Agapey Artisan Chocolate with Mount Gay Rum Caramel

This is a little out of the blue and probably not what you are expecting from a new blog post, but it was a chance encounter with a pleasant chap called Peter Martin at the Tatton Park Foodies Festival that led to me receiving a bar of the most amazing sounding chocolate I could imagine from his company, International Brands. I was told of a new product venture and Peter asked for my opinion……we also picked up several Tortuga Rum Cakes from him but before I go off on another tangent, a little background.

The ancient Mayan Cultures of Mexico and Central America were the first to have used cacao between 250 to 900 AD. They harvested the beans, fermented then roasted and ground to form a paste. This was then mixed with water, spices and chilli to form a frothy spicy and bitter chocolate brew called xocoatl. Later in the 14th century the Aztecs used cacao in their diets, as a currency and as a trade item. The cacao was used in offerings to their gods and the crude chocolate drink was a favourite of their royalty. Moving forwards to the 16th Century, the Spanish took the seeds back to Spain and eventually the use of cacao spread thro’ Europe. The rest is history……

Agapey  Close Up

The Agapey Chocolate Factory is based in Bridgetown, Barbados. They use cocoa beans from throughout the Caribbean and they also use locally grown Barbadian gold cane sugar to impart a unique flavour to their chocolate. Agapey use predominantly Criollo, Trinitario and Nacional beans in what is called a ‘bean to bar’ method whereby they don’t just obtain a product in its later stages and repackage, they carry out all processes from the receipt of the beans.

This bean to bar method consists of:

Harvesting – Fermentation – Packing – Roasting – Winnowing (de-shelling) – Crushing & Grinding – Refining – Conching – Tempering

The Agapey Chocolate that I have to share with you (my thoughts, not the chocolate……the chocolate is mine) is a specific venture between Agapey and the other well-known Barbadian institution…..Mount Gay Rum and it is a 70% single origin cacao dark chocolate.

Agapey Side

The venture was undertaken to rid the world of the awful liqueur type rum chocolate that causes pain and misery to all. The bar is packaged in an attractive, sleek black box with the Mount Gay and Agapey logos clearly displayed. Upon opening the box and removing the foil, the bar is divided into large chunks displaying the Agapey logo and smelling amazing. Really intense chocolate with very little sweetness.

Agapey Block

After removing a square and breaking it, the caramel slowly oozes out. The chocolate tastes unbelievable. I’m already a big fan of dark and bitter chocolate ( thanks Dad ) and it does not disappoint. The bitter hit is there with a creamy texture and a real cacao and almost coffee hit. The first taste of the caramel gives you an instant sweet hit but not overly so. There is the subtle taste of banana and it’s almost a little salted. The rum is next to appear. Not too overpowering but a very subtle edge growing more intense. It’s not until you get a big bite of the combination of chocolate and caramel in your mouth that the addition of the golden cane sugar gives the chocolate a sweetness that perfectly balances the soft rum and salty nature of the caramel. It works…and it works well! The Mount Gay Rum adds a real rummy hit that is very welcome. In fact, nibbling the chocolate around the edge and tasting with a glass of rum….in this case I chose Mount Gay Extra Old for obvious reasons, the chocolate in both taste and mouthfeel is a great match!

Agapey Cracked

I genuinely don’t know if I would ever be able to replace this bar as I’ve never seen it about and internet searches don’t turn up results, so I’m reluctant to indulge too much with there only being 4 pieces…….but its just so tasty. Peter mentioned that there was maybe going to be a move away from the large pocket for the caramel to a smaller one but I think that the balance is so perfect that I’d hate to see it change. If you see any on your travels, pick up several bars and some for me too, and if you make it to Barbados, go and tour the Agapey Chocolate Factory.

*UPDATE*

This post has been picked up by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation and I have since made contact with Raphael Grisoni, the Managing Director of Mount Gay Distilleries Ltd who has been kind enough to confirm that the rum used in the product is actually Mount Gay XO…….no wonder the product tastes so good!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Ron Cubay

This is a new one for me and maybe for most of you…..unless of course you’ve visited Cuba, which means that you will be more than well versed with the delights that this range of rums has to offer! Cuban rums hold a special place for me as it was Havana Club Anejo Especial ( a rum that my wife had a fondness for and introduced me to ) that became one of my staple drinks and one of my entry points into the world of rum. Anyway, I digress. It is Ron Cubay that I’m talking about and please forgive me if ‘talking’ becomes ‘raving’.

Cubay Label

A little rum history to begin with. Rum production was first undertaken in Cuba in the 17th Century when sugarcane was used to create a crude molasses wine which would eventually be called Ron, or Rum. The sugarcane that was used was first introduced to Cuba in 1493 by Christopher Columbus on his return visit after discovering the Island on his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. The sugarcane, which had come from Spain from its origins in the Far East grew well in Cuba’s climate and soon became its main crop. In the 19th Century, rum production in Cuba really ramped up with places such as Havana, Cardenas and Santiago de Cuba beginning to produce large quantities of rum for export.

