Review: Avua Cachaca Tapinhoa

Brazil’s Avua is back with another single-estate cachaca, this one a very rare edition called Tapinhoa. Tapinhoa is a dense hardwood found in Brazil, and Tapinhoa is aged for up to two years in a large cask made from this wood. (The Tapinhoã large vertical barrel was initially used by the distiller’s father on the family farm decades ago and after a lengthy recommissioning process and up to two years of aging, Avuá Cachaça restored it in 2013.)

Cachaca fanatics may want to compare the spirit to Avua Amburana, which is aged in barrels made from a different Brazilian wood.

As a reminder, “Avuá Cachaça is organically produced with only renewable energy, with water piped from a natural source to grind the sugarcane, and a boiler for the still that is fired by the residuals of the sugarcane pulp, known as bagasse. The cane, composed of three specifically chosen varietals, is hand-cut, ground with a waterwheel, and fermented for less than 24 hours using airborne wild yeasts, before being distilled in a copper-crafted alembic still.”

Let’s get on to tasting.

The color is the palest of yellow, a clear sign about how hard the Tapinhoa wood is and how little of the spirit is able to penetrate the wood even after two years. The nose has the light petrol character that’s typical of cachaca, but it’s filtered through fresh notes of lemon, mint, and some salty brine. On the tongue, similar notes dominate, with the sharp citrus and herbs quickly segueing to gentle vanilla, coconut, and some curious impression of wood — though not the typical oak — notes. The finish is lightly vegetal with some notes of green beans and steamed broccoli. Late in the game, petrol notes bubble back up — essentially impossible to avoid in any cachaca.

All told it’s a unique entry into the curious world of aged cachaca with a neat story behind it, though its flavor profile is not so unusual as to blow one’s mind.

80 proof. 600 bottles released.

B+ / $73 / avuacachaca.com.br

Review: Lost Spirits Distillery Navy Style Rum (2017)

Lost Spirits (which I’ve written about extensively) never seems to rest, and the company’s scientific obsession with the science of accelerating aging is second to none. Case in point: Head honcho Bryan Davis is the only distiller I know that has given a TED Talk. In shorts, no less.

While Lost Spirits is hard at work on whiskey, the operation got its real start producing rum, the idea being to imitate dark, old, navy rums that you don’t much find any more in this age of super-sweet (though admittedly delightful) sipping rums. The catch, of course, is that it only takes Lost Spirits about a week to power through the aging process, courtesy of its unique and cutting-edge technology.

We reviewed one of the first Navy Style rums to come out of Lost Spirits back in 2014, and now Davis is back with a revamp. The labels look almost the same (though proof has dropped from 68% abv to 61% abv). This bottling is distilled from Grade A molasses on Lost Spirits own copper still, then “aged” via the Lost Spirits reactor in new American oak. (The 2014 bottling used sherry cask staves; this is a change from that.)

Davis says this rum is a closer approximation of his original target — a recreation of 1975 Port Mourant Demerara Rum — and says that longtime followers will find it a close kin to the 2014 Colonial American Rum bottling.

I sampled the new Navy Style vs. both the 2014 Navy Style and the 2014 Colonial bottling to see how things have progressed.

The 2017 Navy Style Rum release offers that classic dark rum nose of tobacco, licorice, and burnt (burnt black) sugar — think burnt marshmallows over the campfire — but also vanilla, ripe banana, and bubble gum, all bubbling up under the surface. There’s less wood influence here than I expected, the palate offering notes of burnt matches, dark chocolate, and very ripe (perhaps overripe) fruit notes — a full-on salad of plum, banana, raspberry, with a lingering finish of gentle vegetation and mushroom, plus cloves and another kiss of dark chocolate.

It compares favorably to the original Navy Style rum, but it doesn’t have quite the powerfully fruity punch (with those raisins and figs) of the Colonial bottling. Davis is clearly working to find a balance between the two, and he’s done a remarkable job of threading the needle, giving the 2014 Navy Style some much-needed elegance, while dialing down the fruit overload of Colonial a bit. Is this a doppelganger for Port Mourant? I’ll never know, but if you breathe deeply while you smell the rum, you can hear a sea shanty being crudely sung, off in the distance.

122 proof.

