Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Debonaire Coffee Rum

Phillip S. Zanghi III
     Debonaire Rum and Debonaire Cigars are two of the finest anywhere.   Phillip S. Zanghi III has brought his Cigar business together with some fine rums created by Don Pancho Fernandez gives this combination a 1 2 punch, that is just what the cigar smoker and rum drinker loves, a great cigar to go with a great rum.   He has a 5 Years, an 8Year, a 15 Year and a 21 Year old premium rum.    The combination of the fine rums and the fine cigars will fill an evening after a fine dinner.

     There are two other unique rums from Don Pancho as well.  There is a honey rum and a absolutely wonderful coffee rum.   During the Grand Tasting, Gayle Seale and a few of her friends were looking for my coffee morning cocktail.   I managed to come up with all of the ingredients that were necessary and they got to enjoy the cocktails   The real special part I the Debonaire Coffee rum, this is macerated from real coffee beans and has the aroma and taste of real good Cuban coffee.  This will be a must have in the Rum Lab and in the Rum Bar in Key West when it arrives here in Florida.

Bahama Bob"s Coffee Delight
  • 1 1/2 Oz. Debonaire Coffee Rum
  • 3/4 Oz. Vizcaya Cask 21 Rum
  • 2 Oz. Half and Half
Place all of the ingredients in a shaker and shake until chilled and pout over fresh ice in a rocks glass.  Garnish with ground hard chocolate.  or fresh nutmeg.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Real McCoy: The Rum and the Man.

    William McCoy, born in Syracuse, New York in 1877.   This is the man, son of a brick mason, Civil War Union Navy man and he graduated top of
Captain Bill McCoy
his class at the Pennsylvania Nautical School on board the USS Saratoga.   Captain Bill McCoy served as quartermaster and mate aboard many vessels among them was the steamer Olivette.  Bill was aboard the Olivette in the Havana Harbor when the USS Maine Exploded in 1898.   Bill and his brother Ben were residents of Holly Hill, Florida, a coastal town just north of Daytona.  There they operated a freight and excursion boat business and built yachts for the likes of the Carnegie's and the Vanderbilt's and others.

    During Prohibition the brothers fell on hard times and decided to get into the rumrunning business.  They soon sold their business and moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts.  They bought the Schooner Henry L. Marshall and began smuggling whiskey from Nassau and Bimini in the Bahama's, to the east coast of the United States.  They spent most of their time on "Rum Row" off of Long Island, New York.  After several successful trips Bill bought the Schooner Arethusa, and placed it under British Registry to avoid the restrictions of a US Vessel.  Bill renamed her "Tomoka" after a river near Holly Hill.  Bill wound up operating up to 7 vessels.  Bill was also credited with inventing the "Burlock" a burlap package that would hold 6 bottles, and was an economical way to stow and handle the bottles of liquor.    The legend of the McCoy's grew as his high quality liquor and fair pricing perpetuate the phrase "It's the Real McCoy".    The McCoys continued their operation until the capture on the "Tomoka" on November 23, 1923 in International waters.   After serving 9 months in jail, the returned to Florida and invested in real estate, and continued with the boat building business.

     Today we have been introduced to a new rum bearing the same honesty as the name implies.  The Real McCoy Rum is the brain child of Bailey Pryor, the man who was responsible for the documentary on the life and the legend of Captain Bill McCoy.   He wanted a rum that would live up to the legend and the quality that McCoy would  have been proud to sell.    In this vein, he contacted Richard L. Seale in Barbados and the rum was conceived.   This is an authentic rum, properly aged with the flavors, color and quality that is truly "The Real McCoy".

     The rum is a pale amber with delicate aromas of fruit, nuts, spices and wood.  The aromas complement the flavors on the palate, and it finishes in a long and subtly toasted nutty flavors. 

     The rum is available now in Connecticut, but I hope soon it will be here in Florida where we can start enjoying it.   I will keep you informed as to its arrival here at the Rum Bar.   ;o)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Morning's Pastels

   Sunday Morning  just as the sun begins to rise here in Key West always provides us with some amazing colors to brighten my day

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Who has $1200 for a Bottle of Rum?

