Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Little Funk Is A-OK

Jamaican rums are known for their funk.  We're talking about big, bold flavors, the result of special and unique yeast strains, longer fermentation periods that incorporate dunder (yeast-rich foam leftovers from a previous batch of rum), and in many cases, the use of retorts (copper vessels attached to the pot still that contain the leftover high and low wines from a previous distillation, creating additional flavor compounds). Each of these elements contribute to rich, ester-laden rums that truly sing when mixed in a cocktail. 

Jamaican rums are actually classified by their ester levels (esters are volatile/acetic compounds that can lend fruity notes to a spirit), and they basically break down into these 4 levels:

- Low ester rums are called Common Cleans.  Think delicate and slightly floral.  

- Plummers have a bit more going on.  Now we're getting into light tropical fruit aromas and flavors,

- Wedderburn are fuller, with deeper fruit, more body, and increased pungency and lift.

- At the top of the scale lies Continental Flavored, also known as High Ester.  When sipped neat, these rums are the most pungent, the most powerful.  Some would even say it reminds them of nail polish remover.  Sound appealing?  Don't be scared.  Because when diluted with a little water, or properly mixed in a balanced cocktail, that nose-burning intensity is replaced with concentrated aromas of pineapple and very ripe banana.  

So what kind of a cocktail lets these high ester rums shine?  I'm currently serving the Bebita Caribe in the home bar: a blend of Appleton VX and Smith and Cross rums, St Liz Allspice Dram, fresh lime juice, house-made raw ginger solution, and home-made ginger beer.  Funky tropical fruit and baking spices, citrus, and a little fizz from the ginger beer combine in this bold yet refreshing rum cocktail.  Cheers!

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