Bahama Bob's Rumstyles

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Florida Governor Rick Scott Vetoes Liquor Wall Bill

Gov. Rick Scott
     Florida's so-called "liquor wall" won't be coming down after all.  Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill late Wednesday that would have removed a Prohibition-era law requiring liquor to be sold in separate stores from groceries and other retail items.

     Twenty-nine other states have similar laws that allow spirits in the grocery aisles, but the bill gained stiff opposition from social conservatives concerned it would lead to increased alcohol consumption, alcoholism and underage drinking.   Yet it wasn't those concerns that swayed Scott. It was the pleas of independent liquor store owners and workers that led to his veto.   "I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida," Scott wrote in his veto letter. "I was a small business owner, and many locally owned businesses have told me how this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs."

     Scott gave few clues in the lead-in to his decision, but acknowledged on Tuesday that his family's history with alcoholism - his biological father and brother both suffered from it - gave him pause.   "I've had family members that have had the challenge of alcoholism and it concerns me," Scott told reporters Tuesday. "So as I review the bill, I take all those things into consideration." 

     Big-box retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, pushed for the bill the past four years and don't appear to be giving up on the idea.    "There is a clear momentum in Florida for this common-sense approach to liquor sales," said Michael Williams, spokesman for Floridians for Fair Business Practices, an advocacy group backed by Wal-Mart and Target. "We look forward to working with state leaders in the future to finally put an end to this outdated, Prohibition-era law."

     The bill was one of the most heavily lobbied pieces of legislation this year. As big retailers pushed for the measure, independent liquor stores and Orlando-based ABC Fine Wine & Spirits fought against it. Publix, which has gone to the expense of setting up liquor stores next -to its grocery stores, also opposed the legislation.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Here is What Those Who Responded to Yesterday's Blog are Asking For

     I kind of got the results that I thought from my question in yesterday's blog.  There are thousands of rums on the market and it a very difficult to know myself what they are with out a guide book.  For the customer at the bar it is even more difficult.  Here recently, there has been a real push for better classification of rum, something more substantial that just gold, dark, spiced or flavored. A prominent group of rum producers and vendors have gotten together and come up with a new classification system that makes it a lot easier to know what type of rum that you are buying.

     The Gargano Classification system gives buyers a much better understanding of what they are buying and makes it much easier to know the basis of the rums that they are buying.

The Gargano Rum Classification System
  • Pure Single Rum – this would apply to all pure pot-still rums
  • Single Blended Rum – blends of pot-still and column-still rums 
  • Traditional Rum – traditional column-still rum 
  • Agricole Rhums  - Appellation d’ Origine Controlle"  for rums produced on the island of Martinique that meet certain local standards. 
  • Rum – all other rums
This is a a great basis for getting into the ballpark as to what you are buying, but with rum and it's minimal number of rules, there are many different tasting rums is each classification.  As a barman, it is critical for me to have a feel for the rums in the area of taste as well as classification.

     From the comments, you seem to want some one to guide you to a new rum similar to the one you like or in the range of the one you like. " I've tried matching rums to similar whiskeys, both in terms of quality and sweetness. I've never been successful that way, even with long-time friends. However, I think a flight of 3 or 4 rums of similar quality would be a great start. Have the potential "convert" pick her favorite of the flight, then present another flight built on that preference."   I too find this to be an excellent method to finalize a customer's selection.  To this end at the "Speakeasy Inn's Rum Bar", I created a "Rum Run" served in a prohibition era model boat.  Over the years, this has worked very well to finalize the decisions.

     It takes all of the parts of the game to put the correct rum into a customer's hands when you are serving the end customer.  I have found in the past a good list of your rums that is classified, in the past I've used the country of origin, but with a new and viable system of classification this would be the better way, especially if it is the standard industry wide.  But this is only the beginning to get your customer into the ball park.  You have to have the skills of a sommelier to finely get the rum the customer is looking for.

     Thank you for all of the input.  I see this is a great start, and I hope that the industry can agree to a new and accurate classification for the category.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

As a Customer What Do You Need to Know to Switch to Rum

     Today I saw and participated in a really interesting debate about how rums should be presented on a menu of the restaurant or bar.  I know what I try to do as a barman, but it is really interesting to me so see what your feelings on the subject are.

     If you are a whiskey category drinker and I was trying to convince you to try rum, what do you want to know to get you to try a rum?  There are people that feel that they can offer you types of rums based on flavor or color in a menu form.  Others believe that rums can be presented as a list and let you rely on the server or barman to guide you like the sommelier would in the world of wine.   Some bring up the idea of price point to separate the expressions.

