EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Rum

Review: Rum Curious

Fred Minnick, Rum Curious: The Indispensable Tasting Guide to the World's Spirit, (Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2017), 240 pages, $25.00. ISBN: 9780760351734

Fred Minnick is the author of seven books, three of which are about whiskey and the history of bourbon. His book Whiskey Women earned a Gold Medal at the ForeWord Reviews Book Awards and a Silver at the Indie Publisher Awards. Minnick serves as a judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the World Whiskies Awards. Minnick is also an Iraq War veteran where he served as a U.S. Army public affairs photojournalist.

Rum Curious: The Indispensable Tasting Guide to the World's Spirit is Minnick’s fifth book and the first he has written on the world’s most well know cane spirit. The book is meant as a consumer introduction to the history or rum, how it is made, the laws that govern rum, production information about several unaged, aged, and flavored rums, as well as recipes for well know rum cocktails. Overall the book provides good information and it is interesting to see ABV levels coming off the still and going into the barrel for a wide array of brands.

Minnick also joins the chorus of rum enthusiasts and experts advocating for a shift in the language that describes rum. For a long time, rum has been described simply by color, white, gold, and dark. However, a new movement is advancing the idea that rum categories, similarly to Scotch, should be labeled by production methods, pot still, pot-column still, and column still rum which ques the drinker into the flavor intensity of the spirit versus the color which can be manipulated with the addition of caramel coloring and have no relationship to age or intensity of flavor. This is an important conversation for US craft distillers to join. The US rum market is dominated by Bacardi and Captain Morgan, if small producers hope to shift the tide in their favor, it will be necessary to adopt common terminology.

First appeared in Distiller (Summer 2018): 215

Review: Smuggler's Cove Excotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki

Martin Cate with Rebecca Cate, Smuggler's Cove: Excotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki, (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2016), 352 pages, $30.00. ISBN: 9781607747321

Martin Cate has long been a champion of rum, exotic cocktails and the tiki community as well as a proprietor of several award-winning drinking establishments, including Smuggler’s Cove (San Francisco), Whitechapel (San Francisco), False Idol (San Diego), Hale Pele (Portland) and Lost Lake (Chicago). Along with his wife, Rebecca, Cate has created a comprehensive guide to tiki culture; it’s history, techniques and, most of all, the drinks— Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki.

Smuggler’s Cove is a fantastic achievement and a beautiful monument to the influence of tiki, rum and exotic cocktails on American culture, and it is a fun read, told with Cate’s impish sense of humor. Part one of the book tells the engaging story of the birth, rise, decline and revival of Polynesian Pop. In part
two, the Cates tell their own story of how Martin and Rebecca became captivated by tiki and built one of the country’s preeminent bars for rum and exotic cocktails. Part three describes the history of rum, how it is made and the various styles and categories that define it. For distillers who want to better understand how bartenders use different styles of rum to create exotic cocktails, this is a must-read. Part four covers the nuts and bolts of what goes into making the cocktails. And in part five, how to deck out your home and wardrobe for your new found (or long-held) love of tiki aesthetic is covered.

Smuggler’s Cove is a wonderful book in terms of its prose, humor, completeness and graphic design. The story of the rise,fall and rebirth of tiki culture is fascinating, and numerous photos connect readers to the people and places that made Polynesian Pop and exotica nationwide phenomena. The Cates intersperse more than 100 drink recipes within the book and close each chapter with a smattering of cocktails that match the narrative. Smuggler’s Cove allows the audience to not only read the history of exotic cocktails but also to drink that history, if they choose.

First appeared in Distiller. (Summer 2017): 167

Review: Kirk and Sweeney 18 Year Old Rum

Kirk and Sweeney 18 Year Old Rum is owned by 3 Badge Beverage Corporation (August Sebastiani) based in Sonoma, CA, Distilled, Aged and Blended by J. Armando Bermúdez & Co. in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, and Imported and Bottled by Frank-Lin Distillers Products in Fairfield, CA at 40% ABV. 

