Saturday, November 30, 2013

Making Rum the Old School Way

     While in Grenada last week, I did have a chance to travel northwest to St. Patrick's Parish and visit the River Antoine Distillery, a step back in time to watch a factory that is still operation as it did in the late 1700's.  This 228 year old Rum Factory is like no other that you have ever visited. The power for the operation come down from Lake Antoine via the River Antoine and an aquaduct to the C. Fletcher and Company of London and Derey water wheel at the Factory.   The wheel provides all of the power for the cane press and the conveyor system that brings the cane up to the pressing unit.   The system is as reliable as the flow of the water.

     The press is another of the very old pieces of equipment still in operation at the factory.  It is driven by the water wheel through a series of gears and chains that turn the harvested sugar cane into juice.  The spent cane hulls are then hand lifted into small rail cars and pushed over to the dumping area and allowed to dry in the warm tropical sun.  Later the hulls also known as "bagasse" are used for the most part as fuel to boil the cane juice and fire the still, but some is also used as fertilizer for the crops on the estate.

  After the cane is pressed, the juice flows by gravity to the copper boiling cauldrons where the syrup is thickened and concentrated.  This is a process that is accomplished first by gravity then is hand ladled from the coolest cauldrons to the hottest one.  The syrup is then pumped on to the fermenting tanks in the next room.

     Fermentation in the tanks of cane syrup / molasses picks up natural yeasts from the air and fermentation begins.  It takes fro 8 to 10 days, depending on the weather at the time for the fermentation to bring the alcohol content up to 13 to 15 percent. 

     The  wash is then pumped into one of the wood and bagasse fired "Ventdome Potstills" where the rum is distilled until it reaches the ABV (Alcohol by Volume Percentage)  desired.  The rum is tested in a hygrometer, if the ABV is at the desired level then it is pass to bottling and the process is concluded.  If not, then it is pumped back into the still for further distilling. until desired ABV is reached.

     There was some Coca production being done in days gone by on the estate when the cane was not available for making rum.  You can still see some of the drying tray rails along side of the tasting room.

     River Antoine Distillery is a year round operation, but it is the favorite rum of the region of Grenada in which they operate, and they sell 100% or their product locally as well as to the visiting tourists.   I bought the T Shirt, that says "Don't Say Rum, Say Rivers".   There is an extreme loyalty that the "Rivers" drinkers have for their rum and it can be seen in the rum shops and taverns around the north region of Grenada.

   If given the opportunity to visit this wonderful "old school" distillery, do pass it up, take a taxi, a bus or a car, but make it up and see how rum was made in the 1700's.  There are daily tours and tastings at the distillery and estate.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Weekend in Havana: 1941 Movie

     This morning as I awoke, I noticed a 1941 movie called Weekend in Havana on the television.    The opening scenes in Havana was a head on shot of Sloppy Joe's Bar, the famous watering hole  frequented by so many celebrities through out the years.   The movie was a classic of the era with stars like Alice Faye, John Payne, Cesar Romero and Carmen Miranda.  Set in the 1940's Havana, this movie stirred some excitement in my bones as I saw things that I had seen in Havana in the past year.  Havana today is a "time warp", going back to the 40's and 50's, with many of the sights looking as they did back then.

Sloppy Joe's Bar 1940's
     There were shots of the Tropicana, and The Morrow Castle (Fortress), sugarcane fields and downtown Havana in the movie.  It was a really great way to wake up on a Friday morning.   It really hit a warm spot with the shot of Sloppy Joe's Bar at the beginning of the movie.  The reopening of Sloppy Joe's Bar in Havana last April after many years of sitting in rubble after the roof collapsed.    This famous old watering hole was the hangout for many celebrities from all over the world, and a Havana landmark that I'm really glad to see reopened.

Alice Faye at Sloppy Joe's bar
     Though the movie was only a moderate success, today for me it was a chance to remember all that I've seen in Havana this past year.   Being able to sit at the "long bar" at Sloppy Joe's Bar and see all of the old pictures there of the glamorous days gone by made you feel like you were there and living the life of those days.  The restoration was done to bring back the original look and feel of the venerable old bar and they were very successful. 

