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

(Fill in the Blank) Fog Cutter

The Fog Cutter is one of those drinks I have lifted on high in massive glory, a neon-lit icon for all to see as a genuine representative of tiki drinks, like the Zombie, Mai Tai, and Hurricane.  Even though there are many others (seriously – there are a lot of tiki drinks…thank goodness), some drinks are simply born with spot-lights of fame because of a person’s imagination.  A long time ago, as in before my drinking age, if I were to describe a Zombie, it would have looked red, as well as a Mai Tai, and for some reason imagining a Hurricane as a blue drink.  When I learned what the drinks truly were, and they became real to me, the lofty heights of my given stardom no longer appeared so unreachable.  Reality replaced fantasy, and appreciation changed my perception.

The Fog Cutter, once again, is a drink with questionable origins, whether invented by Trader Vic, Tony Ramos, or from Edna Earle’s restaurant, which Fogcutters was named after a diving knife.  And for those of you who enjoy trivia, which has nothing to do with the Fog Cutter, the term Cutty Sark originally was not for the British clipper, but named for women’s undergarments.  Cutty meant “short” – Sark meant “shift” or “chemise.”  First came the underwear, then the famous ship, then the Scotch whiskey.  I guess the bottle would look pretty silly with something other than a sailing vessel on its label.

WARNING:  Anyone allergic to almonds should not ingest orgeat.

However, “Almond Flavoring” precisely printed on the bottle should be harmless.   If you don’t want to buy a bottle orgeat, or make your own, which is easy, another option is to add a few drops almond flavoring (from the grocery store) into simple syrup to give a neighborhood taste – a couple drops for 2 ounces.  I mean, the flower water really makes the flavor profile, not simply almonds, and there really is not substituting orgeat for something less.  But almond flavored syrup is close enough in a pinch.  I used to think, “Maybe if I substitute another kind of nut flavor it will be alright, after all – it’s just a nut flavor, right?”  Since then, I’ve experimented, trialed-and-errored, and learned the inventors of drinks could have used Frangelico instead of orgeat, but didn’t.  Could vodka work just as well as gin, if not better?  No.  The recipes are in writing.  They are permanent.  New drinks can be made using the old recipes as guides, yet cannot be called the same thing.  It’s all about flavor.  Bottom line:  Please try the original flavor of a drink first.  If you don’t like it, of course change it.  If you don’t have the ingredients at first, make it as close as you can.  But please, strive to get the original ingredients.

With that said, I substituted out the sherry.  I don’t like sherry.  I learned from Beachbum Berry’s Remixed (all hail Jeff “Beachbum” Berry!), whatever you float on top of a Fog Cutter is allowed as long as you alter the name of the drink.  For example, if I wanted to float Maple Crown Royal, I could call it a Canadian Fog Cutter, or Fog Cutter Flapjacks, or whatever you can think of, whether prestigious or playful.  Your drink – your name.  Plus, once you drink a Fog Cutter, you’re not going to listen to another word I say.  If by chance your mood carries you into two of these drinks, your opinion will suddenly grow to monstrous heights, and might crush us all under your bootheel of wisdom!

fog cutter

Malagasy Fog Cutter
2 oz fresh Lemon juice
1 oz fresh Orange juice
1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup
1 oz Light Rum
1 oz Brandy (no need for expensive kind since it's for mixing)
1/2 oz Gin (dry)
1/2 oz *Madagascar Mix

Shake everything with cracked ice – except the mix.  Pour into tall tiki mug and add more cracked ice to fill.  Float sherry on top of drink.  Garnish with mint.  Drink with a straw.

*Madagascar Mix
1/2 part Clément V.S.O.P. (I prefer rhums more than rums for this)
1 part Vanilla syrup
1 part Tia Maria (any Coffee Liqueur will work)

If you have trouble with the technique of “floating” and the liquid flows down too far into the drink – remember to pour slowly, perhaps using an up-side down spoon to help slow the pour.  As you can see by my picture, my float sank like a stone.  Obviously I need more practice, if you understand my meaning.  Also, I don’t have a Fog Cutter mug yet, and feel I should have gotten one by now.  After all, the drink and the mug are practically synonymous.  Just for curiosity sake, I made two drinks, substituting lime for the lemon, simply to see a side by side comparison.  They look the same, and both taste extraordinarily good.  My wife prefers the lime, while I favor the lemon because I can taste the gin better with lemon.