Jump to content


Scheduled Downtime

NOTICE: The eG Forums will be offline for several hours on Friday, November 28 for system maintenance.

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Smoke & Oakum Gunpowder Rum


  • Please log in to reply
3 replies to this topic

#1 lesliec

lesliec
  • host
  • 1,229 posts
  • Location:Wellington, New Zealand

Posted 23 February 2013 - 10:25 PM

Drink like a pirate, yo ho

 

Back a couple of years, when I was doing my week as an eGullet food blogger, I caused some expressions of envy when I wrote about 'my local gin distiller'.  Well I'm sorry, Chris Amirault - I'm going to do it to you again.  There's a man in Wellington who makes some very special rum.

 

Ben.jpg

 

This is Ben Simpson, who, for the past five years or so, has been the brains, brawn and everything else behind the Smoke & Oakum Manufactory.  He makes just three products - Gunpowder Rum in 'normal' and cherry variants, and English Curaçao to 'Professor' Jerry Thomas's recipe from the 1860s:

 

S&O_1.jpg

 

Ben's intention with Gunpowder Rum was to recreate the style of rum drunk 300-odd years ago by pirates, smugglers, sailors and voodoo practitioners.  With ingredients like calumet tobacco, chillies and  - yes - gunpowder, it's a rich, dark, hot brew.  This is not a rum for civilised sipping; it's also not something you can ignore in a cocktail - if it's in there, you'll know it!  But that's not to say it's some gut-rotting equivalent of bathtub gin.  Far from it; treated with a bit of subtlety it's a delicious, characterful addition or substitute in many standard rum-based cocktails.  My favourite is one I wrote about in eG's Mai Tai topic recently, where after mixing white and golden rum, Ben's Curaçao, orgeat and falernum I float some Gunpowder Rum on top.  Amazing - and the little black flecks (Ben says they're a secret flavouring ingredient, intended to look like gunpowder) don't hurt at all.

 

The gunpowder?  Yes, the rum contains potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal, just the sort of stuff I used to use in my pyrotechnic experiments as a schoolboy (sorry, Mum).  There's a long history of 'culinary' uses of gunpowder; Navy gunners commonly tasted their powder to check its quality, and Blackbeard was said to have drunk rum and gunpowder before boarding his victims.  The concept of 'proof' in spirits comes from the practice of mixing rum and gunpowder and applying a match; if the mixture failed to ignite it was 'under proof'.  'Proved' rum was deemed to be at or above 'Navy strength' - now around 54.5% alcohol by volume.  I was interested that Ben doesn't make Gunpowder Rum to this strength, though; he feels it starts to lose some balance as the alcoholic heat rises, so he usually settles for somewhere around 50-52%.  And his painstakingly hand-done packaging is intended to evoke ammunition charges for muzzle-loading weapons:

 

S&O_2.jpg

 

It's a challenge to get into, but as a reward each bottle hides a saucy pinup to contemplate on your next long sea voyage:

 

S&O_3.jpg

 

The rum itself is a blend from several Carribean regions.  Ben buys his bulk supply through a company in the Netherlands, E & A Scheer, who have been in the trade since 1712, originally as ship owners bringing rum back to Europe from the Americas and (slightly) more recently as specialist rum shippers and blenders.  Ben tells them the styles he's looking for, it arrives in big plastic containers and Ben puts it all together in a borrowed warehouse in Petone, on the other side of the harbour from Wellington.  There's some real local input as well; just off the main street of Petone there's a source of clean, fresh artesian water which Ben uses in his blends.  Other local ingredients include organic Northland chillies and, in the cherry rum, Otago cherries (the cherry is only available in 250ml bottles and one bartender I spoke to suggests it be used almost like bitters - just a sprinkle is enough to get the taste).  His total output across the range - the two rums and the Curaçao - is only around 2000 litres.

 

The Curaçao itself is a delightful product.  Although it's made to Jerry Thomas's recipe (number 188 in his 1862 Bartender's Guide), Ben points out it's not as simple as just following the recipe.  You have to think about, for isnstance, what type of sugar would Thomas have been using?  Would he have made his syrup in the same way we do now?  And exactly what is the 'genuine whiskey' he calls for?  Whatever the original was like, Ben's version is lovely - a clear, light golden nectar with a fabulously orangey nose.  In addition to the Mai Tai above, we've been using it in most drinks requiring some orange influence.  A very simple one is Curaçao, white wine and lemonade in a tall glass with lots of ice.  Delicious.

