Monday, February 28, 2011

A Guide for the "Neophyte Rumstyler" to Key West

     The Neophyte Rumstyler can really get lost in Key West 250 plus bars and countless restaurants.     Upon reaching Key West you have some very hard decisions to make.     If you are driving on to the island, you need to decide whether you are turning left or right.     If you fly in, do I rent a car or take a taxi, or if you boat in, do I tie up in the mooring field and dinghy in or do I get a slip and  live the "marina life"?     All of these before I have to decide on where to eat or where to party.     This can be a pretty difficult time, but after all the tough decisions are made, it is time for the "neophyte" to meet Key West head on.     When you leave your now established "digs" the first place you just have to find is "Duval Street", just like if you go the New Orleans, you have to find Bourbon Street here it is Duval Street.     This Street has two distinct ends, the south end, known as the "quiet end", and the north end where all the raucous action takes place.     If you are into the latter, you go to the 100 to 600 blocks and Duval Street is alive with music, booze and food.

The Bull, Whistle Bar, and Garden of Eden
      Sloppy Joe's, Hog's Breath, Captain Tony's, Rick's, Irish Kevin's, Margaritaville, Cowboy Bill's, etc, etc, etc, are the ones that every "neophyte has heard about and has to hit as soon as they arrive.    There are however several  other fine watering holes on and around Duval Street that you need to search out and explore before you get sucked into a "Duval Crawl Stupor" and forget who and where you are.     Just off Duval is the "Green Parrot", oldest bar in Key West, and probably the one with the best music on a regular basis.     Kelly's Caribbean, on the corner of  Whitehead and Caroline Streets offers great food and one of the best "Happy Hour's".     You've got to try the wings and the micro brew ales.    As you head back down Caroline street to Duval Street you find a curious combination of bars stacked on top of each other.    "The Bull", the street-level bar that features good local music, dancing, and cocktails.     Up you go to the next level where you have the "Whistle Bar", this level has pool tables and verandas that let you watch the craziness of Duval Street from above as you sip your cocktails.     As we climb the stairway to the top we are met head on with the "Garden of Eden",  Key West's famous "Clothing Optional" bar.     This is an open air and really wide open bar that you can dance, be body painted, and in general have  really wild and naked time.

     Old town Key West is very different, but very much the same from the Prohibition Days, or even the crazy 60's, but Key West is still the wide open fun loving town that it always was.    If you are looking for what you really don't know what your looking for, then Key West has it.    The "Sunset Festival" at Malory Square happens 365 days a year at sunset and draws huge crowds daily.    This is the launching pad for the party that runs til 4:00 am. every night.     If you had not guessed by now Key West is a town for the energetic and not for the unmotivated.     You can start your party at 6:30am and the it doesn't have to finish til 4:00 am the next day.      This is a venue for the"professional rumstyler", but the "neophytes" are always welcome.     Key West has so many things to offer that you can live here for years and still are amazed by all the things you discover that you didn't know about.     Come on down and have a little but of fun with us.     ;o)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Quick Stop at Dunn's River Falls

Bob and Marta "fording the falls"
      The trip to Jamaica would not be complete without a visit to the Dunn's River Falls just outside of Ocho Rios.     This set of falls are described by geologists as "a living phenomenon" in that they are continuously being reconstructed by the depositing of calcium carbonate and sodium by the river waters.    The falls appear to be giant stair steps that the river is cascading over to produce this world famous natural phenomenon.      Climbing these falls from the beach upward is a thrilling endeavor and a very popular tourist activity .     With the help of your guide, the falls can be negotiated without much trouble, this is an exhilarating activity though and not for the faint of heart.      This is usually done in a "human chain" as the guild leads you up the falls.     There are several lagoons along the way as you climb up nearly a 1000 feet up the falls.