Price: $49 MSRP

This 18 year old rum is named after the schooner Kirk and Sweeney, that in 1924 was seized off the cost of New York by the US Coast Guard for rum running. While 3 Badge does not make this information public, Kirk and Sweeney is most likely produced at the Bermúdez Distillery since it is located in Santiago de los Caballeros, D.R. If this indeed the case then the rum is fermented from blackstrap molasses and column distilled. Some of this fresh rum is put into ex-bourbon barrels and aged for 18 years in a brick warehouse. After this rum has fully matured, the barrels are pulled, vatted, and this blended is shipped to Frank-Lin Distillers where they bottle it at 40% ABV.

The onion shaped bottle is quite impressive and modeled after 18th-century bottles used to ship rum and other spirits. The bottle has a substantial weight to it and the screen printed label depicts the eponymous schooner, compass rose, Dominican Republic, and Long Island, NY. The natural cork closure is held closed with a gold foil sticker tape printed with the latitude and longitude coordinates for where the rum was seized off the coast of Long Island.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose is bursting with vanilla and beneath that there is the aroma of molasses and a faint note of cinnamon.

PalateThe  rum is smooth and has a full body with only a slight hint of sweetness which is more inferred from the strong vanilla flavor than actual sugar. The vanilla is somewhat balanced with wood flavors and a dry tannins. Lying dormant below the vanilla are subtle notes of coco powder,  burnt sugar, and slight smokiness from the ex-bourbon barrel.

Finish: The finish has more vanilla, more oak and is bone dry with a slight mineral quality from the molasses. There is also a lingering note of coco that covers the tongue. 

Conclusion: Kirk and Sweeney 18 Year Old Dominican Rum is a very smooth sipping rum though like the 12 year old, it is a little lacking in depth of character. Tasting it side by side to the 12 they are obviously different but at the same time almost indistinguishable from each other. I wonder if the extra $10 price tag has any impact on its appeal or make it less attractive. I believe the Kirk and Sweeney 18 cold be a good fit for a rum drinker that wants a sipping rum in the vain of Ron Zacappa 23 but with stronger vanilla character. 

Thank you to Folsom + Associates for providing the free sample.

Review: Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum

Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum is owned by 3 Badge Beverage Corporation (August Sebastiani) based in Sonoma, CA, Distilled, Aged and Blended by J. Armando Bermúdez & Co. in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, and Imported and Bottled by Frank-Lin Distillers Products in Fairfield, CA at 40% ABV. 

Price: $39 MSRP

This 12 year old rum is named after the schooner Kirk and Sweeney, that in 1924 was seized off the cost of New York by the US Coast Guard for rum running. While 3 Badge does not make this information public, Kirk and Sweeney is most likely produced at the Bermúdez Distillery since it is located in Santiago de los Caballeros, D.R. If this indeed the case then the rum is fermented from blackstrap molasses and column distilled. Some of this fresh rum is put into ex-French oak wine barrels and aged for 12 years in a brick warehouse. After this rum has fully matured, the barrels are pulled, vatted, and this blended is shipped to Frank-Lin Distillers where they bottle it at 40% ABV.

The onion shaped bottle is quite impressive and modeled after 18th-century bottles used to ship rum and other spirits. The bottle has a substantial weight to it and the screen printed label depicts the eponymous schooner, compass rose, Dominican Republic, and Long Island, NY. The natural cork closure is held closed with a gold foil sticker tape printed with the latitude and longitude coordinates for where the rum was seized off the coast of Long Island.

Tasting Notes

Nose: At first whiff the nose is dominated by vanilla. The aroma is rich and opulent with notes of creme brulee and brown sugar topped off with more vanilla.

Palate: The palate is smooth with a medium body. The rum has a subtle sweetness that well balanced with oak tannins. The flavor is explodes with vanilla and faint hints of molasses. As you drink the rum tertiary notes of milk chocolate and caramel peak trough the veil of vanilla. 

Finish: The finish is long and warm. Once again vanilla is the central flavor throughout the finish with light notes for green sugar cane and oak. 