     What I'm doing here is asking you to comment here on the blog and give me a feeling on what would be more likely to bring you over to trying a rum.  I spend a lot of time with customers that are whiskey and other spirit drinkers and need the help from the customers as what information they need to try a rum.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Water With Your Rum, What a Concept

     There is a push on to get people to have a glass of water between drinks containing alcoholic beverages.  This is a concept that has been around for years and is quite effective in slowing the on come of intoxication.   Water is not usually offered to customers for free at establishments that serve alcoholic beverages, but there is a campaign in Europe and Great Britain that calls on trade venues to act on this concept.
     Many bars and nightclubs have signed on to this scheme and now are indicating that they will serve complimentary water to customers.  In addition, five major retail chains placed more than 650,000 neck hangers on bottles to encourage consumers to follow the guidelines when consuming alcohol at home.  

     “The objective is to slow the pace of drinking, reduce dehydration that occurs when consuming alcohol, and favor moderation on a night out.”   With the pressure on in many country and states to lower the level of blood alcohol from 0.08% to 0.05% for operation of motor vehicles, it is a good way to be able to enjoy an evening out without the risk of a D.U.I. going home afterwards.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

26th Annual Minimal Regatta at Schooner Wharf Sunday

Open Class Boats
     Memorial Day Weekend is at hand this week and one of the most fun events of the year happens at Schooner Wharf.  The 26th Annual Minimal Regatta is here.  A very “serious “ group of very creative boat builders have spent many hours creating their “scientifically” designed vessels for this fabulous race.
     Supplies are limited, but the creativity is endless at Schooner Wharf Bar on Sunday, May 27 for the 21st Annual Schooner Wharf Minimal Regatta.  Each 6 member team must build a boat seaworthy enough to stay afloat for the entire race course in the Key West Bight in front of Schooner Wharf. The catch---the boats are made of plywood, fasteners, duct tape, and 2' x 4's.  Construction kits can be bought at co-sponsor Manley de Boer on Eaton Street at a “minimal” price.


Minimal Regatta Construction Rules

  • One sheet of 4' x 8' x 1/4" plywood
  • Two 2"x 4" 8'
  • One pound of fasteners
  • One roll of 2" x 60 yard duct tape
  • No caulking or adhesives - Epoxy paint is permitted
  • Painting of boats is optional


Kayak Class
     There are two categories of “Minimal Vessels” -- Kayak/Canoe Design & Open Design. Competitors will win prizes in each design group for Fastest - 1st & 2nd Place. Other prizes are awarded for the Most Creative Design - 1st & 2nd Place, Best Paint Job, Best Costumed Entry, Sportsmanship Award, and Sinker Award.

     The $20 entry fee this year will benefit the Wounded Warriors Caribbean Cruise (46 Special Forces Group Association). Veterans on therapeutic leave from the Bethesda Navy and Walter Reed Army hospitals in Maryland enjoy a Caribbean cruise while escorted by members of the local VFW Post 3911.   “We make sure all their needs are taken care of, along with the veterans’ airfare and hotel stays,” said Ed Moran, commander of VFW Post 3911. “We’re excited to be a part of the Minimal Regatta and appreciative of its support for this Wounded Warrior project.”

 
Sinker Class oops
    Regatta registration opens at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 27 with vessel inspection at 12:30 p.m. Spectators have a chance to get an up close look of the ingenious vessels and fun team costumes. There will be a course demonstration between 1:15 and 1:30 p.m., followed by a conch shell start by Captain Morgan.


 
The Aftermath of the Tough Racing LOL

Monday, May 22, 2017

Seeing The Public Enjoying Hemingway Rum Company

Pilar Today
     After a couple of weeks of soft openings at the Hemingway Rum Company it was a lot of fun to have a couple of days with the public.  I had a chance to see many friends that I hadn't seen since my retirement from the bar business a little over a year and a half ago.   The only drawback was that with nearly 500 or so people a day coming through the tasting bar, I wasn't able to spend much time with any of them. 


Ernest Hemingway
      I have watched Carlton Grooms and his crew working on this project for nearly four years now and I'm really happy to see the stress leave his face today when the VIP stuff finished up and the store opened up to the public.  Part of the reward for all their work came when the store was filled with people from the start on Saturday at 9 am. 


