London Rum Experience Week and RumFest Shenanigans

rum experience no dateGiven the huge amount of Rum based events going on in the lead up to this years UK RumFest, there is a high likelihood that if this performance is repeated next year we may have to take a short-term rental in South West London! We thought that by making the trip on Thursday morning clutching our Rum University and RumFest tickets that we would be experiencing a lot……but in truth we didn’t even scratch the surface. What we shall attempt to do though is talk you through some of the more standout points of our 2015 RumFest experience!

Friday morning saw us grab a cup of tea take a seat on the comfy sofas in the lobby of the Ibis Hotel. We were soon joined by John Coelho-Charles, Helena Tiare Olsen, Keegan Menezes, Robert Burr and Paul Yellin. Much chatting ensued with topics as varied as Santeria Rum, the weather and the strange fruit on offer at the street market outside of our hotel……As we sat waiting, Ian walked into the lobby, made a b-line for the sofas and greeted us all. Good start. A short while later due to London traffic (among other things) we clocked Tito Cordero enter the building which meant that Rum University could start. We were all ushered into one of the seminar rooms off the main hall with a few of us taking a cheeky glimpse of the exhibition space being set up for the weekends fun.

IMAG1033The Diplomatico Rum seminar kicked things off with a really open insight into the sheer range of distillates that can be produced at DUSA. Now irrespective of your opinion on the Rums produced and sold under the Diplomatico brand, they have a pretty special collection of stills at DUSA….and we got to hear about all of them.

Next up was a pretty special olfactory seminar presented by Kim Lahiri of Aroma Academy. It was all about reconstructing the aroma profiles not deconstructing them which is done via Aroma Recognition and Aroma Vocabulary. Very interesting and enlightening stuff. After a quick break for lunch which consisted of the amazing Fish n Chips from the on site pub….(just ask Helena for a review) we were into the afternoon session.

IMAG1051 (2)The afternoons learning opportunity was provided by Richard Seale of Foursquare Distillery who led with his own rather brutal assessment of the current state of the industry and a real insight into alcohol plants vs spirit production. He also brought proposals for the future classification of the Rum category. A proposal in conjunction with Luca Gargano that would see Rum categorised as follows:

  • 100% Pot Still (Pure Single Rum)
  • Pot / Column (Single Blended)
  • Column (Coffey Still)
  • Multi-Column

 

IMAG1049Off the back of this we got to try the upcoming Habitation Velier Foursquare 100% Pot Still release…..dazzling doesn’t quite cover it.

The seminar ended with a little food for thought….’Not all Rums with added sugar are bad…..but all of the bad ones will have added sugar’. A very interesting day spent and a learning opportunity that we will be looking to undertake again next year! We were then released into the quite amazing Boutique RumFest……

 

 

 

 

 

Boutique RumFest

This year saw some absolutely amazing Rums on display and the experience is probably best dealt with via a series of images….

Bushtea Rum

IMAG1052Bush Tea Rum is more of a botanical Rum….distilled in the UK it was quite a unique proposition and something that tasted quite different in a world of very ‘samey’ spiced Rums…

 

 

Ekte Rums

IMAG1053Coming from Denmark and with Daniel Nunez Bascunan at the helm, the range of Rums available was great with our particular favourites being the Light & Dry (Barbados and Trinidad) and Pungent & Geeky (Jamaica and Barbados). We really hope that these get a UK release as we are mad keen to try them again.

 

Bristol Classic Rum

IMAG1056

We were so so pleased to see the guys from Bristol Classic there. We are big fans of their output and the releases on display didn’t disappoint. Of the bottles on display, we already own the Worthy Park 8, Diamond Distillery 2003 and Foursquare 2004. Standouts were the simply sublime Port Morant 25yr, Haiti 2004 and Mauritius 5yr.We hope tobe able to pick up a few more Bristol bottlings over the coming year.

