Category Archives: Rum

Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

You’re full of meat and pie and perhaps meat pie. Now it’s time to think of your loved ones. Were they naughty? Nice? Do they deserve a fancy tipple when the giving season arrives?

For your most favored loved ones, Drinkhacker offers this collection of our favorite spirits from 2012, just a small sampling of the most worthy products on the market. Dig through the category of your choice for other ideas, and please chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Want our gift guide in glorious, full-color, printable-magazine style, complete with the original reviews for all of these products? YOU GOT IT!

four roses 2012 small batch limited editionBourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 2012 ($90) – This bad boy’s been topping “best of” lists all season, and for good reason. Perhaps the best Small Batch from 4R since the distillery re-entered the U.S. market, it’s a huge crowd pleaser. Can’t find it (don’t be surprised…), try Elijah Craig Single Barrel 20 Years Old ($130), Woodford Reserve’s unique Four Wood ($100), or Smooth Ambler Yearling ($62), straight outta West Virginia.

Scotch – The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130) – I’d love to pick Glenfiddich 1974 or Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 here, but both are long gone from the market and were absurdly expensive, to boot. You’ll have better luck with the new, older DoubleWood — which, by the way, is replacing the highly-beloved Balvenie Peated Cask on the market — which is in wide distribution now. More ideas? I love Arran Malt’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl ($130) and Ardbeg Galileo ($95). But my real connoisseur’s pick is a stealthy one: Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood Cote Rotie Finish 1991 ($80). Yes, it’s available, and yes, this is pretty much the only thing I want for Christmas.

greenhook ginGinGreenhook Gin ($33) – No knockouts this year, unlike 2011. Greenhook’s elderflower kick makes it a lot of fun. Cardinal ($29) is also a creamy, delicious gin. Update: And due to a tragic oversight, I failed to note the quality of The Botanist ($33).

VodkaSquare One Vodka ($33) – Rock solid, though hardly new to the market. Other excellent choices: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered ($40) or Bully Boy Vodka ($28).

Rum – Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 ($130) – My pick for the most exciting rum of 2012 isn’t sold in the country, but this vintage agricole from Rhum J.M. makes an exquisite gift, too. Lots of great options out there for lower budgets, too, including Blackwell ($30), Ron Fortuna ($22), and Plantation 3 Stars ($24).

Brandy – Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial ($130) – There’s never much new brandy coming out in any given year, and the good stuff costs a pretty penny. At the top of the list for 2012 is this Armagnac, with Camus’ Extra Elegance ($395) close behind. For more affordable selections, check out Camus’ Ile de Re series.

Tequila – t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino ($40) – In a year of top tequila and absurdly expensive bottlings, these two affordable blancos stood out. t1 looks a little snazzier, if you’re giving a gift. The amazingly balanced Z Tequila Blanco ($30) will save you 10 bucks. Many excellent choices out there this year, as usual.

Liqueur – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method ($25) - Turn the Grand Marnier fan in your household on to this, the best orange liqueur on the market and a pittance at just $25 a bottle. For a different fruit effect, check out Germain-Robin Pear de Pear ($24, 375ml), a spirit that will quickly make you forget about lackluster Poire Williams.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Master of Malt a try!

Review: Kahlua Midnight Liqueur

After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out… and we’re gonna drink this new liqueur from the increasingly huge portfolio of products from Kahlua: Kahlua Midnight.

Midnight is a major departure for Kahlua, which has to date been happy to create new versions of its signature coffee liqueur by adding additional flavorings like you’d find in a coffee shop (various incarnations now include cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, mocha, and peppermint versions). Midnight is something different: A 70 proof monster mix of the classic coffee liqueur with rum.

In truth, even the standard 40-proof version of Kahlua has rum in it (it’s touted on the label), but it’s watered down and sugared up so those Desperate Housewives can sip it all day. At 70-proof, Kahlua Midnight is nearly full-strength booze, more rum than Kahlua — though it’s still just as black as before (caramel color is added). In case you’re unclear, the bottle is completely different than the standard tiki-friendly Kahlua one.

In all honesty, Kahlua Midnight — in taste — is not a great departure from its mother, standard-grade Kahlua. The coffee is clear on the nose and the palate. Rum, as with regular Kahlua, is really just hinted at, indistinctly and more on the undercarriage of the nose than in the body, where the strong coffee character is simply overpowering to anything underneath it. It’s got more of a boozy kick in the middle, but the finish is mild, dominated by a clear, fresh-ground coffee character.

What’s the point of Midnight? It’s primarily meant for consumption straight, on the rocks. God help the hacker that uses this stuff in lieu of standard Kahlua and doesn’t realize what he’s getting into.

