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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rum of the Month

For this month we will be featuring Mekhong as our rum of the month.  Mekhong is a surprising rum from Thailand.  Named after the 10th largest river in the world and one of the largest in Asia,.  The name translates to the “Khong, mother of water”  We say surprising not just because of where it originates, but also because it is a pretty tasty rum.  There seems to be a lot of debate on what type of distilled spirit this is.  Some people call it whiskey, others just call it a Thai spirit (on the company’s website there is no mention of it as rum)  From what I understand, there are no clear standards in Thailand as to how to classify liquor. The locals call it whiskey.  However, because of what is used to distill it, in the US it needs to be called rum.    It is made mostly from sugar cane 95%(molasses) and some fermented rice.   Now, if there was anymore need to explain why rum is one of the most versatile spirits in the world, Mekhong is a perfect example of that.  Rum’s scope is not limited to the Caribbean or Latin America.  Rum is distilled pretty much in every region of the planet.     The rum itself is supposed to go well with spicy food (in Thai tradition) and we concur.  The website also claims that the sugar cane used is from Thailand which these days runs counter to most other types of rums known throughout the world.  A lot of them import their sugar cane and/or molasses.  This one (according to their website) has a smooth flavor of spicy ginger, toffee, citrus and vanilla. We found it to have a nose of baby’s breath (yes the flower) along with a grassy and vegetal notes.  The palate has hints of allspice and mint.  It finishes spicy yet smooth.  From our point of view, this is a rum that mixes real well with a lot of our cocktails.  Substitute it in any of your favorite drinks or try it out in the Thai Daiquiri.  Hint:  It has passion fruit in it and it is terrific!!!  Check them out and give us your feedback when you can.  Enjoy!!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

When people bring up how varied rum can be, they are usually talking about a few things that most people already know.  They could be talking about the different flavors it imparts.  For example you can have rum that is just plain simple and tastes like vanilla.  But you can also have rum that is incredibly complex in its form, balance, and can taste like a dozen different things all at once (maybe even more)  Or they may be talking about the different styles of rum out there.  Light clear rum or dark and heavy rum.  Or maybe the talk will even turn into the history of rum which is so rich and deep you could probably turn it into a very challenging yet incredibly interesting college major.  The one thing most people do not bring up when they talk about rum is how it can pretty much come from any part of the world.  

In this edition of Rum Bums, we are exploring rums from a region which is more known for it’s liquors distilled from fermented rice than anything else.  Asia is not a place you’d think of for rum.  But from here we have found rums originating in India, Thailand and The Philippines.  It may be difficult to delve into it with an open mind because so little is known about this area when it comes to rum.  But we figure if we don’t try different stuff, we’ll never know what we are missing.    It’s a pleasure to have you here.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.  And thanks for joining us.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our rum of the month

Oronoco rum is our featured rum until the next edition of Rum Bums.  We are hoping to do this after every Rum Bums meeting so that we can focus on a single rum and learn from it as we try it out more and more.  Read below and hopefully it will all make sense.

There are so many different types of rum out there you'd have a hard time counting them.  And once you are done counting them all, you'll probably have to start over because by that time there may be a few more on the market.  The majority of rums are silver (or clear) rums followed by gold rums.  There's also overproof, aged, flavored and dark rums.  But we'll leave that talk for a different post.

Silver rums are almost never sipping rums.  Back home in Puerto Rico the old school way of taking on a silver rum is as a shot with just the right amount of fresh squeezed lime juice.  At least that's how they do it in the countryside.  Go to a Christmas party featuring a pig roasting on a spit and you'll see what I mean.  It is an adventure unlike any other and part of that adventure is the mass consumption of rum.  Mixing is probably the most famous way to drink a silver rum though.  The thing is, silvers usually don't really have much flavor and tend to be somewhat harsh on the palate when drank on their own.  Hence the routine of trying to tone them down with a mixer.  However, there are a few exceptions out there that although simple and silvery, they stand alone pretty well on their own.

And thus the reason for this post.  Oronoco rum from Brazil is one of those exceptions.  This is one silver rum that stands apart from most silvers.  Some say it is the way the sugar cane is grown (on hills of the Brazilian forest)  Others attribute the great flavor to the aging process.  Amendoim (Brazilian oak) casks nurture the liquid until it is ready to be born.  It is very smooth and soft on the palate and will go down without so much as a fight from your taste buds.  Now, when people talk about Brazil the spirit that comes up in conversation is cachaça.  I heard someone once say that Scotch and Whiskey are like cousins in the world of spirits.  If I was to apply the same analogy here then cachaça and rum are like fraternal twin brothers.  They are alike in so many ways but sometimes hard to tell apart AND in the end they are technically not the same.  I must admit that cachaça is relatively new to me and I have not been able to find many people who agree on what makes it cachaça instead of rum.  But the few things that most people tend to agree on is that cachaça can only be distilled up to 54% ABV, can only be made in Brazil and it can only be distilled from sugar cane juice.  Contrast that to rum which can be made from either sugar cane or molasses, can be distilled pretty much anywhere in the world and has no strict universal distilling laws and you get the whole family picture.

In the US a spirit that has been distilled from sugar cane must be labeled as rum so cachaça is actually labeled as Brazilian rum out here.  But Oronoco ultimately does not fall into the relabeled category.  Yes, it is made from sugar cane instead of molasses but before it is finished, it is blended with some aged Venezuelan rum and then aged in casks some more.  The finished product is just delightful.  Seriously, try it out by itself first and then add it to one of your regular rum drinks.  The difference is very noticeable.  So far we have found that Oronoco is usually better mixed in simple drinks with just two or three ingredients and featuring the rum as the only liquor.  But of course, we are constantly trying out new drinks and are hoping to stumble upon some new gems that will blend well with Oronoco.

For now, try it out in an old school daiquiri or a madras and see what we mean.  If you lack the "skills" :) to do this at home (or are just more inclined to have someone do it for you instead) come to La Isla and try them out at our bar.  If you are into creating new drinks, please do share some knowledge.  We would love to feature other drinks as well.  And of course, if you just have an idea, maybe you can let us know so that we can try it out during our next edition of Rum Bums.  Make sure to share it all right here on the comments section of the blog.

Wherever your next rum excursion finds you, please be well