     The best thing about going to Havana today is you still feel like you are back in the era of "Weekend in Havana" and watching Carmen Miranda whirl around the stage of the Tropicana or see Caesar Romano and Ernest Hemingway chatting at Sloppy Joe's Bar.

    If you can find this movie on the television or on one of your video services, it is a fun visit to the past in Havana during her hay days.

This is 2013 and here is Sloppy Joe's Bar in all of her restored glory.  With some of the best cocktails in Havana right along side with the El Floridita and the National Hotel.   ;o)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving One and All

     Today is the day of thanks for all that we have been blessed with.  It is a day for reflection and pondering of what is in store for us in the up and coming times.   I always liked Thanksgiving for the opportunity to share the times with family and friends over way too much food and beverage.  It always seems to keep me smiling when I think about the Thanksgivings in the past.

     This Thanksgiving finds me here in Key West getting ready to head down to the Rum Bar on a very chilly and blustery day, but I still remember that I am living in paradise and have to be thankful for the fact that I do have a very nice job along with the fun that comes with the work.

     Hope that all of you are enjoying some quality time and a wonderful day wherever and however you celebrate this day.   If you are in Key West today and looking to escape the hubbub, stop by and see me from 11 until 6pm, we can share some good times.   ;o)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Rumtini

     The holiday is already upon us and here is an idea for the time before you sit down for dinner
I was thinking of something that fits the atmosphere of Fall and Thanksgiving, and two things popped into my head.  First pumpkin pie and then apple pie, from this I immediately thought of Siesta Key Spiced Rum.  This is the perfect holiday rum, it has flavors of gingerbread men and pumpkin pie.  Give this recipe a try, I think you will really like it.

Fall Apple  Rumtini
·         1 1/2 oz. Siesta Key Spiced Rum

·         1 oz. Dekuyper Apple Sour

·         1/4 oz. Agave Nectar

·         1 oz. Barritt’s Ginger Beer

Take a lemon wedge and roll it around the rim of the Martini Glass  and dip it in cinnamon sugar.  Place all the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled and strain into the chilled Martini Glass rimmed with cinnamon.    Garnish with a green apple wedge.
     I hope that you enjoy this light rumtini and all of you have a very happy Thanksgiving this year.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Make your Holiday Parties Fun, and Lawsuit Free

     This is the biggest season for parties and the one that the most lawsuits arise from.   I ran across an article this morning in "Law 360" that offers some pretty good ideas for preventing your holiday fun from turning into legal grief.  Below is an abbreviated portion of the article.

     Here are five tips that employment attorneys say can help keep a lawsuit from crashing your soiree. 

Keep Alcohol Consumption Down 

     Most of the legal problems that come out of holiday parties start when an employee has had one too many, lawyers say. 

     The most cautious employers will choose to cut alcohol out of their holiday bashes entirely, but those that do choose to make booze available during their parties should take precautions to cut down on their legal risks. 

     An open bar can spell disaster, so lawyers recommend setting up a cash bar or giving employees a limited number of drink tickets.
Pick the Right Time and Location 
     The time and place of the party will go a long way toward setting the tone, and attorneys say picking the right ones can help cut back on excessive drinking and other inappropriate behaviors. 
     A daytime event is far less likely to be perceived as a bacchanalia where employees are free to lose control. 
     "One thing employers can do is have an afternoon event rather than an evening event," Billows said. "It can help with overindulgence and help keep concerns about behavior in check." 
     "The time of the week can also make a difference," she said, explaining that parties on weekdays are likely to get less rowdy than weekend events. "It can have an affect when people know they have to work the next day."
Don't Make it Mandatory 
     While an employer might want everyone to join in on the fun, it's important to make attendance totally voluntary, lawyers say. 
     Making attendance mandatory sets the employer up for a host of potential legal pitfalls, from wage-and-hour questions to workers' compensation issues if an employee gets hurt at the party.
Ask Managers to Watch for Trouble 
     No one wants to be the party police, but in order to head off potential problems before they boil over into lawsuit fodder, it's best to designate some managers to monitor behavior, lawyers say.  
     "As a preventive thing, I would say have some managers or supervisors who are going to be at the party that you have talked to in advance and said, 'Hey, if you see something inappropriate we would like you to speak up,'" Michael Kramer of Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC said.  
     These managers should be briefed in advance on steering employees away from situations that could be construed as harassment or from exchanges that look like they are becoming too heated.
Remind Employees that Workplace Rules Still Apply 
     Attorneys say that even though no employer wants to feel like a Grinch, it is worth reminding your employees that even at a party, professional standards apply. 
     Employees should be told that the company's anti-harassment policies, dress code and conduct rules will all be in effect during the shindig, lawyers say. 
     "One thing the employer can do is send an email around in advance of the party encouraging people to have a good time but also reminding people of the company harassment policy," Kramer said. 
     "I would say something like: Have a great time and enjoy each others' company, but let's avoid any career-altering behavior," he said. "To me, that's being a little humorous and not too heavy handed, but it is a subtle reminder that if you screw this up, you may not be working here any more."
     These are some really good ideas if you are going to throw a company or even a private party during the up and coming holiday season.  I really do not want to loose any of my readers to over use of alcohol or worse yet bad decisions.   ;o)