A- / $24 / kahlua.com

kahlua midnight

Review: Shellback Silver Rum and Spiced Rum

This new rum brand — named after a term used to describe a savvy sailor — is produced in Barbados, with its eyes set on the premium segment of the market. Both of these initial expressions are 80 proof.

Shellback Silver Rum – Aged 12 months in Bourbon barrels and filtered to white. Huge vanilla on the nose, with some petrol undertones. Very sweet — I called it “cotton candy” during my first encounter — with a long, sugary finish. It does echo back that edge of bitterness in the finish, but as the rum aerates it takes on a more complex cookie dough character — chocolate chips included. B+

Shellback Spiced Rum – Per the company, “Shellback Spiced has no added sugar and features a combination of all natural spices from around the world including: cinnamon bark oil from Sri Lanka and Ceylon; ginger oil from China and Africa; clove oil from Madagascar and India; nutmeg from Indonesia; cassia from Vietnam and China; vanilla from Madagascar and allspice from the Caribbean.” Rougher than I had hoped, with the spiciness coming across dry and dusty, like when you touch ground cinnamon directly to your tongue. This is clearly intentional — the absence of sugar is a badge of honor for Shellback in this spirit — but it doesn’t do the spirit any favors, finishing things off not with refreshing spiciness but rather a bit of astringency. B-

each $17 / shellbackrum.com

Review: Plantation 3 Stars White Rum

Plantation is known for its double-aged, high-end rums from all over the Caribbean. So it comes as a surprise to find the company producing its first ever white rum.

Called three stars because the blend is mixed from rums from Barbados, Trinidad, and Jamaica. And rest assured, this isn’t straight off the still. Unaged rum from Barbados and Jamaica is blended with three-year-old Trinidad rum and 12-year-old Jamaica rum (yes, 12 years!), before being filtered back to white. It’s commonplace to age rum a year or two, then filter it, before releasing it as white rum, but having 12-year-old spirit in the mix is unheard of.

This rum is extremely sugar-forward, a monstrously sweet rum that leaves delicacy behind. Big tropical notes — mango and especially banana — hit you after the raw sugar cane fades, and that old Jamaican rum, pot-distilled for sure, brings a touch of hoary funk to the finish. Some citrus notes laced throughout. Smooth but with a kick, this is a premium white rum with lots of cocktail versatility.

82.4 proof. Launches this month.

A / $24 (one liter bottle) / plantationrum

 

Review: Cruzan Single Barrel Rum

Cruzan is probably best known for its flavored rums, but it also dabbles in high-end products like this aged Single Barrel Rum.

As the name suggests, this is a genuine single barrel rum, aged up to 12 years in St. Croix (part of the U.S. Virgin Islands) and bottled at 80 proof. Sounds good, but it’s not my favorite. The nose is quite mild, molasses with a good amount of wood to back it up. But the body isn’t altogether there for this. Surprisingly tannic, with lots of green pepper, thick tobacco leaf, and powerful wood notes. The finish heads into a touch of cinnamon and bitter orange peel, with a rougher way out than I was hoping for, leaving behind not a sweet touch of candy but almost a drying sensation.

Barrel #87510 reviewed.

B- / $27 / cruzanrum.com

Review: Brugal Especial Extra Dry Rum

Our friends at Brugal weren’t happy with one white rum. Now they have two.

Brugal’s Especial Extra Dry looks frighteningly similar to last year’s white rum release, Blanco Especial, but they differ in a key way. The new Especial Extra Dry is aged for one more year (for a total of three years) before it is filtered and bottled as a white rum.

You’d think an extra year of aging would only improve things, but trying these side by side I found I prefered the sweetness and vanilla flavors in the younger Especial over the new Extra Dry. Here, some tannin creeps into the rum, giving it a very slight bitterness, some lightly vegetal notes that battle with the intense, vanilla-infused sweetness of this Dominican standby. Hence the Extra Day name, perhaps.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a very good rum, just one that is slightly eclipsed by its baby brother.

UPDATE: Brugal emailed to let us known the older Brugal Especial expression will be going off the market in March or April of 2013. Drink it while you can!

B+ / $20 / brugal.com.do

 

Review: Ron Fortuna Reserva Exclusiva Anejo 8 Anos Rum

This new rum just now hitting the market hails from Nicaragua, where a single expression — 8 years old on the label — is currently being offered. Column-distilled from molasses five times and aged in American oak (ex-Bourbon barrels, I presume), it spends a minimum of 8 years in cask and a maximum of 10 before being bottled. Thoughts follow.

The nose is fragrant and fresh, with a very lively, floral character and lots of fresh citrus fruit. Light and spry, it almost comes across as lightly sherried. Lemon and honey notes are strong on the palate, with a long and sweet finish that recalls shortbread and — notably — sugar cookies. There’s barely a hint of wood in this rum, and the finish is so smooth you might not feel you’re drinking alcohol at all.

