St. Aubin Rhum Agricole

St Aubin BottleRounding out my Mauritian Rum collection is a Rhum Agricole. In fact this is the first Rhum Agricole that has been presented on my blog….something that I hope to rectify very shortly. Once again, refreshing yourself on my previous post on Green Island Rum may be beneficial.

Rhum Agricole is made from the fermented juice of freshly squeezed sugarcane. As fresh sugarcane juice suffers oxidation, fermentation needs to begin as soon as possible therefore the place of juice extraction is usually located at or very close to the distillery to expedite this process.

Due to the nature of the raw material (sugarcane juice rather than molasses), the rhum agricole is usually only distilled to around 70% alcohol unlike molasses based rums. This allows the character and influence of the growing environment (the terroir) to be displayed in the final product. The techniques employed and base material used to create rhum agricole gives it an entirely different flavour profile to a molasses based rum.

St. Aubin has been as sugar plantation since 1819 but in comparison has only recently begun making rhum. It is located in Southern Mauritius and takes its name from one of the original owners, Pierre de Saint Aubin. The location of the plantation brings its own unique qualities as the balance of rainfall and sunshine hours give rise to a micro climate that exists in the region of the plantation. The volcanic nature of the soil and the micro climate combine to make the terroir more than suitable for producing sugarcane.

The sugarcane is immediately sent to the mill where it is slowly pressed to extract the sugarcane juice. It is only this first press of juice, known as ‘fangourin’ in Mauritian, that is used. This juice undergoes immediate fermentation to create the ‘wine’. This is then distilled in an alembic still. This St. Aubin Rhum Agricole is an unaged product.

The rhum is very clear in the bottle and sits at a higher 50% ABV and I’m unsure what to expect as I’ve only tasted Rhum Vieux or Old Rhum (aged for a minimum of 3 years) previously but I cant wait to see how it tastes….

Tasting Notes:

St Aubin Close

In the glass: The rhum is crystal clear in the glass and there is a little alcohol vapour that I leave to dissipate. There is a raw sugarcane aroma sitting with the alcohol vapour with grassy, herbal and vegetal notes all nestling alongside a sweetness.

In the mouth: There is a spicy and peppery entry for the rhum with a little sweetness but that sweetness doesn’t stick around for long. A little vanilla and pepper follows. It is very smooth as it sits in your mouth and it certainly doesn’t feel like its 50% ABV. Fresh sugarcane washes the rhum down to leave a fresh sweetening finish with little to no burn. I always prefer the taste of agricole to the smell of agricole and this yet again confirms that for me.

Ti PunchOf course, the drink that shows an unaged agricole off (although it is also made with vieux) is the classic ‘Ti Punch. My Potteries accent doesn’t really allow me to pronounce the name of the drink too well but the pronunciation is more like ‘tee paunch’ and is Creole for ‘Petit Punch’ or ‘Small Punch’. It comprises a little lime juice and wedge, sugar syrup and a measure and a bit of agricole. I haven’t really ever quantified it. I just start with a little lime and syrup then add to taste. I usually add an ice cube and let the drink sit and settle for a few minutes. There are few things more refreshing. It’s sweet, fresh and satisfying. Its the simple drinks that show off a product to its best and it is the same combination whether a ‘Ti Punch for Agricole, a Daiquiri for Rum or a Caipirinha for Cachaça. Simple ingredients that put the sugarcane product up front and allow it to be the star of the show.

St Aubin Rhum Agricole is a good example of this style of sugarcane product and it is most definitely worth picking up a bottle. It sits proudly on the shelf with my Clement V.S.O.P from Martinique and my Damoiseau Vieux from Guadeloupe.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. 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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Tilambic 151

Tilambic 151 BottleContinuing my focus on the rums in my collection from the island of Mauritius, I’m about to up the stakes by introducing you to a 151% Proof (75.5% ABV) rum going by the name of Tilambic 151. It may be worthwhile refreshing yourself on rum production in Mauritius by reading my article on Green Island Rums.

Now you’re all refreshed and up to date, the word Tilambic is a Mauritian Creole word meaning ‘small still’ and it relates to the stills that the farmers utilise to create their own rums (moonshine). The image on the label is of an alembic still and is there to evoke images of the ‘small stills’ used locally rather than to provide a window into the production methods employed to create this rum.

