An Interview with Nikos Arvanitis – Rum Traveller

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

Nikos Arvanitis will be familiar to most of my Facebook Rum forum frequenting audience. He’ll also be more than familiar to Rum Festival attendees throughout Europe. In fact his biography reads very well:

Nikos Arvanitis has been working as a bartender since 2006. Rum is his passion and his desire to understand it led him to the Caribbean. Living in Barbados and using this island as his base, he has visited 30 islands of the tropical zone of the “West Indies” and over 45 distilleries and sugarcane fields, both active and inactive. His journey is still on, it will soon be reflected on paper and he has named it “From the West Indies to the World”.

Nikos Arvanitis through his travels and speeches is trying to spread the traditional production process of Rum and the culture of the Caribbean people.

He is a member in the jury panel and an instructor in rum presentation, in several European Rum Festivals (Berlin, Paris, Poland, Greece, Spain etc.) and bar shows.

Instructor of Rum in Bar Academy Hellas

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On a personal level, I have known Nikos for around three years and during that time we have conversed a lot about life, Rum and everything in between. During our period of friendship I have seen Nikos grow into a very well-respected spokesman for Rum and an evangelist for the history and tradition that exists within the Caribbean. More recently he has become a very active independent spokesperson for the Gargano / Seale Classification and a campaigner and activist for Pure Rum and raising the category in general.

I was fortunate enough to meet Nikos earlier this year in his natural habitat….a Rum distillery. The distillery in question was Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and it was also my first Rum Distillery visit. We chatted for a while, walked through the distillery with Richard and sampled untold delights in the Foursquare Tasting Room. We also shared a pretty eventful taxi ride with him.

Open and honest is all that I have known from Nikos and I’m giving his full, unedited responses to my questions. No cutting, snipping or leaving out of any detail. Hopefully you’ll see that his responses relay the passion that he has and the high regard in which he holds Rum as the true essence of the Caribbean and its people.

1 – For those that may not already be familiar with you and your work, explain to them what your project “From the West Indies to the World” is about.

From the West Indies to the World

It’s a personal project including photos, thoughts and notes for the real side of Caribbean islands and the connection between the locals and the Rum, through the eyes of the unknown reality.

Sugar cane fields, unknown dead estates, Rum Distilleries and traditional Rums.

In short, it’s my lonely trip-wandering in the tropic zone of the West Indies. Personal experiences, emotionally charged stories, culture, people. I don’t travel the easy way. I’m visiting places that they are really inaccessible to many white people and also I organized the 95% from all these trips myself, without sponsors, companies etc. The final collection of these experiences is the reason that this project is born, and due to that, I don’t focus only the to rum and the production process..

I’m not an author / writer and I do not even want to be. I just have the feeling and the belief that the experiences created to share. This project is an extension of me and the opposite.

The ultimate goal of my project is to make as many people as possible respect and fall in love with the Caribbean, the local culture, the people and finally the distilleries that are keeping alive and  unchanged the traditional production process of the spirit we love the most.

2 – Your travels are followed by and envied by many people….including me. One thing that often gets said to people like me is that to truly understand Rum and all that it is, you have to visit distilleries. Just how many countries and distilleries have you visited?

I would like to speak on a personal level without meaning that it’s either wrong or right. Yes, I clearly believe that if you don’t visit the Caribbean by yourself and the distilleries as well, it’s really difficult to understand rum. There’s a huge difference between the word ‘knowledge‘ and the word ‘understanding‘. Countless sites on the Internet with completely different opinions and misleading information, distributors, companies and ambassadors talk about rum and they’ve never touched sugarcane in their life. So there is misinformation and false information about rum. When I visited the distilleries I acquired a complete image, totally different to the one I had before. And yes, I was reading and attending seminars. But I figured that it wasn’t enough. It was like I was going inside the glass and becoming one with rum. Of course, it is important that the people of the distilleries are also honest with you. I was lucky (and a pain in the ass for them)

I have visited in total 30 islands of the Caribbean tropic zone. The number of distilleries is 45 out of 50. My last trip was in Haiti and trust me, Haiti is a unique situation. It’s a category by itself.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

3 – I personally see you as a direct link to Rum producers that are not active on social media and have little to no online presence. Do you think that your relationship with these Rum producers is vital in bringing the plight of forgotten and overlooked distilleries such as the Callwood Distillery in the BVI and River Antoine in Grenada into the spotlight?