   Papa Andres is a fabulous Rum named for the founder of Brugal.  There are only 500 decanters of this fine rum produced a year and are sold mostly at "Duty Free Stores" for a mere $1200.00 for each decanter.  The proceeds from the sale of Papa Andres all go to the Brugal Foundation.

     Papa Andres has a dry profile and was made to satisfy the tastes of the family.   Created from the best casks in the bodegas of resting rums.  There are white oak and PX, and Sherry casks that hold this rum and they are carefully blended to bring the flavor the family so desires.

      Tasting the elegance of the rum is a pure and unadulterated pleasure.   The rich mahogany amber color of the rum leads you to the complex aromas of dried fruit, caramel and wood.  Once on the palate, this velvety rum exhibits subtle sweetness of a very well balanced rum.  The long, dry and smooth finish leaves you with a very special warmth from the whole experience.

     Expensive yes, but well worth the money for the memorable experience.   ;o)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Something about My Friend: Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez

Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez Perez.
    It is an honor to be able to call Don Pancho my friend.   This is a gentleman that has put his entire life into the betterment of rum as a category and the making of ultra premium rums.   His career spans some fifty years beginning in Cuba and today the pride on Panama's rum industry.

     His career began working with his father a wine and spirit merchant.   Don Pancho earned a degree in Microbiology in Cuba, but like so many of us, found that his passion for rum directed his life to follow a different path.  He was the drive behind the  creation of some of the finest rums in the world.   Working with Don Ramon Fernandez Corrales as a mentor, he learned the "Carta Blanca" method as a basis of creating aged rums used throughout the world today.  
He is also credited with the modernization of the Cuban rum industry while working for notable distilleries like Havana Club and Matusalem.   Known as the "Minister of Cuban Rum" and the "Director of the Cuban Beverage Industry", he was responsible for the training of the master blenders for distilleries around the world today.     He is also well versed in the art of whiskey, vodka and wines making as well.   The training of the "Maestros Roneros" in Cuba and the rest of the world owe the vast experience and passion of Don Pancho for the excellent rums that come from Cuba and many other places these days.  After 50 years of making rum and many international awards he is still in the prime of his creativity.

Olli Hietalahti, Don Pancho Fernandez and Carlos Esquivel
     After leaving Cuba he went to work for Verela Hermanos (Abuelo Rum) in the early 90's.  He became the Master Blender for Varela Hermanos, having a very big influence on the company's rum quality.   There he became very well known and an influence on the growth of the brand.  He also was reunited with his old friend Carlos Esquivel. 

     The discovery of an old distillery sitting in disrepair  just a few miles from the Valera Hermanos Distillery in Las Cabras de Pese, Herrera.    The renovation into one of the best distilleries of the world.  Today they are producing rum for 6 brands.   The latest of which is Don Pancho's own "Origenes Rums".   With names like Zafra, Panama Red, Panamonte, Debonaire, Casa Brava and Bohemio being made at PILSA with the watchful skills of Don Pancho and his long time friend and associate Carlos Esquivel the Las Cabras Distillery and Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez are only beginning to hit their stride and setting the standards for quality rums. ;o)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Varied Moods of the Sea

Absolutely beautiful as she awakens in the morning
    My world is surrounded by water.  I find it to be a very warm and wonderful place in which to live.   "Mother Mother Ocean" as Jimmy Buffett says in his song, I think best describes her.  She is a lady of beauty, strength and many moods.  Her beauty is splendid as she awakens in the morning.  The colors of morning will hold your attention and have you marveling in her beauty.

 When she gets on the move with her tides and the wind she can be a terror as well.  The surf as it beats upon the shore can tear the land to shreds.  She can attack with a very impressive amount of force the spouts up as to let you know just how much power she really possesses.   Whether this be a small wave over some rocks on the shore, or attacking huge cliffs, she will hit with a wallop.

     The days when she really gets cranky and storms around , these days can be her most beautiful and scary at the same time.  Her colors and fearsome power during a storm make her the most exciting thing I have ever seen.   Just take some time and get to know the "other woman" that fills my heart with warmth, joy and fear.  ;o)



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rum From the Far East?