Dangerous stuff, and quite delicious.

80 proof.

A / $22 / ronfortuna.com

Review: Old Sugar Distillery Cane & Abe Freshwater Rum

Is there saltwater rum? I guess, sort-of, all Caribbean rum is saltwater, isn’t it… even though it’s made from freshwater.

This rum hails from Madison, Wisconsin, about as far from the sea as you can get. Made from American sugar cane (grown in Louisiana and Hawaii) and aged in both new and used American oak barrels, this light amber rum smells strongly of fuel-like agricole, but offers more complexity on the tongue.

Here we find a blend of rubber, charred wood, and distinct butterscotch character. Quite rough on the finish — despite the color this is fairly clearly a young rum (younger than most white rums, at that) — but not without some brooding charms… a lot like rhum agricole. If you like earthier, more smoldering rums, this one’s for you.

80 proof.

B- / $40 / madisondistillery.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Cocktails for National Rum Day

National Rum Day — that’s today! And yes, we make rum in the U.S. Recipes and photos courtesy Flor de Cana.

chichigalpa old fashionedChichigalpa Old Fashioned
2 oz Flor de Caña 18 year old rum
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
1 dash Fee’s barrel aged bitters

Stir & strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon & orange twist.

Mogamabo Daiquiri
1.5 oz Flor de Caña 4 year white rum
.5 oz Flor de Caña 7 year old rum
1 barspoon tamarind syrup
.75 oz lime juice
.5oz simple syrup

Pour Flor de Caña into a shaker, add rum, syrups and lime. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

This variation on the Daiquiri takes Tamarind, a popular fruit in both Indian and Hispanic cultures, and creates a deep rich Daiquiri.

rum sazeracRum Sazerac
2 oz. Flor de Caña 7 Year Old Rum
.5 oz. Simple Syrup
3 Dashes Peychaud Bitters
Dash Lucid Absinthe

Add Flor de Caña, simple syrup, Peychaud bitters, and Lucid Abinthe to shaker with ice. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with red grapes

7 Year Smash – Recipe by Jon Gasparini, Rye on the Road
2 oz. Flor de Caña 7 Year Old Rum
3 Muddled Kumquats
.5 oz House Falernum (lime/clove liqueur), or Velvet Falernum
3 dashes Angostra Bitters
1.5 oz. Prosecco
Lime zest garnish

In an Old Fashioned glass, muddle kumquats with Falernum. Add Rum, bitters and ice. Top with Prosecco. Lime garnish

Criollo Cocktail
2 oz Flor de Caña 7 Year Old Rum
1 oz Key Lime Juice
3 slices of fresh Mango or Mango Puree
1 oz Agave Syrup
Sprig of fresh Cilantro
Dash of Cayenne Pepper

Muddle cilantro, cayenne pepper and mango with ice in a collins glass. Add Flor de Caña and key lime juice. Half fill the glass with crushed ice; stir. Fill to the brim with more crushed ice and stir again. Garnish with a lime wedge and cilantro sprig, or slice of mango.

14 Rums Reviewed with Paul Pacult and “Rum For All”

rum for allis no name in the spirits reviewing business more prominent than F. Paul Pacult. His Spirits Journal is the gospel of the booze industry, the way Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate makes or breaks companies in the wine business.

Pacult, along with cohort Sean Ludford, is branching out from neutral critic into industry advocacy. His new group, Rum For All, is meant to bring awareness to the public regarding rum as a serious, high-quality spirit. Rum For All is sponsored by a wide range of rum producers — 14 of which Pacult had on hand for sampling during a recent road show event for trade and media, for comparing side by side by side. (Incidentally, you can always tell you’re at a rum event by the large number of Panama hats and Hawaiian shirts in the crowd.)

But first, some history. Rum is made from sugarcane, as you surely know, and 97% of it is born from molasses. (The other 3% from unprocessed cane juice.) While rum is associated mostly with the Caribbean, sugarcane wasn’t around here until it was brought over by Christopher Columbus on his second trip to the New World. The cane thrived in the wet heat, and the rum business was born.

Rum’s first production in the New World came not in the islands but rather in Staten Island, and in the 1600s and 1700s, New England was the epicenter of the world’s rum production. A triangle of world trade began, with sugarcane shipped to New England, the resultant rum shipped to Europe, and, sadly, slaves shipped from Africa to the Caribbean for use in harvesting the cane. (Pacult is very apologetic on this point, noting that today the vast majority of sugarcane is machine harvested.)

