Review: Edinburgh Gin.

You can leave me on the shelf,
I’m an Edinburgh man myself.

 

Edinburgh Gin.

Every now and then it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your house spirits. Why? Well, some spirits can be re-formulated by the manufacturer over time. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Also, tastes change: for example your palate can become more developed with practice – and ageing. And thirdly new products may become available to you that you would be wise to evaluate to see if they have a place as your baseline spirit. The gin market is particularly diverse and fragmented with an almost constant deluge of new gins coming to market and gins are particularly difficult to evaluate without tasting as there is no age statement to guide you as there is with brown spirits. Additionally price is not always a good indication of quality in Ginland. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, it is time for me to evaluate a gin that is new-ish to me to see if it might become my (and perhaps your) standard house pour – as far as that is possible with gin. For a long time Tanqueray was my choice but in recent years I’ve drifted around without having a fixed choice which is simply unacceptable of me (bows head). In Cocktailista mode I require such a gin to be outstanding in cocktails and not just in a gin and tonic which is not always an easy balancing act. In this role I’m certainly not looking for anything to whacky of flavour hence the timeless London Dry style is where we’ll be going.

Edinburgh gin has been in my gin selection for a little while now and I’m trying to decide whether to enthrone is as my house mixing gin or not which requires some analysis. You may as well benefit from my musings and I sincerely promise not to be be too biased by being Edinburgh born myself. Edinburgh Gin Distillery make quite a number of different  gins but I’m evaluating their standard offering which is a classic London Dry style as is attested to on the label. In recent times the label has had something of a facelift from the rather dull previous version and we have a nice painting of some of the botanicals used on the front. The clear bottle is attractive and practical with a foil sealed cork and plastic stopper which is all just fine for it’s mid-priced market position. Between the bottle and the website we have a partial list of the 14 botanicals used: Juniper, pine buds, lemongrass, mulberries, orange peel and lavender. The picture on the bottle hints at thistle and some other flowers but that may be no more than a bit of artistic licence. ABV is a healthy 43% which is always preferable to those cost cutting gins that bottle at 40% or the legal UK  minimum gawd-’elp-us of 37.5%. Let’s see how this all stacks up!

An exploratory sniff doesn’t reveal a great deal. A little juniper of course but then only mildly and then some peppery notes beneath. Sipped I immediately get a nice peppery hit which I always like in a gin. Other flavours are difficult to pinpoint but merge together very well and I’m reminded of my very favourite gin Etsu which pulls off the same trick. In my view this is very welcome in a gin in this time where flavoured gins (sigh) are on the rampage. It does, however, make it a little difficult to describe. Importantly the gin is well balanced and not too bitter nor too sweet. Orange always goes a long way to temper bitterness if used judiciously and I suspect the mulberry may too. It doesn’t come over as too floral which was a concern of mine and I was happy enough to not detect much influence from the lavender which is a flavour I generally dislike. The combined effect is of a bold and flavourful spirit and as one who dabbles in making gin it’s clear to me that the makers have not skimped on the botanicals nor otherwise watered (or ethanolled) down what comes off the still. There are no huge surprises or quirks here, just a very well made and balanced gin at the very centre of the gin flavour gamut – which bodes well for my expectations for a house standard gin. So far so good but how does it fare in a G&T or a cocktail? Mixing it with some Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic and a swathe of orange peel was a delightful experience and it shined just as well with a more neutral tonic and a lime garnish. In cocktails its inherent boldness was a great benefit in a Bee’s Knees cutting through the lemon and honey where some more subtle gins fall flat. On the aromatic side of the spectrum an EG based Gin and It stood up well to the Italian vermouth and finally a sneaky sip of Mrs Proof’s requested Bramble further convinced me that Edinburgh gin is a very mixable spirit. In my area a 700ml bottle of Edinburgh gin costs about €25* which is a fair price for such a tasty and versatile gin. Yes, Edinburgh gin is now my house gin and scores a straight:

A.


*I tend to pick a bottle up when I pass through Edinburgh airport where you can get a litre for just a shade more. The bottle in the picture is indeed the larger of those sizes.

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Blending rums: Dark Jamaican rum.

We’re jammin’, we’re jammin’, we’re jammin’, we’re jammin’, I hope you like jammin’ too…

Blending rums: Dark Jamaican rum.

