Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Malty Christmas Windfall

My mum thinks that I'm hard to buy Christmas presents for. But the truth is I'm really quite easy please as I have the simplest of tastes. I am always satisfied with the best (yes that's an Oscar Wilde quote I stole from the elevator at ivy,Sydney). And as I've mentioned before as much as I love rum there's nothing better than a fine sippin' whisky.
Cragganmore '96 Distillers Edition
This Christmas I fared quite well in the receiving of malts. My dad gave me a bottle of Sheep Dip - a sprightly pure malt whisky, but the real pick of the bunch was a bottle of the Cragganmore 1996 Distillers Edition. It was gifted by a friend of mine that has a fine taste in malts, indeed this limited release is a real doosey.

Cragganmore is one of the original six Classic Malts -  a group of Diageo owned distilleries that banded together for a little more marketing clout in the late 1980s. Cragganmore was chosen to represent the Speyside region although others like Glen Elgin and Knockando have joined it since.

The standard distillery release is a 12 year old bourbon cask aged expression and a fine malt in its own right being elegant and austere before opening into more complex flavours.  The 1996 Distillers Edition, bottled in 2008 has also been left to mature for 12 years the marked difference being that it has also been given some time in port wood casks hence the 'double matured' stamp found on the label.

Pouring myself a healthy tot evidence of the port wood finish is immediately noticeable in the rich amber hue of the spirit . It's a viscous drop that eagerly clings to the side of the glass like a wanton hussy. Sweet toffee and apple pie dominate the nose with just hints of Christmas cake spice, dried peel and crystallised ginger. Entry onto the palate is a little soft, sweet - dominated by wood  before it gives way to more complex fruit flavours and persistent dry finish. The addition of water opens up those spicy characteristics on the nose but bottle at only 40% abv I'm loathe to do this most of the time.

She's an amiable sipper, there's no doubt about that, though the port wood finish does seem to obscure a little of the spirits complex character. I would love to see this dram at a higher proof too.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Treat Your Lady: Old Fashioned Rum & Raisin Ice-cream

Treat your lovely lady to a home-made ice cream delight
My lovely lady was gifted an ice cream maker for Christmas this year which means that the task of making said ice creamy treats has fallen in my lap. The first - and rather successful attempt I might add - was a rich Rum & Raisin delight. So good, in fact, I thought that I might share the recipe with you.

A delicious treat for the weekend
Old Fashioned Rum & Raisin Ice Cream 
Makes approxiamtely1 imperial pint or 8 scoops

300ml Unhomogenised organic milk
1/2 Cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla pod (split with seeds scraped)
1 egg (beaten)
250ml pure cream
Approximately 60ml Appleton Estate V/X rum (allow an extra tot or two for the chef)
3/4 cup Raisins
  1. Place the freezer canister of your ice cream maker in the freezer over night (for at least 12 hours at minus 15-20° Celsius).
  2. In a saucepan add milk, salt, sugar and vanilla pod (including seeds - it's black gold!) over a medium heat. Heat until milk it almost comes to the boil being careful not to let the mixture stick.
  3. Reduce heat. Gradually add half of the milk mix to your beaten egg stirring constantly to avoid cooking the egg. Add the milk/egg milk back into the pot. Stir regularly until the mixture slightly thickens - you're basically making a custard.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool. Place the mixture in the fridge and chill well - preferably overnight. 
  5. Soak your raisins in rum. Appleton Estate V/X is my pick for a full flavoured rum at a good price point. I always have a bottle of this on hand. Soak for at least 6 hours and chill in your fridge as well. 
  6. Once the custard is well chilled remove the vanilla pod and beat in cream with a wire whisk. Add the Raisins and about 30ml of the raisin infused rum. 
  7. Pour the whole lot into your ice cream machine to churn and allow to freeze.
Depending on the quality of your machine you may need to pour the thickened mix into a container and place into the freezer to firm up a little. Enjoy the ice cream on its own, in an affogato or perhaps in a boozey spider - simply add a shot of rum into an old fashioned milkshake or sundae glass, a scoop of rum & raisin ice cream and top with Bundaberg root beer. Yum!  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Island Time - Wild Days Rum: Barrel Number Two

Waiheke Island's Onetangi Beach
When I told  friends in Sydney that I was sitting on a beach in New Zealand the comment was met with no small amount of wonderment. New Zilund, for the record, does have beaches. Very nice ones at that. It was whilst en route to one of my favourite spots in the Auckland region - Waiheke Island's Onetangi Beach - that I came across another surprise for my Australian friends. New Zealand makes rum too.