 

 

 

Hamilton Ministry of Rum Collection

IMAG1059This collection was quite simply stunning. The St Lucian 9 yr 100% Pot Still at 66.7% abv (which we fortunately ended up leaving with the remains of) is an absolute triumph, once again singling out St Lucia Distillers as one of the better current producers. Produced by their John Dore still it is an absolute melting pot of flavours and a real demonstration of a beautiful pot distilled Rum. We also have to say that the Jamaican Gold and Jamaican Black were no slouches either. Both from Worthy Park, the only difference is the addition of extra caramel colouring. We also got to meet Ed Hamilton too which was definitely one to tick of the list! European bottlers were being sought on this visit….though sadly not for the St Lucia 9yr as Ed’s allocation has all already been bottled.

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Matugga Rum

IMAG1063These guys were a real standout for us. 100 % Pot Still Rum distilled here in the UK. There is a real signature profile running through both the Gold and Spiced with a real hit of smoke which keeps things interesting. We predict good things in 2016 for these guys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Leaves Rum

IMAG1066The Nine Leaves range of Rums from Japan have been on our list for a while and we finally got to try them. Three interesting cask finished including quite a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon Cask and an American Oak Cask were all very different and all offered something unique. As expected the wine cask was very heavy on tannins and not for everyone but I quite enjoyed it. The real star though was the Clear which displayed once again, a really large amount of character as a result of the fermentation and pot distillation. One to pick up in the future.

IMAG1065

 

 

 

 

 

Rum Nation

IMAG1068We are already quite familiar with a lot of the Rum Nation releases but it was great to see their Rums on display there. The new Caroni 1999 was another accessible Caroni from them and now resides on our shelves.

 

 

Hampden Estate

IMAG1071Hampden Estate were also present, or should we say that Christelle was present. We are more than aware of Hampden Gold which has no age at all but a hell of a lot of flavour. What struck us was the amount of flavour carried by Rumfire even given its 63%…..we don’t own it yet but we will be looking to pick it up soon.

 

 

Other exhibitors of real note were the sublime offerings of Worthy Park Rum Bar Rum, the amazing Real McCoy and St Nicholas Abbey with their slightly more mature 5yr and sugar cane syrup. A great evening where we also bumped into our friend Sian…this years Boutique really trumped last years (which was also good) and we came away from the event with a real sense of a proper progression and new direction for the event with an emphasis on a few more independent bottlers really helping shake things up.IMAG1074 (2)

RumFest 2015

Again, a series of images seems way more appropriate than paragraphs attempting to sum up what a photograph can do quite easily.

After the disappointing sweetness of the first Angostura No1 release (red), the second Angostura No1 release (purple) really redeems itself with such a beautiful concentration of flavours and a dryness that is really very appealing

After the disappointing sweetness of the first Angostura No1 release (red), the second Angostura No1 release (purple) really redeems itself with such a beautiful concentration of flavours and a dryness that is really very appealing

Sean Duprey giving us a little lectured tasting of Angostura Rums

Sean Duprey giving us a little lectured tasting of Angostura Rums

The Bacardi shack was again another highlight. So well presented and this year with an emphasis on Ocho (Bacardi 8) and its versatility

The Bacardi shack was again another highlight. So well presented and this year with an emphasis on Ocho (Bacardi 8) and its versatility

A few selected serves to highlight Bacardi 8.....the Old Cuban was particularly good

A few selected serves to highlight Bacardi 8…..the Old Cuban was particularly good

Pussers....just yes. We know the range, we love the range, we got to try the range...you NEED Gunpowder Proof in your life....and the new blue label at 40% is no slouch either

Pussers….just yes. We know the range, we love the range, we got to try the range…you NEED Gunpowder Proof in your life….and the new blue label at 40% is no slouch either

Great to meet George again and to see him getting so passionate about Pussers

Great to meet George again and to see him getting so passionate about Pussers

Matugga Rum proved to be a real head turner and a massive hit and Jacines Rum Cake was phenomenal

Matugga Rum proved to be a real head turner and a massive hit and Jacines Rum Cake was phenomenal

