Swilling in Chicago

Yesterday I went to the Chicago Rum Festival hosted by Ed Hamilton from the Ministry of Rum. This was a great event, and I had a great time. While I only went to the rum tasting, I am sure the distiller's seminar, the dinner with the distillers, and the island music festival were fun as well. I missed the first two because of my travel schedule and the last because of a dinner with the fam.

Regardless, the rum tasting was a ton of fun. The pours were generous, and they were as willing to serve you a mixed drink (generally a caipirinha or a mojito) as they were a dram of rum, and there was no hording of the good stuff. You wanted the 18 year Flor de Cana, they were perfectly happy to pour it for you, which, as least to me, is always a good sign. As far as what I drank:
  • Santa Theresa Gran Reserva
  • Santa Theresa 1796 Solera
  • Pritchard's Fine Cranberry Rum (I think, this was the last rum I had)
  • Old English Harbor 5 Year
  • Flor de Cana Gold 4 Year
  • Flor de Cana Gran Reserva 7 Year
  • Flor de Cana Centenario 18 Year
  • El Dorado 12 Year
  • El Dorado 15 Year
  • Gosling's Black Seal
  • Gosling's Old Rum
  • Cruzan Estate Diamond 5 Year
  • Cruzan Gold (Either 14 Month or 2 Year)
  • Cruzan Single Barrel
  • Cruzan Blackstrap
  • Rhum Neisson White
  • Rhum Neisson Eleve Sous Bois
  • Rhum Neisson Vieux
  • La Favorite White
  • La Favorite Vieux
  • Leblon Cachaca
  • Cubana Cachaca
  • Tommy Bahama Golden Sun
  • Sagatiba Cachaca
  • Rubi Rey Single Barrel Reserve
  • Kilo Kai Spiced Rum
  • St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
  • Alpenz Batavia Arrack von Oosten
  • Scarlet Ibis
  • Red Stripe Jamaican Lager
  • Rio D Cachaca
  • And so many more...
I also had several cocktails, including Mount Gay's Rum Punch which was outstanding, as well as Sagatiba's mojito, which was probably the best mojito, and, of course, Gosling's serving up Dark 'N' Stormy's. The lowlight was probably Rubi Rey, as well as the Batavia Arrack which would probably do well in a cocktail, but, by itself, wasn't very good. Also I was disappointed with myself that I forgot my camera, and also the Mount Gay Extra Old. Another disappointment was the Rio D Cachaca. The woman there asked if I wanted it as a cocktail, and when I asked for a caipirina, she didn't know what I was asking for, and just handed me the neat cachaca. On the other hand, I did get a muddler out of the bargain, so I can't complain too much.

Lastly, Bacardi and the United States Bartender's Guild sponsored a rum seminar run by Debbi Peek, of Bacardi, Bridget Albert of Southern Wine and Spirits, Charles Joly of the Drawing Room, and Peter Vestinos of Sepia. The seminar covered the Bacardi cocktail, the mojito, the daiquiri and the mai tai. They presented first a traditional cocktail recipe, then a modern interpretation. Debbi did the Bacardi cocktail, then did a strawberry-balsamic "Bacardi" cocktail, which, to my mind was more of a sophisticated take on the strawberry daiquiri than anything else. Then Peter presented the mai tai and his peach mai tai. Next up was Peter Vestinos with a daiquiri and a more sophisticated daiquiri using egg whie, St. Germain, and orange water, which I thought was the best cocktail served. Finally, Bridget presented the mojito and:
The Blueberry Mojito by Bridget Albert
  • 1 oz. - Dried Lavender Syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup dried lavender)
  • 10-12 - Mint Leaves
  • 10-12 - Blueberries
  • .5 oz. - Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1.5 oz. - Bacardi Superior
  • Soda Water to top
Muddle mint leaves, syrup, blueberries, and lime juice eight times with a large muddler in a double old fashioned glass. Add rum. Fill glass with crushed ice, and top with soda water. Garnish with a straw and mint leaf, stir to combine.
All in all, a wonderful event. Hopefully I can continue to go to more festivals. If you have the chance to go to any Ministry of Rum events, I encourage you to go. Hopefully I'll get pictures from Ed to post here.