Wild Days Rum, made on Waiheke Island, is not the first nor, I might wager, will it be the last rum produced across the ditch. New Zealand is, in fact, quite the nation of rum drinkers. Our Aussie cuzzie bros (click here for Wikipedia's list of New Zealand terms) might enjoy a Bundy, but in NZ we've long been swigging Coruba - a black as sin Jamaican rum brand developed for New Zealand during the 1960s. Coruba is, in fact, New Zealand's second largest spirit brand- a position it has held since 1980.

But back to Wild Days Rum. It's made from natural rain water and slow fermented molasses - I'm talking about 2-3 months here. The esters that have developed over this long brewing process are captured during distillation first in a pot still before being reflux distilled to create a pure spirit at about 90% abv. The spirit is immersed in activated charcoal before going through charcoal filtration. The filtered product is then aged in French oak - I'm not sure for how long at present, but I hoping I'll have an answer from the producers soon.

Each barrel equates to about 300 bottles which are released one at a time. Barrel Two pictured here has sold out but Barrel Three is currently on sale and apparently a few bottles of Barrel One still remain. 

Despite the heavy handed sounding filtration this bad boy has a lot going on. There's a massive acetate hit - a smell that I can only describe as sun-perished Sellotape (cellulose acetate is used as an adhesive). As scary as this may sound to some, I find it inviting and strangely nostalgic. It soon gives way to more approachable grassy notes, vanilla and butterscotch. The palate is sweet and syrupy, with golden syrup, hokey pokey and vanilla dominating. The grassy complexity found on the nose is evident in the finish which is lingering as is the vanilla sweetness.

The bottle is finished with wood chips to "continue the aging process". In my mind this rum has enough vanilla as it is. Indeed, I'd like to see the shape of this rum without such intense oak treatment and perhaps at a little higher proof (it's bottled at 40% abv).

Over all though I'm thoroughly impressed. I'm looking forward to further releases as this is a very enjoyable and drinkable wee dram. 

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Update 06/01/11: 

Russell Duurloo from Wild Days Rum has informed me that it only spends about 10 months on oak in ex-Cabernet barrels from Waiheke's Te Whau Point. Technically you wouldn't be able to call this a rum in Australia, but regulations in New Zealand do not require rum to be aged for a minimum of two years. In my mind this spirit has had all the oak treatment it needs although Duurloo would like to see it age for a further year.    

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Smells Like... Victory - Man O' War Gunpowder Rum

I'll be the first to admit that I gathered considerable booty this Christmas, but I'm sure I wasn't the only soul on the Seven Seas to decide a little self gifting was in order too. It was fortunate that the trade winds brought me back to my homeland of New Zealand - a land that in its infancy was haven for scofflaws, scoundrels, and all sorts of rum toting reprobates. Fortunately, a few of these decrepit fellows still remain.

Merry Christmas to me - Man O'War Gunpowder Rum

Ben Simpson, bartender extraordinaire at Wellington's Motel, is the creator of a liquor curio that I obtained on my recent visit. Labelled Man O'War Gunpowder Rum  it's based on the sort of stuff whalers, pirates and rogues may have been drinking when Captain Cook first circumnavigated New Zealand. It's a proprietary blend of Caribbean and American rums, tobacco, chillies and black gun powder - the sort of stuff you would have used to charge your blunderbuss - made to an 18th Century recipe.

The rum has recently received international attention in the UK's CLASS magazine and The Atlantic - aye it's fine stuff and well past time I got hold of a bottle or two to be sure. Unfortunately it ain't easy to get hold of - you need to barter for product should you wish to get your hands on it. It's not for sale... yet.

Despite the near toxic sounding ingredients this wee dram makes for an intriguing drink. It ain't for everyone, it's true, but it's beverage that will make you 'argh' with the most scurvy ridden of pirates. I kind of like to think of it as the 'Brown Brown' of the liquor world.

The nose starts off sweet - almost maple syrup like before you're hit with sulphurous notes - the smell of discarded fireworks after a grand Guy Fawkes celebration. The palate too has a sweet-soft entry belying the building heat which soon develops from the chilli content. It doesn't explode, however, but gives way to more complex savoury, powder keg, prickly and metallic flavours. The finish is dry and lingering with chewy cigar-like tones and the tingling of an imminent fire-fight.      

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