Map of sugarcane proliferation around the world.
     Sounds strange I know, but when you hear the rest of the story, it all makes sense.   Most people think of the Caribbean when the subject of sugarcane is brought up, but sugarcane has its origins in New Guinea.     Sugarcane was first domesticated about 8000 BC in New Guinea and spread rapidly all over Southeast Asia, China and India.   Christopher Columbus carried sugarcane seedlings to the "New World" in 1493 on his second voyage.   Most of the Columbus influence as far as sugarcane was concerned was in Hispaniola.

     It always seems to follow where sugar is made, rum is soon to follow.   In 1854, Tanduay Distillers was established, today the second largest producer of rum in the world, second only to Bacardi.   Tanduay is located in the Philippines and makes its rum from molasses produced at their own sugar mill.   Victoria's Milling Company produces sugar and molasses from the Negros Sugarcane which is a directly descended from the noble and wild varieties from New Guinea.  Tanduay is also very proud of their small Eco footprint and very green operations that have won them international green awards.

     Today Tanduay Distillers is producing many fine spirits.  In addition to their Rums, Gin, Asian Beer, they own bakeries and airline businesses.        Tanduay is bringing two different rums to the United States, a silver and a gold.  Both are 5 pass column distilled and aged in various types of Oak barrels for many years.  This process creates the uniquely complex rum that boasts a range and depth of flavor.   Winner of over 100 medals internationally for their rums in the past 40 years and received their first gold in Paris in 1876.

     The amber color of the gold rum leads you to an intriguing nose of creme burlee and caramel.  On the palate, this medium bodied rum exhibits fruit, vanilla and oak notes, finishing with a warm, peppery, nutty and fruitiness.   It seems that Asian rum can be pretty darn good.  Tanduay is not the second largest producer of rum through some fluke, the make a very nice product in both the gold ad silver rums.   These rums will be on the shelves as early as June or July this year.  The rum will be priced at the $20.00 range.  There is a "Heritage XO" coming soon, that will be priced in the mid $30.00 range.. 

     Give these rum a try, they are legitimate fine rums that might surprise you.   ;o)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Candid Discussion with Richard L. Seale

Richard L. Seale
     There has been a lot of discussion and debate over the use of the "Rum Cover-Over Rebates", a law that has been renewed most recently as pork on to the "Fiscal Cliff" legislation in January.   This is a refund based on the excise tax collected on rums that are sold to the mainland of the United States.  The program began for Puerto Rico with the Jones Act in 1917, and the U.S. Virgin Islands were added in 1954.

    What does all of this mean and who does it really benefit?    The "West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association" (WIRSPA) seem to be trying to get the public to believe that it is having dire effects on all of the other rum producers of the Caribbean, but in talking to Richard L. Seale, it is really only the bulk rum producers, the ones that make the cheap distillate sold in bulk to produce many of the $14.00 bottles of rum on the shelves in America.    According to Mr. Seale,  the companies that are making premium and aged rums, they can command a strong enough price for their products to sustain themselves.    Mr. Seale believes that the rum industry as a category is being slowed in its growth by the large amounts of low grade rums on the market.  There is too much attention being paid to this group because of large advertisement budgets and a corporate welfare program in the U.S. Territories  to support them.  

     In order for rum to become a strong spirit like Bourbon or Scotch, there has to be more emphasis put on the higher end and higher quality rums.   There are very few names in the world of rum that will command the prices of the high end scotches and bourbons.   Richard feels that if there were less of this bulk rum and more interest by the category toward the better quality rums, the entire industry would grow in a way that is sustainable.   Rum is still for the beginning drinker, and few middle and older age drinkers see rum as a sipping spirit.   It is this issue that will limit the growth or the category in general.

    I have found that very few of my Rum Bar customers walk in knowing what rum is about other than Bacardi Superior or Captain Morgan, inexpensive spirits that they drank as kids because it was cheap and all they cared about was getting a "Buzz".   They would mix it with a coke or something else, so it didn't matter what it tasted like.  Most of this rum consumption with sugary mixes are not remembered, but the huge hangover the next morning is what is remembered of drinking rum.   It is hard to get people to try rum again when all they remember from their younger days is the hangover.