Monday, November 25, 2013

America is Getting Tired of Well Cocktails!

     In the past couple of years, there has been a movement to much higher quality cocktails and liquors by the American consumers.  In my little corner of the world, we are selling many of the upper tier rums that in the past few people would look at.  It seems that people are learning that rum has a fine side too.  Like scotch and bourbon, there are fine aged rums out there with flavor and character that no other category can match.   The days of flavored distillate and biting white pirate rum are waning.   I am asked constantly what is my favorite rum, but I have to answer that depending on my mood, there are many of them that are my favorite at that particular moment.  Rum is very much a palate spirit and every mood requires a different taste.

    Rum is undergoing a revolution of the category and there is much more time being spent developing upper tier expression and less and less emphasis on the "well" grade rums.  The fact that rum was always the cheapest liquor on the shelf has hurt the efforts of so many of the developers of quality rums for so many years.   The "cover-over tax refund" for the US territories hasn't helped either.  This is just another incentive to make a large quantity of low grade bulk rum and dump it on the American market.

    If the Rum Category is to grow, it will be in the premium and ultra premium sectors of the category.  I feel that there is a space for fine rums just like there is for any other fine aged spirit and it is rapidly finding its niche in the spirit world.  If the rum producers keep their eye on the market and give the public what it is craving, then the growth will continue and there will be many fine rums out there to be your "go to" rum in the near future.  ;o)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Grenada Farewell

     The beautiful view from my window at the Flamboyant Resort and Hotel is a sight that will be etched in my mind as long as I live.  The Spice Island of Grenada is one of the most beautiful and fun islands I have ever visited.   It was an honor to have been invited to be a part of the 2013 Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival, and an experience that I will always remember.   Enjoy the view, and if the opportunity arises, don't miss a chance to visit this fabulous island in the southeastern Caribbean.  ;o)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Judging the Rums

So much rum, so little time
    The trip to Grenada is about judging the rums for the Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival.   This is a lot of fun being with some of my close, but far away rum friends.   This is a task that all of us  take very serious and do with the dedication that the rum producers put into the products that they produce.   Some are very good and others are not so much.   Either way each rum deserves the same level of evaluation.  It is a lot easier to examine the fine aged rums, but the whites, over proofs and flavored rums deserve the same attention.  

     The job requires us to taste all 63 of the presented rums and evaluate the first the same way that we do the last one.   The consumption of water and bland water crackers in between tastes to cleanse the palate and give the stomach something to absorb some the alcohol slowing its travel to the brain.    These were tasted over a 4 and a half hour period, and an 45 minute lunch break en between,   Fortunately, the over proof rums were saved for the end, they can really take a toll if they are consumed too early in the tasting.

Can you feel all of the stress?
    The tasting completed and it is time for the reveal, where we get to see how the rums did and what rums you thought that you may not have liked actually scored well in a blind tasting.   There were several new rums that I have not had the opportunity to try in the past that were quite exceptional,  The result of the CAB Tasting were released last night and I will have them as soon as they are published.  All in all this was a very well run and organized tasting with a smooth flow from one category of rum to the next.  Hats off to Cheryl Collymore and Bonnie Giordan and the entire crew of the CAB Tasting for their handling of the tasting event
The Knowledgeable Judging Panel

