City of Gold
One of the things I love about cocktail bars is that they often offer so much more than simply somewhere do drink. For a cocktailgeek like me, the opportunity to learn more about the spirits I love, and receive tutored tastings (all for free!) is just one of many such ‘added value’ offerings that the top bars are providing for their customers.
Callooh Callay have recently been running a series of such events and, having missed out on the Four Roses and Pernod Absinthe sessions, I was excited to finally be able to make the latest evening tasting El Dorado rum. Now it may seem a little odd to attend a tasting event when I admit to already having three different bottles of El Dorado on my shelf at home. Indeed El Dorado is probably one of my most regularly imbibed rums. However, for me, the fun of these evenings is as much about learning as it is tasting, well, and any excuse to go to Callooh Callay really!
The evening was held in the upstairs members bar which gave me an opportunity to try out my recently acquired key. On arrival I was delighted to see that the wonderful Andrea Montague would be creating our cocktails and was welcomed with a delicious daiquiri given a warming note with some ginger bitters. Over the rest of the evening I sampled many of the other drinks on the specially created menu, and was not to be disappointed. The highlight for me was ‘Down to the River’, a beautiful combination of El Dorado rum, sherry, Christmas spice and artichoke aperitivo.
Our host for the evening was Stefanie Holt, brand ambassador for El Dorado. Unlike other tastings I have been to where everyone sits at their table and a presentation is given, Stefanie took the more informal approach of touring individual tables, bottles in hand, for a more intimate tasting. This worked well in the relatively small confines of the JubJub and gave the opportunity for each table to have a tutorial individually tailored to them. My table consisted of some rather well seasoned cocktailians and so we opted for learning “geeky stuff” when Stefanie asked what we wanted to know. We were treated to a detailed explanation of the intricacies of distilling El Dorado, and in particular the problems faced by using wooden stills. As you might guess, wood has a nasty tendancy of not being completely water(or rum)tight and thus a visit to the distillery will reveal all manner of unconventional solutions to preventing rum loss during distillation. The use of rags to plug the gaps wouldn’t be allowed I suspect under EU regulations but it was just how I imagined rum should be produced in the caribbean!
I could wax lyrical all day about the fascinating facts I learnt, but the printed word never does justice to the story when compared with the experience of hearing first hand from a knowledgeable and enthusiastic ambassador such as Stefanie. I shall close therefore with my thoughts on the rums tasted. The thing I love about the El Dorado range is not only that they taste great, but each product has a unique appeal. All too often I will taste a range of rums and discover that one product in the range (not always the oldest) is significantly better than the others, which are just variations on a theme. The processes and blends used by El Dorado however, create a range of rums, each of which has unique appeal and whilst everyone will have their favourite, all can stand on their own as great rums. The 8yr is a fantastic mixing rum that has a complexity of flavour lacking in many of its competitors, you could do much worse than use a bottle or two of this in a rum punch. The 12yr and 15yr both have qualities that appeal to different palates, with many people I talk to preferring one over the other for different reasons. I often hear that the 12yr appeals to whisky drinkers, with the 15yr being more of a rum-fan’s rum. I love them both, the fantastic smokiness in each that balances so well with the sweet, spicy and fruity notes always leaves me wanting more.
If you have yet to try these rums then I really insist that you do! They have something for everyone so pour yourself a glass, settle back in your favourite chair and be transported to the City of Gold.