     These beautiful falls are not just known to the tourists for their beauty, but to Hollywood as well.     The original 1962 James Bond  film "Dr. No" was partially filmed at this location as James Bond (Sean Connery ) and Honey Rider ( Ursula Andress) met as she walked along the Dunn's River Beach.  That is also were they were shot at as they swam in the river and went searching for the "fire-breathing" dragon.    

     The 1988 classic film "Cocktail" starring Tom Cruise and Elizabeth Shue was filmed in the Ocho Rios area around Dunn's River Falls as well.     This love story had a "steamier scene" in the falls as Tom and Elizabeth kissed.    

     It is the beauty of these falls that makes a natural backdrop for all of the movies that used the falls as a location for filming.

     Should the opportunity arise you would be remiss if you don't visit the falls.     In addition to the falls there is a "straw market" on the property that has many fine artisans and souvenir peddlers that really have some good things to sell.    There is lush vegetation and shaded areas in the park that provide a cooling effect as the people climb the falls.     The cafeteria provides a good place to sit and have a meal as you enjoy the park.     Don't forget to visit the historic town of Ocho Rios just outside of the park.     ;o)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rumstylin with a Daiquiri

     This classic rum cocktail was named for a beach in the vicinity of Santiago, Cuba.     This is made from the simplest of ingredients and the most bastardized cocktail ever in these modern times of mixes and smoothie machines.     This is a simple drink that is made from lime juice, sugar (or cane syrup), and rum, all the ingredients are  shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a piece of lime.     It is the freshness of these cocktails attained through the use of fresh squeezed ingredients that make them the popular cocktail they really are.     This is a cocktail that made it's first appearances in the beginning of the 1900's and in 2011 it is still a very popular cocktail.   

Mary and Earnest Hemingway
and Spencer Tracy at El Floridita

El Floridita today
       It was Hemingway that really brought a lot of attention to the cocktail in his Cuban years when hanging out at the El Floridita at the corner of Calle Obispo and Monserrate Street La Habana Vieja, Cuba.   " My Mojito in La Bodeguita, my Daiquiri in El Floridita", this is the place that to this day is the mecca for the finest daiquiri's anywhere.     The El Floridita first opened in 1817 at it's present location.     In 1914 Constantino Ribalaigua Vert began working as the bartender at El Floridita and in 1918 he became the owner.     Much of the original atmosphere and contains a large collection of memorabilia from many of it's famous clientele, Earnest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, Graham Greene, to name a few.     El Floridita is famous for its fine seafood restaurant as well as it's cocktail lounge, and a must visit when in Havana.

     If you haven't had the opportunity to experience one of these really exquisite cocktails, you must find a traditional bar that has the abilities to reproduce them in the traditional manner.     This will be a cocktail to remember.     There are several of these classic daiquiri's like the Hemingway, El Floridita (Frozen), or just go with the classic Daiquiri, all or any of these will light up your taste buds and put a smile on your face.     Some of the variation include the use of any one of several liqueurs like Maraschino Liqueur, Blue Curacao. Gallliano, Falernum, or any of several others to ad a different dimension to the cocktail.     No matter how you make this wonderful cocktail, do it with fresh ingredients that do NOT include "Daiquiri Mix", keep it fresh and simple you'll really enjoy it that way.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spending the Afternoon with My Friends

     Sometimes I just need ti sit on the forward deck of the boat and relax.     I find myself just needing some peace and quiet.     Recently I found myself in that state and laid out on the deck and just pondered nothing.     I guess it was a lucky day for me because I was joined by one of my local friends, Eddie the Egret.       Eddie is an old friend that returns to Sunset Marina every winter.     He hangs out along the docks collecting all the fish he can eat and occasionally drops by a few of the boats for a little conversation.      On this day he was some really enjoyable company.     I was just sitting alone on the deck having a taste of one of my special rums when he lit on the rail.     He and I were able to carry on a conversation for about 15 or so minutes and he went off to visit another friend.