Matugga Golden.....a really pleasant hit of smoke running though it

Matugga Golden…..a really pleasant hit of smoke running though it

Don Q Gran Anejo......a really really great example of a well made and very flavourful lighter column spirit

Don Q Gran Anejo……a really really great example of a well made and very flavourful lighter column spirit

Tiburon Rum brought their own Jack sparrow look-a-like to the event (pictures further down)....whilst we're not huge fans of pirate based japery....it was good fun nonetheless

Tiburon Rum brought their own Jack sparrow look-a-like to the event (pictures further down)….whilst we’re not huge fans of pirate based japery….it was good fun nonetheless

Our Rum of the Year thus far.....the Foursquare Port Cask

Our Rum of the Year thus far…..the Foursquare Port Cask

Steven eavesdropping on a deep discussion between two greats....Richard Seale and Dave Broom...

Steven eavesdropping on a deep discussion between two greats….Richard Seale and Dave Broom…

The next cask finish release from Foursquare....Zinfandel Cask....so unbelievably delicate and candyfloss like

The next cask finish release from Foursquare….Zinfandel Cask….so unbelievably delicate and candyfloss like

Richard magically producing a bottle of their first cask strength release.....it was way more delicate than you'd think and carried with it some amazing aromas and flavours

Richard magically producing a bottle of their first cask strength release…..it was way more delicate than you’d think and carried with it some amazing aromas and flavours

A real divider of opinions.....Mauritius Club...full on Bakewell tart in a glass.....I'm quite a fan

A real divider of opinions…..Mauritius Club…full on Bakewell tart in a glass…..I’m quite a fan

The new Gold Of Mauritius 5yr....Solera in this case merely means multiple barrels. It carries the same salty, nutty, chocolate profile as Gold just with a more balanced finish given a few years in oak...

The new Gold Of Mauritius 5yr….Solera in this case merely means multiple barrels. It carries the same salty, nutty, chocolate profile as Gold just with a more balanced finish given a few years in oak…

The range of Mezan releases presented by Eaux de Vie....the Guyana 2005 just had to come home with us

The range of Mezan releases presented by Eaux de Vie….the Guyana 2005 just had to come home with us

Lambs....their Alfred Lamb Cask Selection was absolutely beautiful

Lambs….their Alfred Lamb Cask Selection was absolutely beautiful

Botran....we are fans of the range here and it was great to reacquaint ourselves

Botran….we are fans of the range here and it was great to reacquaint ourselves

The anniversary release....very limited quantities.....the Rum was great and the experience of using the Spice and Citrus essences was a really good experience

The anniversary release….very limited quantities…..the Rum was great and the experience of using the Spice and Citrus essences was a really good experience

The seminars were also great fun this year too. We got to attend two separate versions of the Velier Seminar with the charismatic Luca Gargano and we also got the opportunity to attend the Rhums of Martinique Room with Jerry Gitany and Benoit Bail which was a great experience……

House of Velier Seminar(s)

Luca Gargano stating to warm up...

Luca Gargano stating to warm up…

Luca in full flow...

Luca in full flow…

Probably the most charismatic man that we have ever met....so much passion for Rum and all that it entails. An absolutely wonderful series of seminars giving great insight to the Rum, the man and his motivation...and of course we got to try some amazing Rums

Probably the most charismatic man that we have ever met….so much passion for Rum and all that it entails. An absolutely wonderful series of seminars giving great insight to the Rum, the man and his motivation…and of course we got to try some amazing Rums

Star of the show....the Habitation Velier releases...Foursquare 100% Pot Still

Star of the show….the Habitation Velier releases…Foursquare 100% Pot Still

Star of the show....the Habitation Velier releases...Forsyths 151 proof

Star of the show….the Habitation Velier releases…Forsyths 151 proof

Star of the show....the Habitation Velier releases...Forsyths Pot Still

Star of the show….the Habitation Velier releases…Forsyths Pot Still

Star of the show....the Habitation Velier releases...Forsyths Pot Still

Star of the show….the Habitation Velier releases…Forsyths Pot Still

A quite phenomenal Caroni.....