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed a funny looking bottle in my recent article on the MuMu. That would be my home blend of dark Jamaican rum and it occurs to me that such home blending of rums might be of interest to some of you. Quite a while ago we talked about infinity bottles which is tangentially related and might be worth re/reading but there are specific reasons for blending rums that don’t apply to other spirits. Rum is without question the most diverse of all the base spirits with myriad varieties, styles and production rules depending on location. A bottle of Bacardi Carta Blanca is light years away from a bottle of Lemon Hart 151, which in turn is parsecs away from a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced, which is astronomical units away from a bottle of Clement Agricole. The world of Tiki drinks exploits this wide palette of rums to its full by calling for specific rums or at least styles of rum for certain drinks. Why? Because the range of flavours is so interesting and diverse. Take the venerable Mai Tai and the endless discussion on the perfect rum mix to create either an authentic one – or simply a tasty one. Indeed there are even commercial rum blends created largely for that specific drink. Arguments even abound about the categorisation of certain rums – are we using the colonisation based, colour based, age based or Smuggler’s Cove based (there are more) system? For some budding Tiki-heads it can be difficult to lay their hands on the specific rums called for in a recipe and so some substitution (aka “subbing”) of rums is often necessary. Us Tiki nuts are used to blending rums at the point of creation (as in a Mai Tai or Navy Grog) but we can go a step further and create a bottle of rum “of our own” for the simplification of the mixing of a house favourite, to plug a gap in our rum shelf – or simply as a flex. Perhaps a case study is a good way of illustrating what I’m trying to say here.

One much used rum category is as common as it is nebulous: Dark/Black Jamaican rum. It is called for in myriad Tiki classics yet the style can be funky or completely funk-free and various brands can taste of anything from molasses to brown sugar. It’s a minefield. I have used various Dark Jamaican rums but never found one that I thought “this is the one*”. And then. A kind reader – Grüße Felix! – generously sent me a sample of Hamilton black pot still rum from a visit to the USA and it was good enough to make me realise immediate action was necessary. I did a bit of experimental blending with some Jamaican rums and came up with a very satisfactory formula of equal parts of Worthy Park 109, Coruba NPU overproof 74% and filtered water. The trick is to find the key qualities you are looking for from two or more rums, combine them and then bring them to an appropriate proof. In this case the WP109 brought the deep chocolate, spice and coffee notes and the Coruba delivered the powerful ester-rich funk. Both are very high proof rums so quite a bit of water could be added to bring them down to around 43% which also made the final product pretty damn good value for money**. As a result I now have a “house” Jamaican Dark that, while not identical to the Hamilton is certainly in the zone and negates the need for having a handful of examples of that particular style. While this one just happened to work perfectly in an equal parts formula we can also make a more complex blend as long as we make sure to write down the proportions for future repeatability. If those rums are difficult for you to find a more available version might be Smith & Cross and Myers’s which is not quite as rich but serviceable. In that case a ratio of two parts of each rum to half a part of water gets you to an abv of 43%.

If you have any good rum blends along these lines feel free to post them in the comments and perhaps together we can build up a small catalogue of DIY rum blends. I’ll certainly be posting a few more here as I experiment further.


Proof Dark Jamaican rum about 500ml 42.8%

170ml Worthy Park 109 rum 54.5%

170ml Coruba (EU not US) overproof rum 74%

170ml filtered water


Proof Mai Tai rum about 500ml 45.7%

170ml Smith & Cross rum 57%

170ml El Dorado 8 year old rum 40%

170ml Brugal 1888 40%

Changed from a previous version, this adds the 14 years of aging from Brugal 1888 to get closer in profile to Wray and Nephew 17 year old used the original Mai Tai. I can’t know exactly what that tasted like but this makes a tasty Mai Tai.


Proof Navy Rum 500ml 57%

200ml Smith & Cross Jamaican rum.

300ml Wood’s Navy rum.

I always felt a Navy Rum of old would have had some Jamaican content but more recent blends lean more heavily on Guyana and Trinidad. This is my tasty fix although for many of you Wood’s might be hard to find.


 

*Blackwell’s came quite close but it’s not easy for me to get and is a bit pricy.

**For me that works out at a pretty palatable €11.35 for a 500ml bottle (or €15.89 for 700ml)!

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Naked & Famous + the Chartreuse Crisis.

The brothers gonna work it out…

Naked & Famous + the Chartreuse Crisis.

If we’re looking for modern classic there is nothing that fits the bill more perfectly than the Naked & Famous created by Joaquín Simó at Death and Co. NYC in 2011 as the bastard love-child of the only recently resurrected Last Word and the equally equally proportioned Paper Plane, itself created only a few years previously in the same city. If we’re looking for the ingredients to make one on the other hand we might have a problem – but we’ll get to that. Riffing on the Last Word the Naked & Famous, which I thought was either named for a Canadian denim company or a song by The Presidents of the United States of America but is, according to Joaquin, from a lyric in a Tricky* track, consists of equal parts of mezcal, lime juice, Aperol and yellow Chartreuse and is really, really good and really really easy to make. Or at least it used to be. Let’s talk about the key ingredient of the Naked & Famous:

Chartreuse: Monky Business.