Tilambic 151 is unavailable in Mauritius as it is produced and bottled under licence solely for Green Island (UK) Limited by International Distillers Mauritius. This company was formed in 1960 under the name of Gilbeys (Mauritius) Ltd but the current facility including a bottling plant was created in 1972. They are also responsible for the production and bottling of the two previously featured Green Island Rum products, the Superior Light and Spiced Gold. The rum is distilled in 30 ft column stills and is then aged for 7 years in ex-whisky barrels in temperature controlled conditions ensuring a constant temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. The rum contains no added sugars, caramel flavouring or colouring and gains its flavour and colour from the casks. The rum remains unfiltered at the time of bottling but is reduced to its bottle strength of 75.5% ABV. It retains a wonderful golden colour and looks really approachable…..but is it?

Tasting Notes:

Tilambic 151 Close

In the glass: The rum is a light golden colour and there is a really woody aroma. This is followed by a little peppery spice and prune aroma, all wrapped in light vanilla. I did have to let this sit to let the alcohol dissipate.

In the mouth: Straight away there is a sweetness and peppery spice on entry and the star anise that I tasted in the Green Island Superior Light is here. This is very very oaky. It’s almost bourbon-esque in how the woodiness shows itself and then completely dries this rum out. There is a hot mouthfeel towards the end to let you know you’re drinking an overproof rum. Vanilla and caramel round this one out but the finish is quite short and very very dry with the oak sticking around longer than anything else. Very surprising and remarkably drinkable.

This is an interesting rum and offers up some really concentrated flavours. Best to use as part of a cocktail or as a cocktail float rather than sipping although adding little water opens up the sweetness and reveals more depth to the rum. It’s a rum that demands respect as it could quite easily floor you if not treated properly but its a worthy adversary for those who are looking for a flavourful and surprisingly light 151 proof rum.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. 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.

Marblehead to Introduce Don Papa Rum to the U.K

Don Papa TextThe world’s first single island rum from the Philippines, Don Papa Rum, is being launched in the UK. The Bleeding Heart Rum Company has signed a distribution agreement with spirits brand developer Marblehead with effect from 17th February 2014, covering both the on and off-trade in the UK.

Don Papa Rum was created in 2012 and its name was inspired by Papa Isio, one of the leading figures of the Philippine revolution on the island of Negros. Since its launch in the Philippines, the second largest rum market in the world, Don Papa has won a number of awards for the liquid and its distinctive packaging, designed by Stranger & Stranger.

Emma Wykes, Managing Director of Marblehead, says: “We are very excited that Don Papa’s Founder, Stephen Carroll, has entrusted Marblehead with the UK launch of this premium rum. Don Papa truly brings something special to both established rum drinkers and new explorers to the category. The pre- launch interest in the brand has been extremely positive and we look forward to seeing the brand go from strength to strength in the UK.”

Don-Papa-Rum

Stephen Carroll, says: “I’ve been delighted with the response so far in the markets in which Don Papa has launched including the Philippines, France, Belgium and Italy. The UK is a dynamic and growing rum market and we feel the time is right to enter into a partnership with Marblehead and make Don Papa available here.  Premium rums such as Don Papa have added another dimension to the drinking moment and, based on the number of requests we’ve had in the UK for Don Papa, we’re excited about our brand’s future with Marblehead.”

Don Papa Rum is distilled in small batches fusing high quality sugar cane from the island of Negros Occidental, Philippines, known locally as Sugarlandia. Don Papa Rum is then aged for seven years in American oak in the foothills of Mount Kanlaon, before being blended and bottled on Negros Island, in partnership with Ginebra San Miguel. I for one cannot wait to get my hands on a bottle.

For more information visit the Don Papa Rum website at: www.donpaparum.com 

Don Papa should retail at £ 29.95 for a 70cl bottle

Green Island Rum

Green Island Bottles 1Mauritius isn’t one of the first places that springs to mind when I think of rum. But that said, of late I have been aware of the exposure of a number of rums that have their origins there and that number is growing rapidly. Sitting to the East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has no indigenous population. It was first visited by the Portuguese in 1507 but their stay was short-lived. In 1598, whilst on a voyage to the Spice Islands, a number of ships from the Dutch Second Fleet were blown off course and landed on the island. They named it Mauritius in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau. A permanent settlement was established by the Dutch in 1638, and it was the Dutch that first introduced sugarcane to Mauritius along with deer in 1639, but the climatic conditions and frequency of cyclones due to the islands micro-climates forced them to abandon the island in 1710. In 1715, France took control of Mauritius, renaming it Ile de France. It was this French rule that first saw the island develop a prosperous economy centered around sugar production. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British Navy sought to gain control of the island. Despite Napoleons only victory over the British Navy at the Battle of Grand Port (20th-27th August 1810), the French surrendered to a British invasion 3 months later at Cap Malheureux. Mauritius became independent in 1968, became a republic in 1992, and it is estimated that currently, around 90% of the cultivated land on Mauritius contains sugarcane.