Fast forward to 1964 and Ron Cubay was founded in Santo Domingo, Villa Clara, which is centrally located in Cuba. The Cubay rums are produced by the distilleries of Cuba Ron S.A which also produce Havana Club. The Ron Cubay brand was only ever intended for domestic consumption, hence the reason that we are only just seeing it in the UK with it only having a presence in Europe since 2010. Distribution rights within the UK are held by a company called JBE Imports and it is thanks to Jonathan of JBE imports that I have the opportunity to sample and write about these rums.

Cubay Bottles

Although the Ron Cubay range consists of 5 rums……a 3-year-old Carta Blanca, a 4-year-old Carta Dorada, a 5-year-old Anejo Suave, a 7-year-old Anejo and a 10-year-old Anejo Reserva Especial, it is only the 3, 7 and 10-year-old expressions that will be marketed in the UK. As it has been making waves in Europe, particularly in The Netherlands, Ron Cubay has also been collecting awards with the Anejo winning Best Golden Rum at the 2012 Dutch Rum Awards and the Anejo Reserva Especial winning Best Premium Rum at the 2012 Dutch Rum Awards. All of which is nice, but what you really want to know is how it tastes…..so here goes.

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Carta Blanca

In the glass: The rum is clear but does display a slight golden hue. Immediately you get green sugarcane and a freshness. No harshness at all and a little sweetness.

In the mouth: There is a slight sugarcane on your tongue and a little fruity sweetness. The finish is medium length and leaves you with a grassy, fresh sugarcane taste. It’s clear that this rum will mix well.

I wanted to use the rum in a drink that would allow the rum to be at the fore, therefore I went for a daiquiri, or more specifically, a Hemingway Daiquiri. If you look online there are numerous recipes with varying quantities, some have sugar syrup as well as maraschino liqueur and others have an insane amount of lime. Truth is, as mentioned previously, you will find a combination that suits you, and you wont believe how different this tastes to a standard Daiquiri. I don’t like mine too sour so I opted for 10ml fresh lime juice, 10ml fresh ruby grapefruit juice, 10ml Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur and 50ml Ron Cubay Carta Blanca. Put it all in a Boston Shaker with plenty of cubed ice and shake well for about 10 seconds so as not to dilute too much. Double strain into a pre-chilled glass of your choice, mine is a rocks glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if you desire, I just dive straight in.

Cubay Carta Blanca

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Anejo

In the glass: The rum is a bright golden colour and there is an initial brown sugar and honeyed vanilla aroma. The rum smells quite light and doesn’t look to viscous in the glass but there is a nice light sweet fruit depth to the rum that I can’t quite put my finger on.

In the mouth: The rum tastes quite light and doesn’t coat your mouth too heavily but my word its tasty. The sweetness that I couldn’t put my finger on is displaying itself as an almost pineapple and peach mixture. I then get a wave of warming vanilla. The rum has a medium finish and ends with brown sugar and fruit. The glass, once empty, which happens far too quickly, displays the trademark leather and tobacco aromas and it is unbelievable. This rum is so easy to drink neat, I forgot to mix it with anything and continued to sip glass after glass, enjoying each one more than the last.

Cubay Anejo

Tasting Notes – Ron Cubay Reserva Especial

In the glass: The rum is a deep mahogany brown and shows itself to be more viscous than the Anejo. It hits you straight away with dark brown sugar and an almost treacle sweetness. You can smell warm honey drenched peaches and a little spiciness. This all leaves a lasting vanilla above the glass when you leave it to sit. It smells like it has more going on than the Anejo in terms of complexity.

In the mouth: Instant warming sweetness envelops your mouth and it leads with treacle and a liquorice feel. Almost bonfire toffee. Not chewy in any way but like you’re about to enjoy fireworks! This gives way to a warm but not bitter oakiness and a little spicy vanilla. There is a little kick on the back of the tongue and it just lets you know that its there. It has quite a long vanilla and toffee finish. Its amazing what another 3 years in the barrel can do over and above the Anejo. It also benefits from the additional 2% abv that it has over the Anejo with the Reserva Especial weighing in at 40%.

Cubay 10

 

So that pretty much sums up my experiences so far with Ron Cubay. It’s not as well-known ( in the UK ) as other Cuban Brands, but it has equally as much to offer and at the potential price point, could offer incredible value should demand lead to a presence with your favourite online retailer’s. I for one am sold on these rums, particularly the Anejo which I think it’s a very nice rum to sip at any time and now having tried the Reserva Especial to complete my tasting of the range, you can really tell that this is truly a family of rums and the Reserva Especial is that natural progression from the Anejo in terms of complexity and quality. It is my favourite rum in the range as far as sipping goes but there is something about the Anejo and its taste both neat and when mixed that makes me think that it could become the pouring rum in quite a few bars that are adventurous enough to break from the familiar.

If you are attending Rumfest this year, JBE Imports will be showcasing Ron Cubay and it should be available for purchase there. I wholeheartedly recommend that you grab a bottle of all 3 expressions because based on my experiences so far, you will not regret doing so.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.