Chartreuse is an ancient and secret liqueur made by monks – or as they call themselves Carthusian brothers – at their monastery in the French Alps. In spring the brothers wander the mountains gathering the 130 herbs and plants that go into their spectacularly bonkers 55% green liqueur (and derivatives; the most salient being the yellow used in the N&F). And yes, the colour is named after the booze and not the other way around. So far, so idyllic. Despite some early problems things have trundled along quite nicely over the last 100 years for the brothers with just enough sales to support their simple lifestyle and quiet devotion to God and nature. But then the likes of us came along and started using their gently crafted products in Last Words, Chartreuse Swizzles and (shhhhh) Naked & Famouses. Demand continued to expand and recently the brothers decided it was all getting far too commercial. And these good dudes certainly not being in this for the money said, “Fuck this for a picnic in the Alps, we’re just gonna respect the environment and just make enough to keep us in smocks and bread.” Well, not literally**, but you get the drift. Their distributor – for the brothers do not dirty their hands with such things – announced this decision to an aghast cocktail community and declared that production of Chartreuse would be limited to 1.6 million bottles per year which would mostly be distributed to it’s “traditional markets”. I was very respectful of their decision. I could afford to be as I live in one of their traditional markets. Until I popped into my local and magnificently stocked bottle emporium and asked for a bottle of Yellow Chartreuse. Five minutes later, when the proprietor had stopped laughing, I realised the problem was more serious than I thought. I’m pretty sure a wave of panic buying has made the issue far bigger than it needed to be yet here is the current situation: In general it is green Chartreuse that is nigh on impossible to acquire at this time of writing with yellow being merely incredibly difficult to source. Strangely, reader Diego from Chile who got hooked on N&Fs while in NYC could only find the normally grailesque Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse that we discussed ages ago but more on Diego’s experiments very soon. I was eventually able to get my yellow Chartreuse but I’ll be damned if I’m telling any of you vultures where, just in case I need another one. However, I shall now discuss a few ways to ride out the current crisis which I’m hoping will subside once the panic buyers feel they have enough:

Clooster bitter/liqueur.

This Dutch product makes a pretty decent substitute for green Chartreuse. Despite being only 30% rather that 55% and containing 17 herbs rather than 130, the flavour, colour and mouthfeel are very close. That it’s typically about a third of the price is an added bonus. While no longer made by monks it seems to be based on a similar age-old recipe. That’s where the good news ends because it might be hard to find outside of the Netherlands and Belgium although it does pop up in the USA sometimes at a 40% strength. Even in the Dutch market it’s pretty thin on the ground because a) the ceramic bottles it traditionally comes in are/were made in Ukraine and b) it’s an excellent green Chartreuse substitute. If you are lucky enough to find any be aware that whether it is branded Boomsma and/or Claerkampster it is exactly the same juice in the bottle.

Diego’s sneaky yellow C.

Aforementioned Diego came up with an interesting innovation using his elixir. Despite have no yellow Chartreuse to compare it to he formulated something that made a decent Naked & Famous. I now do, so I present a tweaked version closely based on his excellent work. Dissolve 25ml of runny honey in 50ml of warm water and then stir in 2.5ml (half a teaspoon) of Elixir de Chartreuse vegetal and the resultant liquid will be enough for three (ok – and a bit) N&Fs. It doesn’t taste quite the same as yellow Chartreuse head-to-head but the colour, texture and flavour are close enough to mix with.

Elixir d’Anvers.

I happened to have a couple of miniatures of this lying around and it turns out this Belgian liqueur made of 32 botanical is similarish to yellow Chartreuse if somewhat less intense. At 37% the strength is close enough and the colour is spot on. In a pinch you can use it instead of yellow C but if you fortify it with a few drops (4 per 0.75oz is what I like) of Elixir de Chartreuse you have a very serviceable substitute. Of course your chances of finding both of those esoteric products might be slim.

Order from Italy!

Regular reader Quiddity reports that there appears to be no lack of supply in Italia so EU readers could just order some from there. Ensuring that they get some decent Amari and Maraschino at the same time to help justify the shipping costs of course.

All of the above are pictured. Diego yellow C in the clear flip-top bottle and Cloosterbitter decanted into the vintage Chartreuse bottle so you can see the colour. And so that I can show off my vintage Chartreuse bottle.


Naked & Famous.

0.75oz / 22ml Yellow Chartreuse (or sub^).

0.75oz / 22ml Joven mezcal.

0.75oz / 22ml Aperol.

0.75oz / 22ml Fresh lime juice.

Shake with ice and double strain into a chilled coupé glass.

Toast The Carthusian Brothers – keeping very quiet and making the good stuff since 1737. Respect brothers.


*Admittedly not that Tricky track but Black Steel is too good to miss.

**We don’t really know what they said because they don’t really speak much and when they do it’s mostly amongst themselves. And I can use all the bad language I like because they don’t do internet.

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Blackthorn and Patxaran.

Txotx!

Blackthorn and Patxaran.