Mauritius is one of the few countries whose rum production includes both traditional and agricultural rum. The definitions here being that the traditional rum (Rum) is distilled using molasses and the agricultural rum (Rhum Agricole) is distilled using fermented sugar cane juice. There are currently only around six rum / rhum producers on the island but the amount of companies that purchase these distilled products to age, bottle or infuse is said to number in excess of 50.

I own four expressions from Mauritius, Green Island Superior Light, Green Island Spiced Gold, Tilambic 151 Overproof and St. Aubin Rhum Agricole. In this blog post I will be covering both Green Island expressions.

Green Island source their rums from three distilleries on the island, two that produce molasses based rums and one that produces rhum agricole.

Green Island Superior Light is a molasses based rum that has been in production since the 1960’s and its packaging has changed very little in that time. It is a blend of 3 and 5-year-old rums that have been aged in oak casks and then charcoal filtered to remove the colour that it gains from the casks.

Green Island Spiced Gold uses the Superior Light as its starting point with spices then being added. There is no official information on the spices added with the recipe remaining ‘a secret’ but hopefully my notes below will be able to flush out the spices that I think are used.

Here’s how I think they stand up….

Tasting Notes – Green Island Superior Light

Green Island Superior Light

In the glass: The rum is crystal clear with a few alcohol vapours bursting from the glass so I let it sit for a while. There is an initial sweetness reminiscent of the smell of cola bottle jelly sweets with fresh sugarcane following. There is star anise and the rum has a creamy aroma. It’s also a lot more vegetal than I was expecting.

In the mouth: Instant sweet entry and very smooth initially. There is a little peppery fire on the mid palate and a little heat on the finish. There is more star anise lingering around along with the cola bottle aroma at the back of my throat working its way up to my nose again. It’s a little like Cachaça. The sweet entry rounds to a dry medium length finish with a little zing of pepper. I’d also say that there was a little perry on entry which continues through to the finish. It’s a very pleasant white rum. It lends itself, I find, to a daiquiri as the dryness of the rum compliments the sugar syrup and the citrus of the lime. It doesn’t get lost in a mixed drink for sure.

Tasting Notes – Green Island Spiced Gold

Green Island Spiced Gold

In the glass: The rum is a dark straw colour and carries an amazing vanilla sweetness that fights to get out of the glass. It smells creamy and sweet and there is a hint of cherry cola and cinnamon. It’s the vanilla that dominates however.

In the mouth: That instant sweetness on the nose carries through to the mouth and initially the vanilla is the first out of the blocks. Heavy vanilla. This calms as the rum dries out in your mouth and lets the spice come through. That pepper is still present but this time it’s accompanied by ginger and cloves and a good dose of cinnamon. The finish is dry and the ginger sticks around to make it slightly longer than the superior light. It cuts right through the sweetness and keeps it in check. This rum, for me, gets lost when mixed with coke but a spiced daiquiri is very pleasant and when mixed with ginger beer and apple juice, the vanilla and ginger really work well together.

All in all, this is a very pleasant and appealing range of rums. The base qualities of the Superior Light carry through into the Spiced Gold and the almost fragrant nature of both rums makes it a pleasure to drink them. Mixed is my preferred route to go with these rums but that leaves me wanting to try an aged rum from Mauritius, as if there is this much flavour being gained from the islands sugarcane, just imagine the possibilities of leaving rums like these to mature in oak for a while. Exciting rums from a country that is growing in stature as a rum producing location and one to keep an eye on for sure.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. 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.

 

Little Tipples

Imagine if you will, a world where no person is judged based on the preconceptions of others. Where you can remove the constraints that may cloud your judgement or expectations of a person allowing you to judge only at face value. To appreciate personalities, qualities, positives and negatives based only on an opinion formed by you, not by your expectations as a result of the things that you’ve been told. Imagine meeting that person again and forgetting all that you know, or thought you knew….now replace the word person with the word Rum. That over-dramatic statement with its origins firmly rooted in an episode of The Simpsons is, in my opinion, exactly what Little Tipples sets out to achieve.