    The beauty of Grenada and the friend that make this event so wonderful will, with any luck bring me back next year for this event again.    You also might want to think about scheduling a Grenada vacation to coincide with this event.  It makes a really exciting tin=me exploring the island's many interesting places and sights.  ;o)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chocolate and Old Forts

Cocoa Pod Broken Open.
     Grenada is full of surprises at every turn offering you something new to see and explore.   Just up the hill from River Antoine Distillery and Estate is the Belmont Estate.  This is a very famous chocolate factory produces chocolate that is sent around the world.   Coca is harvested on the estate then is fully processed through a process of fermentation, drying, polishing, sizing, and finally processed into chocolate,

Belmont Estate Drying shed and fermenting bins

     Later we traveled over the mountains and visited Grand Etang Lake and Forest Reserve in the center of the island mountains.  This is another really interesting area with this volcanic crater that has formed a lake.   As part of the reserve there is another viewing area were Gibbon monkeys that were extremely friendly and ready to have you hand them some fruit.   These friendly creatures a really cool, but my experience with monkeys is they are best when kept at  just out of arms reach. 

Grand Lake Etang

    The sun is beginning to go down and it is time to head back down the mountain and back to the St. George area for our final stop of the day at Fort Matthews.   Built in the late 1700's, Fort Matthews was never used as a fortification, because the island had not been attacked until 1983 when it was mistakenly bombed by American forces during the 1983 invasion of Grenada.  The fort was being used as a place to keep the criminally insane at the time.   Today Fort Matthews is in a state of extreme disrepair, but it does have a unique little bar in the catacombs.  There are a number of catacombs that use to house troops and later the inmates of the insane asylum.
    The bar is a quaint little place that was a wonderful place to chill at the end of this long, but fun filled day of exploring Grenada.   ;o)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

River Antoine Distillery

Water wheel powered cane crusher
    On the Northeast side of Grenada, there is a piece of rum history that is still in full operation.  The River Antoine Distillery goes back to 1785 and has been operation off and on ever since.  They produce rum in the traditional way, with a huge pot still and a water wheel driven sugar cane crusher,    In this age of computer controlled stills and fermentation tanks here operates the River Antoine  Distillery.

     The process begins with the hand harvesting of local sugar cane, hand loading it on to the conveyor belt  and finally to the crusher.  All of this powered by the very "green" water wheel and the free power of the river.

Boiling Room
     The sugar cane juice is then taken to the boiler room, heated by the spent hulls of the sugar cane.  The cane juice spends eight days in the fermentation tanks, where they reach an alcohol level of 12 to 14%.   This is an all natural process without the introduction of yeast or any other agent to speed the fermentation process.   The natural yeasts in the air produce the start of the fermentation process.

Wood Fired Still
    From the fermentation tanks the "wine" is sent to the pot still where it is heated by a wood fire to bring the alcohol level up to the desired levels.    This is the oldest type of still, it provides the heaviest forms of alcohol and the most flavorful of the alcohols.  The flow of the alcohol from the still through the hygrometers that determine when the alcohol levels are sufficient and whether or not the product needs to be  run through the still once again.   Then the pure rums are sent to bottling where they are diluted to the proper percentage and bottled.

    There is a bit of a contradiction that occurs with the system.    The concentration of sugar in cane is at its highest during the dry season (Jan. to May), the water which powers the cane press is more efficient during the rainy season (June through Dec.) when there is plenty of water in the river.

    The plant did not operate making rum throughout the year, as the sugar cane harvest is not a year round process.  They would also process chocolate, nutmeg and mace in the off seasons as did many of the estates in the area.

    This is one of the few remaining "old school" distilleries left in the world.    River Antoine Distillery is still making rum in the tradition of the 1785 era, when slaves were cutting the cane and carrying it to the distillery for processing and water and wood powered the plant.  This is a truly interesting operation, one you should not miss should you get the chance to visit this lush island.   ;o)


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Quick Stop in Trinidad and Angostura

Beautiful view from the room here in Trinidad just at dusk and the clouds running down the mountain.

Angostura Aging  Warehouse
     A late arrival in Port of Spain, Trinidad and a fast Taxi ride to the House Of Angostura, but we just were to late to take any tour of the distillery.  However, we did get to visit the store and pick up a bottle of Single Barrel Rum for the evenings enjoyment here at the hotel.  