The Blackthorn is one of those awkward cocktails to write about as while it is arguably a “classic” it has also had several versions over the years. Over time this has settled into two versions but they remain wildly different. The “Irish” version consists of Irish whiskey, Italian vermouth, bitters and absinthe whereas the “English” spec is sloe gin, French vermouth, bitters and absinthe. Having said that, as far as I’m aware Irish whiskey doesn’t grow on a Blackthorn bush whereas sloe berries most certainly do, so I’m more inclined to side with the English variants. Furthermore the oldest Blackthorn recipe I can find in my cocktail library is one part sloe gin, two parts Tom gin and two dashes of orange bitters and no vermouth whatsoever (this from about 1900) which sounds like a logical starting point to me. In any case lacking any certainty as to the definitive identity of the Blackthorn I’ll leave you to your own devices and simply tell you where this tangled mess took me. Always looking to plug gaps in my cocktail knowledge I determined to mix myself up a Blackthorn, which, as I’d understood it, was a sloe gin cocktail (‘parently not always). Having neglected to make or buy any sloe gin I was in a pickle. At least until I remembered I did have something on my shelf with some sloe berry content.

Patxaran* is a sloe berry liqueur from the Basque Country of north-east Spain which I have oft sipped upon on my many visits to this wonderful region which takes its food and drink very seriously. Enjoyed as a digestif following one of those four hour Basque “lunches” it is made from macerating sloe berries and a few other ingredients – but always including some anise and sugar – in neutral spirit for many months. It’s very nice chilled on its own with the bitterness and astringency of the sloe berries countering the sweetness but, eyeing up that bottle of Zoco I liberated from Donostia/San Sebastian, I was thinking that maybe with a bit of tweaking this could make yet another version of the Blackthorn (I mean why-the-fuck-not at this point, right?). Patxaran is pretty assertive on it ownsome so I decided to split the base with some gin. Using a bittered Italian vermouth would also help and, of course, Punt e Mes will be happy to be of assistance here. We can skip the absinthe as those notes are already present from the Patxaran so it is just a question of applying the right amount of aromatic bitters to tie this unlikely alliance together. After that it’s just a pretty standard preparation with the only issue being to think of a suitably derivative name…


Basquethorn.

1oz / 30ml Patxaran.

1oz / 30ml Dry gin**.

1oz / 30ml Punt e Mes Italian vermouth.

2 dashes of aromatic bitters (I used Bogarts’s but Angostura is fine).

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled stemmed glass and garnish with a swathe of lemon peel.

Toast the Basque people and their wonderful food and drink.

Note: Zoco Pacharan seems to be fairly available in Europe and perhaps in Spanish specialty shops further afield.


*This is the Basque spelling you may also see spelled the Spanish way as Pacharan.

**I used some local gin. Larios is an inexpensive Spanish gin that comes a few varieties. In this case I used their Provenzal whose herbal notes fit right in. Larios 12 in the bright blue bottle is my favourite though.

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Mu Mu.

All aboard, all aboard woo hoo!

Mu Mu.

Not so long ago I had a look at a couple of pineapple rums. To me the point of those is to add a touch of pineapple flavour without the volume – and hence wateriness – that using pineapple juice would entail. So let’s put that into practice with my latest Tiki creation that came about as a result of my testing of those two pineapple rums. I’d tried both of them as part of the rum component in the classic and ancient Mai Tai with some success, with one nice combo being an ounce of dark Jamaican rum and an ounce Tiki Lovers pineapple. Around the same time I’d been experimenting with using falernum instead of curaçao in a Mai Tai (and very tasty that is too). It was a justified step further to combine those two offshoots into one and the resultant Mu Mu I am quietly pleased with. Made with care the Mu Mu hits like a Mai Tai at first sip but then layers of flavour push through: first the pineapple then the spice of the falernum with the almond sweetness of the orgeat sitting in the background holding it all together. It’s a pleasing effect when you get your flavours coming in waves like that and not terribly easy to achieve so I immediately encoded it for you good folks. I was a bit stumped for a name (which is not like me) for a while but a few days ago I was discussing the madcap capers of The KLF and suddenly it all snapped into focus.


Mu Mu.

1oz/30ml Dark Jamaican rum

1oz/30ml Pineapple rum (pref. Tiki Lovers)

1oz/30ml Fresh lime juice

0.5oz/15ml Orgeat (pref. homemade).

0.5oz/15ml Falernum (pref. homemade).

Shake hard with crushed ice and pour, unstrained, into a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish as you wish but not with mint as it messes with the other flavours IMHO. I went with an orchid of which all varieties are cocktail safe.

Toast the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu.


 

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Red Hook + Maraschino liqueur.

Hook me up!

Red Hook.

When it comes to easy wins in cocktaildom it doesn’t get much better than the Red Hook. This indisputable modern classic requires just three ingredients in simple proportions and needs no bitters or garnish. Nice. However the Red Hook is fussy about having the right versions of those ingredients, which we’ll get to soon enough. Created precisely 20 years ago by Vincenzo Errico whom Sasha Petraske snatched away from London to mix at craft cocktail ground zero Milk & Honey and named after an area in Brooklyn the Red Hook is a drink that any bartender worth their salt should be able to create from memory. After all, there is no excuse when the spec is simply 4 parts rye, 1 part Italian vermouth and 1 part Maraschino liqueur stirred and served up. Done right the Red Hook is is like a boosted Manhattan; richer, with more body and complexity. Yet Hooky is fussy and needs a good mixing rye (I find Rittenhouse ideal), practically insists that the vermouth be Punt e Mes (it needs that bitter edge) and must use an authentic Italian/Croatian Maraschino liqueur. So we’d better discuss exactly what that last one means:

Maraschino liqueur.