A quite phenomenal Caroni…..

Rhum Rhum Liberation 2012....version integrale

Rhum Rhum Liberation 2012….version integrale

Barnali and Luca....the shot that we could use....

Barnali and Luca….the shot that we could use….

Steven and Luca.....how big should we make the canvas print of this one?

Steven and Luca…..how big should we make the canvas print of this one?

 

Rhums of Martinique Room

Jerry and Benoit giving the introduction....

Jerry and Benoit giving the introduction….

These guys must be at the forefront of experimenting with cask finishes....some really interesting HSE expressions to try

These guys must be at the forefront of experimenting with cask finishes….some really interesting HSE expressions to try

These guys must be at the forefront of experimenting with cask finishes....some really interesting HSE expressions to try

These guys must be at the forefront of experimenting with cask finishes….some really interesting HSE expressions to try

Jerry extolling the virtues of Rhum Neisson....we are now believers!

Jerry extolling the virtues of Rhum Neisson….we are now believers!

We were fortunate enough to pick a bottle of this Rhum Neisson expression up....so so good

We were fortunate enough to pick a bottle of this Rhum Neisson expression up….so so good

Every one of these expressions carried something interesting and flavourful....

Every one of these expressions carried something interesting and flavourful….

Onto Benoit and Rhum Saint James.....quite beautiful expression this one....another that we were able to pick up and bring back with us...

Onto Benoit and Rhum Saint James…..quite beautiful expression this one….another that we were able to pick up and bring back with us…

...and this expression was an absolute delight....

…and this expression was an absolute delight….

Onto Trois Rivieres.....

Onto Trois Rivieres…..

We really enjoyed this expression....

We really enjoyed this expression….

...and this was beautiful....very well rounded

…and this was beautiful….very well rounded

Having only ever tried La Mauny Blanc, we were very impressed with what the range had to offer....

Having only ever tried La Mauny Blanc, we were very impressed with what the range had to offer….

This being the particular stand out expression.....

This being the particular stand out expression…..

Emilie finishing off with a 'Ti Punch....or several....we are really going to miss her when she moves....

Emilie finishing off with a ‘Ti Punch….or several….we are really going to miss her when she moves….

Group photo.....Jerry, Benoit, Emilie, Audrey and Paul Yellin getting in on things....

Group photo…..Jerry, Benoit, Emilie, Audrey and Paul Yellin getting in on things….

Steven with Benoit and Jerry.....we finally got to meet these guys and can't wait until our paths cross again...

Steven with Benoit and Jerry…..we finally got to meet these guys and can’t wait until our paths cross again…

That pretty much concludes the photo tour of this years RumFest….as far as previous years go…there was a real focus this year on the hot discussion topic of ‘real rum’ and the seminars and exhibitors really did reflect this. Sure there were a few big hitters missing but our time was fully spent getting to talk to the exhibitors and to be honest if there had been a third day we would have had just as much to do and to see.

In terms of standout Rums from the Boutique RumFest and RumFest, we have several. The Rum Bar offerings from Worthy Park, Gold, Overproof and Rum Cream were all outstanding. Matugga Rum made a big impression on a lot of people including us. The Ed Hamilton Ministry of Rum Collection was a joy to try. The Ekte Rums and Nine Leaves also impressed us a lot. The new Foursquare releases have us VERY excited and the upcoming Habitation Velier releases are going to inspire some Rum Pokémon in us (Gotta Catch Em All). All in all, 2016 is lining up to be very exciting and very expensive!

We couldn’t sign off though without a story and a few pictures of the great friends that we met again and also met for the first time. We met a couple from the US, Timothy and Louann Mace who were very complimentary about this site and in fact used our updates on RumFest to plan their trip over here to the event which was great to hear as its good to know that we are pitching the right content…and that it is useful!

