Sunday 23 October 2016

Ted goes mountaineering


… climbing a Gay Mountain no less … I feared it was a bit of a “rum idea” at first and then some facts were distilled into my brain and I realised that I could be open to new adventures in the open air of the great outdoors … Well that’s a pretty cryptic opening Ted so what on earth are you talking about (yet again).

Ok ok ok … the other night I went to a rum tasting behind the almost circus like curtains that hide the place of magic tasting discoveries at my favourite libations store, Laithwaites in Borough Market (trust me you need to go to anything they have on!!!).

I perched on a stool around a barrel with 3 glasses containing an attractive amber liquid on a tasting sheet. I noticed that the glasses had glass covers on top – a bit like the lenses in Harry Potter’s glasses. 

Clearly they served a specific purpose, designed to enhance our enjoyment by keeping the aroma locked in the glass until we were to taste it ... well worth the effort despite the odd glass frisbee incident caused by the over enthusiastic taster when we were asked to “twirl” the glass to release the aromas.

Enter the Master Distiller of Mount Gay Rum (MG) – Alan Smith. Set up in Barbados in 1703 MG are the oldest distiller in the world to still be on their original site and they still distil in the open air. Alan did his biochemistry degree in the UK and when the grey weather drove him home to Barbados he got an entry level job in Mount Gay in their lab in 1991 ... so this is where their latest chapter started in essence as the Master Brewer is "all" .

The secret to MG’s relatively small “craft” production of rum starts with the water. Coral limestone is a wonderful filter and then you add the bedrock of rum - molasses - from sugar cane - and start the boiling of ingredients which introduces the 4 pillars of MG, vanilla, almonds, bananas, and mocha (coffee and chocolate).  Part of MG’s “secret recipe” is to use two types of distillation methods, column and pot stills, for different flavours and alcohol levels in their resulting distillates … then they age them in charred Bourbon barrels ready for blending.

The Master Blender is the one who creates the consistent product, challenged by the differences in the seasons and their impact on the ingredients and the evaporation experienced in the barrels. Alan told us some very interesting stuff while he led us through tasting his exquisite XO (extra old) and 1703 (extra extra old) blends … for example the average annual ambient temperature in Barbados is 20 degrees, whereas in Scotland it is 5 degrees, so the MG 10-year-old aged rum is equivalent to a 40-year aged Scottish Whisky.  

The 1703 tasted liked a top of the line Cognac and I reckon that as rum struggles to throw off its “and coca cola” legacy there are some fabulous and delicious age worthy top quality bargains to be had in the craft rum world … start with Mount Gay … Alan knows what’s he’s doing IMHO … 


Adullamite said...

How unusual for you to be found near rum....!

Sharon said...

Sounds like you learned a lot of interesting facts about the making of this drink. I'll have to look for this one.

William Kendall said...

That's some serious rum tasting you got into!

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