Friday, 29 November 2013

A Rum Do

I love rum.  Absolutely love it.  Hands down, the best fun you can have with a spirit.  But there are rums and rums.  White rum (not mentioning any names) leaves me fairly cold; the rough heat in the back of the throat allied with the paint-stripper nose make for a fairly unhappy man.  It is through the aging process that we begin to see the potential fulfilled and the finesse which can be achieved.
I am a lucky sod, and through our travels, Mrs W-J and I have had the opportunity to visit some rum distilleries in the Caribbean. Through these trips we have had the chance to see the differences which can be achieved through various aging processes and indeed the wood in which the rum is eventually aged.
At Plumpton College (East Sussex - - OK Chris?) we study wood and its effect on wine maturation, the type of wood, time spent in barrel etc.  In fact this is a key bit of info for WSET exams, particularly in relation to Rioja.  More on that another time.
A good example of this is Bruichladdich Premier Cru series (available all over, including Majestic if I didn't drink them out of it) where the scotch is aged in a variety of different barrels whose former life was as housing for permier cru French wine.  The differences between each of the series (Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion, D'Yquem, Lafleur) is absolutely apparent.  The sweet, honeyed d'Yquem is a different animal entirely to the more robust smoky Haut-Brion.  I would recommend buying and tasting the whole range but at around 56 quid a shout, you'd be better off just drinking the d'Yquem (trust me).
Which brings me back around the the rum which landed on my doorstep the other day
The Dos Maderas PX 5+5

And what a little ripper she is too!  Courtesy of Harrods (yes I know) this rum is truly sensational.  The rum is a blend of rums from Guyana and Barbados which undergo 5 years aging in the Caribbean in oak barrels. The rum is then shipped to Jerez where a second maturation of 5 years is undertaken in both Palo Cortado (light sherry - 3 years) and finally 2 years in sweet sticky Pedro Ximenez barrels.  If you are not familiar with PX then it is an extremely sweet sherry style which you can practically spread with a knife.  
The resulting product is fantastic!  Sweet, smooth, smoky and dark, this rum has all the warmth with none of the burn.  The nose is honey and caramel with a dark stately-home-on-fire rich smokiness.  On the palate, as I said, it is smooth beyond belief with a caramel spice which goes on for miles.  Buy it.  Don't worry about the price. (It's about 45 quid)

Another premium rum well worth a look is the gorgeous:

Admiral Rodney
I had the pleasure of visiting the St Lucia distillery where this is made, and what an operation it is!  The Island no longer produces cane for the rum, as such molasses are imported from Guyana but the final product is pure St Lucia, luxury with a bit of mystery thrown in.  The Admiral Rodney is one of the top rums produced at the site, and is a blend which averages out to 12 years in style.  The aging is carried out in ex bourbon barrels which are heavily charred on the inside which gives this rum it's smoky character.  The nose of this wine is full of dried fruit.  Think figs and raisins.  The palate is warm, indulgent and rich, with an elegant burn on the back which reminds you you're drinking something.  I buy this rum whenever I can (s'not cheap), and recommend you to do so.  If you ever need a refined drinking rum, then this is the one to go for.

From the same distillery as the Admiral Rodney comes one of the best all round rums on the market, Chairman's Reserve.  The standard is absolutely perfect for your day-to-day rum needs, lovely on its own, with some lime and sugar, or in cocktails.  The colour is appealing, lighter than the two above, more of a golden hue.  On the palate it is light, rich with complexity  and long.  The flavours hint a little at what can be seen in the Admiral Rodney but come across cleaner and a little rougher (which is no bad thing). 

I did come across a little beauty at the airport coming home last time, and the story is fabulous.  It also serves as a good example of what I was saying earlier - more wood = different tastes.  

The Forgotten Casks

In 2007, a fire ripped through the distillery offices at the St Lucia site, it missed the still and most of the stock (phew), but did cause a lot of the barrels to be moved around, just to be on the safe side. This ended up in some of the casks being put in "unusual" places, and subsequently....misplaced.  What came out, however is a testament to wood aging.  The smoke is intense, and the palate almost tannic.  This is a rum for people who drink Madiran and stand-your-fork-in-it malbec.  The rum is full of structure and length.   A fine tribute to a happy mistake.

On to Barbados, the happiest island I ever did see.

You've heard of Mount Gay rum.  It's probably to most well known of the "not Lambs or Bacardi" rums readily available in the UK.  The standard Mount Gay is a go-to drink for most of my friends, almost interchangeable in terms of quality and drinkability with Chairman's Reserve, the bottle of Mount Gay brought to a party is always welcome.  I drink it with lime and sugar until I start to talk like a pirate, then I put soda in it.  Pure bottle joy.

