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Ed Hamilton

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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  1. While the ingredients may sound familiar there is a huge difference between Jamaican overproof, distilled to about 94% from a molasses wash and rhum agricole distilled to about 72% alcohol from a wash of sugar cane juice. The French Caribbean Rhum is much more flavorful and aromatic but the French Caribbean spirit is only 100 proof.
  2. The larger rum producers do cold filter their rum. The bigger problem is that solids sometimes percipitate when exposed to cold temperatures, which can occur not only when the spirit is exposed to ice but also cold temperatures during shipping. Bacardi, Mount Gay and Angostura cold filter to name a few but there are others.
  3. BBS, the company that owns La Mauny, Trois Rivieres and Duquesne has consolidated production at their Riviere Pilote facility and moved the other columns there, where they were already producing LaMauny. The costs of crushing cane, maintaining fermentation tanks etc are considerable and can be done all in one place. The fire was at LaMauny's bottling plant and consumed much of their aged reserves. As for pot stills in the French West Indies, only St James has one and they only produce a small amount of pot still rhum called coeur de chauffe. Just as I tell people not to get hung up on the age of the rhum, don't get hung up on pot stills, in the hands of a skilled distiller a single column still can make remarkable spirits that will fool even some of the industry experts, like Joe Conquisti of Chicago who was one of the most experienced men of spirits that most of us will ever meet.
  4. Glad you had a good trip and was able to enjoy some good rums on your vacation.
  5. Other variations include retorts which basically preform multiple distillations in a single batch process. This type of still is the most common in the islands. One advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you view it, is that none of the vapor from the distillations is removed during the process. In multi-column distillations there are generally several product streams. In the basic pot still there is only one product stream, though as Lara points out, some pot stills have fractional columns on top of the still. But like the age of your spirit don't get hung up on the kind of still. There are a lot of variations. Skilled distillers operating single column stills can produce spirits that even trained experts swear came from a pot still. If you think pot stills are the only way to make good spirits think again. There are advantages to all kinds of stills. One advantage of the pot still is the small batch capability. Column stills require much larger fermentation washes in order to reach a steady state during the actual distillation, but they have the advantage of being able to distill a lot more alcohol without being shut down. I know of several column stills that run for months at a time. But unless you have the demand for the alcohol and a large fermentation capacity you can't benefit from the increased production capability.
  6. Occasionally I mix grapefruit juice with overproof rum. The acidity of the grapefruit seems to mask almost any strong spirit, but the results can be dangerous.
  7. For me there is one cocktail that is rarely found in the US that I can't live without. From the French West Indies a petit punch, or ti punch, is the perfect aperitif. Proportions vary according to taste, but basically a little sugar cane syrup in the bottom of the glass, a zest of lime, I use a small section that includes some of the pulp, a measure of white rhum agricole, rhum distilled from sugar cane juice, When served in Martinique and Guadeloupe, most bars add only a little ice, but I prefer a couple of cubes and a little crushed ice which not only cools the drink faster but also dilutes the 100 proof spirit. It is easy to use too much sugar cane syrup so be careful. And before you ask where you can buy sugar cane syrup, I can't tell you expect in some of the better stores in large cities in places like New York.
  8. Jason is absolutely right, Pritchards is pot still rum, as well as Charbay, a small boutique distillery in California.
  9. As to the question of proof, the rums I drink as an aperitif are 50% alcohol by volume, or 100 US proof, which is different from British proof. I add ice but for two reasons. In the tropics something cool is nice at the end of the day, secondly, the ice quickly melts and dilutes the strong rum. As for books that describe the processes, I have yet to see any books that give as much detail about the different making processes at each of the distilleries chronicled as my books. But then, few of the rum writers have actually been to most of the distilleries they write about.
  10. Mount Gay would like you to taste smoky oak and vanilla in their Refined Eclipse but they seem to have strayed from the blend that made them famous years ago. It is hard to predict in advance how much rum you are going to sell years in advance so at times rums blended from aged stocks go through inevitable changes.
  11. Well, without knowing that the rums I was tasting were the new Mount Gay flavors, I tried both the Mango and Vanilla flavored rums a couple of days ago and then again today and I can honestly say that I couldn't tell what flavor they were trying to reproduce. And I wasn't the only one. I expect these to change, or disappear soon. But having said that, I have to admit that the Mount Gay Refined Eclipse that I tried recently in Barbados was a lot better than I remembered it being and believe the blend has improved over that bottled a few years ago. Not that I would ever expect anyone to admit such a thing.