Rum was the It liquor until Revolutionary War and the 1800s, when the new U.S.A. banned trade with French and British territories, which dried up the source of sugarcane. By the time the 1900s arrived, rum was all but forgotten as a major spirit in the United States. This didn’t change until the 1950s, when rum made a revival nearly 200 years in the making. Brought on by the Tiki craze (in part driven by Hawaii’s new statehood), rum became hot once again… and on until today.

Now rum is made largely where the cane is produced, all over the Caribbean and Central America, and Pacult warns us that the heat makes for special conditions for this spirit. While Scotch whisky barrels may lose 2% of their volume in a year to the “angel’s share,” with rum this number can hit up to 12% thanks to the aging conditions. Pacult shared many tales of rum-makers opening 7-year-old barrels only to find them bone dry. Because of the heat, rum ages fast. A good trick, says Ludford, is to think about rum ages in “dog years.” (Though they tell you this in Kentucky, too.)

After an hour of talking about rum, we finally got to the hard task of tasting the stuff. As noted, 14 rums were on tap, all from different distillers, sampled side by side. I’ve reviewed nearly all of these rums separately in the past, so these ratings and comments shouldn’t be taken as formal reviews. However, it was nonetheless a great opportunity to taste all of these rums comparatively, even in small quantities, so the differences among them could be more readily sussed out, which is hard to do in a standalone review. Tasted from light to dark (and remember, most “white” rums are aged in wood then filtered back to clear, or nearly clear), thoughts and gut reactions follow.

Shellback Silver – A new brand from Barbados, this is a gorgeous white rum, very rich with coconut, molasses, cotton candy, and vanilla character. Looking forward to sampling again after its official release. A-

Brugal Especial Extra Dry – Very light (this should have gone out first), I’m getting some medicinal notes in the body of this aged white. A little greener, with a tighter finish, than I was expecting from Brugal. B

Denizen Aged White – A blend of various white rums, including pot still rum. Sharp nose with vegetal notes, dried spices and herbs. A bit of a menthol/cough drop character. B

10 Cane – Recently reformulated away from its agricole (10 Cane used to be fully made with sugarcane juice) roots, this light yellow rum features lots of flavor — vanilla, cinnamon, baking spices, and bright vanilla. Very sweet, a real knockout with its new recipe. A

Banks Five Island – A blend of rums from all over the Caribbean plus Indonesia. Again a funkier style of rum, it’s rustic, sharp, and full of lots of vegetal and earth flavors. Huge, long finish. B

Depaz Blue Cane Rhum Agricole – Immediate agricole nose, but not too rough on the palate. Heavily vegetal; some people in the room declared one of the bottles to be “corked,” though I was skeptical of that one. B-

Don Q Gran Anejo – We’re moving into a totally different world here, one of well-aged, quite dark rums. Big oaky nose, with raisins, cinnamon, and lots of vanilla, all of which evolves in the glass. Bit alcoholic on the finish. A-

Bacardi 8 – Oaky upfront, with fruitcake notes. Vaguely vegetal on the finish, it’s got a good body, but the balance isn’t perfect. Still, it grows on you. B+

Ron Abuelo 7 – Sweeter, hits the front of the palate. Big vanilla and raisin character, with chocolate notes showing up in the finish. Great balance with good intensity without being overpowering. A

Appleton Estate Reserve – Surprisingly a bit boozy on the nose. This classic rum (including pot still rum) offers cookies, graham crackers, and a spicy, aromatic nose. Pacult praised this rum for its “whiskey” character, which makes for some very interesting comparisons. A-

Diplomatica Reserva Exclusiva – Whiskey on the nose again, with molasses, candied nuts, and raisins. Very, very sweet, with cinnamon and chewy honey character. A-

Flor de Cana 18 – Very woody, a little rough, and rustic. Good, but a touch bitter, and not as exciting as you’d think given its 18 year heritage. B+

Mount Gay Extra Old – Lovely raisins, molasses, and oranges, with tons of complex allspice and cinnamon notes. Just beautiful A

Ron Zacapa 23 – So much chocolate on the finish here. Remarkably smooth and sweet for a 100% sugarcane-juice based rum. Quite sweet but balanced with cinnamon and raisin character in the mix. A-

Review: Stroh Jagertee Liqueur

The “Jager” might tip you off that this is an herbal liqueur, but don’t let the name fool you: Stroh Jagertee (“hunter’s tea”), hailing from Austria, is a curious blend of “spiced rum” — the “rum” itself is actually not sugar-based but rather an ethanol-based spirit, also made in Austria — and black tea, bottled at a full 80 proof.

A decidedly unique spirit, it does indeed taste like its constituent components. The tea is strong and fresh, the “rum” spiced within an inch of its life, with cinnamon, raisins, and lots of fruit character — orange peel, dried mango, dried pineapple. The effect is super-sweet, like a heavily-spiced pineapple upside-down cake that is drenched with tea. I’m not sure this is something I could drink on a daily basis, but it’s intriguing as a sweet after-dinner sipper in lieu of a bitter amaro.