A / $43 / lostspirits.net

Review: Rums of Beach Time Distilling

Beach Time Distilling, based in the small, coastal town of Lewes, Delaware, is one of a growing number of American craft distilleries producing our nation’s first favorite spirit, rum. Distiller and co-founder Greg Christmas worked for seven years with Delaware-based craft brewing powerhouse Dogfish Head before setting off on his own to focus on craft spirits. Since opening Beach Time in late 2015, he has created an impressive list of offerings in addition to rum that include vodka, gin, and plans for a young malt whiskey. All of his small batch spirits are crafted on a meticulously maintained 66-gallon Polish-made still. In keeping with the tradition of “lower, slower Delaware,” Greg emphasizes that the yeast in his spirits is not rushed or stressed in the natural fermentation process, creating what he calls “Leisurely Refined Spirits.”

Beach Time Distilling Silver Rum – Beach Time Silver Rum is made with raw cane sugar and molasses, fermented with two yeast strains, double-distilled, and bottled at 80 proof. It has a light, buttery nose, a slight heat on the palate, and great ripe banana and pineapple notes. These flavors are created through the use of a tropical yeast strain and dunder during fermentation, which is common with Jamaican rums. Similar to sour mash in bourbon, dunder is essentially stillage from the previous distillation used in subsequent fermentation. 80 proof. A- / $25

Beach Distilling Gold Rum – Beach Gold is the same Beach Time Silver aged for a short period of time in new charred American white oak barrels. Unsurprisingly, the nose has subtle vanilla notes. The tropical fruit flavors found in the Silver are barely present, with dominant caramel and cinnamon notes becoming banana bread on the palate. The finish is abrupt, making it a better mixer than sipper. 80 proof. B+ / $30

Beach Time Distilling Navy Strength Rum – The Navy Strength version of Beach Time Silver has a big buttercream nose. It’s rich on the palate and hot with a velvety sweetness. The heat, unfortunately, dampens some of the tropical fruit notes on the mid-palate, and they only show up again briefly on the finish. Still, this one could be a real bartender’s friend, standing up well in any rum-based cocktail. 114 proof. B+ / $21 (375ml)

Beach Gold Distilling Barrel Strength Rum – For nearly 130 proof, the nose on the cask strength version of Beach Gold is subdued. The vanilla aromas have to almost be pulled out of the glass, but on the palate this one is surprisingly good. There’s noticeable heat right from the start, but it never overpowers the bold and creamy flavors of Madagascar vanilla, raw honey, and nutmeg. The finish is short with sweet oak notes that become slightly drying. That aside, it’s a worthy sipping rum. 129.2 proof. A- / $28 (375ml)

Beach Fire Distilling Spiced Rum – Beach Fire is Beach Silver infused with a blend of cinnamon, orange peel, whole vanilla bean, and six additional spices. It’s all fresh cinnamon stick and orange marmalade on the nose. There’s a nice heat on the palate and a good balance of fresh ground cinnamon, orange zest, and clove. The spice in this rum is somewhat subdued compared to other spiced rums on the market, and I imagine it might get lost in a mixer. 80 proof. B+ / $35

beachtimedistilling.com

Tasting: Late 2016/Early 2017 MashBox Club Spirits Samplers

Today we’re ganging up two recent quarterly shipments of MashBox spirits samplers, one a rather random collection of recent releases, the other a trio of the same whiskey but finished in different barrels types. Read on for details from this outturn of the internet’s most interesting booze-of-the-month club.

As a reminder, $99 a year gets your four boxes of three 50ml samples.

Manhattan Moonshine – Full review here. A pungent and somewhat mushroomy white dog, tempered by notes of gingerbread and breakfast cereal. 95 proof. B

Owney’s New York City Rum – A white rum, unaged. Quite weedy on the nose, with hard cereal notes. The palate doesn’t offer much intrigue and the finish is harsh and astringent. Generally, a funky rum like this needs some barrel time to mellow out, even if it’s being filtered back to clear. 80 proof. D+

Black Button Distilling Bespoke Bourbon Cream – A whiskey cream liqueur, made with bourbon (whose is unclear, but Black Button doesn’t make any). This is super stuff, easy to drink and loaded up with notes of vanilla and butterscotch, atop a creamy, cake-frosting-like base. Bourbon creams always manage to pack in more flavor than Irish creams, and Black Button’s is no exception. 30 proof. A-

And now for a trio of releases from Filibuster Bourbon. These are each aged for four years in new oak, then finished for two years in different types of French oak wine barrels (details follow). (Check the stickers on top to see which is which; the individual bottle labels are otherwise all the same.) Each is 90 proof.