    I feel Richard L. Seale is right on point about the cover-over rebates in that they are only really corporate welfare for the bulk rum producers.   The producers of quality aged rums are feeling the effect of this corporate welfare.   Richard L. Seale and Foursquare Distillery is one of the finest rum producers in the world, his rum do the talking for him.  Quality in rum is what will make this category grow, not the proliferation of all these unaged sugared, colored and vanilla added mass market "rums".    The category is crying for quality, but the perception of the American rum drinker is one of low quality artificially flavored rums and no knowledge of the better honest rums that are available.   Take some time to enjoy a true and honest rum, you will be surprised as so many of my customers have been by quality and smoothness of the rums. 

    I'd like to thank Richard L. Seale for taking some time out of his busy schedule at the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival to sit down and talk with me on the subject of rum, tax rebates, and the category's needs to move to the next level.   I hope that the category  in general will put more interest in the production of more quality rums and less time trying to produce rums that artificially try to be something they really are not.   Enjoy a great rum, it is a very special experience and one you won't ever forget.  ;o)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oh the Morning After!

    Like so many other things in life, It is now behind me, but 2013 Rum Renaissance was the best ever.   There were too many fun and fabulous things that happened to make it a such a great and very complete event.   Here are some of the pictures from yesterdays Grand Tasting.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

2013 Miami Rum Renaissance: Day 6

     Today's big event was the Grand Tasting.   This is where the public come in and gets the opportunity to converse with all of the rum makers and the chance to sample many of the rums being shown at the festival.     This is always a crowd pleasing event for the visitors attending.  Many of these rums presented here at the show are not available here in the United States at this time, the distilleries are looking to see the reaction of their customers toward  ther products.   This is part of the picture for the distillers in the evaluation to see if it is worth the cost and trouble to bring it to the United States.   Just one of the things that must be done is packaging the rum in 750ml bottles rather than the 700 ml the rest of the world allows.   There are several other things as well, but the bottle is a major hurdle that has to be cleared.

    This morning's brunch was with Tanduay Asian Rums, made in the Philippines.  Tanduay Rum is a 160 years old rum maker and the second largest producer of rum in the world.    Made from molasses that comes from their own Victorias Milling Company in the Philippines.   The flavor profile is generated through blending a 5 column process rum aged up to five years into a silky, smooth and complex rum.   The rums are aged in oak barrels of several varieties to create this range and depth of the flavors.   There are over 100,000 barrels of Tanduay aging at this time guaranteeing a consistent supply of these fine aged rums.   Tanduay says it best when that say "A merger of experience and intelligence".   This pretty well sums up the approach taken when createing  these fine rums.

    Many of the people that have been a part of the event are on the rooftop of The Gale Hotel partying with the folks from Appleton Estate Rum.  This guy is plum tuckered out and in my room writing this blog before turning in for the night.  This boy is hit the wall and I am done with the parties for this trip.    I'm sure glad that this Rum Festival only happens once a year, I would not be able to survive many more of them.  ;o)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2013 RumXP Competition Results

       The Judging is over and the results have been tallied, now the final results published.  This is are results from three days of blind tasting by some 32 judges.  The large number of judges helps equal out the differences that the individual palates have.  By having a large input you get a more valid results.

Best In Class:
  • Papa's Pilar Blonde
   Gold Medals:
  • Plantation 3 Star
  • Wicked Dolphin
  • Guarijo Blanco
  • Diplomatico Blanco 
Best In Class:
  • Plantation Original Dark
    Gold Medals:
  • DonQ Anejo
  • Occumare Anejo
  • Diplomatico Reserva
  • English Harbour 5 
Special Cask
Best In Class:
  • Dos Maderas 5+5
    Gold Medals:
  • Plantation Guatamela
  • Plantation Jamaica 2000
  • Plantation Grenada 2003 
Best In Class:
  • R. St Barth 
Best In Class:
  • Plantation Overproof
Gold Medal:
  • Rum Fire 
Best In Class:
  • Debonaire Coffee
   Gold Medals:
  • Debonaire Honey
  • Izapa Chocolate
  • Santa Teresa Orange 
Best In Class:
  • Blackbeard Spiced
    Gold Medals:
  • Shellback Spiced
  • Blackheart
  • Bacardi Oakheart
Best In Class:
Izapa Negro
Best In Class:
  • Tanduay Gold
    Gold Medals:
  • Veroes
  • Guarijo Dorado
  • Wild Geese Gold 
Best In Class:
  • Novo Fogo Clear
    Gold Medals:
  • Novo Fogo Barreled
  • Poesia 
Best In Class:
  • Centenario 20
    Gold Medals:
  • Barcelo Imperial,
  • Atlantico Private Cask,
  • Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva,
  • Occumare Grand Reserve 
Best In Class:
  • Barcelo Imperial Anniversario 30
    Gold Medals:
  • Mt. Gay 1703
  • Debonaire 21
  • Dictador XO Perpetual

