Bahama Bob's Rumstyles

Monday, December 17, 2018

Seventh Annual Caribbean Journal Rum Awards

     It’s hard to believe that this year is the seventh annual edition of the Rum Awards, a celebration of rum that was one of the earliest innovations of Caribbean Journal. And it’s just as remarkable how much rum has changed in these seven years.

     Today, an increasingly knowledgeable consumer base is appreciating the unparalleled diversity and romance of rum — but also asking more of rum companies, pushing them to launch more sophisticated, more authentic — and more premium — expressions.

     Consumers are also beginning to discover the joy of the world of Rhum Agricole, a small fraction of global production that manages to produce a wide-ranging, artisanal, terroir-focused offering that includes some of the greatest cane spirits you will find anywhere.

     It all means that rum is in a very good place, whether one is starting his or her rum journey or taking trips to collect rare bottlings in the far corners of the West Indies.

     It also means that every year the judging for the Rum Awards gets more difficult, as the Rum Journal team travels across the Caribbean region, visiting distilleries and sampling rums (and sampling them again). This year, we began the judging with a dossier of more than 200 rums tasted, one that eventually whittled down to a field of 12 rums for the Rum of the Year category.  

     This year’s final judging was conducted again at the terrific  Casa de Montecristo by Prime Cigar in Miami, where the Rum Journal panel conducted six rounds of spirited tasting and eventually settled on the winners.

     This year’s slate of winners is as impressive as ever, hailing from across the Caribbean and the United States and demonstrating, again, the wonder of the world of rum.  But remember, as we like to say at Rum Journal, the best rum in the world is the rum that’s in your glass right now.

     Rum of the Year: Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros, Cuba Each year, choosing the Rum of the 
Year gets more difficult. More and more producers are making exceptional aged rums, using new blending and aging techniques, experimenting with special finishes and helping to raise the perception of premium rum in the marketplace. But this year’s winner was a veritable institution of the rum world, from one of the great rum producing countries of the world. Havana Club, Cuba’s flagship rum, produces a broad portfolio of expressions, from traditional white rum to rums specifically blended to be smoked with Cohibas. But this year, its signature ultra-premium rum took home the crown. Havana Club’s Seleccion de Maestros, bottled at a robust 45 degrees, is a blend of reserve-stock rums, brought together by the company’s master rum makers. After multiple rounds of judging, the Havana Club held up against all competitors, thanks to its hallmark: a truly remarkable balance. This is a delicate, luxurious rum that just kept holding up after repeated tasting, one that is consistent from start to finish and that simply begs you to pour another glass. Plainly, it’s an exquisite rum.

Double Gold: El Pasador de Oro Rum XO, Guatemala
Gold: El Dorado 21 Year Old Rum, Guyana
Silver: Angostura 1824, Trinidad
Bronze: Chairman’s Reserve 1931, Saint Lucia

     Best New Rum: One Drop, Harbour Island, Bahamas Harbour Island isn’t like other places in the Caribbean — or even in The Bahamas for that matter. It’s a bit like an English-speaking St Barth, chic but carefree, charming but unpretentious. And it’s also an island that loves its rum. That was how the island’s Afrohead rum was born a few years back — and now Toby Tyler, the master blender behind Afrohead, is at it again, this time with a blend of 10-year-old and 12-year-old Jamaican juice. The result is a rum (hand-bottled on Harbour Island) that is delightfully drinkable, with a fruit-forward flavor profile and a funky but velvety finish. It’s not like other Jamaican rums, and that’s cool — it’s kind of a new interpretation of that island’s spirit, and a rum that’s made for, well, people who like rum. And it’s the best new rum of 2018.
     Get the rest of the lists of the award winners at

Where Did Rum Really Come From?

Sugarcane Fields

     There is some disagreement as to the exact origin of rum, but Barbados and Brazil are some of the most repeated ones.  There is a lot of talk about early rums coming from the areas of the South Pacific as well.  Sugarcane has its origins in that area, along with a large sugar production.  Anytime that you have fermentable materials, you will generally find an alcoholic beverage made from it.

Early Sugar Processing Pots
     Plantation slaves first discovered that molasses, a by-product of the sugar refining process, fermented into alcohol. Later, distillation of these alcoholic by-products concentrated the alcohol and removed impurities, producing the first true rums. Tradition suggests that rum first originated on the island of Barbados.