The first time I saw distilleries like the ones you mentioned, I said to myself, “I will spread all over the world about these distilleries-Caribbean’s heritage”.
I saw this subject in a very romantic tone. It is truly a shame that 90% of the whole world does not even know the existence of wonderful rums like these. But the most important thing is that they do not know the passion, the love and respect that the people who surround distilleries have for their rums. Their existence is the link between the past and the present. And if you do forget the past, the heritage and the history, the future is cloudy and uncertain…

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

4 – Apart from your project and the Rum, what continues to drive you to travel to these places?

People. Certainly people. The human relationships that I created there are by far the most important school of my life. They changed my worldview. I’m not the same person as I used to be before. At least I do not act and think the same way.

I adore the warm climate. I don’ really like the cold and I am freezing really quick and easy. I am not really sure if I will survive this winter in Paris. Hahahaha. Yeah, Paris is going to be my base for the following year(s)…

Finally, the word “vibe“. I can’t explain this feeling in a few words. It’s something much deeper. The vibe in the tropic zone makes me happy and above all, I’m 100% myself. Something I have never experienced before in the big European countries even in my own country, where the friendship and human relationships are in the second or even third fate. Unfortunately…

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

5 – You’re a firm advocate of the proposed Gargano / Seale Classification. Explain the classification for those that may not be aware of it. Why you feel that it is so important?

Usually, my presentations for this matter last like 4 hours…..So I believe it’s a little bit difficult to explain in a few words.

Yes, I am a 100% supporter of this wonderful classification. It was the middle of 2014 I think when Richard (Seale) firstly introduced me to this classification in one of my weekly visits to Foursquare distillery. When I saw the classification I told to myself: “Yes, this is the only way to have a better and promised future for the category of Rum, to put things in a row and first of all to give Rum the respect it deserves”. Two years later I found Luca (Gargano) in one of his trips in Barbados. He also helped me understand the classification. So, my communication with the two most influential persons of the Rum world plus my personal research was the common link for the final result…..to spread this classification all over the world.

This Classification focuses to the type of the producer, the type of the still and of course at the distillery statement. I believe that this last thing is the biggest problem in Rum. The 70% of rums of the global market haven’t got a distillery statement. This is really bad.

This classification it’s not about what’s good and what’s bad. Tasty or not. Originally, it’s a chronological order of the history of distillation and is based on facts. There is a separation between the traditional production process and the modern.  This doesn’t mean that tradition overtakes modern methods, but we surely have to have a different approach to an original artisanal Rum from an industrial one.

Finally, some people say that this classification is a copy of the Whisky’s classification. This is not true, not at all and please if you don’t understand the role of the classification, don’t judge. Open your mind and be more Caribbean…I am always open for conversations about this subject, contact me and it would be my pleasure to help you have better understanding about the classification.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

6 – Your time spent with Rum producers has seen you spearheading the important job of communicating the classification through your interactions on social media and your presentations to industry and consumers. Do you see knowledge of the classification spreading throughout the community to the point that there is a basic understanding already when you talk to the industry and consumers?

First of all I really need to share with you that NONE of the producers ever told me what to say in my presentations or to promote specific Rums (I am not a f****n promoter or brand ambassador and I will never be). I was In Berlin some weeks ago and someone came to me and said that: “You promote the rums of your friends distilleries”. This is not true. I love to promote the Rums I love and the distilleries who still respect the Caribbean’s heritage and tradition. It’s true that I have a personal connection with many distilleries like Worthy Park, Foursquare and others but this connection is more a friendship and match to our beliefs than a business. The people out there who know me personally, know this much better than anyone. The situation with the association is something new but all of us used to fight about the traditional production process of the Rum many years ago, but our voice is heard by a lot of people only in the last 2-3 years. The customers really want to know more about the Rum and this is wonderful. The promise I am giving is that I will always act 100% as Nick and I will do the best to raise the category of the Rum.