  12. There are only a few pot stills operating in Jamaica, Long Pond and a couple more, then in Grenada there is River Antoine and in the BVI- Callwood, both of whom only have pot stills so there is no column still blended into the bottled product. In Barbados, Mount Gay and the West Indies Rum Refinery both operate pot stills.
  13. Have a good trip to Martinique. As you have my book you have information on all of the producers. There are a few new private labels, Bernus, Courville and others, that aren't covered in my last book so here's a quick update. Trois Rivieres is no longer distilled at their own distillery. La Mauny is now distilling it at their facility in Riviere Pilote. Duquesne is also distilled there. The operating distilleries are DePaz, St Pierre self guided tours, Neisson, Carbet self guided tours J.M, Distillerie Fond Preville - tasting tours, Macouba St James, Sainte Marie tours rhum museum La Favorite, Fort de France but it is actually east of town. self guided tours Dillon, Fort de France wonderful tasting and view of distillery from a vantage point where you can see the whole process LaMauny, Trois Rivieres, Dusquesne Riviere Pilote guided tours Distillerie Simon, Baie de Simon distills Clemente, St Etienne, and a few others, no visitor tours. If you can't find La Favorite on Yahoo maps or equivalent, let me know and I'll do some sketches. I've spent a lot of time looking for this one, and I've been there many times. Enjoy Martinique and don't believe everything they tell you the first few times you visit a distillery. Also taste the Dormoy punches, there is no facility tour but the flavors are some of the best in the Caribbean.
  14. Ron Centenario is from Costa Rica and you won't be able to find it in the US. Actually it's hard to find even in Costa Rica except at the airport duty free stores. But if you aren't going to Costa Rica keep your eyes out for some of the other rums from Central America.
  15. Bacardi Reserva isn't sold in the states and I've yet to hear any solid reasons from the Bacardi marketing people. My guess is that they have other products that they want to sell in the states and don't want to dilute their sales of other products. As you can imagine stocking and marketing a broad product line is expensive, especially in a place with a three tier system of spirits distribution.
  16. There is no substitute for Pampero, but if you like that rum you owe it to yourself to try the Flor de Cana rums, Botran and Ron Abuelo from Panama. But don't be surprised if you have a hard time finding these rums as most have limited distribution in the US.
  17. I've been trying to get information from Ron Carupano for months and haven't made much progress. Given the problems of distribution in Venezuela, it sadly looks like another case of a website that isn't supported by people. At a lot of distilleries the problems of shipping less than a container of rum to a customer is just too much trouble. The old problem of the chicken and the egg.
  18. I look forward to trying these new flavored rums, but it's hard to have high expectations. I like Mount Gay Extra Old a lot, but have a hard time bringing myself to drink Refined Eclipse.
  19. It's hard to tell from the pictures, any idea where this is reported to be distilled?
  20. AOC, Appelation Origine Controllee, is the official designation for agricole rhums made in Martinique. It took years for this to come into effect, getting a dozen competitors to agree on anything is difficult, especially in a small market. AOC rhums are only found in Martinique, and now they are quick to tell you that AOC rhums are the best, and that Guadeloupe rhums aren't as good. Don't believe everything you read, or hear. And now, the rest of the story, or at least part of it. The complete regulations comprise a stack of papers inches thick, that is growing as we drink. The gist of the requirements are that the rhum has to be made from fresh sugar cane juice. This means that it is impossible to import cane from another island or sugar cane syrup for that matter. Secondly, it must be distilled to about 70 - 72% alcohol by volume. The type of distillation column isn't specified but everyone uses a single column still. And everyone is recognizing the advantages of copper in the still, in spite of the fact that a copper still requires more maintenance. For rhum blanc, the fresh rhum has to be stored for at least three months before bottling so the rhum can rest. During this time the rhum gives off some of the light esters formed during fermentation. To be called rhum vieux, it must be aged at least 3 years in oak barrels of less than 650 liter capacity. In reality, almost every barrel is less than about 250 liters, most are in the 168 liter range. In the French islands, if the rhum is in the barrel by July 1, it is one year old on that date. In the US, it has to be aged 365 days to be considered a year old. But recognizing that longer is better, most distillers don't try to push the shorter time to the limit. And they recognize that rhum agricole that is exported must adhere to different rules. Years ago, St James began marketing Rhum Paille, pronounced pie, but a few years ago they started enforcing their trademarked name and now other distillers are calling their rhums, which have aged at least 18 months in large vats and have a straw color, such monikers as Ambre and Dore. There is no restriction on caramel coloring for AOC rhums that I'm aware of, and some are colored more than others. If the rhum is bottled at the distillery and has rhum agricole on the label you can be sure that it is made from sugar cane juice and is rhum agricole. But I know of at least one unaged rhum agricole that is colored with caramel and bottled at 40% alc by vol, as opposed the 50 or 55% alc found in the islands. That particular rhum is only exported to Germany, no word yet on the popularity of this new blend. I've been trying to translate the entirity of the regulations, but believe me, it isn't easy, especially in the islands. I was surprised to learn that not all sugar cane grown in Martinique can be used to make rhum agricole. If the fields don't have good drainage, the cane grown doesn't have enough sugar content and is used to make sugar. The French islands are some of the last to support the sugar industry. Barbados is the only other island where sugar is still being made. Trinidad gave it up last year and will be selling off the old mills as soon as someone buys them.