     It is times like these when I realize how fortunate that I am to be living here in paradise and being able to enjoy so much unspoiled natural beauty.     In all of my previous lives I have been one of those "over-achievers" that could never slow down and just relax, not even for a minute.     These days when I get the urge to relax it is very easy here in the keys.    
     On another occasion another of my friends stopped by, Ozzie the Osprey, he is a year round local that has his aerie in top of the communication tower for the Sheriff's department next door.     This venerable fisherman will usually stop in to brag between fishing trips.     I really think that the kids up in the aerie are driving him nuts so he stops by to chat while I'm enjoying my rum.     Ozzie can get real talkative once in a while and he'll hang out for an hour or more.      Ozzie sometimes will try to share hes "catch of the day" with me, but sushi has never really been for me.     I usually just pass it on to a waiting  snapper or barracuda hanging out below the boat.     I really don't Ozzie really appreciates me giving his hard earned dinner away like that, especially when he had just given it to me as a special gesture.       Ozzie gets over his frustration quickly and settles back to his meal and only grumbles quietly  while he finishes.     I am always awestruck when I watch these beautiful birds hunt over the open water.     The eye of an eagle is a true to life fact.     As they sit high above the water watching, they spot a fish and away the go swooping down and literally grab the fish from the water like we grab one from the shelf of the fish market.  

     I really feel that the birds around here are just like the people, in that they need to visit with some friends and get things off their chests just like we people do.      Otherwise why would they stay and hang out with me for the periods that they do.     It is sort of like me getting off work and heading to my favorite watering hole and chatting with some old and new friends to clear my mind, or what is left of it, after a day behind the bar "working".     You know I really don't consider the time behind the bar as really working.     Do you ever wonder what really goes on in the minds of the birds when they come by to say hey at your house?     It is a curious question and has real possibilities as to who is the smarter.     They are great listeners and provide a very serene atmosphere in which to relax.    Sometime when you don't think you can stand anymore of the stress just go outside and beckon some of your friends and learn to relax and chat with them, it really works.     ;o) 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rumstylin St.Croix

     St. Croix is a real jewel in the Virgin Islands.     Christainsted isa very beautiful city that will take you back to the days when it was the capital of the Danish West Indies.     The architecture, the beautiful harbor, and the quaintness of the city makes it a must see on your visit to St. Croix.   There are a number of historic sites that you really need to visit while in Christainsted, including Fort Christainsted, the Steeple Museum, the Restored Government House and other government buildisgs.  Just walk down the old cobblestone sidewalks and feel the old-world atmosphere of this one square mile town.     The harbour with all it's restaurants and shops is a great place to dine and shop as well.     The 27 acre historic district is maintained by the United States National Park Service, along with the restoration of these precious buildings and walkways the Danish heritage of the City is going to be here for those who come in the future.

     When we leave Christiansted, the next most important site on St. Croix for a rumstyler is the historic Cruzan Distillery located in Fredricksted.        With the remnants of the old windmill once used to crush the sugar cane along with the surrounding historic Danish architecture you have one of the more modern rum distilleries anywhere.     The distillery produces and bottles the line of Cruzan Rums and ships rum for finishing to many other companies through out the world.     From it's Fredricksted location it has a very good harbour from which it can bring in the molasses from the Dominican Republic and ship out the finished rum.

     St. Croix has some very dense Mahogany rain forests in it's central inland areas as well as some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere.     I can just picture me now lying on the hammock and sipping a Cruzan Single-Barrel and just letting the world go away.     Should you get the opportunity, St. Croix is a jewel that you really do not want to miss when in the Virgin Islands.    The resorts are luxurious, the views are spectacular, and the rum is local.     What more can you ask for??   ;o)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cocktail Time in Panama

     Today let's look at some of the more popular cocktails that I was able to try while in Panama.     The variety is quite large, but the spirit of choice for the most part was either Seco Herrerano, Rum, or Scotch.      With Valera Hermanos being the largest producer of cane spirits in Panama most are utilizing their products.     Lord Panama is one of the most popular, which is a curious combination of anejo rum, sweetened iced tea and lime.     This is a very refreshing afternoon by the beach cocktail that is popular especially on the pacific side of  Panama.      With all of the tropical influence, I keep picturing Panama as an island rather than an isthmus.     