7 – A large proportion of the Rum producers appear to fear the classification. Why do you think that is?

From my point of view, the main reason is that they initially believe that if they accept this sort of classification, it is like neglecting what they say so many years about their products on the market. I think that they are only interested in the rise of their own label and not rum as a spirit. We all have to understand that sales cannot go up in a particular bottle if the category is not developed in general. You cannot deny that tradition, not least the complicated production process of rum, should not go into the same sink as modern industrial products. They cannot have the same prices and above all the word “artisanal” on their bottle. So yes, I think they initially think of their sales which is not true because if the rum is classified and developed in general, this will be a good thing for everyone. Speaking so much time for the world market, I will give a personal example from my own country that reflects what I have said. See it as a miniature of the market.

Ambassadors who have never touched a still, have not bitten sugar cane, have never walked in the Caribbean, have not spoken to locals and have not understood the rum, continue to promote products that are in the company’s portfolio, for which you do not know the existence of the distillery (which of course does not exist), so-called spiced easy rums and pure alcohol full of flavors and sweeteners, industrial products that have nothing to do with the history of the island are being produced. How do you orient yourself in the market by telling lies and having the main goal of selling your own only products and at the same time looking for the good for the future of rum? It can not be done. Quite simply because there is no love for rum and the Caribbean but love for your dominance in the market and the word “monopoly“.

The shawls have no pockets. What is the essence if you are not faithful to your values ​​and your beliefs as a person and you adapt to what the system imposes on you…?

8 – Do you think that the Classification will ever become industry standard?

I am very optimistic and positive as a human and yeah man, I believe that it will. Already you can see a great rise of the artisanal Rum in the global market and this is wonderful and makes me very happy. But I don’t like to use the world “industry” next to the word “Rum“. Let’s use another term: “The World of Rum” is much better I think.

From me and my team, there is a promise that we will do all we can to build strong foundations in this classification and we will fight for it through presentations, seminars, articles etc. What is the essence of human being as if you haven’t got something to fight for??

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

9 – Do you think that having a Geographical Indication for Rum production will become the natural progression?

Yes, I believe that this is the path. Jamaica for example, is fighting about this. But I would like to make a general statement on this really important subject.

In Jamaica we have distilleries that make completely different rum in a totally different way. In particular, it’s not possible to consider a pure single rum from Worthy Park or Hampden with that of Clarendon. Yes, these three distilleries take place in the same island, they are all Jamaican, but the Rums are completely different. The production process as well. In Clarendon they use a small amount of Rum from Batch distillation. The majority of the final blend is coming from distillation in Multi column ethyl alcohol plant. This does not happen in the first two distilleries I mentioned earlier. So, I say that simply saying Jamaican Rum is not enough because there is diversity within Jamaican Rum.

They all rely on some common elements in the production process, but at the end of the day the final products are completely different. So, just the world Jamaican Rum I don’t feel that it’s enough.

There must be also control to the independent bottlers with no distillery statement. I’m tasting very often rums like these, let’s say a Barbadian Rum, and this rum has nothing to do with the traditional rums of the island. The same happens also with other bottlings. Personally, I find it unacceptable to add sweeteners, aromas and other extras that literally do not respect the distillery, the history and the heritage of the island, and also the tradition, except some special situations. Of course, the majority of these independent bottles haven’t got distillery statement on the labels and at the same time they say that they choose personally the best barrels from the distilleries. They didn’t .They just bought these rums from other companies. Be careful with the false marketing terms. I really would like to see better control and balance between the distilleries and the independent bottlers in future. If the rum is not even close to the character of the distillery and the distillery bottlings, don’t give the permission to the independent companies to make the bottling. The master distiller has to taste the rum and if he agrees, enter the name of the distillery and his signature. So everyone cannot bottle whatever they want. Quite honestly, I believe this.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

So there we have it…..an amazing amount of passion and a completely open forum for Nikos to give his true, unedited opinions.