LT Pack

I was recently followed on Twitter by @LittleTipples and after reading their profile, I was immediately intrigued. After speaking to Richard Stewart from Little Tipples both on Twitter and via email, it became clear that his intention was to try to lower the walls that potentially stop some people from tasting more spirits and to open up their range of choice by allowing them to experience something fun that will also allow them to inform their future choices based on their own experiences alongside the views and experiences of others.

The premise is rather simple…..You subscribe via littletipples.com to receive a pack every 2 or 4 weeks. This pack contains 2 x 50ml bottles of Rum that are unmarked aside from a code on each bottle. You then log into your account on their website, enter the codes and are then provided with information on the origins and flavours of the Rums along with instructions on how best to taste them. Once tasted (notepad in hand), you then enter your ratings. You have the option of tasting neat or mixed, but preferably both to inform your ratings. These ratings then count towards the positioning of the Rums on the Leaderboard. When you have rated the rums, their identity is revealed and you may be surprised by the results!

I likened it to being kind of like a Graze box….but awesome!

My experiences in my first foray into the world of Little Tipples is documented below! Wish me luck!

LT DarkI duly poured about half of each bottle into my tasting glasses and left them to sit for a little while to enable the alcohol vapours to dissipate.

The dark rum was deep and foreboding and 57% ABV…….my first little sniff revealed dark brown sugar and treacle….it was familiar…..I took a few more sips and all signs pointed to an old friend. That liquid treacle taste and that kick in the ribs….I entered my bottle code and up popped the tasting notes which I duly read and then sipped again…..I thought that I had worked this one out.

I then moved onto the white rum. This sat at 40% ABV and was a little abrupt on the nose to start with but soon softened to a really fruity aroma and what can only be described as coconut and marshmallow. It was familiar but I hadn’t found those aromas together in a white rum before. It tasted just as I imagined from the smell. Not too sweet and it had a real depth of flavour. I again entered my bottle code, read the notes and took a few more sips.

LT WhiteNext up came the mixing. The dark went with cola and I used the white in a mini daiquiri (using the most sorry-looking lime that I’ve ever encountered, but the juice was still good!)….both worked a real treat. I entered my decision on the website as to which way I preferred to drink each rum…..I found myself drawn to checking the ‘mixed’ box for the dark and much to my surprise, the ‘neat’ box for the white rum!

Once my choices were made the brands were revealed at the top of the page. The dark rum was Woods 100. I’m never without a bottle and recognised it instantly! The white rum was Doorly’s 3. An amazing coincidence as I’d picked up a bottle the previous day which clearly turned out to be an inspired decision. This once again, under blind tasting, proved to me that Foursquare Distillery produce some unbelievable rums!

I enjoyed my experience with Little Tipples. It really does focus your senses. I always try to approach each rum that I taste in this way but sometimes if it’s a rum that I’ve heard people raving about, it’s quite easy to have your vision clouded.

Would I do it again? Absolutely yes. I think for me though, I’d prefer to make a one-off order and then order again when the mood took me rather than signing into fortnightly or monthly tasting kits….fortunately it appears that you can cancel your subscription quite easily and then restart a new one when needed, all without having to re-register with the site. A damn sight easier than it was trying to cancel my Graze box subscription and a far more pleasant and welcome arrival at my office desk!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. 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.

Ron de Jeremy

Ron de Jeremy CloseYep….you read that right…..Ron Jeremy…..the larger than life character and famed star of many ‘artistic’ films best viewed with the curtains drawn…..apparently. Now you may be forgiven for wondering why on earth you’d be interested in purchasing something that some may see as purely a gimmick with more style over substance due to the famous figurehead…..indeed the general reaction within the office when the bottle arrived was one of mirth from the chaps that were familiar with Ron’s work and recognised his face on the quite magnificent logo. However, when you learn that the rum used to create Ron de Jeremy is distilled and blended in Panama by the legendary Cuban born master blender Francisco ‘Don Pancho’ Fernandez, who has worked with such rums as Ron Abuelo and Havana Club, you need to look past the innuendo and knob gags and investigate further.