The Scribe


Again With the Lateness

Hello everyone. Today I did the review I meant to do last week: Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey. I found it to be quite yummy. On a related note, I'm leaving Friday night for Chicago. I will be making an appearance at Ed Hamilton's Chicago Rum Festival for the tasting Saturday afternoon as well as the Windy City Series, where I am sure the White Sox will tackle that other team they are facing quite handily. Of course, I will also be able to see lots of friends and family. I will be back in Boston on the following Monday, but in the meantime, I will be posting from Chicago. But anyway, onto the review:

Bulleit Distilling Co.: Frontier Bourbon Whiskey

Tasting Conditions: I enjoyed the Bulleit as a nightcap after a day of leisure. As per usual with spirits, I enjoyed it first neat, then with water, and finally a cube of ice in a brandy snifter of approximately eight ounces.

Eye: The most striking thing about Bulleit is its packaging. The packaging is clearly inspired by images of the old West. The form is vaguely reminiscent of an over sized hip flask. The cork fits well. The glass is embossed with the words "Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey" and then a label below repeats that information as well as all the other information that is needed. The spirit is a pleasant amber with slender legs. It is bottled at 90 proof and I could not find an age statement, though I would appreciate an idea of its age if anyone knows.

Nose: The first sniff really burned my nose. Again, a snifter might not have been the best idea, and I would generally drink this in a rocks glass anyway. The aroma is not the most pleasant with turpentine being the dominant note. Beyond that there are strong apple notes and a lot of nuttiness, with peanut especially strong.

Mouth: On the mouth this is gorgeous. Despite the aroma, it is silky smooth. It tastes almost like a Whatchamacallit bar with toffee and peanut tastes quite strongly. the peanut dominates the front with toffee and honey coming in on the middle and a vanilla notes finishing it out. A second sip leaves me nothing else, though I should note that the strength is quite evident with just a little numbness in the palate necessitating a brief wait between sips. Next up, the addition of water. I added just a dribble diluting it by no more than one part water to three parts whiskey. The water really doesn't change too much perhaps bringing out the vanilla just a bit more. Next up, the addition of a cube of ice. A swirl to cool and a sip... The ice really tones back the peanut flavors, which is to the good. It reveals more fruitiness which could be the apple I smelled. It also really brings the toffee notes to the fore, and adding them to the finish. For me, I think a cube of ice is the way to go with this spirit.

Conclusion: I really like the Bulleit. It is wonderful. It's like drinking candy from a first class confectioner. It is not overly sweet, and I found it a bit nutty until I added the ice, but with a cube of ice, this began to sing. It also works great in an old fashioned, especially when I used maple syrup or a vanilla syrup. This could well become a staple of my liquor cabinet.

Wishing you green pastures,
The Scribe

Picture to follow.


It's A Peach!

For me, two fruit have always signified the height of summer: The peach and the cherry. Today, I am tackling peaches, and cherries will have to wait for another day. The peach, along with it's half sister, the nectarine, were always around in our house during the summer. I picked up a half dozen peaches the other day at the grocery, and, naturally, I felt a need to make stewed peaches. The recipe is very simple. Take a syrup of two parts water to one part sugar, and add one other flavour element that plays well with peaches, in this case a healthy splash of vanilla extract (yes, yes, the bean is better, but being a poor college student, I have extract). Bring the syrup to a simmer and toss in halved or quartered peaches, and let them cook in the syrup until somewhat softened. Pull out the peaches, and reduce the syrup by half to a quarter (giving you 1-1 or 2-1 syrup). Serve the peaches with vanilla ice cream and a splash of syrup. Store the remaining peaches in syrup.

But what to do with the syrup? Well, peaches are a southern thing. What else is a s'uth'n thing? Bourbon. What takes syrup and bourbon? An old fashioned! Sooo....
Scrivenal Peach Old Fashioned
  • 2 oz. - Bourbon (A smooth bourbon with nice vanilla notes would work great, but all I had was Boulleit.)
  • .5 oz - Vanilla Peach Syrup (described above)
  • 2-3 dashes - Bitters (I used Angustura Aromatic, but Fee's Peach might be nice.)
Build in a tumbler as you would a normal old fashioned. If you can think of an appropriate garnish, let me know, but maybe a peach wedge.
Unfortunately, I didn't get an opportunity to photograph the drink, but it was darn tasty. And yes, I don't really garnish drinks for my own personal consumption. I make them how I like them, so I don't need the ability to customize the drink.