I’d like to personally take this opportunity to thank Nikos again for his agreement to undertake this interview and I hope that I have given him the platform which he deserves.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. 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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Secret Treasures Selection Privée St.Lucia Collection

Another visit to St Lucia and I’m expanding my array of reviews from the island with three more independent bottling’s from the same range…..The Secret Treasures Selection Privée St.Lucia Collection.

This collection comprises the following:

Vendome 9 Year – Single Cask No. 528 – 53% abv

Vendome 6 Year – Single Cask No. 850 – 52% abv

John Dore 9 Year – Single Cask No. 26 – 55% abv

Vendome Pot Still centre, John Dore II behind, John Dore I left

Again, you can familiarise yourselves with my previous writing on St Lucia Distillers and some of their own label products by clicking here, here, here and here…..and there is also information on a magnificent independent bottling here.

Right, now you’re back and have a little background on St Lucia Distillers, its straight into the bottles.

Tasting Notes

Vendome Pot Still – 6 Years Old – 52% abv

This still has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003

Glass: Bright gold. Oily. A pleasant alcohol spike initially. Light fruit such as pineapple, ripe banana and mango. Mild oaken influence. Light floral notes. Sweet vanilla fudge. Liquorice bitterness and that magical medicinal quality.

Mouth: A little alcohol up front gives way to peppery oak. Light sweetness and an almost biscuit-y whisky note. Medicinal for sure but with pipe tobacco. Time gives pineapple, mango and ginger. An herbal quality is present. That medicinal note is well pronounced and it carries through to the medium-long finish. This starts with dry oak and herbal notes before developing into peaches, caramel, oat biscuits and pipe tobacco. Youthful but with a good level of maturity.

Vendome Pot Still – 9 Years Old – 53% abv

Glass: Gold. Oily. Less aggressive from the off. Acetone. Burnt rubber. Oak. Ripe bananas. Beautiful medicinal quality again. Very pungent and well-rounded. Like Hampden meets Rockley. Light smoke. Oak. Liquorice. Vanilla. Pineapple chutney. A more accessible and mature proposition with the medicinal notes well-tempered.

Mouth: Again the alcohol is well-integrated. Oak meets pepper meets herbal tablets (maybe this is just a UK thing). Ginger. Banana jam. Mildly menthol. Honeycomb. Light florals wrapped in that beautiful medicinal smokey note. The long finish starts with fruit, caramel and liquorice chewy sweets before developing into a moisture sapping smoke driven dryness with a faint herbal note to end. Very well-rounded and really impressive.

John Dore Pot Still – 9 Years Old – 55% abv

There is no specific mention of which John Dore Still this comes from, I or II. John Dore I has a capacity of 1500 litres and was commissioned in 1998. John Dore II is the largest Pot Still at SLD and has a capacity of 6000 litres. It was commissioned in 2004

Glass: Dark gold. Viscous. Very pungent. Acetone, pear drops. Fruit. Oak. Honey. Banana chips. Chocolate. Caramel. It all seems less medicinal forward through it is there. Pineapple. Mango. Cloves. Cinnamon. Pipe tobacco. Integration is the overarching theme here. Maybe the still gives out less medicinal notes?

Mouth: Hot Hot Heat….pretty sure that was a band? Far sweeter entry than expected. Pronounced cinnamon. Pepper kicks hard and is followed by a light oak. A beautiful candyfloss joins the party. Banana chips, mango fruit leathers. It could be Jamaican for a split second. Funky. The mid-palate is all about the medicinal notes, smoke and spice. Anise and a liquorice bitterness. It remains quite heated with a growing foreboding dryness. This Rum is a lot more meaty and all-encompassing. The long finish starts with banana chips in chocolate before developing a nutty oaken quality. Tobacco follows along with whiffs of smoke and just a hint of that medicinal note.