 

So, you ask, where can I get some of this stuff?  Well, realistically - you probably can't.  Even in Wellington it's only available in a few outlets (notably Moore Wilson's or Regional Wines), although you may well see a bottle hiding on the shelves of some of the more interesting cocktail bars around the country. Ben sends a small supply over the Tasman to the International Beer Shop in Perth, who then dispatch it to clients all over Australia.  And you may soon be able to get it in Singapore, but apart from the odd sample bottle individual bartenders elsewhere may have picked up, that's about it.  Hey look, a reason other than hobbits to visit New Zealand!

 

I'll close with a couple of other recipes to keep you in the mood.  Here's one Ben made me himself a couple of weeks ago at one of the bars he works in:

 

Gunpowder, Blood and Sand

30ml Gunpowder Rum

20ml red vermouth

15ml Cherry Heering

15ml blood orange juice

Shake all together in an ice-filled shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with flamed orange zest.

 

And this is one from Ben's own recipe sheet.  I made it a few nights ago and it's fantastic:

 

The Bay Rum Mojito

45ml Gunpowder Rum

30ml falernum syrup

Half a lime

5 fresh bay leaves

1 long sprig of fresh rosemary

1 sprig of fresh mint

Soda water

Ground cinnamon

Muddle lime, falernum and some soda water in a shaker or tall glass.  Add the herbs and more soda and stir with the muddling stick - don't crush the herbs too much.  Add the rum and crushed ice, stir again and strain into a rocks glass.  Top up with soda, add a short sprig of rosemary as garnish and dust with cinnamon.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory


#2 tanstaafl2

tanstaafl2
  • participating member
  • 738 posts
  • Location:Atlanta, GA

Posted 25 February 2013 - 02:13 PM

Drink like a pirate, yo ho

 

Back a couple of years, when I was doing my week as an eGullet food blogger, I caused some expressions of envy when I wrote about 'my local gin distiller'.  Well I'm sorry, Chris Amirault - I'm going to do it to you again.  There's a man in Wellington who makes some very special rum.

 

attachicon.gifBen.jpg

 

This is Ben Simpson, who, for the past five years or so, has been the brains, brawn and everything else behind the Smoke & Oakum Manufactory.  He makes just three products - Gunpowder Rum in 'normal' and cherry variants, and English Curaçao to 'Professor' Jerry Thomas's recipe from the 1860s:

 

attachicon.gifS&O_1.jpg

 

Ben's intention with Gunpowder Rum was to recreate the style of rum drunk 300-odd years ago by pirates, smugglers, sailors and voodoo practitioners.  With ingredients like calumet tobacco, chillies and  - yes - gunpowder, it's a rich, dark, hot brew.  This is not a rum for civilised sipping; it's also not something you can ignore in a cocktail - if it's in there, you'll know it!  But that's not to say it's some gut-rotting equivalent of bathtub gin.  Far from it; treated with a bit of subtlety it's a delicious, characterful addition or substitute in many standard rum-based cocktails.  My favourite is one I wrote about in eG's Mai Tai topic recently, where after mixing white and golden rum, Ben's Curaçao, orgeat and falernum I float some Gunpowder Rum on top.  Amazing - and the little black flecks (Ben says they're a secret flavouring ingredient, intended to look like gunpowder) don't hurt at all.

 

The gunpowder?  Yes, the rum contains potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal, just the sort of stuff I used to use in my pyrotechnic experiments as a schoolboy (sorry, Mum).  There's a long history of 'culinary' uses of gunpowder; Navy gunners commonly tasted their powder to check its quality, and Blackbeard was said to have drunk rum and gunpowder before boarding his victims.  The concept of 'proof' in spirits comes from the practice of mixing rum and gunpowder and applying a match; if the mixture failed to ignite it was 'under proof'.  'Proved' rum was deemed to be at or above 'Navy strength' - now around 54.5% alcohol by volume.  I was interested that Ben doesn't make Gunpowder Rum to this strength, though; he feels it starts to lose some balance as the alcoholic heat rises, so he usually settles for somewhere around 50-52%.  And his painstakingly hand-done packaging is intended to evoke ammunition charges for muzzle-loading weapons:

 

attachicon.gifS&O_2.jpg

 

It's a challenge to get into, but as a reward each bottle hides a saucy pinup to contemplate on your next long sea voyage:

 

attachicon.gifS&O_3.jpg

 