Filibuster Bourbon Finished in 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Barrels – Lively, with sweet butterscotch, milk chocolate, and vanilla custard notes. The finish sees some baking spice and red pepper, making for a supple and sultry sugar bomb of an experience. A-

Filibuster Bourbon Finished in 100% Chardonnay Barrels – A big surprise — this one is far racier up front, with lots more of that peppery character and a more powerful baking spice element. The finish sees the spice fading and the sweeter elements enduring more clearly, making for a distinctly different, but equally compelling, experience. A-

Filibuster Bourbon Finished in 60% Cabernet Sauvignon/40% Chardonnay Barrels – Is this the sweet spot? While still rather heavy on the pepper notes up front, the whiskey fades a bit after that rushing attack, becoming a bit dull in tone across a somewhat gummy body. The finish is soft and a bit flabby — a big surprise considering the pedigree of its lineage. Proof that the whole can indeed be less than the sum of a whiskey’s parts. B+

mashandgrape.com

Review: J. Wray & Nephew Silver Rum, Gold Rum, and Overproof Rum

Jamaica’s J. Wray & Nephew — or just Wray & Nephew — lays claim to being the #1 producer of rum in the country, and when you consider that the company makes both Appleton and Captain Morgan, it’s a claim that’s not hard to believe. Wray & Nephew also makes pot-distilled rum that is released under its own label, some of it highly sought-after by rum aficionados. Recently, Wray & Nephew’s entry-level bottles, a white and a gold rum, both finally made it to the U.S., joining the company’s renowned overproof expression.

Let’s find out what the fuss is all about.

J. Wray & Nephew Silver Rum – This is an aged rum, filtered to white. I will go on record and tell you this is one of the best white rums I’ve ever encountered. Gentle but full of depth, it offers a nose of toasted coconut, vanilla, fresh cream, and just a hint of hospital character. On the palate, the expect rush of rubber cement flavor so typical in white rum is absent. Just supple coconut and light caramel, sweet vanilla cream, and subtle banana notes. The finish is clean, just a touch rubbery (to remind you it’s rum, of course), but fresh and quite versatile. Everything a white rum should be — a clear winner. (Get it!?) 80 proof. A / $25

J. Wray & Nephew Gold Rum – Aged (and indeed gold in color) but with no particulars attached. This has an immediately much more pungent nose, with notes of mushroom, red bean paste, burnt toast, and barrel char. It settles down on the palate, bringing out a sweeter side that showcases toffee, coconut, vanilla, and some baking spice notes. There’s more complexity here than in the silver, but you’ll find this kind of richness more commonly in a number of other rums in this category, which makes it a bit less unique. 80 proof. A- / $25

J. Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum – This is the flagship rum from Wray and the rum with which most American drinkers will be familiar. This is familiar instantly on the nose, with a mixture of citrus and petrol notes, very aromatic with florals and the raw alcoholic notes one expects from an overproof rum. The body is a bit tougher and astringent, slightly charcoal-dusted but otherwise intense with fruit, both citrus and tropical, with overtones of overripe banana, bubble gum, and a touch of eucalyptus on the finish. Surprisingly approachable despite the heavy alcohol level. 126 proof. A- / $19

camparigroup.com

Recipes: Two Cocktails from the Facundo Rum Collection’s ‘Art of Rum’

Facundo Rum comes from a long Bacardi tradition for distilling rum. However these rums in the Facundo Rum Collection are high quality sipping rums, rather than the kind thrown into a Piña Colada at the local tiki bar. The story goes that Don Facundo Bacardí Massó brought out premium rums from the family collection to inspire their creation.

Here are two of their signature cocktails featuring rums from the collection.

The rum in the Eximo Old Fashioned has a lovely and warm scent which translates nicely into the cocktail itself. It is sweet but not in a sugary way. Instead, the honey hovers over it like a layer of fog. The bitters adds an herbal scent and give the cocktail a slight tang.

Eximo Old Fashioned
2 parts Facundo Eximo Rum (a medium- to heavy-bodied rum aged 10 to 12 years)
1/4 part honey syrup
4 drops of Bittermens Burlesque Bitters
orange peel garnish

Pour ingredients into an old fashioned glass. Add ice and stir.