Pleasant drinking,
The Scribe


A Willing Foe and Sea Room

Today at 8:00 this morning over one hundred boats set sail for Newport battle wind, waves, and most importantly, each other to be the first to Bermuda. The biennial Newport Bermuda Race is one of the highlights of the racing schedule and at the send off party last night one drink was being consumed far in excess of any other. I speak, of course, of the dark and stormy. The dark and stormy is one of my favorite drinks, and, for me at least, a unique drink because it is the only drink I mix by colour.

The story goes that shortly after the Great War, the Royal Navy started offering ginger beer instead rum in an attempt at temperance. Upon being asked whether they wanted ginger beer or rum, limeys answered that they would take both. They poured both rations together, drank it, and thus was born the dark and stormy.

It's a nice story but some variation of the rum and ginger has been around for ages. In fact, it hardly starts with rum. Ginger is a flavour that tends to go well with most amber spirits. Some experts believe that the first spirit and mixer style drink was likely ginger beer and brandy.

Now all that history is nice, Mr. Scribe, but how does one go about making a dark and stormy?
The Dark and Stormy
  • Gosling's Black Seal or Bundaberg rum
  • Bermuda stone ginger beer (Barritts or Regatta work well with Gosling's, or use Bundaburg with Bundaberg)
  • Lime wedge
In a long glass pour a healthy measure or rum and add ginger beer to taste. When I make it, I pour ginger beer until it has roughly the color displayed to the right. Squeeze the lime wedge, stir gently to mix, and add ice to fill.
Now we just came to one of the huge debates in making the dark and stormy: to lime or not to lime? In Bermuda the lime is verbotten. In the States, and most of the Caribbean, ubiquitous. Were I a bartender, or entertaining, I would simply provide the lime wedge as garnish and allow my guest to use the lime as he or she saw fit. As for me, I like it both ways. If I am in a bar, I drink it as provided. In Bermuda, I drink it without the lime. When my father makes it, he adds lime. When I make it, it depends on my mood. The one I was drinking this evening can be seen to the left, and, as you can see, has a lime.

Now I had hoped to make a cocktail out of the dark and stormy. I saw rum, ginger liqueur, and perhaps lime bitters. Unfortunately, while I did see ginger brandy, I had heard bad things about it. As for something decent like Giffard's Ginger of the Indies or Canton, well, the cheap liquor (Hillside Liquors) I go to for staple products would never carry something like that, and the more upscale place I go to for my sippers and specialty liqueurs (Downtown Wine & Spirits) was in the process of remodeling and didn't have it in stock. Meanwhile, my housemates with cars were working ten hour days and didn't feel like driving me to Kappy's. So we needs must languish without the cocktail and leave it for another day.

And so, in the spirit of Friday and the Race, I wish you,

A willing foe, and sea room to race her,
The Scribe


The Old Jameson Distillery

Silvio from Refined Vices contacted me the other day about a more in deapth review of my tour of the Old Jameson Distillery. I was happy to oblige. You can now read the review over on his site. It seems Irish whiskey has been getting a lot of play here recently...

The Scribe


Better Late Than Never

I meant to go with the whole MxMo Bourbon thing and whip out a review of the Bulleit which was enjoyed in so many concoctions recently, including my own. Unfortunately, Wednesday rather snook up on me, and I did not recall that I owed you all a review until about three minutes ago. Unfortunately, with almost five minutes until midnight, I cannot really review a new product in the detail it deserves. Luckily, in addition to dozens of beer reviews stocked away, I also have a single spirit review as well. While I was really trying to keep the third Wednesday to sippers, I guess I will have to make an exception this week. I present you:

Old Bushmills Distillery: Original Irish Whiskey

Tasting Conditions:
I was at a party where we were each supposed to bring some nips (50 mL bottles) of different spirits to try. Since my liquor store gets the same price for Bushmills and vodka, the choice was easy. At the end of the night, I brought this spare bottle home. I decided to pop this one open since it was a glass bottle and I was moving. It was stored in indifferent conditions for under a week, and tasted in a snifter of approximately eight ounces.

Eye: In the bottle, Bushmills is a yellowish flaxen color. In the glass, the color doesn’t change at all. A swirl reveals legs that start thick, but get quite narrow as they slide down the class. The whiskey comes in a square bottle that tapers as it gets to the top. Certainly compared to the other nips I bought, it was the nicest. Having seen the full size bottle, it is quite similar to the nip.