     Seeing the tribute to Ernest Hemingway's adventurous nature
Hemingway Wall
being the central theme of the store and the good quality rum being made in his honor is a wonderful thing to be around.  There are so many photographs of his exciting life, especially here in Key West that are built into the bar along with the ones on the Hemingway wall in the distillery area.  These help you to feel a part of this mans love of life and all the adventures that he lived.




Hemingway Rum Company Solera
     If you weren't able to attend this past weekends festivities, be sure to stop by one your next visit to Key West and see the Hemingway Rum Company at the corner of Greene and Simonton Streets.  It is a tour of adventure and rum, unlike any other anywhere.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Walked Out to Meet My New Neighbor

     Yesterday morning, I heard some squawking outside and looked up to be greeted by a new visitor on the sailboat next door.  It looks like a young Osprey, but he was anxious to say hi to his new neighbor and let everyone in the marina know that he was here.

     The Osprey is one of my favorite birds here in the Florida Keys, they are so majestic and beautiful to see.  They soar like an eagle, which makes sense, because they are a part of the eagle family.  Very efficient at snatching fish from the ocean with a high speed swoop over the surface of the water.  hey make their nests at the top of poles and other very tall places.






































    Say Hey to my new neighbor.



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Hemingway Rum Company Now Open to the Public

Hemingway Rum Company

     After four years of work, the Hemingway Rum Company is finally open to the public today.  The public may visit the distillery between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm seven days a week.  You can stop by, take a tour, enjoy the Hemingway experience, sample our rum, enjoy the trading post and even buy a bottle of the rum to take home with you.   Under the guidance of Carlton Grooms, this magnificent distillery, museum and trading post is now open for all to experience.


Hamilton 350 Gallon Still
      Visitors can view the Hamilton Pot Still, that can produce up to 80 gallons of rum per day.  Guests will also be treated to an interactive displays, which allows them to learn many of the factors involved with the production of rum.  There are many unique attractions throughout the tour that pay tribute to “Papa” as Hemingway was known, including a swivel picture wall and several other displays of interest.  Following the tour, patrons will be provided a sampling experience of Papa’s Pilar dark and blonde rums in the facility’s Tasting Room, which includes a Hemingway inspired bar top, filled with newspaper clippings, photographs and other memorabilia.
     Visitors will be treated to interactive displays that will allow them to see, smell and follow the active of producing the rums.  Following the tour, patrons will be provided a sampling experience of ingredients and steps that are a part of making each of the rum expression.   Special exhibits throughout the tour pay tribute to “Papa” as Hemingway was known, including a swivel picture wall, the solera and all of the other parts Papa’s Pilar dark and blonde rums in the facility’s Tasting Room, which includes a Hemingway inspired bar top, filled with newspaper clippings, photographs and other memorabilia.

Trading Post and Tasting Bar
     Carlton “Carl” Grooms, Key West Director of Operations, will manage the production of the award-winning rums, with the help of four full-time managers and 40 part-time employees, whom are all local Key West residents.  “We’re excited to have created both a destination that will serve as the physical heart and soul of our brand, as well as an asset for the city of Key West,” said Grooms. “Our guests will be truly engaged and amazed with this unique experience. A trip to Key West will no longer be complete without a visit.”

For more information, please visit www.papaspilar.com,“like” us on  Facebook http://www.facebook.com/PapasPilarRum

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bahama Bob's Ginger Mint Daiquiri

     Summertime is Daiquiri time.  Down here in the keys on a hot and humid summer day, there is nothing nicer that a unique daiquiri.   I got fooling around with a new syrup that I made and found that it is very versatile for summer cocktails.  Everyone knows about the mojito and julep, all popular mint cocktails, but I was looking for something minty different.

     I came on the idea of mixing a nice dark rum with some ginger and my new mint syrup.  I went to work on the idea and came up with this one.

Bahama Bob's Ginger Mint Daiquiri


  • 1 1/2 oz. Cartavio Black Barrel Rum
  • 1/2 oz. King's Ginger Liqueur
  • 1/2 oz. Bahama Bob's Mint Syrup


Place all ingredients in a shake with ice and shake until chilled.  Pour into a fluted rocks glass along with the ice.  Garnish with a mint sprig.