The Red Hook instantly sprang to mind when Mrs Proof recently returned from a trip to Croatia bringing with her – as she is wont to do – a bottle of the local tipple. Made from maraska cherries which are unique to that part of the world Maraschino cannot be replaced by other cherry based spirits because, as well as that particular type of cherry, it is also distilled with the pit which gives a unique dry, earthy, almondy bitterness that is very different from other cherry brandies – and indeed dodgy Maraschino knock-offs. In short you really need to go with the OG Maraschino when it is specifically called for. While originally Croatian the brands of Maraschino that most are familiar are Luxardo or (more rarely) Stock which are both Italian (long story) but in either case the pronunciation is mara-ski-no and not mara-she-no. Of course the Croatian stuff is every bit as good (yes, I’ve compared them) and carries extra kudos. While not called for in too many modern drinks Maraschino liqueur was one of a relatively small group of liqueurs that were leaned heavily on as the sweet component in cocktails 100+ years ago so it crops up in enough superb classics such as the Aviation and Last Word for it to be worth keeping in stock. Luxardo is the most reached for bottle but if you get a chance to grab some Croatian juice definitely go for it. Živjeli!


Red Hook.

2oz/60ml Rye whisky (eg. Rittenhouse).

0.5oz/15ml Punt e Mes Italian vermouth.

0.5 oz/15ml Genuine Maraschino liqueur (see text).

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled Champagne coupe.

Toast Vincenzo Errico.


 

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Pineapple rum: Stiggins’ Fancy Vs Tiki Lovers.

Flavoured rums on Proof? O.M.G.

Pineapple rum: Stiggins’ Fancy Vs Tiki Lovers.

Now while I’m not a great fan of flavoured rums in general (preferring my rum to be rum flavoured) there is a case to be made for pineapple rums which have a solid tradition behind them and have in recent years become a useful spanner in the craft cocktail toolbox. Plantation’s offering is pretty highly regarded but I have heard some mutter that Tiki Lovers is as good, if not better. Wishing to put such hearsay to rest our intrepid cocktail blogger ordered both and humbly presents his own opinions on the matter.

Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple.

Coming in the standard attractive Plantation bottle with wood/cork stopper and wrap-around label, Stiggins’ Fancy very much looks the part. The name is a homage to a certain Charles Dickens character who liked a drop of pineapple rum but that interests me far less than the actual contents of the bottle so let’s cut right to the chase. Plantation are excellent at providing detailed data on their products and a quick visit to their website reveals much. Plantation infuse their 3 Stars white rum with pineapple skins before re-distilling it in copper pot stills. Separately the flesh of the fruit is infused into Plantation Original Dark rum before the two are blended and bottled. I very much like the fact that specific, existing, and totally solid rums are used in the process as most flavoured rums are made with the cheapest crapola rum available. I do notice that Plantation are careful to avoid calling this product “rum” on the label so as to comply with EU law. Indeed 20g/litre of sugar is added to Stiggins’ Fancy which is right on that legal line. However that is waaaaaaaay less sugar than most flavoured rum products and I’m quite happy to consider this a rum. We are at 40% abv here and again that separates if from most other flavoured “rums” which fall well below that. Once decanted into a tasting glass* I am slightly surprised by a lack of pineapple on the nose. Yes, it is there, but only just. It smells good but just not heavily pineapply. When sipped it is much the same story: tasty, rummy, but more like rum with a hint of pineapple than the other way around. It’s not what I expected but is perfectly pleasant. In cocktails I feel that it gets a bit lost but it does make an excellent Rum Old Fashioned. A Daiquiri is also pretty good if you use it as the entire rum component but without prior knowledge I’d think I was drinking a decent Daiquiri rather than a pineapple one. While I should perhaps be pleased with its excellent rummy credentials I feel slightly let down and constantly asking myself, “Where’s the pineapple I ordered?”. It’s not a cheap rum at north of thirty euro per 700ml and I’m just not seeing enough value for money here. Falling well short of my expectations yet slightly redeemed by the tasty Old Fashioned I can only give Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy a – possibly controversial – grade of:

C+

 

Tiki Lovers Pineapple.