     Seco Herrerano is by far the most popular spirit in Panama.     The "populous" consumes the largest amount of it, in a variety of ways,     You can drink it on the the rocks with lime, with tonic and lime and one of the most popular among the people in cantinas and in the countryside is with milk.     Seco Sour is a very good drink that is a combination of Seco, sour mix and a dash of angostura bitters.    The western side of Panama seems to favor the "Chichita Panama", a combination of Pineapple juice, grapefruit juice and Seco Herrera.     I guess what makes this cane spirit work so well is the fact that it has many of the characteristics of vodka, while still being a cane spirit.      This very neutral spirit can be mixed as you would with vodka, and still be rumstylin'.     It has been my experience that the happiest drinkers are the ones consuming cane spirits and this is a happy alternative to the expensive and mundane lines of vodkas.    

     I guess that I have to say that my tasting of cocktails in Panama was one of discovery of new spirits and new ways of experiencing them.    Seco Herrerano is available here in the United States and is a real find for those that have had enough of the vodkas.     By the way you can stop by the Rum Bar in Key West and share a Seco Herrerano cocktail with me when you are there.     ;o)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The 2011 Miami Rum Renaisance Festival

     Beginning on Monday April 25, and culminating on Sunday May 1, 2011, this is the largest single rum Event in the United States.     This event brings together at one location many of the quality rum producers of the world.     This is an opportunity for you to visit Miami really become a part of the rumstylin' life.     There are booths, parties, exhibits, and seminars that deal with many aspects of the world of rum.

     If you have any interest in the world of rum and cane spirits, you just can't allow yourself to miss this annual event.     The wealth of knowledge that Robert and Robin Burr have brought together for this event is absolutely astonishing.     Brands like Abuelo, Plantation, Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Cockspur, Mount Gay, Foursquare Distillery, Don Q, Diplomatico, St Nicolas Abbey, and many many more will all be represented at the event.     There will be special run themed VIP Parties hosted by the best of the rum companies and all at Miami Beach venues.   These parties will feature the fine rums, great food, music and island culture.

     The event this year has moved to the world famous Deauville Beach Resort on Miami Beach.    This is a spacious and modern  resort ideal for such a gathering of rum experts and enthusiasts.    This magical setting amongst the golden Miami beaches, palm trees and gentle ocean breezes couldn't be more fitting for such an event of tropical rumstylin'.     This fine resort was the playground of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and of course the John, Paul, George, and Ringo of the Beatles.     As you can see this is the place to come and romp in the shadows of one of the celebrities at one of the great venues  and enjoy the fabulous festival.

     There are going to be two days of tasting events, Saturday and Sunday, that will allow sampling of some of the finest rums from the Caribbean and elsewhere around the world.     Celebrity Seminars and lectures by a who's who of experts in various parts of the rum world.     Cocktail competitions, that have classes for local, international, Amateur and professional mixologists, all competing for awards, prizes, and bragging rights.     There are Island lifestyle booths that feature fashions, travel opportunities, and more in the Island Lifestyle showcase.    

     The grand finale of the event is the Rum XP Competition, this world famous competition will determine the best rums from around the world.    The Rum XP's a a collection of All-star mixologists, distillers,and spirit journalists that have gathered in Miami Beach just for this event.    This is going to be my first time at the event and I'd like to invite all of you to get tickets and join me for some fun in Miami for the Rum Renaissance Festival in 2011.      Hope to see all of you there.     ;o) 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Blender Party in Kissimmee

     I'm sorry that I had to work and couldn't get up to Kissimmee on Saturday night for the annual Blender Party at the Figarts.     This is one of the rumstylin' great parties, you bring your unique blender recipe and go!     The drinks are shared by all and the winner is chosen by those still cognizant at the end of the night.   It all begins in the kitchen where all the necessities are gathered for the "blend-off" and let the party begin.    