Bahama Bob's Mint Syrup

  • 1 Cup of Sugar in the Raw
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 4 Sprigs of Fresh Mint

Place sugar and water into a sauce pan.  Strip the mint from the stalk and crush with a rolling pin. Put on high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved lower heat to 170 degrees and add mint leaves.   Allow to slow boil for 2 to 3 minutes at 170 degrees and turn off the heat.  Allow to steep for 30 minutes and strain into a suitable container.  Keep in refrigerator, good for about two or three weeks.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Summer Parties and Over Boozing

     Summer is the season of endless indoor and outdoor boozy celebrations.  The season has arrived and the time to be out on the water, hiking in the mountains, or just parties in the yard.  Tis the season when alcohol is everywhere and can easily be overdone .   The big thing is that this is a normal event that happens every year, but what concerns me is that fun loving people don’t overdo it.
   
     Outdoor concerts and festivals are great places to party and enjoy an adult beverage of six, but make sure that you have a safe way home.  Have a designated driver, uber, lyft, taxi or public transportation, just don’t be driving after these outings.   Then there's the message that alcohol brings wild and crazy adventures into our lives, but it isn’t the alcohol, it is you.  The alcohol is just a facilitator that gives you the nerve to do what you would really like to do anyway.


     Many of your friends are picturing their drinking and party exploits on their twitter and Facebook pages daily.  Facebook offers more people lovingly hugging a bottle than hugging their spouses, but that is just people releasing the stress of a week that has had 5 days to build up with only 2 days to release it is why you will see a lot of the partying .  Turning to booze in tense times has much to do in our fast-paced lives, we want everything to happen lightning fast, even our stress relief, just down a couple drinks and everything will be good, we think anyway.   But not really.  "The bothersome thing is that it can becomes a habit, almost a reflex, to combat stress.  Being legal lends alcohol has an unspoken approval, but it has consequences if overdone.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Don Q Rum Has Released Reserva de la Familia Serralles

Roberto Serralles


     Roberto Serralles has released one of the most expensive and exclusive rums in the world.  They have released Don Q Reserva de la Familia Serralles 20 year old drawn from their most special barrels.  Available in the United States for around $1899.99 for a 750 ml.  



     In 1994, the Serralles family tasked themselves with aging a special rum in charred American white oak barrels. From this original lot of 36 barrels, the best samples were chosen for the creation of a truly sublime blend. This singular blend was combined and returned to the charred barrels for a few months so a balance between aroma and taste could be achieved. This special lot was named Reserva de la Familia Serralles, producing a rum robust in color and aroma, with a very silky and refined taste in the palate. The contact with the wood gives it a natural dark amber color which is both intense and brilliant. Its aroma has notes of vanilla oak, sweet air, touch of burnt wood and even a slight taste of molasses, which help build the character of this exceptional rum. It is deliciously smooth in the mouth while the sweet notes of rum are distributed evenly throughout the palate. Its aroma awakens the senses and at first sip sends a wave of warmth to the heart, literally in the center of the chest, where the spirit of a great rum is meant to be felt. Flavors linger for a while forever tied to the memory of a unique experience. 

     A masterpiece of the finest aged rums drawn from hand selected 20 year old single barrels from a special place in the oldest rum warehouses. Honey and exquisite nose that lingers with the woody essence of the rackhouse in which it has slept for so long. Sweet, bright honey notes with the elegance and complexity of an ancient cognac that gives way to warm tannins and a lingering mahogany and fig finish with notes of apricot. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Barefoot Man in Key West this Week




     George Barefoot Man Nowak with Sea 'n B, one of the most fun entertainers around will be back in Key West this week. Barefoot Man kept the full to capacity crowd fully engaged for you  last year and is returning for some more fun on Friday and Saturday.  First he will be at Two Friends on Front Street will have George Barefoot Nowak with Sea 'n B in concert at 5:30 pm this Friday the 19th.  Plus a second concert Saturday the 20th at Truman Annex Multi - Complex Field at 7ish.

   George Barefoot Nowak, is a resident of Grand Cayman who can be found entertaining all over the Caribbean entertaining his hordes of fans.   Probably best known for his shows at Nipper's on Great Guana Cay in the Abacos Islands of the Bahamas.   His annual concerts there are always SRO and last from 1:00 in the afternoon until deep into the night.  His way of looking at life with the thoughts of "there might be a song there" eye for situations that when looked at with fun and great humor.  Playing weekly in Grand Cayman at the Wyndam Reef and Margaritaville Resort on Seven Mile beach, we are pleased that he is spending a weekend here in Key West to entertain us.
My Friend George in Grand Cayman

     He has been in movies like "the Firm" with Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman, along with playing nearly every week in Grand Cayman at the Wharf on Seven Mile Beach and The Reef on the east end of the island.