Note: To make honey syrup, pour equal parts of honey and water in a small pan. Bring to a boil, lower temperature to medium-high and simmer for five minutes. Allow the mixture to completely cool; a minimum of two hours is recommended.

The Neo White Negroni cocktail has a nice warming upon the first sip. In the center, the fruity spice of the Cocchi White Americano appears with the cherry flavor dancing across the top. The lemon twist is adds a bit of eye candy and does help bring out the aperitif.

Neo White Negroni
2 parts Facundo Neo Rum (a blonde blend of rums aged 8 years)
1 part Cocchi White Americano
dash of Maraschino liqueur
lemon twist

Mix all ingredients into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and serve.

Facundo recommends pairing both of these cocktails with seafood, such as seared scallops or tuna steaks. They’re also a fine duo to sip on a cold night while relaxing after a long day.

Recipes: Celebrate Sailor Jerry’s 106th Birthday with 3 Cocktails

You can’t have an anniversary without a special anniversary edition bottle — and this one is certainly special, with Norman Collins’ photo on the back. You may know him better by another name:

January 14th marks the 106th birthday of the undisputed father of old school tattooing, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins. Known for his unapologetic attitude and all-American values, Norman Collins was a tattoo legend, a musician, radio host, biker, and served in the U.S. Navy.

After his time in the Navy, Collins made Hawaii his home and opened a tattoo parlor where he showcased the innovative craftsmanship and artistry that made him famous. He was an inspiration for many modern day artists and creators such as tattoo artists Oliver Peck, Michael Malone and artist turned designer Ed Hardy. Collins’ iconic flash art work has lived on in tattoo designs and art across the world.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum was created to honor Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, and the brand celebrates all of his personal passions – from the military and the inked community, to motorcycles and rock n’ roll, and to those people and partners who live their lives according to their beliefs.

To celebrate, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum has teamed up with The Field Museum in Chicago, to host a special birthday celebration. The Field Museum’s Tattoo Exhibit is currently home to some of Norman Collins’ original tattoo flash artwork, so to honor the legend on his birthday, Oliver Peck from Spike TV’s Ink Master’s will be providing complimentary Norman Collins flash tattoos to a select number of attendees.

In honor of Mr. Collins, here are three cocktails to celebrate the tattooed icon.

This cool, refreshing cocktail called a Cherry Jerry is delightful. When garnishing with the cherry, why not add a couple of spoons of syrup from the maraschino cherry jar? The spiced rum plays off of the lemon-lime soda for a drink fit for a backyard picnic or poolside. Save this recipe for the hot months to come. You’ll be pleased with it.

Cherry Jerry
1 part Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
3 parts lemon-lime soda
grenadine or Cherry Heering floater
garnish with a Jerry’s Cherry (see below)

Add all ingredients into a cocktail glass, garnish and serve.

Jerry’s Cherries
Drain a 10 ounce jar of Maraschino Cherries of their liquid. Fill with Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. Return the lid and refrigerate for at least 1 week.

The ginger and rum mingle together in the Jerry Loves Ginger cocktail to make a wonderful blend of zing and spices. Don’t substitute ginger ale; you want to do the rum justice. This might also make a nice hot toddy. Simply heat up the ginger beer with a bag of chamomile tea to brew the tea. Add to a mug with the rum and a tJerry Loves Gingerablespoon of honey.

Jerry Loves Ginger
1 part Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
3 parts ginger beer

Add Sailor Jerry to an empty highball glass, then fill with ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with candied ginger.

A Ginger Spiced Negroni is a spicy take on a Negroni. We found the Campari a little overpowering in this cocktail, though it did lighten up as the ice melted. Perhaps using a half part would be better. It is definitely to be enjoyed as a slow sipper. Some people like their Negroni as a before-dinner drink but we recommend this one for later in the evening.

Ginger Spiced NegroniGinger Spiced Negroni
1 part Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
1 part Campari
1/2 part ginger liqueur
1/2 part sweet vermouth

In empty mixing glass, measure Sailor Jerry. Add Campari, ginger liqueur, and sweet vermouth. Add a few chunks of ice and stir to blend flavors and dilute. Add more ice and repeat. Strain into empty chilled old fashioned glass. Add fresh ice block and garnish with candied ginger.

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