Saturday, January 17, 2009

RumDood's Rum Tasting Beta

Being a food blogger gives me certain opportunities. Sure, I get PR updates from restaurants and other events in the area, but it's the fantastic network of eaters (and drinkers in this case) that I value the most. Last week, I had the privilege of attending RumDood's inaugural rum tasting event in his home. That photo above is just one of Matt's sagging countertops bearing the weight of prodigious bottles of liquid merriment. Of course, an impromptu potluck and collection of other food friends ensured the night would end well...even if it ended at the Chapman General ER. No, no one had alcohol poisoning from the rum, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't alcohol related.

I recently surpassed a hundred entries in this Food Destination/Gilded Palate blog; over the course of nine months or so, I'd say that's pretty successful. Readership, that's another matter. However, this blog is as much for me as it is for anyone else, and in researching (aka eating) I have learned so much about cuisine and LA in general. One area that I feel I have slightly neglected is the "drinking" side of eating, drinking and being happy. I developed a taste and appreciation for sake at Tokyo Table and a respect for wine at Totoraku, but harder liquor has proved elusive for me. Of course, when I say "respect for wine" I mean in the sense of drinking so much of it that I overwhelm my initial dislike. Yet, wine, sake and beer are beverages that one can enjoy in moderation and for which someone can develop preferences. To develop a taste for rum, I needed expert guidance.

Enter Matt, the RumDood himself. An invitation arrived in my mailbox for a long drive down to Orange County for what could only be night of informative lecture, Q&A, and enough rum to make your eyeballs float. Sure enough, I was greeted with a Dark & Stormy, my new drink of choice. Rum, ginger beer, and a twist of lime--simple, manly enough, and drinkable. Note: ginger beer is not the same as ginger ale; please do not confuse the two.

We sat down to a superstar of a rum; the Ron Zacapa Centanario apparently has won so many awards that the mere mention of it would send Cap' Mo to the bottom of Davey Jones' locker. Indeed, as a non-sipper, I had an easy time drinking this rum straight. Now I could go through the explanation of the solera aging process, the Guatemalan mountains from which it came, or the difference between distilling sugar cane honey versus molasses, but Matt explains it so much better in his own review. My impressions were certainly smooth and sweet, a pleasant spirit to drink neat.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Pusser's British Navy Rum and Clement VSOP, British and French styles respectively, were much harder to down. They were mostly too hot to really discern any characteristic flavors beyond burning. Ah, the n00b trying to explain something way over his head. While the Zacapa had a fruity personality, the Pusser's and Clement were metallic and vegetal. If this was the kind of rum that the British navy used to serve its sailors, I have a newfound respect for these manliest of men.

Matt next walked us through an explanation of the barrel aging process of certain types of rum using the Appleton Estates line of Jamaican rums as examples. Rums start white and take on darkening shades after years of sober waiting. Their flavors also mellow out and the alcohol becomes much less harsh. As I tasted these Appleton rums, starting with the youngest V/X (five-ten years), then the 12, and finally the 21 year rum, I could feel each one progressively easier to drink. While the youngest would be best as a mixer, I could see myself taking the oldest one neat or on the rocks.

Lastly, we tried El Dorado 21, an older rum without rich complexities. It still drank very well, and had hints of cherries.

Rum Master Matt explaining the importance of proper rum tasting glassware

After the tasting,we lounged with some "real mai tais". That's when we started rummaging through the endless bottles, looking for other drinks of interest. Unfortunately, my interest was in the green Obsello Absinthe bottle in the bottom left corner of the first photo. We couldn't get it open, so eventually we settled on the La Fee instead. Matt was kind enough to walk me through the entire sugar cube process, which makes such a high proof spirit much more palatable. As I'm no cocktail expert, I'll just explain what I think I saw.

1. Place sugar cube on slotted spoon set over a stout glass.
2. Pour about a shot of absinthe over the sugar.
3. Light cube on fire (and turn off lights for some glowing green effects)
4. Drop sugar into absinthe and pour six parts of water.

With the drink so watered down, it tasted like lightly flavored black licorice. I was a little let down by the hype surrounding absinthe, but my ruminations were cut short when people started panicking. In a valiant effort to get through the wax seal of the Obsello, Fiona had lost the fight with a chef's knife. On a side note, that's the same chefs knife that came with my parents' sushi set--nice knife, obviously sharp. Luckily, we got Fiona to the hospital without serious incident.

It truly was an eventful evening. As always, good food company leads to fun times. I certainly had my horizons broadened, and I am extremely thankful to RumDood for his hospitality. I'll forever drink to him when I reach for my rum. And yes, I'll forgo the Bacardi from now on with so much better out there.



pleasurepalate said...

What a great write-up and while I'm still not much of a drinker in general, I definitely learned a lot and truly appreciated Matt's hospitality and his willingness to share his vast rum knowledge with all of us. :)

Loving Annie said...

That was quite the rum tasting !

I like my rum best over bread pudding, in a butter-sugar sauce :)

Loving Annie

Olivia said...

Matt didn't tell you the code to open up the Obsello? Cheeky monkey wanted it all for himself.