     I know, you probably haven't heard of him, but I promise you, if he is near, sit in on one of his
sessions, you'll be a fan for life.   I had several friends with me yesterday that became instant fans.  We all had a great time listening to life through the creative eye of The Barefoot Man.  Thank You George for another wonderful afternoon of listening to your stories and music.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Appleton Estate’s Joy Spence on the Brand’s Most Premium Blend Yet

     Rum seems to be having its moment. The spirit, a former component of seafarer's grog, has found a new audience in recent years. “Millennials!” shrieks Joy Spence, Appleton Estate’s celebrated master blender - the first woman in the world to hold the title and the brains behind Appleton’s new "Joy Anniversary Blend".
     “From London to Kingston, attitudes are changing,” explains Joy Spence.  “Young professionals between 25-40 years-old are actually drinking their rum neat and enjoying it for its sophistication and complexities.” Appleton’s new blend, an exclusive mix limited to only 1200 bottles, is sure to sate this newfound appetite.  As the name suggests, Appleton’s Joy Anniversary Blend is a celebration of their master blender, a woman whose superhuman sensory perception, chemical nous, she retains the highest BSc chemistry results in Loughborough University’s history, and larger-than-life character have propelled her to fame amongst the international rum community.
     “It’s called Joy, because that’s what people feel when they taste this blend for the first time - it also happens to be my name,” she jokes. A more appropriate name for the copper-colored rum might be "epiphany" - so revelatory is the flavor profile of the drink - but few names other than Joy best suit the vivacious mastermind behind the beverage.  “People are looking for a pure drink where all the flavors are derived from the process,” she says, stroking the curves of her namesake bottle, “there’s no additives in there”.
Joy Spence
     Much has been made lately of the so-called "rum revolution" and it’s artisanal drinks like this that are sinking the drink’s barnacled reputation as a pirate’s preserve. Tiki no more: premium rum is big business. Unlike wine, rum isn’t going to develop with age but - if you choose your bottle carefully - you could see a hefty return on your investment.  “The standard rum category is pretty flat” says Joy, “but premium rum is going to be hot. It’s predicted to be the next whisky.” Blessed with an indefinite shelf-life, to uncork a bottle of rum is to be transported to a moment in history. The Joy Anniversary blend for instance, is comprised of a 35-year-old and a 25-year-old matured rum - Jamaicans have gone mad for the stuff.
Read More at appletonestate.com
     Appleton Estate Joy rum can be sampled today at the Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn here in Key West.  This is a wonderful fum worth every penny of its price and can only be tasted in the finest rum bars around the world.




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Grand Opening for Hemingway Rum Company







 
     After nearly four years of hard work, the Hemingway Rum Company Distillery and Trading Post will be opening its doors to the public on Saturday May 20th.  This is an exciting day for all of those that have worked on this project since the beginning.  Congratulations to all involved, and on your next visit to Key West, stop by the corner on Greene and Simonton streets and visit the Hemingway Rum Company.



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bahama Bob's Papa's Pilar Blonde Cosmo

     Sex and the City was promoting the sweet pink drink to the masses, Sasha Petraske was opening Milk & Honey on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A speakeasy in which the bartenders made cocktails focused on true craftsmanship, they were drinks that sought to challenge the consumer, not simply provide them with an easy delivery method for booze. As music too was reacting to the bubblegum pop of this time period, drinks were as well and Sex and the City created The Cosmo.

     The exact origin of the Cosmopolitan is fuzzy at best, mostly because until the late ‘80s it was a similar drink that went by a different name.  In the late nineteenth century a cocktail was known as the Daisy, it emerged as a delicious drink that was loved for its ability to modify harsher flavors of booze. The classic recipe called for spirit, sweetener and citrus, which is similar to the structure of the Cosmo – this recipe is now known as the classic “sour family” recipe, because cranberry isn’t a citrus, it’s possible that this proven drink structure is the foundation for which the Cosmo is based.


     I prefer the use of a nice rum which unlike vodka has some flavor of its own and marries well with the other ingredients of the cocktail.  Give this one a try I feel like you will be really surprised.