Nose: There is a nice aroma with just a hint of smoke. The aroma is fairly smooth without too much alcoholic kick. Otherwise the aroma is slightly bready and quite nutty, though the two are fairly similar. There was also a hint of vanilla and a lot of peanut.

Mouth: I started, as I always do, with neat spirit. The taste was quite rich, and surprisingly smooth for such an inexpensive spirit. The front was buttery and smooth with a bit of honey and caramel, and perhaps a touch of vanilla. As it moved towards the back, the caramel became almost more like a nut brittle, and I got a lot of peanut butter on the finish. There was also a somewhat spicy element there as well. I moved on to the second stage: dilution with still ice water. The water did not change the flavor noticeably, though it became even smoother with less bite. The spiciness was also a touch more noticeable. The texture became slightly more buttery, but not much. For the final taste, I added a cube of ice. The ice really brought out the nuttiness on the front, while it became less noticeable on the finish. It also brought vanilla notes to the fore.

Conclusion: This is a wonderful whiskey, certainly for a beginner, which I undoubtedly am. It was smooth and yummy and creamy, and, most important, extremely cheap. At $15 for a bottle (buying nips), this is almost the same price as drinkable vodka or decent white rum, and yet it’s completely sipable neat even by palates that aren’t so used to straight spirits. I would be interested in using this as a mixing spirit. This is definitely staying on the shelf. How you drink it is up to you. I am not sure how I will, because it’s quite good however you enjoy it.

I should add that I enjoyed this spirit a week or so later. I didn't find it quite as nice. Perhaps it was the choice of glassware...or lack there of. While it faired nicely in a snifter, when moved to a plastic keg cup, it didn't do nearly as well.

I meant to have a picture to post, but unfortunately I forgot to take one. Next time!

Best of health,
The Scribe


MxMo: Bourbon - Catch a Bulleit

Good afternoon lover of boozahol the world over. It is time for this month's installment of Mixology Monday. This month we are focusing on the wonderful product of the a bunch of rummers who didn't want to pay taxes: Bourbon whiskey.

Just like last time, I have two drinks for you one is a sour, and the other I just recently came across. For our first trick we go with the same inspiration for last month's post: the whiskey sour. This time, however, instead of staying fairly tradition with the mixers, and changing up the spirit, we keep the spirit traditional and change up the sweetener. Now, this drink is as much an invention of necessity as anything else. Being freshly moved in, I looked in my fridge and said, "What ingredients do I have in my fridge?" The answer was exactly two fruits: mango and orange. Luckily, one is sweet and the other tart, which gives quite nice balance, and the two flavours work well together. Thus, it is my honor to give you the Amber Daughter:

The Amber Daughter:
  • 2 oz. - Bourbon Whiskey (Bulleit)
  • 1 oz. - Finely Chopped Mango
  • 1 oz. - Orange Juice
  • Dash - Angostura Aromatic Bitters
Muddle the mango and orange juice together in the bottom of a short tumbler. Fill with ice, and add whiskey. Simple syrup can be added to taste.
I apologize for the quality of the photo. I am just learning to take pictures of drinks, and this one was a little haphazard anyway. Sill it was quite enjoyable. I think a splash of lemon would have made for a better drink, or, perhaps, lime.

While I was having lunch yesterday, I came across another interesting drink: The Mark and Stormy. Combine Maker's Mark bourbon with ginger beer to taste. Garnish with a lime. I will be trying it as soon as I get Maker's Mark and ginger beer.

Happy MxMo,
The Scribe

Now in Technicolor!

Hello everyone. Now that I have resolved the driver issue with my camera, I have PHOTOS! Lots of photos. I will slowly be updating past posts, but from now own, I'll try and have a photo in at least two out of three posts, starting with the upcoming MxMo, which should be out in several hours. Stay tuned.

The Scribe


Through a Crystal, Darkly

Go into a bar today and order a mixed drink, and, unless you happen to be in a tiki bar, odds are very good your drink with come in either a short tumbler (rocks or old fashioned glass), a long glass (collins or tall glass), or a cocktail glass. If you happen to get a Champaign cocktail, you might end up with a champaign flute, or you might get a glass mug (Irish coffee glass) if you are getting a hot drink. What amazes me is the fact that had you gone into a bar in an earlier time, you would see drinks served not only in those five glasses, but a coupe, especially before the advent of the flute, a wine glass, a sherry glass, a cordial glass, a snifter, or any of dozens of other glasses.