     The first distillation of rum in the Caribbean took place on the sugarcane plantations there in the 17th century. Plantation slaves discovered that molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process, could be fermented into alcohol. ... However, in the decade of the 1620s, rum production was also recorded in Brazil.   Cachaca is a rum like spirit that is made in Brazil from fresh sugarcane juice, it has many of the same characteristics as rum.

     Christopher Columbus was the first to introduce sugarcane to the Caribbean in the 1400’s, but the plantation slaves of the late 1600’s finally started distilling rum.  Columbus brought the sugarcane from the East Indies that he introduced to the Caribbean.  I guess that it really doesn’t matter the exact origin of rum, but it seemed to pop up anywhere there was sugarcane.  Some places it was made from sugarcane juices and other places used the industrial waste of the sugar processors.  The bottom line is we do have it today.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Old Town Panama City, Panama

     I've been thinking about all of the places that this blog has taken me over the past seven years.  One of the early trips was courtesy of Abuelo Rum to Panama.  Besides visiting the distillery in Pese, I spent a great afternoon in Old Town Panama City.  In addition to the beauty of the sidestreets of this historic town, there was remnants of some of the damage from the battles to extract Manuel Noriega in 1989.   This picture s one of the really colorful sidestreets I ran across in Old Town Panama City.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez and Yolo Rum

Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez and Carlos Esquival 

     Yolo’s flagship 10 Year Old Rum is blended with rum that’s distilled and aged at Consorcio Licorero Nacional in Panama City. It’s a deep amber-brown, with notes of vanilla. The taste is rich with flavors like cake batter and toffee. On the side of every bottle is the sentence “Blended by Francisco Don Pancho Fernandez.”
     Don Pancho became the head of research and development for rum at the Ministerio de la Industria Alimentaria, which was the government owned agency responsible for the Cuban beverage industry. That’s where he picked up the nickname Minister of Rum. He worked for brands like Matusalem and Havana Club, which led to the nickname Great Grandfather of Havana Club.    Don Pancho’s career in Cuba lasted 35 years. Pernod Ricard acquired the rights to distribute Havana Club in 1993, but Don Pancho didn’t come with the brand. He moved to Pesé, Panama, a region known for its sugar cane, where he worked for Ron Abuelo and helped rebuild Las Cabras distillery with a friend named Carlos Esquivel.
     There are people that question whether Don Pancho, , the legend, exists. “If you had Googled Don Pancho when we started Yolo rum, you’d have thought he was a fictional character”. “There are conspiracy theories about him even existing, like, ‘Oh, he never existed before 1998.’ That’s because he was in Cuba.”  Guerin says that he had to educate people on who Don Pancho was. He’s modest and doesn’t seek accolades or publicity.  “The people who question him—none of that bothers him,” says Guerin. “I say, ‘We have to do this to counter,’ because I want to help fight his battles for him, but he doesn’t care.”
     Don Pancho gave Guerin the blend that’s now Yolo on the first try. “He basically told my wife that he had it ready for us when we showed up,” says Guerin. “And he told her, ‘This is the standard that all rums should be held to.’ Once we tried it, it just blew my socks off.”  .
     Guerin started a rum brand because he wanted to share the Central American rum that made him fall in love with the spirit category. Through a series of fortunate events, he ended up working with the man who helped popularize Havana Club, one of the most storied names in rum. There were probably easier paths to getting a rum brand that didn’t involve Guerin trying to convince people of his master blender’s authenticity. But hey, you only live once

Friday, December 14, 2018

Goslings Releases Papa Seal, the “Father of all Rums”

      A new, but rare rum is being released by Goslings, the rum has been hand-selected and slowly aged in single-use bourbon barrels.  The company described the rum as: “Startlingly mellow with an elegant finish carrying notes of spice, leather, banana, caramel and molasses. The expression is so refined, Goslings urges owners to savor it neat or over a single cube of ice”.
          Malcolm Gosling, president and chief executive officer of Gosling’s International Limited, said: “Our obsession has always been on crafting the finest rums possible, not the most rums. With that mantra in mind, we proudly created Papa Seal ‘the father of all rums’. My only regret is that we are forced to limit the number of people who can experience it.”  Because of the limited offering, Goslings is restricting each customer to a maximum purchase of six bottles, which cost $179 each.
     The entire output of Papa Seal rum will be restricted to 12 barrels, and of those only one has been reserved for Bermuda customers.  However, the barrel for Bermuda is extra special, because it is the first of the Papa Seal rum barrels. Bottles from the barrel will be numbered and hand-packaged in display boxes.  