Bahama Bob's Papa Pilar Blonde Cosmo



  • 3 oz. Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum
  • 1 oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao
  • Juice of ½ Lime
  • 1 oz. Cranberry Juice
Place all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon zest.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Don Papa is Arriving in the United States

     Filipino rum brand Don Papa is set to launch in the US for the first time following “rapid success” in Europe and Asia.  Don Papa Seven Year old Rum, produced by Bleeding Heart Rum Company, a single island super-premium rum is arriving on our shores. It is made from sugar cane grown on the southern island of Negros, and then aged for seven years in American oak in the foothills of Mount Kanlooon before also being blended and bottled on Negros Island.   Don Papa will be available initially in New York and Boston, and will be rolled out to select retailers nationwide at an RRP of $39.99. Bottled at 40% abv, Don Papa is described as light and fruity on the nose with flavors of vanilla, honey and candied fruits.    “The US is ready for a ground-breaking luxury spirit that embodies their passions in a bottle. They are ready for Don Papa Rum,” said Stephen Carroll, founder of Don Papa.

Dionisio Magbuelas - Papa Isio
     Don Papa rum is named after one of the heroes of Negros Occidental.  On November 6, 2009, the National Historical Institute of the Philippines unveiled a historical marker in honor of Dionisio Magbuelas at the public plaza of Isabela, Negros Occidental.   The marker states, Papa Isio was known to be a leader in Negros and organized a group in Isabela fighting for freedom from the Spanish colonizers in 1896. He became the military chief of the municipality of La Castellana under the Cantonal Government of Negros in November 1898. He also fought the American colonizers in 1899-1907, surrendered on August 6, 1907, and died at the Manila Bilibid Prison in 1911.  A well suited name for a rum made on Negro Occidental for the one of their beloved leaders.
     Don Papa is a premium aged small batch rum from the isle of Negros Occidental, the Philippines. Distilled from some of the finest sugar cane in the world, Don Papa is first aged 7 years in oak barrels in the foothills of Mount Kanlaon before being blended to perfection. 
Negros Occidental is and has always been the sugar capital of the Philippines. Due to the perfect combination of climate, geography and the rich volcanic soil on the island, Negros is ideally suited for sugar cane production.
And, where there is sugar you will find rum. Where there is rum, you will find Don Papa.
Light and fruity on the nose whilst smooth and delicate on the palate, the light amber colored Don Papa has a long, rich-textured finish and offers flavors of vanilla, honey and candied fruits.




Thursday, May 11, 2017

What in the World are Congeners

     There are a lot of things that come out of a still beside alcohol in the production of spirits.  We hear about some of the bad booze that are loaded with things like fusel oils, esters, and water.  These are the result of sloppy distillation.  Without getting to deep into the long chain carbon molecules of organic chemistry, I'll try to explain about these impurities.  When to cut the heads from the hearts from the tails determines the quality of the distillate.   What are these impurities that are getting into some of the cheaper spirits out there.  Your better quality spirits spend time and money to get rid of many of these impurities, but you have to be careful, because some of them also give you the flavors that are enjoyed by the consumers.  All of these impurities are part of a group known as “congeners”.

     To the alcohol producing industry, congeners are substances, other than the ethanol, produced during fermentation. These substances include small amounts of chemicals such as methanol and other alcohols, known as fusel alcohols, acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, tannins and aldehydes. Congeners are responsible for most of the taste and aroma of distilled alcoholic beverages, and contribute to the taste of non-distilled drinks.  These substances contribute to the symptoms of a hangover as well.

     Esters get far less attention than they should.  Esters are flavor compounds responsible for many of the characteristic tastes we know very well, like Propyl acetate (Pears), Octyl acetate (Oranges), Isoamyl acetate (Banana), Ethyl butyrate (Pineapple), Butyl acetate (Apple), Methyl trans-cinnamate (Strawberry) and Ethyl cinnamate(Cinnamon).   The problem with esters is that a little goes a long way.  Most have detection thresholds measured in parts per billion.  Many have an odor detection threshold in water of 1 part per billion, in comparison, ethanol in air has an odor detection threshold of about 50 parts per million.  

     Fusel alcohols or also sometimes called fusel oils are a mixture of several alcohols, chiefly amyl alcohol produced as a by-product of alcoholic fermentation.  The word fusel is German for "bad liquor".   A by-product of carbohydrate fermentation to produce ethyl alcohol.  The material varies widely in composition, depending on the fermentation raw material used.  Described as an oily liquid with a disagreeable odor; 60% boils at 122-138° making it primarily a part of the "heads" that would be discarded.   Amyl alcohol (commercial) obtained by chemical treatment and refining of fusel oil.