The rum itself is a blend from several Carribean regions.  Ben buys his bulk supply through a company in the Netherlands, E & A Scheer, who have been in the trade since 1712, originally as ship owners bringing rum back to Europe from the Americas and (slightly) more recently as specialist rum shippers and blenders.  Ben tells them the styles he's looking for, it arrives in big plastic containers and Ben puts it all together in a borrowed warehouse in Petone, on the other side of the harbour from Wellington.  There's some real local input as well; just off the main street of Petone there's a source of clean, fresh artesian water which Ben uses in his blends.  Other local ingredients include organic Northland chillies and, in the cherry rum, Otago cherries (the cherry is only available in 250ml bottles and one bartender I spoke to suggests it be used almost like bitters - just a sprinkle is enough to get the taste).  His total output across the range - the two rums and the Curaçao - is only around 2000 litres.

 

The Curaçao itself is a delightful product.  Although it's made to Jerry Thomas's recipe (number 188 in his 1862 Bartender's Guide), Ben points out it's not as simple as just following the recipe.  You have to think about, for isnstance, what type of sugar would Thomas have been using?  Would he have made his syrup in the same way we do now?  And exactly what is the 'genuine whiskey' he calls for?  Whatever the original was like, Ben's version is lovely - a clear, light golden nectar with a fabulously orangey nose.  In addition to the Mai Tai above, we've been using it in most drinks requiring some orange influence.  A very simple one is Curaçao, white wine and lemonade in a tall glass with lots of ice.  Delicious.

 

So, you ask, where can I get some of this stuff?  Well, realistically - you probably can't.  Even in Wellington it's only available in a few outlets (notably Moore Wilson's or Regional Wines), although you may well see a bottle hiding on the shelves of some of the more interesting cocktail bars around the country. Ben sends a small supply over the Tasman to the International Beer Shop in Perth, who then dispatch it to clients all over Australia.  And you may soon be able to get it in Singapore, but apart from the odd sample bottle individual bartenders elsewhere may have picked up, that's about it.  Hey look, a reason other than hobbits to visit New Zealand!

This is both enticing and frustrating at the same time. The kind of thing I would like to get my hands on but one I probably have little chance of getting without a trip to NZ.

 

It does appear that either the bottle didn't quite get a good fill or you have been working Abigail over pretty hard! Would love to see what the liquor and liqueur itself looks like!


If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man. ~Mark Twain

Some people are like a Slinky. They are not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs...
~tanstaafl2

#3 lesliec

lesliec
  • host
  • 1,229 posts
  • Location:Wellington, New Zealand

Posted 25 February 2013 - 05:38 PM

Abigail, poor girl, was almost exhausted - that was my old bottle!

 

Good point about showing you what the products look like.  I'll see what I can do tonight.  I was planning to try a Pegu Club with the Curaçao, so that's a good opportunity for more photos.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory


#4 lesliec

lesliec
  • host
  • 1,229 posts
  • Location:Wellington, New Zealand

Posted 26 February 2013 - 01:46 AM

By popular demand (thanks, Tanstaafl2), here's what's inside the bottles.  Rum on the left, but you could probably figure that out:

 

Gunpowder_Curaçao.jpg

 

It's not easy to see the characteristic black flecks in the rum by itself, so I floated some on top of some of my lovely home-made orgeat:

 

Rumflecks.jpg

 

And I may say in passing - rum and orgeat's a pretty decent drink, too (well, I could hardly separate them and pour them back into their bottles, now could I?).

 

I'm not convinced by the Pegu Club experiment.  It was a New Zealand-heavy mix - Lighthouse Gin, Smoke & Oakum English Curaçao plus lime juice, Angostura and orange bitters.  We felt the lime was too dominant to start with, so I added a little more Curaçao.  It still wasn't right, but a barspoon of sugar syrup helped.  Far from the worst thing we've had, but not in the top 10.  I might try again with 'real' lime juice rather than the stuff out of a bottle, but I think it's still going to be too tart for our tastes.  Pretty, though (the sun had passed behind Mount Victoria by this stage):

 

Pegu_2.jpg

 

Just for interest, here's one of the first things we learned to make with Gunpowder Rum.  It's very simple, but the other ingredients will give you an idea how robust the rum is.  I'm not even sure if the drink has a name.  Simply mix equal parts Gunpowder Rum, a robust red wine and Campari.  Stir and pour over ice into a rocks glass.  Sit down before drinking.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory