Thursday, 14 April 2016

Discover Rum! - Rum Tasting at the Cuban Embassy, Moseley, Birmingham, 6th April 2016

Reviewed by Dee 

Since Jay and I started writing the blog in August 2014, we’ve attended wine tastings, sherry tastings, beer tastings, gin tastings and whisky tastings.  However, rum and brandy were noticeable gaps, so we decided to take a step in addressing that by booking in for a rum tasting session organised by Dine Birmingham for Wednesday 6th April 2016 at the Cuban Embassy, a new venue located in the heart of Moseley.

A rebranded version of the Bull’s Head pub, the Cuban Embassy is decorated in typical Cuban style, with pictures of boxers, 1950s style cars and lots of colour.  The venue is identifiable from the outside too, with the model Bull’s Head from the original pub repainted in the colours of the Cuban flag.
The venue is small, with seating areas to the left and right of the entrance, which is opposite the main bar.  It was busy, even for a Wednesday evening, even accounting for the customers who were there for the tasting.  The venue also serves food, and we noted how appetising it looked as it arrived from the kitchen to the bar via one of those lift things.

At the beginning of the tasting event, attendees were given a rum cocktail, with crushed ice and big lime juice and coconut flavours. 

The event was introduced by Ahmed Ahmed, founder of Dine Birmingham, who explained that it was the second rum tasting that they had organised.  The presentation was delivered by Luke Todd-Wood, Brands Development Manager of drinks distributor Maxxium UK Ltd.

The presentation was accompanied by slides,  and began with an insightful history of rum, which presented several theories as to how the drink got its name, and went on to cover the naval rum ration, which attracted particular interest.

The rums which were provided for tasting were all from the Brugal brand, based in the Dominican Republic, where the rum is distilled, matured and bottled.
The company was founded by Don Andres Brugal, a Spaniard who emigrated to Cuba before moving to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, where he founded the brand in 1888.  The business has remained with the Brugal family ever since, and is now in its 4th and 5th generations.

Five rums were on the tasting list, but before the tasting got underway, Luke pointed out that Brugal rums were noted for their refreshing dryness.

Rum #1:  Añejo
An aged rum, typically used as a mixer in cocktails.
Tasting Notes said:  Light and Woody aroma, hints of chocolate, butter, caramel
Dee said:  Light and oaky aroma, but I didn’t detect any of the chocolate that everyone else did.  A definite caramel and toffee flavour with no aftertaste.

Rum #2:  Especial Extra Dry
A white rum and another mixer.  Smoothness is enhanced, and colour removed, by triple filtering.
Tasting Notes said:  Crisp, smooth, notes of coffee bean, cocoa, butter and vanilla
Dee said:  A clear, fresh and slightly buttery aroma, but the taste was very dry and too harsh for my taste.

Rum #3:  XV
A sipping rum, blended from rums which have been aged for between 2 and 8 years in Bourbon and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks.
Tasting Notes said:  Golden Rum with aromas of honey, dried fruits, caramel
Dee said:  A rich, sweet and fruity aroma, followed by more fruit flavours and a welcome smoothness in the taste.  This one lingered far more than the first two rums, with hints of cardamom and to a lesser extent, cloves.

After the third rum was tasted, there was a break for food, which was included in the booking price.  I am pleased to report that the food tasted as good as it looked, and had a great home-cooked feel.  
Bread and a sweet Aioli style dip was followed by a plate of stewed black-eyed beans, and patatas bravas in a hot and spicy sauce.  
Both Jay and I would happily dine here again.

A choice of cocktails were available outside of the booking price, but discounted for the evening, so we decided to try a couple of them.
The first, an 1888 Old Fashioned, was made with Brugal 1888 rum (which we were yet to sample), Angostura Bitters, Maraschino Cherry, Sugar and Orange Peel.  This was a rich and fruity cocktail, sweetened by syrup from the Maraschino Cherry jar.  This cocktail proved a big hit with both of us.
The second, a Golden Mojito was more subtle, with fresh mint added to the Añejo rum, lime and sugar.

Rum #4:  1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar
A special edition rum, aged in American Oak and finished in Spanish Sherry casks
Tasting Notes said:  Smooth and full-bodied, spices, cinnamon, coffee.
Dee said:  A sweet aroma of sugar, cinnamon and honey, followed by a richer taste experience of dark chocolate, woodiness and even a hint of tobacco.

Rum #5:  Dry Spiced *Rum of the Evening*
A small-batch rum, which is currently being tested out on the market before being produced in larger quantities.
Tasting Notes said:  Deliciously balanced, distinctively spiced.
Dee said:  Very different to all of the other rums.  A super-sweet aroma which reminded me of buttercream icing but with extra spices, principally cinnamon and cardamom.  Taste-wise there was a big hit of vanilla and again a buttery taste, with a cardamom and slightly aniseedy aftertaste.

Both Jay and I enjoyed the event, which marked the beginning of what is sure to be a journey of discovery for us of the various different styles of rum that are out there. 
Based on this evening’s tastings, my initial preference is for the sweeter, spicier variety, but of course, we have barely scratched the surface and I look forward to trying out rums with different profiles in the future.

At £13 a head, plus booking fee, the event was very good value for money and is recommended for anyone who seeks an introduction to the world of rum.  On the downside, because of the small size of the venue and the fact that it was busy, we couldn’t always hear the presentation.  Tables were also a little on the cramped side, but this didn’t put anyone off and from what we could tell, all of the attendees seemed to be enjoying themselves.  On the whole, the evening was relaxed, entertaining and informative, and like the 1888 Old Fashioned:  A great mix.

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