     There are processes in the production of spirits that address the removal of many of these congeners, esters, and fusel oils, while assuring that some of the more beneficial congeners are left behind.  That relate to the temperature that the cut between the heads, the hearts, and the tails are made. and how many times the final product is passes through the still.  When all of the impurities are removed or at least to a point of 95% pure ethanol, you have a neutral spirit, or Vodka.  To allow some of the flavor to be left in the distillate, how the cuts are made and how many times they are passed through the still is where the skills of the distiller come into play.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Distilling Process and How it Effects the Final Product

     Ethanol is the “good” type of alcohol that we consume, hopefully with party hats on! Congeners are a mix of other alcohols, acids, fats, and so on. Congeners are what give a spirit its unique taste. Some congeners are pleasant tasting while others are nasty. Controlling which congeners end up in your bottle is a big part of the distiller’s skills.

     Distillation is what turns a mash of fermentation into something you might want to drink.  Distillation might sound complicated and wizard-like, but it certainly can be.  The basics of the concepts are very easy.  Simply put, distillation is a way of concentrating the good parts of the fermented mash, and leaving behind the less desirable elements.  Using heat to break apart the various elements of the mash, a distiller can select just the desirable components. Of course, sloppy distillation can leave lots of the bad stuff, which makes hangover’s particularly nasty. That’s one reason why higher end spirits are less likely to cause you a hangover after you consumed the same amount of the cheaper spirit.

     If you were to take a pot 
of water from a mud puddle and place it in a still on the hot stove with a thermometer in it, heat the water temperature to around 212 degrees F.  As it approaches 212 F, the steam would start coming off the muddy water.   This is the water changing state from liquid to gas.   Now let’s keep the water boiling for a good long time and watch the thermometer. No matter how high you turn up the heat, the water won’t get hotter than 212 F. Sure, turning up the heat makes the water turn into steam faster, but the liquid will stay at 212. This is the fact that allows you to separate the water from the “muck”.  The steam leaves the “pot” and travels to the condenser, what is left is pure water.  This is the basis, but there are a few other items involved. 

     Everything that is condensed that comes off the still before it reaches 212 degrees are the “heads” of the distillation and need to be discarded.  When the water temperature levels at 212 degrees the output is pure water or the “hearts” of the distillation.  The collection of the distillate continues until the temperature in the pot starts rising again.  This means that the water is gone and the other materials are turning to vapor.  What is collected at this point, what comes out from there on is called the “tails”.
Late 1700 to Early 1800 Pot Still

     The Still of room temperature fermented mash is now heated up to 173 degrees the boiling point of ethanol.  What you’d observe is the temperature is rising and pauses and then starts rising again until the temperature for in the still levels off at 173 degrees. That vapor is simply the ethanol in gaseous form.   As long as ethanol is remaining in the solution, the temperature stays at 173 degrees.   Eventually all the ethanol boils off and we notice the solution’s temperature starts rising again.  Once it starts to rise, all the ethanol is gone from the mash and the collection needs to be stopped. At this point different vapors other than ethanol begin coming off the liquid. As with the water, the solution’s temperature stays steady till all the ethanol has been vaporized off. Once this happens we’re left with just plain old water and other dregs.
Laboratory Pot Still

Chill the outside of this vapor tube cooling the vapor faster, perhaps bathing the tubing in some cool water for example.  This is the essence of fractional distillation!  How do you know which liquid is coming out of the tubing? That’s easy! Look at the thermometer. Knowing the temperature of the liquid you can infer what’s boiling, and hence what’s coming out of the tube in cooled form. If all you want is ethanol, only collect the liquid that’s coming out when the thermometer reads 173 F.

     Of course, distillation is never quite so cut and dried. While the ethanol is boiling off, the occasional congener molecule (the flavor, you’ll recall) or water gets carried along in the rising ethanol vapor. As a result, the cooled liquid you collect has more ethanol than you started with, but also some amount of water and congeners.  You can redistill the resulting mix to further purify it. When a vodka advertises exactly how many times it’s distilled, this is exactly what they’re doing, removing impurities and congeners with each distillation run. On the other hand, congeners also contain the components that give each type of spirit its distinct taste.   The congeners in tequila taste different than the congeners in rum.  Using heat-based distillation, you can’t get above 95% purity of ethanol, no matter how many times you distill. It turns out that water molecules bond to ethanol molecules and more elaborate methods are needed to strip the water out if you needed a higher alcohol percentage. This is not coincidentally why Vodka by definition is 95% alcohol, as it comes off of the still, also known as a “neutral spirit”.