And like the St Lucia distillers, Mount Gay make a series of rums in different styles, I missed out on drinking the super premium (by a matter of hours it was that good apparently) so unfortunately I can't talk about it here but I did extensively test the 

Mount Gay Extra Old

With utter joy.  This rum is perfect.  The added age gives it subtleties and complexity of flavour.  Nutty almost biscuitty (gingerbread) notes on the nose and a warm toasty oakiness on the palate.  I should really have written down what I was thinking at the time, but I was having too much fun.  Drink it neat.  On ice.  DO NOT MIX IT WITH VODKA AND CALL IT A RUMTINI THAT IS NOT A THING.

over and out.  

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Majestic Greats

My wine life properly began when I started working at Majestic Wine Guildford just after my career as a teacher foundered somewhat on the rocks of a group of Spanish teenagers.  I took the job as a bit of a taster to see if the wine world was for me, and just get my foot in the door.  The regime I joined was well known throughout the chain due mostly to our charismatic dictator Justin Lazenby. His "go hard or go home" attitude to stock management, and ruthless stock procurement procedures made it a fast paced exciting place to work.  What did and does make Majestic such a good place to start out is the educational way that the role of the tasting counter is used within the store.  It gives the staff the opportunity to taste the wines which are sold in the store and furthers knowledge of the products which really helps the staff get a better grasp of what's on offer and allows them to speak with a more confidence about the wines.  I will never forget the staff tastings which our leader led on quiet afternoons: Justin's unique single-nostril smelling technique is one particular facet which will always stick in my mind.  
I drink a wide variety of wines, and this is in part due to our assistant manager at the time (now glorious leader of the store in his own right) Marc Imig.  Marc is half German and half Australian, and gave me a lot of tuition about these and many other regions.  To this end, I would like to share with you some of the wines which made my staff discount time at Majestic such a worthwhile experience.  I'd like to point out I am no longer affiliated with Majestic, but regard the people I worked with there as friends and feel I can offer a little insight into their selection. 

I'll start with the whites:

Nicolas Potel Bourgogne Chardonnay 2011
This is a really nice clean expression of a white Burgundy.   No oak is used, which leaves the palate expressive and bright.  The aroma is discreet and delicate with butter and white flowers, and the texture is luxurious and rich but with nicely balancing acidity.  The wine pairs well with lightly spiced food.

Domaine de L'Aigle Chardonnay 2012
Limoux is a region which produces some sensational whites, as well as sparklers, and this wine from Gerard Bertand is no exception.  It is a baby Mersault in style, given oak and lees aging which give it levels of complexity you just wouldn't find in a similarly priced Burgundy.  Rich and unctuous, with creamy nutty peachiness on the nose, and a palate which makes a mockery of it's price category.  You will feel like you've got away with murder.

Waimea Estate Pinot Gris 2012
The same grape which makes the blandest thinnest wines available to humanity is capable, in the right hands, of producing some absolute crackers.  This example from Nelson (due west of Wellington on the top of the South Island) is a case-in-point.  The nose sparkles with fresh fruit vibrancy and the palate fair explodes with an ever-so-slightly off-dry fruit ensemble. 

Now on the the reds.....

I'll start with a wine which is very close to my heart.  I bought the 2009 iteration on my very first day at Majestic purely because I liked the bottle.  Turns out you can judge a book by its cover as it turned out to be something of a family favourite, even to this day my father's house is seldom without a bottle or two of CS despite the ever increasing price of it!

Chateau Sénéjac 2010 Cru Bourgeois Haut Médoc
When I bought this first it was about half the label price it is now, which just goes to show how well people are rating it now.  Approachable already this is a mid-weight left bank claret which will not disappoint even the staunchest of Bordelaise elitists.  Soft tannins belie its age and the fruitiness of this young wine make it easy to drink right now (with that good bit of beef) but the structure of it hints at what a classy wine this will be if you keep it.  I always recommend this wine.  I do now.

Dogajolo Carpineto 2012
If I could, I would drink Tiganello all day long and nuts to the rest of it.  I can't really do that (Mrs W-J might have something to say about it) so instead I drink Dogajolo and get on with my life.  This wine provides a lot of what you look for in a super-Tuscan, but offers it at an affordable price.  I know that Plumpton's own Paul Harley shows this in class as an example of the modern super-Tuscan style and it is exactly that.  Affordable decadence.  And isn't that what we're all looking for?  Mid weight with mellow oakiness.  Are you looking for a wine for lasagne night? You found it.

La Casetta Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso (La Casetta for short) 2010
Valpolicella wines are delicate, fruity and elegant, a true northern Italian treat.  What sets ripasso wines apart is the addition of the dried skins from amarone grapes which are added to the wine to give extra oomph.  The result is a meatier beast, with more concentrated fruit and fuller tannin.  This is a stylish wine which will give you a gist of the amarone style without shelling out top dollar for a good one.  The label is also very pretty and shiny purple.

This is just a little sampler of some of the wines which made me give a decent portion of my wage back to the company.  Majestic has a lot of amazing wines, so for these and details of the prices of these wines (which change a lot) head to for more details.