Barnali with Captain Jack

Barnali with Captain Jack

Steven with Darius and James from Trilogy Brands and Fred from Gold of Mauritius

Steven with Darius and James from Trilogy Brands and Fred from Gold of Mauritius

Ian and Helena....

Ian and Helena….

Steven judging his first cocktail competition in great company...

Steven judging his first cocktail competition in great company…

We finally got to meet Johnny...

We finally got to meet Johnny…

Steven with John and Kevin....

Steven with John and Kevin….

We couldn't leave this one out....Steven with the awesome Andy Abrahams...

We couldn’t leave this one out….Steven with the awesome Andy Abrahams…

Rum people truly are great people

© 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.

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Ron Botran

Guatemala has a rich heritage within both the sugar cane and rum production industries. In the early 20th Century, the country was scattered with family owned, individually set up distilleries. Essentially, these were single estate family concerns that had their own land for the growing of sugar cane, stills to distil the fermented product and bottling facilities for the rum. As the spirit industry played a huge part in Guatemala’s economic growth, during the 1940’s the Guatemalan Government issued the Aging Act to force distillers to create  reserves of aged spirits to guarantee the quality of their products. This sowed the seeds for the formation of the Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala.

The Botran family, synonymous with sugar cane production in Guatemala, sowed the seeds of their rum production legacy high in the western Guatemalan city of Quetzaltenango, 2300 metres above sea level. This is where the five Spanish brothers, Venancio, Andres, Felipe, Jesus and Alejandro Botran, discovered that the climate there was ideal for the high altitude slow ageing of rum. This discovery led to the brothers forming the Industria Licorera Quezalteca in 1939.

Botran Range Angle

All of the sugar cane that is used in Botran Rums is picked from their family estate in Retalhuleu, in the south of Guatemala. This location is perfect for the growing of sugar cane due to its clay, volcanic soils that enjoy constant sunshine. These qualities allow the growth of sugar cane varieties that give the highest sugar content to give the best raw material and the ideal characteristics for the first process of producing Botran Rums. The cane is transported to the mill for the first press. During this process the juice extracted from the cane pressing is heated to remove water and impurities, thus creating the virgin sugar cane honey. The key base ingredient of all Botran rums as it allows the preservation of more of the sugars.

The sugar cane honey is fermented with the use of a proprietary strain of yeast taken from pineapples, to allow the sugar to be turned into alcohol whilst retaining consistency of flavour and aroma for the rums. This fermentation process takes approximately 120 hours and helps develop the flavours and aromas that will be present in the rum. Each product is distilled individually to achieve a distinctive character unique to the intended end product. The process of distillation allows the extraction of alcohol from the fermented ‘wort’ within continuous stills containing copper components. Within these stills, the fermented product is heated using steam until the alcohol reaches evaporation point. The alcohol vapours are then passed through condensers where they are captured again.

This end product, rum, is then aged in Quetzaltenango, 2300 metres above sea level in barrels that once contained American Whiskey (both new and re-charred), Sherry and Port. The American Whiskey barrels that are re-charred are done so to extract the flavours and aromas from the wood to provide a further depth of character for the rum. The rum is aged using the Solera System which I highlighted when talking about Ron Zacapa and the explanation of their specific system was given in that write-up. The system can vary from producer to producer and I will attempt to briefly describe the Botran system here.

The rums are initially aged in new American Whiskey barrels. This aged rum is then placed into blending vats where it is blended with older lots of rum (mother rum) that has already undergone the full solera aging process. The contents of these vats are then aged in re-charred American Whiskey barrels. These are again transferred into blending vats with more of the mother rum. The contents of this stage of the process is divided into used Port and Sherry barrels for further aging. These barrels are then reviewed by the rum blenders and their flavour, aroma and colour are assessed. They are evaluated and enter their marrying phase where they are then considered to be the final blend and are aged for a further 12 months or until the Master Blender considers them ready for bottling.