Modern Column Still
     The beauty of distillation is that it can be performed multiple times, each time further concentrating the desired elements and leaving out the undesirable. Much of the differences between brands of spirits come down to How many times the liquid was distilled, what type of still was used and where in the boiling process the distiller started and stopped collecting the finished product.

     Some spirits have legal requirements about the minimum or maximum alcohol content they must be distilled to. Note that this is not the same as the final alcohol percentage in in the bottle. Many spirits are distilled to much higher alcohol percentages, aged in barrels, and then water is added to bring the final bottled result down to more palatable alcohol levels, typically between 40% and 50%.   Bourbon cannot legally be distilled to more than 80% alcohol, but before it’s put into barrels, it must be no more than 62.5% alcohol.  Compare that to vodka which is typically distilled to 95% alcohol.  It’s easy to see that bourbon has many more congeners in it so has far more taste than vodka ever will.


     A huge part of the spirit-making craft is controlling the distillation process. Knowing when to start and stop collecting is just one part of the story. Every batch of starting mash is different and the distiller’s craft is to know how to adjust things to create an optimal distillate to get the final results they are looking for.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Foursquare Offering New Expression That Will be Coming to the United States Soon.

Richard Editing the Labels
     Richard Seale and Foursquare Distillery of Barbados have recently announced their new newest expression "Criterion".  The really good news unlike some of the other fabulous expressions, this one is coming soon to the United States.  Richard has been producing a string of very special expressions over the past years, but most of them go the the European market and never reach the United States shores.


Madeira Casks Ready to Empty
     Criterion is a very special new expression, because it starts off as a blend of pot and column stilled rums that after blending spends three years in previously filled bourbon barrels followed by seven more years in previously filled Madeira barrels. The expression is bottled at 56% ABV to preserve the beautiful color and flavor. 

     Criterion is the third of the wine cask finished expressions that Richard Seale has released, Port, Zinfandel, and now Madeira.  I'm so excited that this one is coming to the United States.  Madeira is a fortified wine available in a range of dry to sweet styles.   It gets its name from the island of Madeira, a small, beautiful rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.   Madeira’s unique taste comes from repeatedly heating the wine.   The heating creates a wine with fascinating flavors of roasted nuts, stewed fruit, caramel, and toffee.

      Criterion: n. cri·te·ri·on \krī-ˈtir-ē-ən also krə-\   1: a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based.   The name just fits, both in the way the rum is produced and the way that the man insists on how it is made and the inherent quality of his products.



Monday, May 8, 2017

Vodka or Rum?

     “Island Company Rum has offered a new “new ultra-premium” spirit, that was created to appeal to both rum lovers and vodka lovers alike. It is a blonde rum with virtually no burn and has even less calories than your favorite liquor.”  Vodka by definition is clear and tasteless. “I wanted to make a rum that women could drink straight and that appealed to the sailors and mariners I know throughout the Caribbean,” according to Island Company, founder, Spencer Antle.  The spirit is “blonde” which immediately takes it out of the vodka category.  The spirit was obviously taken to the point where it became a “neutral spirit” before being aged for three years.   The rum may be good. “Handcrafted in Trinidad and five times distilled for purity, but that is just moving out of the rum category and into the neutral spirit category.  Once you strip the conigers from the wash, you raise the percentage of alcohol and remove the flavors.  You have to make a choice, are you a neutral spirit or a rum?
     There a number of very good rums that can be substituted into cocktails that were originally based on vodka, but the flavor of the light rum will add new notes to the cocktail that will bring a once good and popular cocktail to the level of a premium cocktail.  I believe in the fact that rum really has no rules, but honesty has to be the new rule of rum.  You can’t turn your wash to “vodka by stripping all of the character, flavor and color from the distillate and bring it back to being rum by barreling it.  This is a gray area, but it is still for the most part a neutral spirit even though the barrel has put flavor back into the spirit “naturally”.
     You can’t have it two ways, vodka has no flavor profile, yet what you are saying there is a flavor profile.  “Island Company Rum® has hints of natural vanilla and wild honey. On the palette, this blonde rum is effortlessly smooth with virtually no burn. The clean, gluten free, sugar free, zero carb quality of Island Company Rum® goes easy on the body as well, perfect any time of the day or night, at any bar or on any beach.”


     This may well be a wonderful product, but there are a lot of clean rums out there that can replace vodka in cocktails just like vodka did to gin, but they are still rum.  Passing rum off as vodka is a real problem.