     My luck with arrivals and being able to see Trinidad in the two visits here have been squelched by late arrivals and early departures.  This visit is just the same, we arrived at 3pm this afternoon, cleared immigration and customs, and jumped into a taxi for a rocket ride the Angostura before it closed at 4:00 pm.   I was hoping to find a bottle of Angostura No. 1 to bring back to the US, but it won't be in the store until Tuesday of next week.   My luck is still the same, but I did manage to hat a buy on get one free on the Single Barrel, so it wasn't a total loss.  

  Oh well, it is off to Granada at 6:00 am and a tour of the River Antoine Distillery on the North side of the island with my friend Mike  Streeter, who I haven't seen in nearly a year.   Then it is time for the Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival for the rest of the week.   Keep watching, I'll bring your the stories as they occur while I'm in Granada.   ;o)


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Traveling to Trinidad Today

     The airlines don't travel into Granada on Tuesday, so it is off to Trinidad for the day today and then off to Granada tomorrow at 6:00am.   This is not a bad thing, I'm planning on stopping by the House of Angostura and seeing what is new there.    I hear that there are several new high end rums out on the market now.   It is also a chance for my wife to see the place for the first time.   The house of Angostura is steeped in history that goes back to 1824.  It covers the development of the Angostura Bitters all the way through the present and the making of so many wonderful rums.

     I will be spending the day today in Trinidad and then it is off to Granada and the Caribbean Rum and Beer Festival for three days.   This is really proving to be an exciting
g trip, and I as so looking forward to my first visit to Granada in the morning.

     Today is Trinidad, and it has so many interesting things to see and do, and with only a short time on the ground there, I am going to make the most of the time.

    Keep following, I will keep you up to day daily of what is going on in this part of my world.  ;o)

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Images and New Ultra Premium Rums this Fall

Facundo Rums  just released this month
     It seems to be the year for a lot of new expressions of ultra premium rums and new images for existing ones.   This is a great thing in my mind, it is hopefully the first signs of a trend of higher quality in the category.  Rum has needed to put more effort into legitimate high quality expressions and less into "bulk rum" and low grade sugared rums.     This is an indication that  many of the better distillers world wide believe this to be true.   I see new expression of ultra premium coming from Flor de Cana, Bacardi, Angostura, Brugal, Diplomatico, Foursquare, Papa Pilar and many others. 

     It is also a time when many companies are introducing  new bottles and labels to bring a new and more sophisticated image for the company.  Flor de Cana has just introduced a whole new label and bottle make over in the last month.  These are very exciting and attractive bottles that will surely bring attention to their fine products.

     Diplomatico just introduced their newest vintage rum, Diplomatico Vintage 2000, a follow up on the original Vintage 1997 brought out in the fall of 2012.  I unfortunately have not had the opportunity to try this new Diplomatico rum yet, but I'm sure that I will be given the opportunity at the 2014 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in April, or maybe able to find a bottle in a "Duty Free Shop" on my trip this week.

     Brugal has come out with their latest entries into the Ultra Premium arena with the  Siglo de Oro and Papa Andres lines.   Both of these are very special and flavorful rums that deserve your attention.   The Siglo de Oro is readily available, but there are only a very limited number of the Papa Andres made each year.

     Angostura has just released their No. 1 rum, this one I will hopefully be able to taste at the House of Angostura tomorrow when I visit there.   The Angostura Legacy is another of their recent entries to the Ultra Premium  rum world.   They also have other new expression that I intend to explore as well.

    These are very exciting times in the world of rum, and a time when the "stepchild" of the spirits industry is growing up and being recognized as a first rate spirit.  The growth of the category is a reflection of the willingness of the category to grow into the higher status of a premium spirit.  ;o)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I Can still see Pilar Sittin Here at Anchor in My Mind

    The Old Man and the Sea, the Ernest Hemingway book based on the sleepy fishing village of Cojimar, just to the east of Havana.  It is a place that sets your mind traveling back to the days when Captain Fuentes, Ernest Hemingway and some of his friends would board Pilar and head out on one of their fishing adventures.  Then upon their return would head up the hill to the La Terraza de Cojimar for food and drinks and fish tales to share with friends and fellow fishermen.   ;o)

Cojimar Fortress where Pilar would sit at anchor during Hemingway's tenure in Cuba