Sunday, July 29, 2012

Total Wine Pembroke Pines Rum Class

Sugarcane spirits? 80-190 proof? Yes please! Seems those are a few of the only rules you need to follow when making this most excellent spirit. Of course I am talking about Rum. A few months back, I had an awesome time at the Miami Rum Renaissance and have been day-dreaming about this spirit since then. Today, I hit up the Total Wine class taught by Jason in Pembroke Pines, Florida, to see what I could learn, and hopefully check out a few gems.

Rum is made from sugarcane processed into either sugarcane juice or more often molasses. Rum is typically made where sugarcane grows easily--where the weather is nice and hot. The Caribbean nations are most well-known for making rum. Jason went through the different styles, from white to dark to spiced to overproof and premium. We talked about pot stills and column stills and the pros and cons of each. Oh, yeah, and we tried 9 different rums. 

There was a cool guy in attendance: Mauricio, owner of The Local, a restaurant and craft beer establishment in Coral Gables dedicated to great food and great beverages. Apparently, his wife saw me mention this rum class online on Twitter this morning. And he got to come over and play! I still need to get my butt down there to his restaurant, as I've heard about it for over a year now. Mauricio had a lot to add to the class, as he apparently has Robert Burr, the organizer of the Miami Rum Renaissance, over for beers and rums regularly. We heard some really cool stories about Rob's Rum collection, meetings with Rob and Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver on barrel-aging recommendations, and some other fun insights.

We tried a few mixing rums first. La Cana Grande Silver and Gold. Neither had much aroma or flavor, just came off a little hot and alcoholic. As an alternative at the same price, Jason had us try Doorly's Macaw White and Gold rums. Both were way better, and I thought the Doorly's 5 year old gold was pretty nice, no mixing even necessary--vanilla, caramel, a little spicy.

Next up, Dillon White Rum, an overproof Agricole rum from Martinique. This one was 55% alcohol. Wow, the aroma was like candied sugar, if that's possible. Fresh sugarcane flavors. Had this herbal thing going on and perhaps a little fruit. Oh, and hot! Fairly tough to describe. It was recommended as a good rum for punch, not straight up.

As we started checking out Myer's Dark Rum, Mauricio started talking about this term HoGo, which is how we Americans prounounced the original French haut goût. The term was used to mean a slight gamey taint of decay in meat. Sounds offensive now, but it used to be desirable, and it's linked to the rum world as some feel that molasses gives some of the same quality aromas and flavors when it is new. Anyway, we all thought that was pretty interesting. As Kool Moe Dee said, "knowledge is king".  Personally, I know the flavor they mean, but it has never been a turn off for me.

Back to the Myer's Dark, it had a really rich aroma, nice caramel. Really smooth with molasses and coffee and some nice complexities. Lightly sweet. Jason said that this was at one point the best mixer on the block and still holds its own.

Next, we moved into some of the premium rums of the afternoon. First up, Zaya 12 Year, from Trinidad and Tobago. This was the first rum I tasted at the Miami Rum Renaissance a few months ago as well. I even dug up the photo of their booth. I remember really enjoying it that day, and if I'm not mistaken, the guy there made us a Zaya Mojito too, like the one in the photo.

Zaya has an amazing aroma of molasses and butterscotch and caramel. Pure Heaven. The flavors that follow are similar. Lots of butterscotch, extremely smooth, complex, beautifully sweet with some warmth on the finish. One of the best of the day.

Our next rum was R.L. Seale's Finest 10 year, made in Barbados. The first thing you will notice about the rum is its bottle presentation. The neck is bent over to one side, like it was melted in a fire. I'm not sure the exact origin of the design, but it is eye-catching. Nice vanilla on the nose. Vanilla flavors, too. Not too sweet, complex. There is lots of oak character and some nutty flavors that are fairly noticeable. Not quite as smooth as the Zaya, with a little peppery spiciness on the finish.

We then tried Ron Zacapa 23 year solera. Nice vanilla and honey aromas and flavors, good oak flavors too.  Jason suggested that this had some Scotch-type characteristics, appealing to those drinkers. I could definitely see what he meant by that. Another nice rum. I took this photo at the Rum Renaissance as well.

Our final rum was Olo Brazilian Spiced Rum, done in the Cachaca style. The aroma is awesome, full of vanilla and cinnamon. The flavors are just as nice showing vanilla and nutmeg and cinnamon. Nice and smooth. Very pleasant and enjoyable.

Finally, I was still undecided which bottle to take home. Would it be the Zaya, R.L. Seale's or Ron Zacapa. I took a few more sips of each and landed on R.L. Seale's Finest 10 Year. It was also the one I didn't have (or don't remember having) at the Rum Renaissance, not to mention the cool bottle I could use as justification with the wife.

Great class, interesting conversation, very enjoyable tasting experience. You guys should definitely sign up for the next one!

On the way out, I topped off the afternoon with a taste of Don Julio Blanco Tequila. Go figure! LOL!

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