Pina Bliss!!!
     It all got underway with some fresh pineapple Pina Coladas, made with home-made creme de coconut ( condensed milk, coconut grated in heavy syrup, and coconut milk) cane rum, and fresh pineapple, it was labeled as "Pina Bliss".     This was definitely in the running to be a winner.     This is just the beginning of the craziness, next we had " Skinny Bitch Margaritas, "tasted like toxic waste".    We then moved on to Cucumber Mojitos", by the second batch, they began to taste better, and I guess that if you kept on drinking them they would become a winner, but that didn't happen , they didn't win either.     " Jason's Own  Root Juice" was inaugurated the same night and was drunk to rave reviews.   Way to go Jason!!!    Several of the invitees were caught in other unfortunate commitments that didn't allow their appearance at the event, but that usually means that they were just "sceered".    

     The party moved on through the night and into the morning and the blender really didn't stop for very long, cranking out the latest concoction for the waiting palates of the judges.    By the way if you drew a late turn at the blender, your drink would probably have a better chance of winning because the judges were getting less able to be critical as they finished tasting another entry.     When it was all said and done the "Honey-Bunny" (a secret recipe) was the winner!    Yeah!!!!!!!!!     

     There should have been trophies for all involved because there were few standing when the judging and blending was completed.     The picture of the party tells of how everything sort of got blended together and nothing was very clear.     I'd have to call this a very successful rumstylin' party in anyone's eyes.    Way to go Figarts!!!!    Don't forget to give me some notice so I can be there for the next one.     ;o)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's like the Party Never Ended

     I'm back behind the bar again and yesterday was just like it was last weekend before I left for a week in Panama.     The place was filled with some really fun people that were enjoying stories and having some of the new cocktails that we found in Panama.     This is really fun for me and why I keep searching the bars and countryside for new cocktails that are really fun.     I kind of goes wit rum a lot.     It seems that people who drink rum are really having fun, well the rest of them it is mostly just trying to understand the craziness that us rummy's already know about.     Several of my old friends are in town this weekend, which stir memories of several other fun afternoons here at the Rum Bar.     It was like that party from several months ago never ended and it was going again, or still if you know what I mean.    

     Today I received an e-mail from another of my rumstylin' buddies that are having a "Blender Party" tonight and asked for a recipe for a "Hurricane Bob", so I'll be expecting pictures soon from that one.    It is this type of fun "Tiki" partys that make the rumstylin' life the fun world that it is.     If you have one of our favorite events writ and tell me about it .     Just click on my facebook badge and send me a Personal Message about your party and send pictures that I can put on line.     The sharing of ideas to make our rumstylin' partys more fun is what this is all about and the party is the culmination of this celebration.     

     It's just like me, when the day is done, I jump into my dinghy and cruise over to the Hurricane Hole and my rum and tonic is on the bar by the time I tie-up and climb on to the dock.     These are the good times and we all need to chill a bit  to enjoy them and life can be a whole lot better for you and those around you.     That is enough of my Sunday morning preaching, so I'll just head down to the Rum Bar and have a little fun.    ;o)    

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Rumstyler Returns

     After 5 days in Panama that were incredible, it is good to be home again.     Got home with three bottles of Ron Abuelo Centuria Reserva de la Familia in hand and went straight to the Rum Bar to  share the find with Anne, the owner.     We tasted, imagine that an compared it to the other fine Abuelo rums, and concluded that it is the best rum that we have in the bar.     We feel privileged to be able to score this find, as there are only 2 bars in the United States that currently have it, and the other is the Martin Cate's Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco, California.      It was a great evening back home at the rum bar and back to work behind the bar today.

