substantially in America between 1900 and the 1940s.  The Gin Fizz was particularly popular in New Orleans, another town specialty.

Wray & Nephew and Ting go great together.  There are a lot of people who don’t care for the flavor of Wray & Nephew rum, and understandably so since it has a unique taste about it.  And mixing it with other rums can get a little tricky because it can take over even after adding such a small amount.  I think of it very similarly to that of Maraschino liqueur – any more than a dash will alter the drink irrecoverably.  Another good example is demonstrated from the movie, The Myth of Fingerprints, where they briefly discuss the concept of spreading too much mustard on a sandwich, and in effect creating nothing more than a mustard sandwich.  Reluctant in adding too much Wray & Nephew, yet hoping the Myers’s rum would play its mellow pronouncements well enough in contrast, I knew the overproof would win since the term “overproof” essentially means more flavor anyway.  And for those unfamiliar with overproof rums, please always remember they are twice as strong, and require half as much for both flavor and alcoholic effect.  

Planter's Fizz
1 oz Myers's dark
1/2 oz Wray & Nephew overproof 
1 oz fresh lime juice 
2 oz Ting (Didn't have this time - used Jarritos) 
2 oz Pineapple pop (Jarritos)

Shake all but pop with ice, pouring unstrained into chilled tall glass.  Stir pop in gently.  Garnish with a cherry.

Will the Planter’s Fizz become my precedent recipe for Planter’s Punch?  Absolutely not.  The most simplistic version is what I will drink the most, followed by others’ renditions.  Only after properly paying tribute will I shake-up my own recipes.