It hard to separate the Vendome 9 and John Dore 9. Both display maturity and complexity far in excess of their tender years. Even the Vendome 6 brings a more playful puppy like quality to the party. Given my time again, I’d buy all three again. If you have to only have one, ask how much you like medicinal notes….if you adore Rockley style rums then it has to be the Vendome 9….if you like medicinal notes present but tempered by a sweeter spice driven note…it has to be the John Dore. I personally can’t pick between the two older expressions as you’ll note by the scores. I love medicinal notes, I love the bite of a Rum that sits over 50% and I pretty much love St Lucian pot still rum. More!!!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. 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

St Lucia Distillers Individual Distillates

Distillers-Final-LogoThis will be kind of a unique post because it’s maybe a little self-indulgent, as you can’t actually purchase the Rums individually….they are a choice few individual aged and unaged distillates that I was lucky enough to try during the St Lucia Distillers On Tour event in April. I was fortunately able to sweet talk Dave Marsland enough for him to allow me to decant a few samples to try at my leisure…..well I have finally found that leisure time.

What I hope that this post of quick fire notes will do is give some sort of insight into my thoughts on some of the individual marques that are produced at St Lucia Distillers which could also link into how these are used in the excellent 1931 series of releases that have seen success of late.

I have covered the various output at St Lucia Distillers in the article on 1931 linked above and in the following articles based upon the Chairman’s Reserve Range and Admiral Rodney.

Up for tasting within this article are a 5 year aged Coffey Column Distillate, a 5 year aged John Dore (assumed I) Pot Distillate, a 5 year aged Vendome Pot  Distillate, a 4 year aged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate (could be Vendome or John Dore I), an unaged John Dore (assumed I) Pot Distillate and an unaged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate (could be Vendome or John Dore I)….there were a couple more available but sadly not enough sample bottles on my part. Anyhow without further ado, we’ll head straight into it…..

I have obtained a few images of the pot stills at St Lucia Distillers straight from Michael Speakman and they give a wonderful insight into the arrangement at the distillery…the column still shot is stolen from a SLD presentation document that was made available to me….

John Dore I

John Dore Pot Still – 1500 litre capacity

John Dore II Pot Still

John Dore II Pot Still – 6000 litre capacity

Vendom Pot Still

Vendome Pot Still – 2000 litre capacity

column-still-shot-1

Coffey Twin Column Continuous Still

Tasting Notes

Sample of Unaged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rhum)

unaged-sugarcane-distillateGlass: It is crystal clear in the glass and not too clingy. Beautifully pungent. Initial notes are of brine and a sprinkling of salt on a stick of celery. Its grassy and vegetal whilst having a deeper sweetness. Lightly fragrant, with an almost floral note. There is also the lightest whiff of public swimming baths over here in the UK…..a deep rooted smell from my childhood.

Mouth: There is an initial very apparent sweetness along with a peppery celery.  It is a little herbal and does for me, display the characteristics of some of the more established agricole brands on the market. In particular the J. Bally Blanc. It is all very light and drinkable with a slight savoury, herbal butter sign off on the finish. Needs more oomph….but that’s not the point if this distillate.

Sample of 4 Year Aged Sugarcane Juice Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rhum)

four-year-sugarcane-distillateGlass: Light toffee colour and what appears to be a slight cloudiness which could be temperature related. This is very light with no real up front punch. I have to wait a while before I get a little light oaken vanilla. This is backed up with a slightly sour cherry note. Faint pear drop like astringency pokes its nose through. On the surface it appears to have lost the majority of its agricole like character during maturation. Additional notes are of a mild, herbal grassiness.

Mouth: Light sweetness leads with an immediate cut into drying oak. Black pepper and a fennel seed note hit the mid palate. It does show itself as a little more agricole like on the palate as the grassy, vegetal spine is there albeit somewhat subdued. It has a relatively short grassy finish with a hint of oak. It is again, very drinkable stuff and whilst its no slouch, it doesn’t posses the complexity of any of the French West Indies offerings……you can see where the influence of the more mature agricole comes in on the 4th Edition of the 1931 series….for me it is a welcome addition to that blend.