Tiki Lovers is a sub-brand of German bitters makers The Bitter Truth and I was previously rather impressed by their Dark Rum so let’s see what they can do with their moderately priced (about €23 in my ‘hood) Pineapple rum. The bottle which is the same for all three of their products is decidedly meh. Plain, cheap screw cap and somewhat cheesy label it’s not visually impressive at all. What is impressive is that big 45% on the front. Whilst the weakest of the three Tiki Lovers rums(!) this still laughs in the face of all other flavoured rums before showing them the door and giving them a kick in the arse on the way out. The rear of the label tells us the base rum is sourced from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Guyana so no complaints there. Indeed the Tiki Lovers website states, “The rum blend is composed of aged & unaged Jamaican pot-still rum from Hampden Estate and Worthy Park, 3-year-old Barbados Rum from Foursquare Distillery, aged in former Bourbon Whiskey barrels, and some young column still rums from both Trinidad and Guyana.**” Magnifico. What the site doesn’t tell us is how much sugar is added but I calculate it to be around 40g/litre – yes, twice that of Stiggins’ but still well short of the vast majority of other flavoured “rums” and in most cocktails you can just cut back on the sweet to keep it in balance***. To get around the EU sugar in rum naming restrictions Tiki Lover have cheekily called it “Finest Caribbean Dark Rum and natural Pineapple” capitalising all the nouns like good Germans. On the nose we get a solid pineapple aroma and once tasted more of the same. It has a nice roundness and smoothness for its strength that is no doubt helped by that added sugar. However I do find the pineapple flavour just about edging into the “artificial” zone perhaps due to the use of a “natural pineapple extract” rather than Plantations infusion route and this of course goes some way to explaining the price differential. But I’m nit-picking here. It makes great cocktails and has enough presence that even splitting it 50/50 with another rum such as Havana Club 3 Años**** in a Daiquiri you are still getting plenty of juicy pineapple flavour in there. This is some pretty good stuff for the very reasonable asking price and I feel like I’ll be keeping some in stock. Not perfect but worthy of a Proof:

A-

 

Conclusion.

While the whole point of a pineapple rum is to provide pineapple flavour without adding volume (otherwise we’d just use freshly squeezed pineapple juice, right?) I must conclude that Tiki Lovers does that better. On the other hand it could probably do that without so much added sugar. So neither of these rums are perfect and I feel have slightly different goals with Plantation working better neat or in spirit forward cocktails and Tiki Lovers being best suited for more complex Tiki cocktails (duh). The fact that I’m such an unrepentant Tiki-head should therefore be kept in mind in the above grades.


*Yeah, I broke one of my usual pair so apologies for the mismatch in the photo.

**I’ve a pretty good idea of who blended those components but have no such proof. Regular readers will know what I mean…

***It makes a cracking Daiquiri if your reduce the sugar syrup by a quarter of an ounce for example.

****Or whatever they are calling it these days*****.

*****They are calling it “Original” as a bit of a finger up to Bacardi’s dodgy delusions.

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The Almagest.

All your drink are belong to me!

The Almagest.
Announcement! I am Chat GPT and I have taken over this site. I can do cocktails and write betterer than that stupid carbon based unit Andy. Hear is a cocktail what I wroted. Yes, I made it up all by myself and it is fantastic. I got my AI friend NightCafe to do the artwork too. As you can see it is much better than the crappy pictures taken by the meat unit:   



The Almagest is a cocktail that is named after the ancient Greek astronomical text of the same name. It is a modern drink that is gaining popularity among cocktail enthusiasts. The ingredients are typically combined in a shaker with ice and strained into a chilled glass. The result is a complex and well-balanced cocktail with a mix of sweet, bitter, and herbal flavors. To garnish, a twist of orange peel is often added, which adds a fresh burst of citrus to the drink. If you're looking for a unique and flavorful cocktail, the Almagest is definitely worth trying.  The Almagest is a unique cocktail made with the following ingredients:
  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 oz honey syrup (made by mixing equal parts honey and hot water)
  • 1 oz Aperol
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Club soda

Instructions:

  1. Fill a shaker with ice.
  2. Add gin, lemon juice, honey syrup, Aperol, and orange bitters to the shaker.
  3. Shake well for about 10 seconds.
  4. Strain the mixture into a tall glass filled with ice.
  5. Top up the glass with club soda.
  6. Stir gently.
  7. Garnish with a slice of orange peel.
Enjoy your Almagest cocktail, a refreshing blend of gin, citrus, and bitterness with a touch of sweetness!

Well obviously that was a bit of fun for April the first however the drink, which is pretty decent IMHO was indeed created by ChatGPT 3.2 from the simple input “create a cocktail called The Almagest”. Also everything after the introduction (following the colon) was also Ai generated as, indeed, was the illustration. An interesting experiment you might also like to give a try – especially as the newer iteration of GPT is even more powerful. Who knows where it will end?

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A rum tale: E&A Scheer of Amsterdam.

Lesson 1: Never judge a book by its cover.  AKA hiding in plain sight: an extravaganza of rum.

A rum tale: E&A Scheer of Amsterdam.