B / $25 / stroh.at

 

Review: Bully Boy Vodka, White Rum, and White Whiskey

Boston’s first craft distiller was founded in 2010 by two brothers, Will and Dave Willis. Massachusetts natives, this deadly duo got into distilling thanks to the inspiration of their grandfather, who built an informal speakeasy on his farm, serving locally-produced hooch to friends and family.

“Bully,” incidentally, is not meant to evoke violence but rather “superb or wonderful,” an homage to a favorite term of the college roommate of the Willis’s great-grandfather, Teddy Roosevelt.

All spirits reviewed are 80 proof.

Bully Boy Vodka – Distilled from organic winter red wheat. This is a lovely vodka. A brisk sharpness on the nose reveals the lightest touch of sweetness on the palate. Touches of fruit, very light. In the way that a good tequila sets you up for a knockout when you sniff it, then lets you down with a silky-smooth experience as you drink it, Bully Boy Vodka is Beauty and the Beast all rolled up into one innocuous-looking bottle. Reviewed: Batch #31, bottle #292. A

Bully Boy White Rum – Distilled from blackstrap molasses, Bully Boy reminds us that Boston was once a center of rum production in the U.S., as any student of the 1919 Boston Molasses Disastercould tell you. Intense aroma, very much in keeping with unaged rum. Strongly green and vegetal, the nose moves into smooth, sugary sweetness, with a lasting finish that recalls tea and, to some extent, rubber. Reviewed: Batch #16, bottle #117. B

Bully Boy White Whiskey – Distilled entirely from organic American wheat, this unaged whiskey is milder than many entries into this growing category. Rustic and funky on the nose, the body offers more nuance, with a mild sweetness, flavors of fresh bread, and some citrus notes. The finish isn’t bad, but it makes one long for a simple oak barrel to put this in for a few years to see what happens. Reviewed: Batch #24, bottle #259. B-

each $28 / bullyboydistillers.com

Tasting Zacapa 23 Rum, Step by Step

Recently I received a delightful little kit put together by the folks who make one of the best rums on the market, Zacapa 23. The idea: To taste what this complicated spirit is like at each step of its long production.

Zacapa is made using a solera process, a complex system where a spirit is bottled from the last barrels in a long line of casks, then topped up with rum from younger barrels. Those barrels are in turn filled from even younger barrels, and so on down the line, the effect being a neverending cascade of rum flowing from one barrel to the next. In Zacapa’s case, it’s even more complicated than that, as four different types of barrels are used, and those are all topped up with older rums, at each stage of the process. It ain’t easy to understand: The chart below may help to make some sense of it.

The tasting kit sent by Zacapa includes the rum at four stages — and years pass between each stage (23 years in all) — all at 7500 feet above sea level, in the mountains of Guatemala. I’ll outline them as we go, along with tasting notes.

Stage 1 – Here the rum (made not from molasses but rather first-press sugar cane juice) has gone through two initial stages, actually, spending time in ex-American whiskey barrels and then a second ex-whiskey barrel which has been re-charred. As you might expect, at this point the rum takes on a whiskey-like character, with a nose so filled with wood you would think, nosing it blind, it was actually Bourbon. The body reveals the sweetness of sugarcane, though, and while it’s tempered with wood, there’s a pleasant sugary character at the core.

Stage 2 – But the rum is clearly not ready for release, so, after blending with older rum stocks, it goes into ex-Oloroso sherry barrels for further aging. The rum takes on a much bigger citrus tone here. In fact, the sherry is almost overpowering with the citrus notes it imbues into the rum at this point. The nose is spot-on, but at this stage it’s just too sweet to go down easy.

Stage 3 – Again, old stock is added after this stage. Then, Pedro Ximenez (another sherry, intended for dessert and made in its own solera style) barrels are last on the list. Here, the rum has taken a turn for the dark, exhibiting deep chocolate character, plus raisins, dried figs, and some coffee notes. Spicy cinnamon and cloves play on the nose here, giving this stage of the rum a nearly-complete, and awfully complex, character.

Stage 4 – After a final addition of old stock, the rum is complete. This is actually the finished Zacapa 23 product, and here the sweetness has been dialed back up. The color, a gorgeous mahogany, secrets away all the flavors that have come before. Sherry is still big, with raisins, chocolate, figs, coffee, and cinnamon coming on after. Complex but delightful, there’s so much going on here that you’d think you’d be lost. But like a good dessert, it all comes together in perfect balance, a beautiful rum that shows what 23 years can do to sugar cane juice straight off the press.

zacaparum.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

 

Ice Cream Sandwich Recipes with Flor de Cana Rum and Frangelico

Now you can have your rum and eat it too! Recipes courtesy chef Eddy Van Damme, in honor of July being National Ice Cream Month.