Why do I raise this point? I had a very interesting experience a while back which I was thinking of recently. We went to a local restaurant, and my mother asked for a glass of wine. We heard a crash from the kitchen, and the waiter brought out a cocktail glass full of red wine. He apologized, saying that while getting down the case of wine glasses, we had dropped it, and the restaurant was out of wine glasses. My mother tasted the wine, and it was awful, and offered a sip to the rest of us. It was atrocious. Another waiter came out, having found a wine glass in the dishwasher. I saw the waiter pour the wine from the cocktail glass to the wine glass. When the wine was passed around again it was completely drinkable.

This example goes to show that glassware can have a huge effect on the drinking experience. I feel that in creating drinks, we often overlook that effect. If it has ice, it goes in either tumbler or a long glass depending on quantity, while if it doesn't have ice, it goes into a cocktail glass. People who drink spirits neat or on with water, or simply wine, sometimes spend an inordinate amount of effort picking the precise perfect glass. I think that goes a little far, but if the nose of the cocktail is enjoyable, should we simply be letting it float away out of the glass? I have been noticing that a lot of people recommend that when making a mint julep, you use a straw short enough that the drinker is forced to put his or her nose right in the mint garnish. Why not simply trap those aromas?

Happy drinking,
The Scribe


An Ode to an Earlier Season

I came across this seasonal offering about a month ago. Now I really like fall and winter beers. They are nice, and spicy and full of yummy deliciousness. Yet the spices we associate with the festive season between Thanksgiving and New Year's (at least in America) are really spices that I associate with the islands: Nutmeg, Pimento, and Cinnamon. Toss a Scotch bonnet in and you have a gorgeous jerk marinade. So in addition to being the flavours or winter, to me, at least, they are also the flavours of summer. With that in mind, I present this quite tasty seasonal offering:

Smuttynose Bewing Co.: Pumpkin Ale

Tasting Conditions: It sat in the fridge for about a month before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it as a celebratory drink after finishing finals.

Eye: A nice amber with a little Champaign-like fizz. Very little head, and dissipated quickly. Nice bottle with a big ripe pumpkin on the front.

Nose: The nose of this beer was very impressive. It hit me like a kick in the butt. There was lots of cinnamon, and just a touch of the namesake pumpkin. The smell was strong enough it was obvious even from the bottle. It smelled almost like mulled cider but without the apple, which suggests cloves, a dash of orange, and a hint of nutmeg. A little harshness on the nose was evident as well.

Mouth: The first thing to hit me was a pleasant sweetness and warmth. A definite taste of pumpkin. The ale had a certain lightness to it, with a very nice effervescence. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of an IPA, though it’s definitely darker. There was a hit of the spices that I smelled, and a very definite cinnamon-like heat, though the other cinnamon flavors were much less noticeable. On the downside, there was a certain soapyness, though I don’t mind that flavour.

Conclusion: A wonderful winter seasonal. I definitely enjoyed it. Perhaps one of the few Smuttynose offerings I can say that about. As a seasonal, I have a hard time keeping it stocked but I'll probably keep an eye out for it when the seasons roll around again.


Mixing It Up With Infussions

Hello boozahol lovers of all stripes. Today, I bring you my vision of the future, or at least one possible vision. I'm really of two minds about what I am about to post. On the one hand, it's pretty cool, and really interesting in how it opens up the possibilities of future mixing. On the other, it takes much of the art out of mixing and especially distilling, which is something I'm against. (As you will find, I'm pretty old fashioned in my views, especially regarding art.)

Before I begin, I'd like to just take a moment to say I am back from Israel and New York, and am writing this from my new apartment. I should be unpacked in the fairly near (read: within a week), but the kitchen and spirits are already unpacked. I also got an interesting rum in Israel at Duty Free. It may not be too good, but we'll see. But I digress.

My thought is this: Chefs can look in their pantry and take out any ingredient they like. Barkeeps, however, are restricted to a relatively meager stock of ingredients. The fact that we can do as much with our ingredients as we do is staggering. Our ingredients are also incredibly complex compared to, say, a piece of chicken, or even something like an onion or garlic. With the exception of vodka, even simple spirits, beers, wines, and cordials have immense complexity.