The initial chaos and hype around the launch of Ron de Jeremy has now subsided and its possible to approach the rum as a drink rather than a celebrity fronted drink. The rum is distilled in a column still at Alcoholes y Rones de Panama in South Central Panama using molasses from their own sugarcane fields and it is then aged in ex-bourbon American Oak barrels for 7 years. Caramel colouring is added to return the rum back to the colour that it was within the barrel as diluting the rum to its 40% ABV changes the colour of the rum. The colouring also enables the distillery to stabilise the colour of the rum between batches.

Bottles

A spiced rum is also produced and it unsurprisingly goes by the name of Ron de Jeremy Spiced. This is from the same base rum as the Ron de Jeremy but the rum is introduced to spices such as vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. It also boasts a higher 47% ABV. Signed

I was initially supplied with a bottle of Ron de Jeremy by Olli Hietalahti at the aptly named One Eyed Spirits for inclusion in this article…..I clearly enjoyed it as I made short work of the liquid and that bottle didn’t last too long….I then purchased another two bottles and was lucky enough to get one of them personalised and signed….I also added the Ron de Jeremy Spiced to my line up!

But, enough rambling, as usual, you want to know how it tastes and if indeed it does have a ‘long smooth taste’…..

Tasting Notes – Ron de Jeremy

In the glass: The rum is a golden straw colour with darker amber flashes. It doesn’t offer much in the way of clues immediately and I have to leave the glass sitting for a while before any of the delicate aromas decide to show up. When they do, unlike their namesake, they are shy and restrained! There is a very light oakiness and a light fresh fruitiness that I can’t immediately call. An almost fresh sugarcane aroma is followed up closely by a light hit of vanilla and a slight sugar sweetness. A few glasses in and the fruit that I’m searching for may be pears.

In the mouth: The rum is a lot sweeter than expected but not in a cloying way. It still retains its freshness and is unbelievably smooth. The fruit to taste is definitely pear and it sits well alongside the vanilla and light oakiness. There is a slight peppery end to the rum and the finish is initially sweet but drying out quickly. It has a long finish with more oak and sweetness lingering. Very enjoyable.

Tasting Notes – Ron de Jeremy Spiced

In the glass: This is an entirely different beast. The rum is dark reddish-brown and reminiscent of a cup of black tea in the way that the colour disperses and lightens as you tilt the glass. The initial smell reminds me of the first time that I smelt The Kraken Rum. Straight away there is an overriding creaminess to the rum with hints of toffee, vanilla, light spice and custard. It’s almost like liquid crème brûlée. There is also a good dollop of custard with cinnamon. I can smell a familiar childhood aroma in there too and I think that it’s the smell of cola cubes!

In the mouth: Straight away there is the vanilla sweetness with the creaminess of a nutmeg topped custard tart. This is backed up with the cola cubes and more vanilla sweetness. I want to say chocolate but I’m not entirely sure on that one. The mouthfeel is very creamy and the finish is long, dry and has a bit of a kick…but not an unpleasant kick. This spiced rum is a bit of a revelation to me as previously, the only spiced rum that I have regularly drunk neat has been Foursquare Spiced but I have to say that I’m a little smitten with the flavours and feel of this rum…so much so that beyond mixing with coke (which worked very well) and trying out a spiced daiquiri (which didn’t), I have enjoyed this rum as a sipper! Probably not the intention of the producers but it really works for me.

There is a lot of information and opinion out there about Ron de Jeremy, both good and bad, but its haul of awards tell their own story. Gold and Silver Awards in Madrid and London along with numerous nominations, awards and listings in ‘best spirit’ categories. At the modest price of just over £30 for each expression, there really is no excuse not to try them. I saw fit to by multiple bottles.

As always, the choice is yours when it comes to spending your money on a bottle of rum but whilst it may not be the best sipping rum you’ll ever try, it just might be! After all, who am I to define what is, was and will be the best. I’ve not encountered ‘the best’ yet and probably never will, though I do have my personal favourites….though this changes frequently. One thing that trying these rums has made me want to do, is seek out more of the rums blended by Francisco ‘Don Pancho’ Fernandez. I have Ron Abuelo 7 and 12 which are both tasty rums but the holy grail would be the Origenes by Don Pancho range. A pair of 18 and 30 year old rums that represent a mans lifetime of experience and devotion to an art form that has shaped him and his life. One day……….

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. 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.