Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Rum review > Angostura 5 years old

The pride of Trinidad
Angostura is a rum that is produced on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. The distillery is located in the island's capital Port of Spain and produces a massive 20 million litres of rum per year. The distillery is known as the House of Angostura and is currently owned by a company called CL Financial. Angostura rums are well regarded around the world and continue to win many prizes and awards. The House of Angostura is arguably more famous for another product though - Angostura Bitters, the essential ingredient in any cocktail mixologists cabinet. This was invented by the founder of the original Angostura Limited in the 1820s and the story of the company's rum production becomes inter-twined.

Medical beginnings
Angostura Bitters was invented by a German army doctor named Johann Siegert in 1824. He was stationed in Venezuela in the early 1820s and was researching the healing properties of native plants, roots and herbs. As part of his extensive research to find a cure to aid the soldiers' poor digestion, he struck upon his unique blend. Angostura Bitters is still made to this original recipe today with its contents and the proportions of those contents remaining a closely guarded secret. By the 1850s, Dr. Siegert's 'medicine' had spread around the globe with the help of the expansion of the British Empire and he left the army to concentrate on its manufacture.

Moved to Trinidad
Upon Dr. Siegert's death in 1870, the factory in Venezuela was left to his brother and son. They moved production to their preferred site in Trinidad in 1876 and by the early 20th century they were also bottling rum for local producers, in addition to manufacturing Angostura Bitters. In 1945, Angostura Limited purchased Trinidad Distillers Limited and refurbished their old distillery in Port of Spain. They started producing rum in 1947 and now Angostura rum is exported to 140 countries worldwide. The name of Angostura was taken from the old Spanish word for 'narrow'. This was also the old name of Bolivar City, where Siegert was first posted in Venezuela, which was so called as it sits on a narrow stretch of the Orinoco river.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this Angostura 5 years old is golden yellow and the nose is sumptuous, sweet and vibrant. There are immediate vanilla and caramel notes and these are joined by a lovely combination of other aromas - dried fruits (think of raisins and sultanas), toasted almonds, slightly burnt sugar (reminiscent of maple syrup), hints of wood spice (imagine nutmeg) and orange. On the palate, this feels smooth, rich and creamy. There are again plenty of elements present and the combination is very well balanced. Sweeter notes such as vanilla, butterscotch, soft brown sugar and dried fruits (those raisins and sultanas again but with the addition of apple) are stopped from being overpowering and too sweet by some other savoury elements. These include spices (think of ginger and nutmeg), toasted almonds and some oakiness, which adds a hint of dryness. The finish is short, sweet and tangy with an almost citrus-like quality (imagine that orange again).

What's the verdict?
This rum is bottled at 40% ABV (alcohol by volume - the measurement for alcoholic strength) and has been matured in ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of five years. A bottle should cost £20-25 and be available from specialist alcohol retailers and larger supermarkets. This is a delicious rum that is very well balanced and full of interesting characteristics. Its vibrancy and complexity would make it a very good sipping rum but it would be equally good over ice or mixed in a long drink or cocktail.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Beginner's guide > Types of rum

Most rum is made using molasses – a thick sweet brown syrup that is a product of the sugar refining process. From this basic starting product, plus the addition of yeast and water, comes the world’s vast array of rums. There are many different styles of rum and the choice can be confusing. Here we explain the main categories of rum and the differences between the styles. This may help you when choosing the rum that will best suit your taste, when faced with shelves of different bottles in the shop. We start with the lightest rum and move through to the heaviest.

a selection of rum bottles
White rum
These can also be called silver or light rums (blanco in Spanish) and are usually young. They have little or no colour, as they are only partially aged (or not aged at all, in some cases) and are then filtered to remove any colouration. White rums have pronounced sweet yet subtle flavours and this makes them especially popular for mixing and cocktails, rather than for drinking neat.

Rhum agricole
This is a style of rum that is made using fresh sugar cane juice rather than molasses. It is made mostly on the French speaking Caribbean islands and retains a greater amount of the sugar cane flavour in the final product. Rhum agricole translates from French as ‘farm made rum’ and this reflects the traditional manufacturing methods that are still used today. They are expensive in comparison to molasses based rums and offer light, fresh sweetness with distinct vegetal and spicy notes.

Gold rum
Also sometimes known as amber rum (or oro in Spanish), this style is aged in charred oak casks that have previously been used in the American bourbon industry. They can be aged for anything between one and 10 years. These rums have more flavour and colour than white rums or rhum agricole and are popular either with a mixer or drunk straight. This style of rum is the most common available.

Spiced rum
These rums use gold rum as their base and then have a blend of spices and caramel added. These spices can include cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, vanilla, clove and star anise. Spiced rums have a deeper warm flavour than the gold rums and are perfect for mixing in cocktails. However, they are also popular as a neat drink or over ice.

Dark rum
This style can also be known as black rum. This is due to the dark colouration that is picked up from the heavily charred oak casks used in ageing and maturation. They are also aged for longer than white and gold rums. They have a much richer, sweeter flavour and are full bodied with plenty of molasses and spicy notes. Popularly drunk straight, dark rums are also commonly used in cookery.

Overproof rum
The name refers to the old measuring unit for alcoholic strength, known as the ‘proof’. Overproof or ‘OP’ rums as they are sometimes known, refer to a rum that is over 100° proof (approximately 45% ABV in modern terms) and some can be up to 150-160° (around 80% ABV). These strengths are the natural strength of the rum as it comes from the cask after maturation. Most rums are then diluted with natural spring water to bring the ABV strength down to 35-45%. As a result, an overproof rum has more exaggerated flavours than other rums.

Premium and super premium rum
These rums are produced in small batches or are of greater age than most other rums on the market. They are often distilled by small producers or boutique brands and can be released in limited bottle runs or as a single cask release. Premium or super premium rums fetch high prices, as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep rum stable during maturation after a certain age. They show increased character, softness and subtlety in comparison to other styles of rum. One to sit, sip and enjoy!

Please note - the image used in this post is taken from via Google Images.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Bourbon review > Four Roses Single Barrel

Four Roses is an American whiskey distillery that is located in the town of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. It is currently owned by the Kirin Brewery Company from Japan and is one of Kentucky's largest distilleries, producing eight million litres of whiskey a year. This Single Barrel forms part of Four Roses' small core range, which also includes the popular Yellow Label and a Small Batch release. Single casks bottlings of American whiskies are rare, although this is changing as consumer demand grows.

For our full review and tasting notes of Four Roses Single Barrel, please click across to our post on Whisky For Everyone.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Whisky review > Bailie Nicol Jarvie

The Bailie Nicol Jarvie, or BNJ as it is affectionately known, is a blended whisky that was first produced in the Scottish town of Leith in the 1890s. It takes its name from a character in Sir Walter Scott's novel Rob Roy. BNJ contains one of the highest percentage of single malt of any blend (60%). Blended whiskies usually contain many more whiskies (between 20-40 single malt and grain whiskies combined), with the grain whisky having the higher proportion of the volume (60-70%).

For our full review and tasting notes of Bailie Nicol Jarvie, please click across to our post on Whisky For Everyone.

Bourbon review > Woodford Reserve

woodford reserveWoodford Reserve is a prize winning bourbon whiskey that is made at the Labrot & Graham distillery. The distillery is located in the American state of Kentucky, close to the town of Versailles, and is the oldest distillery that is currently in operation in the state, having opened in 1812. Kentucky is widely regarded as the heart of the American whiskey industry and Woodford Reserve is the official whiskey of the world famous Kentucky Derby horse race.

For the full review and tasting notes of Woodford Reserve, please click across to Whisky For Everyone.