Flor de Caña Rum Soaked Raisin Ice Cream Sandwich

½ cup Flor de Caña 7 Year Grand Reserve rum
¾ cup raisins
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup + 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon Flor de Caña 7 Year Grand Reserve rum

1. In a saucepan heat first-listed Flor de Caña until hot but not boiling. Pour onto raisins and ensure raisins are well covered. Seal with plastic food wrap and allow raisins to absorb Flor de Caña overnight at room temperature. Toss the mixture occasionally to ensure that raisins absorb all Rum.

2. Bring milk, cream and sugar to a full boil and remove from heat. Add vanilla extract and second listed Flor de Caña and cover with plastic food wrap. Place in refrigerator overnight.

3. If using an ice cream machine that uses a bowl which needs to be frozen place in freezer and set freezer on lowest setting.

4. Following day: Drain raisins and add any non absorbed Rum to ice cream mixture. Place raisins in freezer.

5. Churn ice cream mixture, when ice cream becomes thick and is nearly done add frozen raisins. Place ice cream in freezer.

6. Sandwich ice cream between your favorite two cookies.

*For best results soak raisins and prepare ice cream a day ahead of churning.

Frangelico Ice Cream Sandwich

1 ¾ cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup + 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
Pinch salt
½ cup + 2 tablespoon Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur

1. In saucepan whisk milk, cream, sugar and salt to a full boil and remove from heat. Place saucepan into bowl filled with ice to chill ice cream mixture.

2. Once cold add Frangelico and add a cup or more additional salt to ice bowl (salt in ice will make the ice cream mixture super cold and make churning more effective).

3. Churn ice cream according to ice cream machine manufacturer’s directions. Once churned, place ice cream in a very cold bowl and freeze.

4. Sandwich ice cream between your favorite two cookies.

Review: Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum

Spiced rum continues its move upmarket courtesy of that most massive of standbys: Captain Morgan.

The Captain saw a line expansion with a 100 proof version in 2008, and now comes the even bigger gun: Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum. This is actually an American rebranding of a product called Captain Morgan Black which the company has sold internationally since late 2011. The rum is a blend from Jamaica, Guyana, and Barbados (though the label notes only “the Caribbean”), spiced with cloves and cassia bark (we call it cinnamon!), and aged indeterminately in “double charred blackened oak” (whatever that means).

Ultra-dark and loaded with aromas — you can smell the vanilla when you crack open the bottle — it’s a clear competitor (and a worthy one) to the recent flood of high-end spiced rums, including Kraken and The Lash.

The emphasis here remains clearly on the sweet stuff. Vanilla and molasses, plus semi-sweet chocolate on the finish, it’s loaded with these dessert notes. Clove and cinnamon are present almost as afterthoughts, but you’ll catch them once your sweet tooth wears out. Finally, there’s a long, and surprisingly pleasant, finish, one which inspires one to consider girly-type cocktails but which begs to be consumed solo.

Captain Morgan has quite a winning spirit on its hands here, one which comes across at considerably lower proof than it is (and which can be awfully dangerous) and which elevates the Captain to the upper echelon of spiced rum makers. Well done.

94.6 proof.

A- / $22 / captainmorgan.com

Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum

Review: Rums of Rhum J.M.

Along with Rhum Clement, Rhum J.M. (a sister distillery) is one of the biggest names in Martinique’s rhum agricole industry. Distilled from sugar cane juice instead of molasses, agricole has a distinctly different character than most rums you’re probably familiar with. Intense with fuel-like flavors when they’re young, agricoles often develop into remarkably complex, world-class spirits when they’ve been aged for a spell.

We finally got hold of four of J.M.’s rhums to review. Comments follow. (And be advised: While the prices below reflect 750ml bottles, you are more likely to find J.M. in one-liter bottles, with accordingly higher prices.)

Rhum J.M. Rhum Agricole Blanc  - J.M.’s white rum looks innocuous, and an idle sniff will reveal cachaca-like tones and petrol character. Take a sip, though, and you’ll find it’s bursting with tropical character: Bananas, pineapple, coconut, and a long vanilla finish. Hot as hell (in part because it’s bottled at 100 proof), but the complexity and balance in the fruit, dessert, and subtle spice flavors make it a real knockout among normally difficult white agricoles. A- / $30

Rhum J.M. Rhum Agricole Elevé Sous Bois – This is J.M.’s “gold rum,” (aka “Paille”), and the color is a perfect representation of that metal. The body is a lot like the blanc, with more vanilla brought to the forefront due to spending a full year in wood. The finish is a bit drying, though, which whisks away some of the natural fruit character you’ll find in the blanc. Most of the same components are still there, but here they take a bit of a back seat to the wood, which hasn’t come all the way to fruition yet. 100 proof. B+ / $36

Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP – Spends four years in wood, and bottled at a slightly lower 90 proof. Now that agricole funk is seriously dialed back, as this VSOP takes on some of the more traditional notes you find with aged rums made from molasses. Big caramel and vanilla, lots of heavy wood especially in the finish, along with a curious black cherry/chocolate note. I like this a lot, seems bottled at just the right time. A- / $55

Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 – Not to be confused with the above, this vintage rum spends a minimum of 10 years in oak before being bottled. That’s crazy in a world where a rum that’s been in oak for three years is considered ancient, and J.M. shows how incredibly wise and delicious that decision can be. Intense caramel, chocolate, and vanilla on this, with barely a hint of tropical fruit and banana on the finish. A real knockout of a rum, with a long and smooth finish, silky body, and a price to match. Gorgeous stuff. 96 proof. A / $130

rhum-jm.com

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Review: Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine and Peach Brandy

Built atop the underground distilling and bootlegging operation of the gangster Dutch Schultz (and on family land now owned by co-founder Alex Adams), Dutch’s Spirits is a new New York-based distillery that’s attacking the spirits industry with some unexpected products — no gin or whiskey here, be warned!

We tasted Dutch’s two inaugural spirits. Thoughts on each follow.

Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine – This white spirit is a tribute to Schultz’s “own hooch,” a white spirit distilled from 100% Demerara sugar in copper pot stills. I wasn’t entirely sure how to classify this oddity, since it’s technically a rum (and a rhum agricole or cachaca at that) but isn’t branded as such. It is closest in style to a Puerto Rico-style white rum, with smoothed-over flavors of vanilla and a touch of chocolate to it. There’s none, however, of those gasoline flavors or raw alcohol notes you get with most cachaca and none of the burning heat of the typical corn-based moonshine. Moderate body with a lightly floral and herbal finish. The name may be a bit baffling, but the results are impressive if you’re a rum fan and are looking for something unique. A / $28

Dutch’s Spirits Peach Brandy – Americans are simply not drinking enough peach brandy. It’s a fact. I’m not sure that Dutch’s version of it is going to change that. While the nose offers lots of fresh fruit flavors — more apricot and apple than peach — the body is not nearly sweet enough to carry the day. Deeply bitter, the fruit notes are washed under the base alcohol’s astringency, though you can tell there are some deep and lush fruit flavors and brown sugar-sweetness just dying to get out. Much better as a cocktail flavoring agent (in small quantities) than on its own. C / $42

dutchsspirits.com

Review: Blackwell Jamaican Rum

Chris Blackwell made music (he founded Island Records in 1959 and exposed the world to reggae). Now he makes rum. Dark, dark rum, hailing from Jamaica.

Distilled at Appleton Estate, this is rum the color of cola, deep and dark. (Aging isn’t disclosed.) On the nose there’s that telltale scent of molasses, fresh and sugary, and perhaps some pineapple. On the palate, the rum kicks in with lots of smooth syrupy character, plus a big chewy coconut character. The finish is less sweet than you would expect, turning to charcoal embers and coconut husks, leaving you with a denouement that is a touch chalky, and leaving you with notes that are a bit bittersweet.

Quite engaging, and certainly worthwhile if you aren’t interested in a pure sugar bomb.

80 proof.

A- / $30 / blackwellrum.com

Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2012

Kudos to Douglas Smith for putting together this event, easily the best installment of the Whiskies of the World show that I’ve experienced since I started this blog six years ago.

Loaded with whiskies you rarely see in the U.S. or even at whisky shows, WotW 2012 also had plenty of long-time favorites on hand to re-experience, as well. Interested in world whiskies from Australia, India, and other far-off places, like Utah? WotW had plenty of them to encounter here, along with plenty of food, a good-sized (but not overwhelming) crowd, and, mercifully, fewer bagpipes than ever (at least while I was in attendance). Lots of independent bottlers here too, some of whom (like Blackadder) I’ve never seen at a whisky show to date.

As for the whisky, there was plenty to enjoy, but of course there were some whiskys offering more enjoyment than others. Thoughts follow.

Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World San Francisco 2012

Scotland

Bruichladdich Black Art 2 21 Years Old / B+ / the most unique whisky of the night; dark, mushroomy, massive, with a Play-doh finish

Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten / A / great little caramel charmer; already winning awards left and right; full review to come next week

Blackadder Smoking Islay 11 Year Old Raw Cask / B+ / mild peat, oddly sweet finish

Chieftain’s Glenturret 21 Year Old Cask Strength / A / great body

Chieftain’s Mortlach 16 Year Old Sherry Cask Strength / A-

Balblair 1991 / B / rich and bittersweet, heavy peat, fudge finish

Balblair 1997 / B+ / better balance, sweeter

Douglas of Drumlanrig Breaval 11 Year Old / B / tastes young

Douglas of Drumlanrig Macallan 21 Year Old / B

Douglas of Drumlanrig Arran 13 Year Old / B-

GlenDronach 15 Year Old / A-

Glenglassaugh 26 Year Old / A- / better balance than the 37 Year Old

Glenglassaugh 37 Year Old / B+ / really malty, tannic edge; too long in wood

Glenglassaugh Revival / B- / heavy wood on this four year old whisky

Glenmorangie Artein / A- / this distillery’s latest, finished in Supertuscan wine casks; wine character is there, but lightly so

Isle of Arran Amarone Finish / A- / intense and powerful

Isle of Arran Sauternes Finish / B+ / edgy, light sweet on the finish

Kilchoman Sherry Cask Exclusive / A- / really rounded out thanks to that sherry finish

Kilchoman Vintage 2006 / B+ / punchy

Laphroaig Quarter Cask / B+ / always a standby

Muirhead’s Silver Seal Speyside 12 Years Old / B / malty

Muirhead’s Silver Seal Speyside 16 Years Old / B+

Muirhead’s Silver Seal Speyside 1987 25 Years Old / A- / nougat, mellow sweetness, good rounded whisky

Octomore 4.1 / A- / still winning, a smoke monster that doesn’t kill you

Old Pulteney 17 Year Old / A- / edgy and deep; miles away from OP 12 Year Old (which I think is out of balance)

Old Pulteney 21 Year Old / A- / very similar, but better balance

Old Pulteney 30 Year Old / A / lovely, a rich cookie dough character

Samaroli Caol Ila 1980 / A- / mellowed peat

Samaroli Evolution 2011 / A / one of my favorite whiskys ever; still solid and delicious (though not quite the A+ I’ve previously rated it)

Samaroli Glenburgie 1989 / A-

Samaroli Glenlivet 1977 / A

Samaroli Highland Park 1989 / B+ / doesn’t feel its age

Samaroli Linkwood 1983 / B+ / very fruity

Samaroli Tomintoul 1967 / A / another winner, with massive depth, a knockout

Speyburn Bradan Orach Edition / B / a younger (no age statement) version of Speyburn 10, tastes that way; limited character

Tomatin 30 Year Old / B+ / really clunky, malt and citrus not quite in balance

Tomintoul 31 Year Old Reserve Limited Edition / A / bit of spice, nutmeg and ginger, beautiful

Other Whiskies

High West Whiskey Son of Bourye / A- / lovely body

Pendleton 1910 Canadian Rye Whisky / A- / 10 year old rye (100%); big cherry notes

Amrut Sherry Intermediate Cask Strength Limited Edition / A- / great slug of sherry on the finish of this Indian dram

Amrut Kadhambam Single Malt / A- / aged in five different types of casks; lots of body, big finish

Sullivan’s Cove Single Malt 46% / B+ / an 11 year old Australian malt, super sweet

Other Spirits

Amrut Old Port Rum / B/ very sweet, lots of apple notes

Craft Distillers Maison Surrenne Cognac Distillerie Galtaud Unblended Borderies / A- / light fruit, long sweet finish

Craft Distillers Germain-Robin Small Blend no. 1 Brandy / A / great balance, a blend of brandies from a range of west coast wines dating back to 1983

Review: Rhum Clement Premiere Canne and Sirop de Canne

Today we take a fresh look at Rhum Clement, a Martinique-based producer of rhum agricole, which is rum made not from molasses (the norm) but of free-run sugar cane juice.  This year Clement celebrates its 125th anniversary, and it’s redesigning its packaging and adding a new product, Sirop de Canne (a bottled sugar syrup). We consider them both below.

Rhum Clement Premiere Canne - I last encountered this rum in 2008, and I find my feelings about it haven’t much changed. It’s very much like a better cachaca, fueled by gasoline character but tempered with loads of lemon, orange peel, and cut grass character. The sweetness is surprisingly mild for rum, a side effect of using sugar cane to distill the rum instead of molasses. Most rum drinkers will get knocked off the swing with this one, but enthusiasts will find real charm here. 80 proof. B+ / $35

Rhum Clement Sirop de Canne – A nonalcoholic sugar syrup the color of honey, and about the consistency of it, too. A lovely syrup, with the distinct flavor of gingerbread. Nutmeg and cloves on the back — and strong on the nose, too. Ingredients include “pure sugarcane, water, and natural aromas,” however that last bit works. Certainly not for straight consumption, but the holiday character here could really spice up a cocktail or punch. I’m into it. A- / $12

rhumclement.net