There you have it, the journey of the sugar cane from the family owned fields to the bottle. There were originally only two styles available in the UK. These were the Reserva (a blend of rums between 5 and 14 years old) and the Solera 1893 (a blend of rums between 5 and 18 years old). They have recently been joined by the Reserva Blanca, a white rum that has also been aged in the same Solera process but has been charcoal filtered to remove all colour from the rum. Fortunately I have been able to make contact with the UK distributor for Ron Botran, Distillnation and they have been amazing in helping me research the history and production methods.

Botran Range

This write-up is a first for Rum Diaries Blog as it will be the first complete range that I have featured……but what a range to start with!

Tasting Notes – Ron Botran Reserva Blanca

In the glass: The rum is crystal clear and when I swirl the glass the rum looks to be a lot more viscous than I would’ve thought. The initial aromas are fresh with a slight vanilla and no hint of alcohol burn…but what does it taste like?

In the mouth: Instant vanilla and a light fruitiness hit you and this turns into an almost marzipan sweetness on your tongue. The rum is smooth, not harsh, not too dry but not dripping with sweetness either. The finish is quite short and spicy with a warming burn on the way down.

Sipping is not the intended use of this rum though, even though it blows most other white rums away when drunk this way. Where it really excels is in a simple mixed drink where the rum is the star. I use mine to make a sublime daiquiri. Just squeeze 25ml of fresh lime juice into a Boston mixing glass, add 10ml of sugar syrup (adjust sweet and sour levels to suit your taste) and finish with 50ml of Reserva Blanca. Add lots of ice, shake well and double strain into your glass of choice (I use a pre-chilled Martini glass)….I fully expect you to be making your second whilst halfway through your first! Botran Reserva Blanca

Tasting Notes – Ron Botran Reserva

In the glass: The rum is a nice medium bronze colour with flashed of red and gold. Again, the rum appears to be of a medium viscosity, not too heavy. Vanilla, toffee and slight spicy aromas rise from the glass. It doesn’t smell as heavy as I would’ve thought. It is very smooth with no harshness. Prolonged sitting in the glass reveals a warm peach, oak and leathery aroma.

In the mouth: The rum instantly coats your whole mouth with warming sweet oak and toffee with a dark sherry like edge. Light spice and oak dominate the middle of my tongue. The finish is pure dairy fudge, oak and a fruity sweetness and this comes back at you in waves both in the mouth and through the vapours sneaking up on the back of your nose. It is, quite frankly, everything that I look for in a sipping rum to suit all moods and all times of the day.

You can mix it, in plenty of drinks, but I prefer it neat. When I have mixed it however I have used it in a rum old fashioned. Take a mixing glass with a few ices cubes, add a bar spoon of sugar syrup, 50ml of Botran Reserva and 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Stir well until nicely chilled then strain into a rocks glass filled with 3 or 4 ices cubes. Finish with a twist of orange zest which you first crack over the glass then drop in….or at least that’s how I do it.

Botran Reserva

Tasting Notes – Ron Botran Solera 1893

In the glass: The rum is a dark bronze with hints of orange. Medium viscosity with an amazing vanilla and almost oily orange aroma sitting over the glass. Caramel, oak and that warm peach aroma make an appearance too.

In the mouth: Warming sweetness hits you with a butterscotch edge and absolutely no burn. Slight spice again and a sweet oak coating my tongue. Peaches, butterscotch, and an orange sweetness hit you in waves. There is, to me, a tiny bit of oaky bitterness, but nothing off-putting. I’d imagine that the medium length butterscotch and tobacco finish would make this an ideal match for a decent cigar.

I have never mixed this one, but if I did, I couldn’t see myself straying too far from the simplistic old fashioned or maybe a sazerac! Now there’s a thought!

Botran Solera 1893

So there you have it, an amazing range of rums with an amazing history and amazing prices with the whole range available for around £100 in total so there is no real excuse not to own all 3….at some point. All of them have their own qualities and all of them deserve a place on anyone’s rum shelf. They will all be replaced once they have been emptied…..not long to go for the Reserva!

© 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.