Remember Whisky Blender? Which lets you whip up your own bespoke vatted malt?
Now the company behind that operation is doing the same thing with another big spirit category: Rum.
Same idea as before: Rum Blender has seven rums to choose from. You select the proportion of each that you want, in 10ml increments, until your 700ml bottle is full. Give your rum a name and wait for it to arrive via the mail. Voila! You now have a unique rum that no one else can lay claim to.
The challenge here is the same as with Whisky Blender: Picking rums based solely on one-sentence descriptions isn’t easy. How much Buttered Strumpet do you want? How much Candy Cane? Blending is tough when you have the base spirits right in front of you, and sight unseen, well, it’s near impossible. Rum Blender doesn’t reveal much about either age or even country of origin, which is a bit frustrating. (Business idea: Let folks buy a set of mini bottles to play with at home so they can tinker before they buy!)
I mixed up my own rum — Ron de Nada, get it!? — and the results are about as I thought they would be. The rum is palatable and a good mixer, but it’s a bit workmanlike and isn’t my favorite straight sipper. It’s got nice chocolate and vanilla notes, but the petrol overtones make it come across as relatively immature — although I have no actual way of knowing how old it is. Stylistically, it’s mostly reminiscent of younger Jamaican stock.
A typical blend will likely run you $70 and up, with shipping on top of that. That’s a huge amount to pay for rum, where $30 will get you an amazing top shelf bottle. But then again, those won’t have your name on them.
In other words: Come for the rum, but stay for the experience and fun of blending.
Ever look at a wine list and wonder if you’re getting ripped off? Well, now there’s an app for that. Corkscrew (free) just launched and it’s a fun new app that lets you search thousands of restaurant wine lists based on location and/or for a specific wine. Want a 1982 Mouton? Corkscrew can find it — and tell you where it’s cheapest. That may sound silly, but when the price difference is over $2000 from one restaurant to another, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Corkscrew just came out of beta, and for fun the company sent me a look at some specific wine prices at various restaurants in the Bay Area. Pretty crazy stuff, eh?
1996 Moet & Chandon Champagne Cuvee Dom Perignon Oenotheque
$430 at Pastis (Palo Alto)
$550 at Boulevard
$600 at AQ Restaurant & Bar
$650 at Hakkasan SF
$750 at The Hidden Vine
$923 at Coi Restaurant
2007 Paola Bea Sagrantino di Motefalco Secco Pagliare
$139 at Prospect
$150 at 54 Mint Restaurant
$165 at Flour + Water
$172 at A16
$192 at Gary Danko
2006 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Super Tuscan
$550 at Boulevard
$1650 at The French Laundry
1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild
$2300 at Spruce
$2896 at Benu
$3999 at Michael Mina
$4750 at Casanova Restaurant (Carmel)
2008 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco
$68 at Frantoio Ristorante (Mill Valley)
$147 at Jardiniere
St. Patrick’s Day is just a few weeks away, and that means the Jameson and Bushmills will be flowing freely. But there’s no need to stop there. There are dozens of high-quality Irish whiskey brands available, and St. Patty’s is the perfect excuse to try them all.
Enter Flaviar, a company that specializes in sampler packs of whiskeys, often aligned with a them. Here’s one worth checking out today: an all Irish bundle of ten different spirits from the Emerald Isle, including Redbreast 15, Uisce Beatha, Knappogue Castle 1995, and our much-beloved Green Spot. Each comes in a sampler vial — and when you’re done with the ten, you still have a whole bottle of Jameson to work your way through for the rest of the week. (Or night, we don’t judge you.)
$98 gets you the setup. Sure beats shelling out for green beer!
Spirits are proliferating madly these days, which means liquor stores are getting increasingly crowded and more confusing — while some favorites are getting even tougher to find on shelves.
Ezra’s, a new online spirits store, thinks it has a solution: Curation. Proprietor Parker Newman explains.
We try to use content as a way to educate consumers on the distilleries and the people behind them. We don’t want people to make buying decisions by the design of the bottle and we know how intimidating a giant wall of spirits can look. So to counteract this, we work with distilleries that we think are putting out great products, have passionate founders and are doing all they can to push their respective spirits category forward. We like to think of ourselves as a curated marketplace with an ever growing product selection.
The Ezra’s online shop is spare but intriguing, full of unusual offerings you won’t find at Costco. (Akashi White Oak for $38/500ml? Sign me up!) Lots of extra content and video material makes this more of a fun little visit with a spirits expert than the hard sell you get at a traditional merchant. Check ’em out for your holiday shopping!
Neat little service here from a new company called Merchants of Beverage. The idea: Don’t (necessarily) buy your wine or spirits one by one. Rather pick up everything you need to make, say, a martini — or a collection of interrelated Scotches — or a nine-pack of wines to get you all the way through a massive Thanksgiving feast, from Champagne to Port.
MoB’s prices are not out of line and when we tried out the service, shipping was blazing fast. We had our kit to make the Dogpatch — Old Overholt Rye, Averna, Dolin Rouge, and Regan’s Orange Bitters — all full bottles, mind you — in less than 24 hours. The only problem: We can’t seem to find the complete recipe anywhere!
Just a brief interruption to your holiday weekend to shout-out HomeWetBar.com, which sent us a sampling of its wares so we could let our readers know about their product line. Specifically, we’re checking out a couple of items from the store’s online catalog.
These Port sippers are incredibly cute (pictured), if not entirely functional. I’m still not sure if I enjoy sipping Port through a glass straw, but they do make for a nice conversation piece. By the by, they’re much smaller than you think, not much bigger than a large shot glass. At $30 for a set of four, they’re a great gift item.
We’re also checking out this three-quart copper ice bucket, which offers some old-world styling but still has plenty of functionality build in. A plastic insert is easy to clean (though it gives it a slightly cheap feeling) and the decorative tongs are a nice touch. $60, and you can get an engraving on the tongs if you’re so inclined. Looks good on my bar!
Lots of fun stuff in their catalog at reasonable prices. Consider me a fan!
Lot 18 was once one of many in a sea of “flash sale” websites focused on deep wine discounts. That business model didn’t pan out, so Lot 18 went back to the drawing board. The result was a new plan and a partnership with TastingRoom.com (which we’ve covered here a few times), which was also experiencing some growing pains. Lot 18 ended up acquiring the company and combining the two into a unique kind of wine club.
Here’s how it works: Sign up for a $9.95 introductory tasting kit and Lot 18 sends you a six-pack of 50ml minis which you use to “calibrate” your palate. In the kit (at present): A Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, two Pinot Noirs, a Merlot, and a Zinfandel. Using Lot 18’s website, you walk through the wines and tell the site which ones you like best. A little tech voodoo puts you into a category with the company uses to select which wines it will send you in its quarterly shipments — $85/case for your first one, then $149/case (plus $20 shipping) thereafter.
Interesting stuff, and Editorial Director Eric Arnold walked me through the setup at Drinkhacker HQ. I thought the overall approach was solid and certainly better than the usual “I like whites” or “I like reds” questionnaire… although it’s terribly difficult to distill someone’s entire palate in just two whites and four reds. The description of my palate was only about half right (there are only a handful to choose from, after all), but when my wife walked through the same setup, hers was way off. Still, it’s an interesting way to get started — and Lot 18 says you’ll be able to sub wines in and out of your case to fine-tune your shipments over time.
The service went live on May 1. Give it a whirl, wine guys!