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Few Things You Should Know About Rum

It Must Be From a Derivative of the Sugar Cane.

     Sugar cane which is a type of grass that grows best in warm tropical climates, like South and Central America, the Caribbean and the Central Pacific. Once the juice is extracted from the sugarcane, it can be turned into molasses or kept in its raw juice form. On its own, it has a sweet, grassy taste that gives you a major sugar rush. Mixed with yeast and water, it begins the fermentation process.

It Has a Lot In Common Other Brown Liquors.

     The barrels! After the fermentation process, rum is distilled to extract the ethanol from the rest of the stuff in the fermented wash . After that, the alcohol is often aged in American bourbon barrels. Why? When making bourbon, the rules of Bourbon say that you can only use new oak barrels to age it. These oak barrels are then sold to rum and other spirits companies, where they are used aging rum and other spirits.

There’s A Lot Of Fire Involved.

     A good rum has a broad spectrum of flavors, from caramel and vanilla to smoke. How do rum makers achieve this complexity?   Fire, that chars the insides of the oak barrels, imparting a toasty flavor on the rum aged inside. So those notes of wood ,vanilla, and caramel you're tasting.

White Rum And Dark Rum Are More Similar Than You Think.

     After the rum has been aged to the distillery’s liking, some of the aged rum is filtered through charcoal filters to remove some of the color and a bit of the oaky flavor. This is what we refer to as white rum, the preferred rum for mixed drinks. Dark rum, its counterpart, maintains more of the charred woody flavor and is usually consumed neat or with ice.

You Can Do Your Own Quality Check.

     Good spirits depend on your senses to determine if it is a rum that you will enjoy.   Pour it into a clear glass and examine its color and clarity, dark rums will have an amber to mahogany hue, White rums should be clear and free of debris or cloudiness.  Some of the age white rums may still have a hint of color that was not complexly filtered out leaving some of the flavor of the barrel.   Take a small sip, then swoosh it around in your mouth, if alcohol the first thing you taste, that sharp burn is often indicative of a cheaper bottle.  The quality rum will give you complexity immediately of sweet, smoky, and smooth mouth feel. This is the type of rum you want to sip slowly.   The whites are best saved for quality cocktails like a Mojito or other fine mixture.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Rum: The Manual by Dave Broom

     Here is an idea for a Christmas present for your rum lover.  It will be a welcomed addition to any rum enthusiast’s library.  It is available through Amazon and is priced at only$13.59 and is a prime eligible product.

     This is a book by Dave Broom about how to drink rum of all kinds. It's about classic rums and new-generation rums, about rhum agricole and about premium aged rums, about rums from all over the world. It's about rum enjoyed with cola and ginger beer. About the best rum for a classic daiquiri. About rum cocktails that ooze style and personality. Above all, it's about enjoying your rum in all kinds of ways.

     The days of rum being seen as a minor spirit are over. The category has been reborn in recent years with developments such as the rise of premium aged rums and spiced rums. The range of rums available has widened dramatically, with tiki bars in every major city globally. Add in cachaça - Brazil's native cane spirit - and you have a hugely popular distillate. So there's no surprise that the premium rum market is growing at an astonishing rate - from 23 percent per annum in the US to 74 percent per annum in France, for example. 

     The mission of this book is to help drinkers appreciate this complex spirit, find the style they like and discover how this versatile spirit can best be enjoyed. It will help you to understand your rum - how it's produced (whether from molasses, cane syrup or cane juice) and whether it's dry, sweet, fresh or oaky. More than 100 different rums are featured and analyzed, from rich, sweet mellow Guyana rums to the vegetal peppery rums of Martinique or Guadeloupe and contemporary spiced rums. Dave Broom provides a description and graded tasting notes for each brand, allowing you to create the perfect mix every time. Finally, a selection of classic and contemporary cocktails shows just how wonderfully versatile this spirit is.