Sample of 5 Year Aged Coffey Column Distillate – 40% (Traditional Rum)

five year aged column distillateGlass: Light gold in appearance and also quite light on the nose. Coconut, milk chocolate and pencil shavings are the first discernible aromas. Vanilla and a touch of nutmeg round the nose out along with light floral notes.

Mouth: The Rum has a light body in the mouth with a very dry, oaken entry. The milk chocolate is there still along with vanilla, and a hit of white pepper. The finish is dry and of a medium length and is dominated by the light vanilla and oak.

Sample of Unaged John Dore Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)

unaged john dore distillateGlass: Clear with what appears to be a light blue hue. Clean, fresh pot still aromas abound. Pear drops, an unmistakable salty freshness of black olives and brine. That medicinal, almost iodine note that I expect from this still is abundant. Its vegetal and there is a creamy liquorice to round things out.

Mouth: It has a lighter mouthfeel than expected given the olive heavy nose. A mild banana like sweetness brings in the savoury / sweet note of biting into a ripe pear. Varnish powers through the mid palate with black pepper and the medicinal iodine note is very clear. The medium length finish is full of liquorice with the mildest hint of peaches.

Sample of 5 year Aged John Dore Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)

five year aged john dore distillateGlass: Light gold. Punchy. Very punchy. Straight up front, uncompromising medicinal iodine notes and light smoke. Oak is very apparent along with a delicate sweet / sour note. Raisins and a peppery tingle accompany acetone and another whiff of smoke. Prune juice rounds things out with something reminiscent of apple and mango juice.

Mouth: An initial sweetness of Pontefract Cakes (liquorice) leads with some antiseptic. Heavy on the medicinal notes. There is a peppery mid palate laden with drying oak, Bramley apple sauce and mango puree. A light toffee and herbal note follows. Quite savoury. The medium to long finish is where the magic happens. A very spice led dry oak and pepper develops into a leathery note with the smoke and iodine sticking around until the bitter end. This has remarkable complexity for its 5 years of maturation. Yes it needs more abv punch (I have an indie bottle that rectifies this) but you can tell that in a blend, a little John Dore goes a long way.  I can see how this could be considered out of balance for some, but with the medicinal notes, obvious barrel influence and a hint of fruit, this is totally my thing.

Sample of 5 year Aged Vendome Pot Distillate – 40% (Pure Single Rum)

five year aged vendome distillateGlass: A darker, reddish gold. This is not as punchy as the John Dore. It feels like there is more astringency on the nose. Rubber is apparent but it is more like balloons. Oaken, creosote notes hit home with pencil shavings and a mild medicinal note. Caramel and light treacle bitterness round it out with a floral honey.

Mouth: Lighter than the nose dictates. Spikey black pepper leads with a slightly sweet herbal character. Mango and a light honey note fight through before a slight bittersweet taste appears. Medicinal iodine notes are there, albeit subdued they do come to the surface as the bittersweet kicks in. A drying bitterness develops on the medium long finish that leaves my mouth full of oak and fennel seeds. This component is massively apparent in the new Elements 8 Vendome (replacement for the Gold). Yes I know that its noted on the label but its more apparent than on the older Gold bottling.

A little self indulgent perhaps given the lack of opportunities to obtain most of these distillates. There are some of the pot still bottlings available within the Secret Treasures range. On a personal level I have found this run through of the various distillates very entertaining. You start to pick out differing components within the blends more accurately based on their attributes when tried as individual distillates. The John Dore I & II and Vendome Pot Stills are fast becoming my must seek out pot still bottlings. They have their own signature in the way that the mythical Rockley (Style) Still does and it’s that medicinal, slightly smoke driven note (more so in the John Dore I) that adds so much to the blends that they are used in.

With such a huge range of marques available from their excellent array of stills, coupled with new French investment, what I would love to see in the future….and I believe wholeheartedly that the market is there for it…is a range similar to the recent Mount Gay Origins releases and the Habitation Velier range. A rare opportunity to try (at a decent +45% abv, full bottles, maybe 200ml bottles or 90ml tube container) these individual components along with a little background, still history and in-situ images of the stills. Fingers crossed.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. 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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Rumnaissance…..Rum Diaries Blog at Manchester Science Festival

msf-logoThis one is a little bit of a personal post asking (pleading) for your support as I take my first steps into talking to members of the public about the Rum in their glass.