What if we could strip away some of that complexity, and, at the same time, open up what we can do with mixology? What I propose is increasing the use of tinctures. In effect, we would take an approach similar to that of exotic (tiki) drinks: Combine say, vanilla rum tincture with orange rum tincture, mango rum tincture, and toffee rum tincture, and you have the perfect rum for whatever application.

I don't know. Especially as I put it out in this kind of detail, I feel really ambivalent about this idea. Perhaps you could use a little bit of one or two tinctures to bring out an element in one specific spirit? I don't know. Let me know what you think!


The Session: The London Beer & Cider Festival, 2008

Hello all, and welcome to my blog. For those of you who are beer drinkers, and new to my blog, welcome. For those of you who are spirits and cocktail bloggers, and don't know what The Session is, it's basically the beer blogging world's version of MxMo.

This week the topic of The Session is beer festivals. Being freshly legal at home, I haven't really been to any beer festivals in the States. However, while I was in London, I did go the annual London Beer and Cider Festival. Let me just say what a blast it was. The festival was hosted by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. So-called "real ale" for those who don't know, is ale that is unpasteurized and served out of the same container in which the secondary fermentation happens. The way this festival worked was there was an entry fee (£2.50 for non-CAMRA members), and you could either borrow a glass, or buy the festival glass for £3. The glass was really quite gorgeous, and it was large enough that there was room for head proud of the imperial pint line. Then there was a cost per beer.

Frankly, I would have much preferred a higher entry fee, like perhaps £10 or £20, and unlimited beer. I felt that charging by the half-pint meant that I was less willing to simply try beers, which I feel should be a large part of the festival, but only tried the beers that had flavor notes I liked and were types of beer I liked. While I tried a ton of different beers, I had a good recollection of two:

Enville Brewery: Old Porter – This was quite a nice mild porter. It had some slight sweet notes, with just a touch of bitter and lots of fruity complexity. I would love to get my hands on this fine porter.

Fox Brewery: Cerberus Norfolk Stout – This seemed like more of a porter to me than a stout, at least in comparison to Irish stouts like Guinness, Murphy’s, and so on. Nevertheless I enjoyed this beer immensely. It had nice chocolate and raison notes with just the barest hint of bitterness. It was also pleasantly light bodied for a stout, which is a nice change from the more traditional meal in a glass

Thanks for coming to my Session. Next week, I should be mostly moved in, and will be back to live posting.
The Scribe


A Rum Dear to My Heart

I am about to review Gosling's Black Seal, and even as I was writing the review, I put in the caution that as someone who spent a lot of my childhood in Bermuda, Gosling's has a special place in my heart, whether as an ingredient in cake, or rum peppers, or, on my most recent trip, as a drink. However, I am also not used to sipping mixing rum straight, and while I think the Black Seal is at the top of the mixing grade, I would still class it as a mixer not a sipper. With all that said, my review:

Gosling's: Black Seal Rum

Tasting Conditions: Before I continue, I should point out that I love Gosling’s. As someone who spent a large part of my childhood in Bermuda, I view Gosling’s as one of those things that’s in my blood, like sherry peppers and rum cakes. In fact, I was probably eating Gosslings from birth in the form of rum cakes, rum peppers, and other similar delights. This, obviously, will color my review. Anyway, I felt that a nice dram of one of my favorite spirits was an obligatory birthday ritual. I used a brandy snifter of approximately eight ounces for my taste.

Eye: Gosling’s, is, well, it’s Gosling’s. In the bottle it’s black as a pirate’s heart, while spread out in the glass, it’s gold like a pirate’s treasure. (Like that diametabole there? I did too!) It develops thick, stubby legs, quite slowly. The bottle is a classic wine-style spirits bottle, as opposed to a bubble-necked bottle, with the Gosling’s logo black seal balancing a barrel of rum on its nose. I should note that the origin of the name is in a black seal as in black sealing wax which closed the bottles a century ago, not as in the animal.

Nose: A very potent rummy smell reaches the nose, adulterated with a bit of toffee and caramel. The smell is a bit rough, suggesting that this might perhaps be more of a mixer than a sipper.

Mouth: On first sip, this one kicks like a mule, and you can tell that this, this is rum. This is no delicate brandy or haughty fashionable tequila. This is a rum, and while it is far from the kill-devil that they drank in the days of Captain Kidd, it’s still quite a potent potable. While I think the closest thing it comes to is toffee, as the nose suggests, for someone who is not used to drinking spirits neat and especially mixing spirits at all, it’s an experience. Adding a bit of water makes this a bit less rough, and brings out what might be banana notes, or perhaps even mango.