These are you winners for 2013, and the ones with the bragging right until next year's festival.  Thanks to all of the entrants, it has been a pleasure to a part of the judging panel and it was a really fine group of rums presented for evaluation.   ;o)

2013 Miami Rum Renaissance: Day 5

    Yesterday started the Grand Tastings in the main arena.   This is a special day where members of the trade get the opportunity to converse with the people that bring you all of the fine rums from all over the world and to taste so many of these fine spirits and find their new favorite. 

     The day started with the Annual Plantation Breakfast by the pool.  This is an annual affair were we have a wonderful French toast breakfast that has rum in the recipe, and rum for your coffee.  All this before tasting the latest creations of the masters from Plantation.   The Breakfast was a very strong success introducing us to rums straight from the casks that will be available to us some time next year or later this year.  These tastings are real treats for the RumXP's because they tell us how the rum world is thinking about where the company is headed in the future.

     Next it was off to the Banyan Room and the opportunity to taste what Brugal was offering for the 2013 season.    Brugal brought an unusual treat for the XP's, Papa Andrea, the rum of the family at Brugal.   This is the best of the best from specially selected casks in the Brugal inventory.   Siglo de Oro, another of the fine spirits made by Brugal is possibly heading to America.  This is great news for those who have had the opportunity to taste this wonderful rum in the past at Duty Free stores, but unavailable in the past here in the states.   There is a lot of other great news from Brugal about the new VX rum , and the new packaging of the rest of the line.   This is going to be a strong and impressive for the Brugal line.

     The Diplomatico US Tournament East and West Coast Finals was next where the were to select the United States entry into the Diplomatico World Tournament.   The entrants got to show their talents before a panel of esteemed international judges seated before them.   The winner received a ticket to Venezuela and the seat in the Finals of the Diplomatico World Tournament.   Congratulations to all of the entrants for their fine offerings and presentations of their original cocktails.

     After the Grand Tasting it was off to the Broken Shaker and the Papa's Pilar VIP Party.   This opportunity to meet with all of the principles behind this truly unique  offering to the Rum World.    It is with great pride that I can say that we at the Rum Bar in Key West were among the first anywhere to be able to offer this fine rum to the public.  

    Today is the Grand Tasting, open to the public (tickets available at the door) and the start of the grand finale of this great festival
for 2013.  All in all a great day filled with very special events that all took their toll on my liver.  The time and wear and tear on the body was well worth the price to be able to sample so many of these fine spirits.

     I will be spending some time again today at the "Ask a Rum Expert" booth, I look forward to answering your rum questions and will have copies of the book available for those who would like to purchase one.   Hopefully I will see many of you there today.   ;o)


Friday, April 19, 2013

Facundo Rums Brought to Light

The Facundo Rums
     The new line of rums from the house of Bacardi has finally been introduced.    These are all super premium rums that are an updating of the Bacardi family's favorite rums.      Over the past two years, every time we visited the Bacardi Building for the annual Bacardi Party the RumXP's were invited to the private tasting room to evaluate some new rum expressions.   Unbeknown to us these were the beginnings and part of the development of the new Facundo Rums.

    For all of us that were involved in the process, it is a real honor to be told by Facundo Bacardi that we are all "Fathers of the new line of rum".   The Facundo Rum line offers  four expressions, EO, Eximo, Exquisito, and the Flagship of the group Paraiso XA (Extra Anejo) Rum.   EO "Extra Ordinary" is an aged white rum that is far from ordinary.  Eximo, Exquisito and Paraiso are all dark rums that boast fine lineage and flavor.