It is worthwhile pointing out that the evening will be in its most basic form, a Rum tasting, but with added information about production and categorization. The event title is Rumnaissance and I have pieced together a little look at the breakdown of how I plan to structure the night:

Rums classifications have become somewhat outdated. Location based style classification is difficult as many rums straddle a line between styles. Colour based classification along with such horrific terms such as ‘Premium’ and ‘Super Premium’ give no indicators of true intrinsic value.  A new classification system proposed by Velier’s Luca Gargano and backed by Foursquare Distillery’s Richard Seale highlights a category of identification based upon the method of distillation employed in the Rums production.

During the evening we will discuss the proposed categorisation which from the top down is split into the distillation categories of batch and continuous, and then into further categories. We will look at the basic principles behind each distillation method, how they are used in Rum production and further explore how this relates to the proposed categories. We will also look at the effects that contact with wood has on a new spirit and also how Tropical age delivers a different result to European age.

To help you along during all of this we will be tasting Rums that demonstrate these categories as we discuss them. You’ll get to try Rum-Bar Aged and unaged “Pure Single Rum” from Worthy Park in Jamaica, Doorly’s “Single Blended Rum” from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, Admiral Rodney “Traditional Rum” from St Lucia Distillers, “Agricole Rhum” from Martinique, and Ron Cubay “Rum” from Cuba. You’ll also get to try Glorious Revolution, an Unaged 100% Pot Distilled Rum made here in the UK by Spirit Masters. A few nibbles will be provided during the break, but even then, you’ll be tasting at least 6 or 7 Rums so it is advisable to fill up before you arrive.

The link to purchase tickets is here and it would be great to have your support if you can make it.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2016. 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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Saint James Rum 250th Anniversary

*Press Release*

SJ-Logo250-Pantone+or

SAINT JAMES RUM MARKS 250th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS IN STYLE THIS JULY

SAINT JAMES - Cuvée 1765 (ambiance)

Saint James Rum is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year with a special commemorative bottling, a host of festivities on its home island of Martinique, and a worldwide marketing campaign.

Saint James Rum is one of the oldest rum brands, with the plantations first producing rum in 1765. From the outset the brand was a pioneer in its category, being the first rum to create vintage specific blends, and designing an innovative square bottle in order to maximise storage and minimise breakage on the long sea-voyages to its original export markets.

Today the iconic Rhum Agricole is still produced in Martinique, which has the only rum AOC (appellation controllée) in the world, and more precisely in Sainte-Marie, on the East coast of the island. Saint James Rum is and has always been committed to quality, heritage, innovation and traditional expertise. The special Saint James Cuvée 1765, a blend created in homage to the original 1765 style, is the epitome of the quality of the products it offers. The brand is also at the forefront of the new mixology trend and has recently developed links with key stars in this field including top mixologist and barman, Stephen Martin.

SAINT JAMES - Cuvée 1765The week of 6-12 July, which traditionally marks the end of the sugar harvest, is set to be a key moment during the 250th anniversary celebrations in Martinique. “The programme includes visits around the distillery; masterclasses and tastings; and a live show culminating in the release of a commemorative limited edition: an ultra-premium blend of six of the best Saint James vintages, presented in a luxurious glass flagon with embossed metal neck,” comments Nadège Perrot, international Saint James brand manager. To pay full tribute to Saint James rich history, other festivities will be taking place across the world including an anniversary party in Paris, multi-media advertising campaigns and outstanding point-of-sale promotions. This milestone anniversary will make 2015 a Saint James year!

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Whilst we won’t be fortunate enough to join in with the festivities in Martinique of Paris, we have been fortunate enough to get our grubby little fingers on a bottle of the Saint James Cuvée 1765 and cannot wait to try it. We use the Saint James Royal Ambre as part of our bespoke 7 Rum Mai Tai blend so are looking forward to tasting a release created to pay homage to the original 1765 style!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. 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.

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.