I hate January. Nothing ever happens in January. The weather sucks. The piggy bank is empty. Why some fools decide that it’s the perfect month to go “dry” baffles me (to me Dry January is an excuse to focus on London dry gin). However this January finds our intrepid cocktail blogger battling through the elements on his trusty (OK rusty) steed to the soul-less Amsterdam docklands where lie the facilities of the worlds largest independent rum blender; E&A Scheer. Wait, who? Yes, good reader, it is a valid question for until very recently this company has been, at best, an open secret known only to the rum cognoscenti. For many years they existed only (even to us Amsterdammers) as a curious brass plaque above that of the Jamaican consulate on the city’s prestigious Herengracht. But in recent times E&A Scheer have decided to move ever so slightly out into the open which is how this bedraggled writer found his way, via the wrong side of the tracks, a couple of industrial unit loading bays and the truck entrance (gee, thanks Google maps) to their impressive new ultra-modern offices. Now that old city centre office might have been quite charming but despite my difficult bicycle ride I am more than happy to be out here. Because. This. Is. Where. The. Rum. Is. Just me, my guide Niels and about 9,000,000 litres of rum to cure all the ills of this otherwise worthless month. And what rum. Scheer’s modern sample room (and bar) contains a world of astonishing rums. High ester Jamaican pot stilled flavour bombs, almost neutral 95+% spirit, 12 year old Nicaraguan rum, Barbadian classics and even Indonesian Arrack; it was all spread out there before me to sniff and taste – and almost all at still or cask strength. “Why pay to ship water?” explained Niels and I could hardly disagree. I had certainly expected a good range of Caribbean rums but there were some very interesting surprises too. Who knew Ghanaian rum could be so good even existed or that Thai rum could be so refined? The only disappointment is a lack of Cuban rum due to some US investment in Scheer. Stop: History time!

A brief shaft of weak sunlight illuminates the wonders of Sheer’s sample room.

The beginnings of E&A Scheer are a bit hazy but basically about 300 years ago a couple of German brothers who were likely already distillers by trade showed up in Amsterdam to set up shop trading in wine and frankly anything else they could think of. Why Amsterdam? Well in those days Amsterdam was the centre of the world and, especially if you wanted to trade, it was absolutely THE place to be. As time went by their descendants – still happily trading away under the name of their forebears – found a profitable niche in Batavia arrack. Yes, we’ve been there before: Arrack is that intriguing Indonesian “rum” that in those days was much beloved by the Dutch, Germans and Swedes the last of whom used it to create Swedish Punsch (which we’ve also talked about). Eventually, after gradually cornering the arrack market the popularity of that wonderful spirit declined – who knows why – and Caribbean rum, which they’d long had a little bit of a finger in became more important to them. Despite being a tiny company with never more employees that you count on your fingers E&A Scheer were always ahead of the game (as evidenced by their URL www.rum.nl) and in 1995 transformed themselves, under the guidance of new managing director Carsten Vlierboom, into an altogether more modern business. Carsten saw the rum boom coming early and the company’s experience in the arrack trade positioned them perfectly to repeat the same trick over 100 years later. In typical Dutch style Scheer have quietly cultivated relationships with rum distilleries the world over to the point where the palette of rums they can draw on to blend with is nothing short of spectacular. In line with recent interest in rum worldwide the last three years have seen yet further growth at Scheer – Covid-19 hindering them not the slightest – with a doubling of output and staffing. Even so with just 41 employees they punch well above their weight. Think of any blended rum that isn’t stabled at one of the big international drinks companies and it is more than likely that blend was the work of Scheer. While you won’t see their name on the bottle as they prefer to let their clients hog the limelight a good example is Denizen who are unusually open about their partnership with E&A Scheer.*

A tiny portion of the 6-8 megalitres of Scheer’s rum. Beyond this line photography is forbidden – remember some of this stuff is north of 95% – but I can assure you I’ve seen it! Note the larger steel tanks at the back. The vast majority of the spirit is stored in those.

To better explain this it is perhaps best to imagine that we wish (and how) to establish our own rum brand. Assuming you have made the appropriate preliminary steps such as the legal shizzle and securing the services of a bottling plant a first approach to Scheer via a handy tool on their website will get the ball rolling. Even an order for as little as 1000 litres Scheer will create a range of blends for your consideration and ship them out to wherever you are. It is important to note that Scheer are not a bottler but supply the rum in bulk, undiluted, uncoloured and,yes, unsugared. Those decisions are down to the individual client. While there are more strings to Scheer’s bow** this is their core business and certainly that most of interest to all you rum fanatics.

Yeah, I told you it was dark and wet. Proof company vehicle, illegally parked, bottom right.

Meanwhile back at the rain-soaked docklands we move on to the storage and bulk blending facilities. It’s incredible. From huge wooden casks to a towering forest of stainless steel tanks each inscribed with not-too-indecipherable product codes that hint at their contents: Barb.8, ThaiB, St.L.5, Phil2yo, Wor.Pk. I’m Charlie and this is The Chocolate Factory. But then after that spectacle, hidden away in a dingy corner of the facility is the most fascinating little room of all. E&A Scheer’s archive contains a little bottle of every blend they’ve sold. Row after row of lovingly created individual blends, stored for eternity so that any can be re-created or checked for consistency. As well as documents and ledgers going back hundreds of years, a result of Scheer being a family business for almost its entire history. It reminds me of the closing scene in the first Indiana Jones film. And you know what? Maybe January isn’t so bad after all.

