August 2009 Archives

Sleeping peacefully this morning, I was awakened by the sound of a Fed Ex van navigating the washed out riverbed that pretends to be my driveway. Barely concious, I managed to sign for a large package, with an Ominous and Foreboding sticker on the front:


Opening the package carefully, so as to not break anything, I discovered 3 bottles of Papagayo Spiced Organic Rum, resting safely in their individual cardboard nests. Pulling one out, I admired the sleekness of the bottle and the well done packaging for some time.

 My reverie was broken by an urgent message from my body, "YOU SIR, MUST HAVE TEA". So with a shout of "Chai Wallah, My Tea!" I sat down and rolled myself a hand crafted cigarette of the finest calibre and began the complicated process of waiting for my tea. Perusing my standard morning entertainment and sipping the almost (but not quite) perfectly brewed cup of Frontier Fair Trade Earl Grey which had been delivered quickly and professionally, I thought about the rum I would be sipping later this evening.

Rum is nothing more than fermented and distilled sugar cane, right? How can one rum be better than another? I now had a daunting task, one that would haunt me for hours: find out what makes different rums different

The first thing that makes rums different, as can be expected, is materials. Some rums start with already processed, sugar cane products such as molasses and sugar cane juice. Some rums start with the whole cane, and crush it to syrup right into the fermentation vessels. Papagayo is of the latter type (and as a bonus, uses organic sugar cane), and I think it shows in the full but not overpowering sweetness of the sip.

The main difference in the distillation process seems to be traditional, or "pot" stills, versus column stills (which, while allowing for higher output, don't retain some of the nicer flavours from the fermented syrup) . With batch processed rum, such as Papagayo, using the traditional stills imparts a fuller flavour to the rum. 

Finally, ageing is also an issue, and there are no hard and fast rules here, everyone ages in different types of casks, for different times. In fact, different types of rum are aged in different types of casks, oak casks for dark rum, steel (or other man made materials) for the lighter rums.

Having consumed several glasses, I can tell you it is quite consistent. A low scent of combined spice in the nose, very unobtrusively alcoholic, followed by the clove mellowed bite of the alcohol as I take my sip. the fire of the clove bite fades quickly to vanilla.

As my day winds down, I can see that an night smoke and another glass or two is in order.  This is an excellent rum, the spicing and sweetness are just right. At $25-35 a bottle, this isn't a rum for ruining with water. Sip it neat, and say Arrrr Matey!

Until next time,


Pairing Beer and Cigars

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When it comes to pairing beer and food, one can take two approaches.  The first approach is the complimentary one, where certain flavor notes in the beer match certain flavors in the dish.  This works pretty well until you get into heavy, rich foods, where you tend to want something refreshing on the palate between mouthfuls.  The second approach is the opposite, where you aim for contrasting flavor profiles between the two, which fulfills the palate-cleansing desires when the dish is on the heavy side, and gets downright bizarre when you begin pairing imperial stouts with your crisp summer salads.  Obviously the rules are not set in stone.

With cigars I've always thought the rules would be fairly complimentary.  Light cigars with lighter beers, heavier cigars with heavier beers.  I contemplated, however, pairing a cigar with Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, which is one hell of a beer and might need a lighter cigar with it.  Could I be correct?  Well, I didn't have any Bourbon County Stout, so I tried something else.

elephant_obama.pngI have a perverse fascination with Carlsberg Elephant, a slightly sweet, golden beverage with malty notes, lackluster hops, and a 7.2% ABV that rumbles warmly yet ominously below the surface with just enough heat to remind you that it's there.  "Imported," states the can, importantly.  "Malt Liquor."  No shit?  The idea of an elephant lost and trampling through the streets of Copenhagen becomes more and more entertaining after a few of these dull cans of beer.

Do not misunderstand me:  this is not a horrible beer.  It's no Coors Light or Heineken, but at best it's still just average.  There is too much sweetness and the alcohol is too poorly balanced with the rest of its flavor, leaving the impression that this beer has but one purpose, and that is to get Danes drunk.  I bet it would be a great chaser for aquavit, so remind me to try that this Christmas.
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