Conclusion: The black seal will always have a place in my heart, and with a cube or two of ice, is surprisingly drinkable straight given its price point (though at least one of my local liquor stores counts it a top shelf rum…at under $18 a bottle with tax oh joy of joys). That said, I think taken neat it is a bit rough for my tender young palate, and while a bit of water smoothes it out a bit, I still prefer it on the rocks. That said, it’s an excellent mixing rum, especially with a bit of Barrett’s ginger beer.


The End of London and the Grenadier

On returning from Dublin, we saw even more sights: The Victoria and Albert Museum, Harrods (where we had an amazing vodka and blood orange juice), the Changing of the Guard, the Cabinet War Rooms and the Winston Churchill Museum (which I really enjoyed), and we also saw Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre.

We also had the opportunity to go to the Grenadier. The Grenadier is a pub by Hyde Park. It's on an alley, off an alley, off an alley behind the French embassy. We stopped there for lunch on my father's recommendation. Back when he used to work at Lloyd's of London, the Grenadier was his favorite lunch spot. In his memory, I ordered the fish and chips. After a bad experience in Dublin, my companions weren't willing to make the same choice. I also ordered a beer (and yes, there will be a mini-review at the end of this article). I discovered something I really should have learned earlier in the trip: To eat the food of the British Isles, you really need beer. With that said, the Grenadier was a great pub with friendly service.

While at the Grenadier, I enjoyed Fuller's London Pride Ale. This bitter ale is the flagship beer in Fuller’s lineup. While it is sold in the States as a pasteurized bottled beer, on the other side of the pond it is served as a cask conditioned ale. It makes a gorgeous accompaniment to most standard pub food. To me at least, you need a nice bitter to cut through the oiliness of even the best fish and chips, and London’s Pride did that perfectly. It had a pleasant bitter tartness with just a little sweetness in the middle. While it is advertized as “mahogany” colored, I found my glass much lighter, perhaps a dark pine. Further, while I found this to be an outstanding accompaniment to my fish and chips, I think it is a bit more bitter than what I would ideally like to sip on its own.

What's Coming in June

Hello my faithful readers. It's the first day of the month, so I thought I'd give you some idea about what is coming up in the blog:

  • Reviews! I have reviews already written up and posted for Gosling's Black Seal, Bogle's limited release port, and Smuttynose's pumpkin ale. I may also offer another rum review (Rhum Barbancourt), or possibly a review or Irish whikey or a bourbon, as well as another beer.
  • I will be joining the Session, the monthly beer bloging event, with a brief discussion of the London Beer & Cider Festival.
  • Depending on when a formal posting of this month's MxMo goes up, I have some thoughts on Bourbon, this month's topic. On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure if I'll be able to mix up too much that's very new for this month. I may have to go with something more tried and tested. We'll see.
  • I'll be finishing up my series on my trip to London and Dublin, as well as hopefully reporting on my trip to Israel.
  • On a related note, I move into my apartment right after I get back from Israel, so there may be a slight break in posting. I have posts up until the sixth of June, when I should be back, but I may spend some time in New York, and, well, we'll see how everything comes together. If I have time I'll prep some more posts for perhaps another week. After I get moved in though, I have lots of goodies on the way.
  • The Newport-Bermuda Race starts June 20th, and in honor of the race I'm going to put up a fairly lengthly post on the drink that will be downed in absurd quantities at regatta parties: the dark and stormy. I hope to post some thoughts on the drink, and, in a perfect world, I would like to elevate the drink using some molecular mixology techniques...Here's to hoping on that score.
  • My batch of falernum is finished, and, while I put my cider infused vodka on hold until my trip is done, it's currently a gorgeous golden color, and I can't wait to get back and finish it up.
  • I am also going to try an experiment with among other things vanilla rum, and, hopefully start on a faux-aged spiced rum. If I can really get a nice rum based on a handle of something fairly cheap, infused to specifications, it could really open up making drinks. Well...I'll post on this later.
Will there be more? Of course there will. I hope this glimpse has given you an idea of what you can expect this month, as well as get you intrigued, and maybe spark some ideas for all of you.
Safe travels,
The Scribe