Conclusion: Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Dominican Rum is a bit of a one trick pony. Vanilla, vanilla and more vanilla at every turn. While I enjoy the flavor of vanilla, it would be nice if there was a little bit more variation in the flavor profile. That being said it is impressive that a 12 year old Dominican rum is not completely dominated by oak or super dry from over a decade of matruation in a tropical climate. For those who enjoy Zaya Rum, Kirk and Sweeney 12 is comparable in its flavor profile and would please those looking for a smooth, vanilla forward sipping rum. 

Thank you to Folsom + Associates for providing the free sample.

What's Going on with Rum?

Designed by Annabel Emery

Rum is an interesting class of spirits.  Rum is a distilled spirit made from any sugar cane byproduct (fresh cane juice, molasses or refined sugar) and it can be made anywhere in  the world. For a number of years now, rum has been the third largest selling class of distilled spirits in the US (12% market share in 2014) behind Vodka (34%) and Whiskey (24%) yet I almost never hear regular people talk about it. Many of the of the social media accounts and drinks writers I follow hardly ever post about rum. In terms of its overall market share, rum shrank 1% since 2012. So it begs the question, what's going on with rum?

While it is certain that the craft cocktail movement has largely been stoked by a renewed interest in whiskey and gin; rum is an incredibly important base for cocktails and it has a very rich history. During the US Colonial era, huge amounts of rum were produced in New England and consumed throughout the colonies. And while most domestic whiskey production was outlawed during National Prohibition, rum from the caribbean became very popular and inspired a number of phrases such as "rum runner" and "the real McCoy." Lastly, the Tiki movement which began at the end of Prohibition, created a number of complex and delicious cocktails that centered around rum. 

Two years ago I edited a book called the Distiller's Guide to Rum, and ever since then small US rum distillers that I've talked to want to know, when is rum going to have its moment? When will be the Summer of Rum? Whiskey gets a huge amount of press and gin has an incredibly passionate fan base, but rum rarely gets mentioned outside discussions of Tiki drinks. 

It is possible that rum's lower profile might be in part due to the fact that 80% of the rum market in the United States is dominated by 10 brands with the two largest being Bacardi and Captain Morgan (Beverage Information Group Handbook Advance 2013). The remaining 20% of the rum market is filled with hundreds of brands from around the world, many of which have amazing aromas and flavors you just can't get in whiskey. At a recent industry event a retail spirit buyer made the comment that in his experience Bacardi drinkers are often not rum drinkers. He explained that for these people if Bacardi isn't available they are more likely to turn to vodka as their next choice rather than another brand of rum. While this statement was purely anecdotal it rings true in my experience. In contrast, if a bourbon drinker's favorite brand isn't at the bar I think there's a better chance they will try another bourbon rather than get something completely different.

However, there are a couple of encouraging signs for rum. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago The Rum Lab which put on the California Rum Festival also sponsors a couple of other rum festivals around the country. Both the California and the Midwest festivals are only in their second year but like many festivals, if the quality stays high, the number of attendees will likely continue to grow and increase the number of people who become more familiar with the vastness that rum has to offer. Similarly to whisk(e)y in the mid-90s there is some incredible value in the market as long as drinkers aren't obsessed with extra aged rums like they seem to be with whiskey. The second encouraging sign was the publication of Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki written by Martin & Rebecca Cate. This fantastic book has helped to spread the deep love and passion for rum and tiki culture outside the confines of the country's few tiki bars. While I want to see rum move beyond the overly sweet and kitschy drinks that mask the beauty of the spirit, for many people this is their entry point and bars like Smuggler's Cove and False Idol know how to move people from zero to a deeper appreciation of rum.

The rum market like others spirits is veering towards premiumization. While some aspects of this trend are misguided (more expensive does not always mean higher quality), there  is an incredibly strong demand for quality and transparency. Hopefully rum producers will embrace this trend which I hope will be be a boon for the entire industry. All in all, while rum took a slight dip in market share I am hopeful about its future. And, in the end as the hula girl above suggests, keep calm and drink rum. Because the time for rum has arrived and is yet to come.

Cheers.