  21. There is a lot going on in this thread so I'm going to start a new thread for the AOC issues. As for Brugal, there is Anejo and Extra Viejo, which you'll find in the DR. But Extra Viejo isn't imported to the US. Sorry about that. The US Anejo blend is good, but if your travels ever take you to the Caribbean look for the Extra Viejo you won't regret it. As for distribution in your area, take a look at my website and you should be able to find the US importer for Brugal. Look at the rum locator on the front page.
  22. As someone who has spent years in the French West Indies, I have to comment on the Rumstore website concerning rhum agricole and the AOC certification. French rhums can and do contain some coloring for consistency. I applaud the efforts of those that want to educate the public about rum, but sometimes, bad information is worse than no information.
  23. There are a number of vanilla flavored rums and most use an aged rum of about 2 years so that there is some rum flavor as opposed to a highly refined white rum. The old rums already have too much character of their own.
  24. The only book that I now have in print is The Complete Guide to Rum and it is the most detailed of the books currently in print. Of course it isn't going to give you all the details of all the rum distilleries it is the most complete book in print today. There aren't a lot of pictures of stills but there are descriptions of the processes, fermentation times, fermentation tank materials, etc. And I should add that I have personally visited almost all of distilleries discussed in this book and am the only rum author that has spent more than a few weeks touring distilleries and the only author that has visited all of the distilleries that make rhum agricole in the French West Indies. But don't take my word for it, look for more comments from this forum. When you are looking at books, as much as we all want a book tailored to the specific information we are looking for we have to consider that books are commercial property that cost a lot of money to research, produce, print and distribute. Publishers are looking for more of a middle of the road approach as opposed to a college text that describes each distillery and rum produced. And then consider that much as what is done at the distilleries is not protected by the distillers as their trade secrets. My first two books were self published because I refused to cut many of the details and replace them with pictures. Many distillers are also reluctant to have pictures of their stills show up in books, for trade reasons. So if you think you are being short changed by books, go online and take a look at how much it would cost you to visit just a handful of distilleries and don't forget the cost of hotels, food and local travel. Many publishers accept sponsorship from a few distillers and the books end up being advertisements for a few distillers and the rest are simply mentioned without any real details. And in most cases the sponsors refuse to allow the publisher to print anything they don't want to read about the competition. But if that isn't enough I can tell you from experience that rarely will a distiller tell you the whole story on your first visit, these are after all, commercial enterprises that are very much aware of the competition and if they divulge their secrets to you they are no longer secrets. After spending ten years visiting distillers I'm still learning. A lot of authors are using the internet to gather information and if you see pictures in books that are also on websites and ads you probably aren't getting the whole story.
  25. Although I was involved as a consultant on the original Story of Rum video, Mr Duane Dove is in Sweden where the video was produced. I know he has been working to deveolop a glass and though he has asked for my assistance no one has ever shown me anything to date. For cocktails or enjoying rum with a little ice or water, I prefer a glass like the ones on my website. About 3 inches in height and about the same diameter. The typical glasses with a small opening on the top are used to concentrate the aroma of the spirit but most rums don't need to have the aromas concentrated. Actually the wider opening allows the taster to experience the different aromas by holding the glass at an angle and then moving ones nose from the top of the glass to the bottom of the opening. While it is true that rhum agricole is much more flavorful than molasses based rums I use the same glass for both. If I was going to design my own glass I would make one with a wider opening than base to allow even greater appreciation of the aromas when drinking rhum agricole. The problems then becomes packaging and storing these fragile glasses. I have seen a few glasses with a flared lip which allows the aromas to dissipate across a larger surface which is condusive to distinguishing the different aromas. Most whiskey glasses have an opening which is too small to allow the more aromatic rums to be appreciated. I tend to shy away from stemware due the high center of gravity, though they do look nice, a heavier balanced base helps keep the glass and the rum in your hand or on the table.
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