Panama City's new Trump Tower
      Just one little final note on Panama, it is a wonderful place to visit, the people are friendly and the nightlife is out standing.     They have Calle Uruguay, which is like our Duval Street in Key West, that boasts some really exciting restaurants and night clubs.     A command of Spanish is really helpful, for there are few that speak English, making communication sometimes difficult.     The infrastructure is expanding rapidly in Panama City and the Old City is being renovated at a very fast pace.    This is a city that is going to be huge and beautiful in the next couple of years when the  work is completed.

     On the coasts there is a huge resort that looks more like a city rather than a resort, The Bristol Buenaventura is a place well worth that will absolutely take your breath away and pamper you as they cater to your every need.     The restaurants serve fine gourmet  prepared food that lingers on the palate as you enjoy your meal.    The pool bars and the more formal bars are well stocked with fine spirits and knowledgeable and friendly bartenders to make you visit a memorable one.    The facility is awe inspiring visually and functionally.     There is a new Jack Nicklaus 18 hole, par 72 golf course is being built and opening soon.     There are residential opportunities at the resort designed for the retirees of the baby boomer era about to be spread through out the world very soon.    

     All in all this was a very busy and restful rumstylin week that Panama provided for all of us from Rum XP.     It is my true belief that none of us will soon forget the courtesies bestowed upon us by the wonderful people at Varela Hermanos, especially Ricardo March, VP for Sales and Marketing and Daniel Fabrega, Exportation Director.      We were very impressed with the people, the operation, the loyalty and pride and the products they as a group produce and make available to us.     ;o)     

Friday, February 18, 2011

Returning from a Rumstylin' Adventure

     I do have to say that this has been a non-stop cover the gammit kind of trip.    Panama has too much to comprehend in such a short period of time,it is sort of like trying to do all the bars in Key West in one day, it just isn't going to happen.     I discovered a new cocktail last night that is very popular here in Panama.     It is called  "Lord Panama" and it is a wonderful blend of lightly sweetened tea and Ron Abuelo Anejo Rum with a squeeze of lime.    Very light and refreshing.     Between the Seco and the Abuelo rums a rumstyler can really get lost in the many ways to enjoy these spirits.    

     Headed for the plane soon so I'm going to check out from Panama and  the adventure will resume from Key West on Saturday.    I again want to say thanks to our hosts at Varela Hermanos for their kindness and hospitality during this fabulous week here in Panama.  ;o)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rumstylin is coming to an end here in Panama

     It's our last day here in Panama and we can't leave without visiting the canal and seeing a ship or two go through the locks.     This is an amazing work of engineering and construction.     Between the seriouly heavy duty work of excavating, construction, and the enviornment, the Panama Ccanal killed way too many people during the construction.  

     Since the canal was turned over to the people of Panama iDecember 31, 1999 ti has been providing jobs and revenue for the region.    It takes a ship approximately 8 hours to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific at a cost of approximately $200,000 each direction for every large ship.     The locks raise the ships up to the level of the lake and then lowers it back to the level of the ocean as it completes the journey across the ismas of Panama.

     After leaving the Canal Zone, we headed back to Panama City and visited the Old Town, Casco Viejo, to see the old architecture and the narrow streets.      Many of the buildings are in a state of disrepair now, but between the government and private investors the Casco Viejo is coming back to life.     The old city is coming back to life with a plethera of shops, squares and beautiful scenery that is unmistakeable of the early spanish influence.     One of the old buildings that is still in use is the French Embassy.     Located in the heart of Casco Viejo, this beautifully maintaind complex is a great facility to see.      As you look over the walls to the sea, you'll see surfers and a sea with waves that keep breaking fo such a long distance that you feel that the break will never end.     As you wander through the square, you'll find statues and a straw market fom which you can purchase curios of all type from the local venders.

     From Casco Viejo we went to the Valera Hermanos Bottling plant and the corporate offices in Panama City.     There we were treated to a tasting of some of the products that we hadn't seen before in the United States.   In addition we tasted some of the components that make up these fine aged rums.     After a discussion with the Master Blender, we learned of the components and the aging process that gives Abuelo it's fine taste, color, and clarity.     We were told of the history of the Abuelo line and how the Abuelo Anejo was first introduced in 1970, the Abuelo 7 year in December of 2005,and the Abuelo 12 year in December of 2008.     We were able to taste each of these fine aged rums along with rums from their early days.    

     The height of this whole trip is being a part of the introduction and the coming to America of the Abuelo Centuria Reserva de la Familia.    This is a pure solera process aged rum that has components that range in age from 7 to 30 years.     Everything about this fine rum from the special wooden box that houses the special bottle to the rum itself is a work of art.    This rum is the culmination of more than 100 years of rum making in Panama by Varelo Hermanos.     This is  by far the best effort to date.     When the only 200 cases of this fabulous rum comes to America you don't want to miss out on owning a bottle even at its $125 price tag,because  it is a real rumstylin' bargain.

     I would at this time like to say a special thanks to all of the people at Valera Hermanos for the warm and gracious hospitality given us throughout this week here in Panama.    I look foward to returning to Key West and introduce you to some new coctails and beverages from this very special operation.     ;o)

A Rumstyler at the Panama Beachside Resort

Resort as seen from the helicopter as we arrived.
     Yesterday was spent relaxing and getting set for today in Panama City and touring the canal.       We stayed at the Buenaventura located in Farallon at Cocle province.     This beautiful seaside resort is located about an hour and 1/2 from Panama City on the Panama's PacificCoast.      We spent 24 hours in luxury as the guests of Buenaventura.   I was allowed to be a "guest bartender" at the pool bar and share my "Painkiller" with the some of the locals and our Rum XP group.    We were able to savor the flavor of several local cocktails made with Abuelo Anejo and Seco.

     Seco is a curious local favorite that was created in 1908 by Valera Hermanos.     Seco was the product that moved Valera Hermanos from a sugar plantaion to a rum producer in 1908.      The Pese Valley is an area that is optimal for producing sugar cane and ideal for the production of this very neutral product.     Seco has many of the qualities of Vodka and a great neutral mixer that doesn't over power the mix.    I enjoyed  seco with cola, cranberry, orange juice, and gingerale.     Looking foward to making a "Seco Mary"  when I return to the Rum Bar on Saturday.    Traditionally Seco Herrarerano is mixrd with grapefruit and pineapple juices, "Chichita Panama" a drink that is still popular after more than 40 years.   On the Atlantic side of the country it is often served in a curious coctail called "Seco con Vaca", Seco with milk and coconut milk.    Panamanians consume this most of the Seco produced, but it is exported to the United States.     

Pool Bar at Buenaventrua

     Today we are going to the Offices of Valera Hermanos in Panama City for another round of rum tasting and discovery there.     The driver will then take us over to the canal where we will be able to see it's workings.    So far this trip has been fast paced, but the amount of information and pictures that I've collected is well worth the "speed of light" travel.      With the tempuratures in the low 90's and humidity tollerable, this is all and all pretty nice break from the "freezing temperatures" of last week, I know you feel sorry for me.     ;o)

Artwork at  Buenaventura

Beach facing the Pacific


Lighthouse over Pool Bar

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ron Abuelo Centuria Reserva de la Familia

Ron Abuelo Centuria
      As the name would indicate, this is a rum made to celebrate the 100 years of rum making at Varela Hermanos.      100 years ago Don Jose Varela Blanco, with courage and extra ordinary values opened a sugar mill in Pese Panama: Ingenio San Isidro.  It is in the honor of a 100 years of sticking to his values and dreams that Varela Hermanos embarked on the making their finest rums ever.     Luis Jose Valera, the "hands on" second in command at Valera Hermanos chose a blend of the finest rums from the oldest aged rum reserves, some of which are 30 years old, and created the "Reserva de la Familia".     Following the traditional "solera" aging system allows Valera Hermanos to preserve the character and flavor of these fine rums throughout the years.     This new rum "Ron Abuelo Centuria" is not only a celebration of 100 years in the rum business, but a celebration of their commitment to quality and the passion for making the best aged rums.     Nothing was spared in making this limited quantity aged rum.