      I will do a full evaluation of the line in later blogs when I have the time to sit with each one to be able to tell you all about them.   It would be unfair to these rums to try and do a true evaluation at this time.  I will tell you these are all extremely fine rums and a line that will be available sometime in August.   They will range in price from $30 for the EO to $250 for the Paraiso.   They will be available in many of the better establishments that sell our favorite cane spirits.   I will have them at the Rum Bar in Key West when they do come out for all of us to enjoy.

Facundo Bacardi and Bahama Bob Leonard

     I want to offer a heart felt thanks to Facundo Bacardi, Chairman of the Board of Bacardi Limited for the opportunity to be a part of the development and the introduction of Facundo Rum.  .   This is one experience that I will never forget and will always be proud to have been a part of the team that made all of this happen.   I would also like to say thank you to the Bacardi Team for allowing us to be a part of a wonderful introduction ceremony for a fabulous line of rums.  ;o)

2013 Miami Rum Renaissance: Day 4

Debonaire Line of Rums
     Here we go again, today's Rum Breakfast, is with Deboniare Rums.  Debonaire is another creation of Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez.     This is an interesting  line of rums that are of high quality and fabulous flavor.   The start with a 5 year white, a 15 year aged, a 21 year premium, and a pair of flavored rums that can't be beat.  There is a Honey and a Coffee rums that actually use  Honey and Coffee respectively for the flavors tat are macerated into a 15 year old rum.  There are no chemicals or artificial flavors in these rums.   This is a full line of rums that is very impressive and should do very well in the market place.  The rums are already available in some parts of the country and within the next six months will be available in most major U.S. markets.

Phil Prichard of Prichard's Distillery

     Lunch was Phil Prichard and Prichard's Distillery as the host.  Phil talked to us about the problem of Rum Standards of Identity, and how it might be a part of the problem of a slower than expected growth of the category.   This was a very interesting presentation and one that has some legitimacy.   I will follow this subject in a future blog at some other time.

     The final two sessions of the judging were completed today
and the winners will be revealed Friday evening at the RumXP Competition Awards Presentation.   The winners of this years competition will be interesting with so many very fine rums presented for evaluation.

    The evening events kicked off with the annual party at the Bacardi Headquarters in Coral Gables.  The
people from Bacardi made us feel at home in their beautiful building and offered us a wonderful evening as usual.   An evening of fine food, rum and easy listening music made for a great experience. 

    Next it was off to The Regent for a party with Casa Brava, another Francisco "Don Pancho" Fernandez creation.   The Cuban atmosphere was perfect for a fine rum that has such a flavor of Havana and the classic Cuban Rums.   ;o)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

2013 Miami Rum Renaisance: Day 3

     After Breakfast with Don Pancho and the introduction of Origenes Rums, it was off to the judging chambers for another round of tasting in the RumXP Competition.    Today it was Gold Rums, Spiced Rums, Cachaca and Agricole for the first session.   The second session of the day was for White Rums, some 22 were entered in the competition.

Jay Maltby and Lindsey Kops
     Lunch was a treat provided by the folks from "Papa's Pilar Rums".   This was a wonderful presentation by Jay Maltby  on the methods of making the rums and the unique solera blending methods.   He also related some stories that Patrick Hemingway, Ernest's son related to him during the project about the real man.  This is a rum that is all about being the rum that represents the way and boldness of Ernest Hemingway's life.     Brand Manager Lindsey Kops was there to answer all pertinent questions, she also provided us with the rest of the story on Papa's Pilar Rums.

I've already covered how good these rums really are and they are available at the Rum Bar for your sampling today.

Botran Rum Blending Center
   The evening was made up of three stops.  First was Roberto Ramos' Cubaocho in Miami.  The Botran people put together another of their very special VIP Parties.  This year they are introducing their new Botran Vintage White Rum.   There was an opportunity to become a master blender and produce our own rum.  Something that was really fun to do.   The meal and the hand rolled cigars were very nice and as usual, the Botran Party was the hit of the evening. 

    The evening was completed by a visit to the Miami Club Party at Gramp's in Wynwood and the Pink Pigeon event at the Wood Tavern also in Wynwood.  All in all a very fun and busy day and a lot of stories for future blogs.  ;o)