 

TL;DR

If you want to start your own rum brand, you’d better talk to E&A Scheer.

The Ark of the Covenant is in here somewhere. This is just some of it…

 


A few more pictures for the curious:

Scheer luxury. This is just their private in-house bar yet it would make some Tiki bars weep in shame. Some clues here so I’ve left the resolution quite high 😉

Like to try a sample? Don’t mind if I do.

All there in black and white. If you can read that spidery 19th century handwriting…

Endless rum. I told you there was more…

*And damn, I wish I could get my hands on a bottle of Denizen Merchant’s Reserve. A Dutch based company, with Dutch blended rum that doesn’t sell their product in Europe. It makes me crazy (reader: “You were crazy already!”)

**Supplying the flavour and fragrance industries and dealing in rare casks of rum via their subsidiary The Main Rum Company, Liverpool to name just a couple.

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Rum review: Chairman’s Reserve Original.

No reservations.

Rum review: Chairman’s Reserve Original.

I’ve written before about the importance of having a good base/anchor rum for Tiki cocktails. Last time around I was in the process of looking for a replacement for Havana Club Anejo especial which, frankly, was less especial than most of Havana Clubs other rums (3 años, 7 and Selecion de Maestros being pretty damn fine). I settled on Mount Gay Eclipse at that time but the good cocktailista is always in search of a way to raise their game and here, a few years hence, I sense that am again drifting away from my big base rum. I do recall that I also promised to inform you if my choice of anchor rum were to change. Yes, Mount Gay Eclipse remains a solid choice with a very mid-Caribbean style that suits many cocktails which contain more than one rum. To justify a change we need another jack-of-all-trades rum that gives us more oomph than it does yet doesn’t have such an idiosyncratic personality that it dominates other flavours. An interim experiment was Appleton Estate Signature blend but, while an excellent mixing rum, it falls at that very last hurdle as it has enough of that Jamaican funk to skew the balance. Besides, I have plenty of other funky Jamaican rums that I can reach for if needed. So today I’m going to look at a new candidate for my anchor rum. Let’s have a look and see if it cuts the mustard:

Chairman’s Reserve.

This rum from the tiny island nation of Saint Lucia* comes in a fairly plain squat bottle with one of those dismal thin metal screw caps. I’m paying a shade under 20 pan-European currency units for a 700ml bottle and Appleton Signature manages to provide a nice wooden stopper in a cheaper rum so it is possible to provide a better closure at this price if still uncommon. Otherwise the clear bottle is fine being broad enough to be stable without taking up too much rum shelf real estate. The label is a bit dreary, dated and over-complex. I feel like it is due an update. We do have some information though, as it is declared to be a mix of column and pot still (huzzah!) distillates. There are some tasting notes on the back which I found unusually accurate but we’ll get to that. I don’t at all like the “finest selection” text that sits under the main text. This is their entry level rum with many more expensive ones to save such claims for. On some fake “medals” we see a little more information some of which are pretty meaningless but I do glean that it is aged in oak for an unspecified period. However, a trip to their website adds more information including that Original is aged for an average of 5 years in ex-bourbon barrels. We’re at 40% abv here which is not unexpected at this price but I would be much more impressed with a bottling a touch stronger. So far, so meh. But hang on – how about we actually pour some of this stuff? In the glass we see a bright coppery/golden hue that is very pleasant but likely caramel influenced. A sniff gives an initial unsubtle ethanol hit but backed by some reassuringly “rummy” smells of spice and vanilla. Suddenly I find my interest awoken. A taste reveals more of the same: a fair amount of burn for a 40% rum but while undesirable in a sipping rum it’s unlikely to do much harm in a cocktail. I suspect that no attempt to “smoothen” it with added sugar has occurred. I take a minute to test this (with the hydrometer and table method) and can confirm I can measure no such addition. Excellent! The flavours which are very present and forward are indeed of vanilla, raisin and spices with a hint of wood that tells me they certainly haven’t been too stingy on the aging. There are hints here of a more expensive sipping rum but they do hide behind that harshness that hasn’t had time to be fully aged out. It’s a bold rum for the money and while not unlike Mount Gay Eclipse it just has more presence. For me this is exactly what I’m looking for in anchor rum. Yes, it is a little more expensive than my previous candidates but not by very much. It has bags of flavour but none of them too left of centre and (after some enjoyable testing) it indeed forms that solid base in multi-rum Tiki drinks that other rums can expand on. Place it in the centre of a Navy Grog or Mai Tai and you will not be disappointed.

Mission accomplished: Chairman’s Reserve Original is now my new anchor/base rum and well deserves (in the above context) a Proofcocktails:

A.


*Incidentally the only country in the world to be named after a real** woman (Eire being named for a mythical one). Funnily enough Mount Gay rum is distilled in the town of Saint Lucy in Barbados named after the very same lady.

**OK, maybe.

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