Jaun Carlos Varela
       After being blessed with the opportunity to taste the Centuria during the past couple of days I can't help to believe that the passion has come through in the product.     This fine solera boasts a rich aroma and a dark color that draws you in immediately.     The tase on the palate is rich and sweet with subtle woody overtones.   The finish is dry and lasts for a long time leaving you with a state of enjoyment rarely reached.

     The tour of the Bodega where the solera is rested and maintained through out the process was especially rewarding when we were able to partake of a "barrel sample" from one of the fine resting rums in the uncut (135 proof) condition.     This was a warm and rich flavor that had a very light burn (for such an overproof sample) with a flavor that lasted for a very long time.    In fact it lasted close to 5 minutes as all of us shared the sample.     These results are here because of the attention to detail throughout the process from the hand cut sugar cane, to the passion from the employees and ownership to produce a unmistakeable fine aged rum.

The Barrel Sample

     Ron Abuelo Centuria will be available in very limited quantities in the United States very soon at a price point of about $125.     Don't miss the opportunity to have this fine aged celebration of the dreams and passion of Varela Hermanos in your collection.    ;o)

Ageing Bodegas

Replacing the "Angel's Share"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rumstylin' at Varela Hermanos with Abuelo

     Today the adventure started at 8 o'clock when the van picked us up at the hotel and took us to the airport to meet the helicopter.     After an hour or so flight, we were touching down at the Varela Hermanos distillery and sugar plantation.     The flight was a special treat for me because I haven't been to Panama before.     Being able to view the land, the beaches and the ocean was spectacular.     As we approached the distillery, we circled the plantation and could see the thousands of acres of sugar cane and the hubub of activity going on in the fields.     This is harvest time in the sugar cane world in Panama.     Varela Hermanos still cuts the sugar cane by hand and hauls it back to the cane crusher with carts that are pulled by oxen.    You want to talk about a green operation, all the work is done by machetes, man and oxen.
     Once the cane reaches the processoing plant, the cane is unloaded from the carts and placed in a hopper that carries it up to the crusher which extracts all of the juice from the cane and sends it directly to the fermenting tanks.     This is the beginning of the process which will produce the "Seco" a rum like product that is very popular here in Panama.    The dregs of the crushing if you will are baled and dried to become the fuel that fires the burners that heat the stills and boil the sugar cane juice.     

     Once the fermentation is complete, the product is run down to the huge column stills and the alcohol is extracted and purified.   Varela Hermanos only uses column stills in the production of both the Seco and the rums produced at the plant.     There is no molassas produced here at the plant, but cane juice and cut cane is shipped about an hour down the road to the suger processing plant that makes sugar and sends back molasses to the plant for fermentation and distillation into the rum products.    

Today's adventure was an interesting trip because it was good to see a company that is interested in taking care of the local people and providing jobs rather than modernizing and leaving the people of the town of Pese without work or a means to survive.     This tradition of caring for the towns people is a great thing, and the work is appreciated by the towns folk that work the fields, plant and the grounds of the plantation.     Tomorrow I'll get into the rum portion of theoperation and talk about the process and the new Ron Abuelo Centenuria rum.     ;o)

Monday, February 14, 2011

I'm in Panama, Rumstylin with the Abuelo Represenatives

     Today has been spent traveling to Panama from Key West.     I had an uneventful drive to Miami, boarded the flight and arrived safe and sound.     This is going to be one of those adventures that keeps getting better and better.       We are staying at the Decapolis Hotel here in Panama City, Panama tonight.     The Helicopter will pick the group up at 9:00 am tomorrow morning and fly us to the distillery in Pese.    

     Tonight we will be dinner guests of Ricardo March, Vice President for Sales and Marketing and learn of a new rum, a solera if you will that Abuelo will soon be marketing.     I'll keep everyone informed of what we are doing here on a daily or maybe even twice daily if time permits.     ;o)