Drink Rum

Why drink rum? With these words, I will attempt to convert all non-believers, and I will share what makes rum unique and worthwhile.

 

Not long ago, I thought that rum was sweet and sort of bland other than some very artificial flavorings that are common in the industry. But it took a positive experience with a bottle of exceptional quality, El Dorado 15 Year, to change my mind. Previous to this, my flavors tended much more towards what I might call “typical whiskey” flavors; vanilla, carmel, honey, sweet brown fruit, toffee, brown sugar, spice, tart green fruit, and chocolate. The list could go on endlessly. But despite all of that, even with some of my absolute favorite whiskey (Elmer T Lee, Eagle Rare 17 year, Yellow Spot) I find myself trying to find things to like about it. Not that it’s a chore at all necessarily, but here is where the difference lies for me personally. Rum is simply more approachable, especially a quality aged rum, which, finding one can be a task all its own. But once you are able to find one you will be met with the flavors of deep butterscotch, roasted pineapple, sweet homemade jam, salted caramel, burnt sugar, and cocoa.

 

Unlike American whiskey or Scotch, which have strict and intense parameters, rum comes from many geographically distinct areas such as Mexico, South America, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and even several in the U.S., and Canada. As a result, regulating the production of rum has become basically impossible, thus you have an incredible variation in quality and flavor. Some of the most notable differences would lie in the materials used for production. There are two commonly used practices in the production of rum. The first, and most common is the distillation of rum from molasses. In this process molasses is mixed with proprietary wild yeast and water, then distilled and aged in oak barrels, (often bourbon or fortified wine barrels). The second, and less common practice, is using fermented sugar cane juice in place of molasses. This finished product is known as Rum Agricole, and differs from typical molasses based rum in subtle ways, the most recognizable of which would be a lighter color, a thin mouthfeel, and a less powerfully sweet taste.

 

Without a doubt, the biggest difference between the regulation of Rum and other aged spirits is this; with rum the age stated on the outside of the bottle is only meant to reflect the maximum age of the spirit held inside. This is an extremely important distinction because people who are familiar with whiskey or scotch will know that the ages stated on those bottles reflect the minimum age of the spirit inside. This leaves the door wide open for trickery and allows for producers to make a barrel of rum with 1% 12 year old rum, and 99% 2 year old rum (or even younger) and then release it to the public with a brazen 12 year age statement, and then charge accordingly. While this may be discouraging to some, for me it only enhanced the thrill of the hunt. 

 

After my first experience with the El Dorado 15 Year I was smitten, and also excited to start my foray into rum. So it was easy for me to select a few rums I wanted to start with because of the connection they had to bourbon. Papa’s Pilar 24, Parce 8 & 12 year, and the Mount Gay XO, all found at Trailhead Liquor, were some that I immediately sprung for because they were all finished in bourbon barrels. Each one is amazingly distinct from the next, yet they all were reminiscent of all of the best qualities of both spirits. Vanilla and toffee notes from the bourbon, mingle with butterscotch, and burnt sugar flavors from the rum to form something truly unique, and something I always find myself reaching for.

 

Working at Trailhead Liquor has honed my passion for rum. This curiosity has taken me all over the internet to find information about the anthology of this divine spirit, the various production methods, and what it takes to create phenomenal rum. The fruits of this search weren’t clear to me until I found what is called a “Hydrometer Test”. A hydrometer test employs science that is above my understanding, but essentially, one can test a given alcohol for how much sugar is added per liter. This is crucially important to understanding what makes a rum you like taste the way it does, and it can be used as a guide to find something suitable for your palate. As I mentioned above, the rum that won me over was the El Dorado 15 year and after seeing how it faired in the hydrometer test (31 added grams of sugar per 1 liter) I felt I had to analyze my choice a little closer. It makes sense that it tasted so good, each sip had nearly a teaspoon of sugar in it, but (possibly because my background in whisky where additives are severely looked down upon) it didn’t make me feel good about my choice.

 

However, I knew that I had come to really like rum (nearly regardless of additives) and with this tool (the hydrometer test provided by Johnny Drejer of Drecon.dk) I could scan for rums with little to no added sugar. What I found was that almost any rum producer located in Barbados seemed to have almost no added sugar across the board, the forefront of those being Foursquare, Mount Gay, and The West Indies distilleries. Coincidentally, or not, these distilleries produce some of the highest rated rums of all time. 

 

With the help of other enthusiasts, I was able to procure a sample of rum from both the Foursquare and Mount Gay distilleries, and what I found after tasting both sort of shocked me. What did not shock me was that Foursquare’s 2007 12 year ex-bourbon cask Bajan Rum, was some of the most sensational, velvety, euphoria inducing rum I’ve ever experienced. The browned sugar sweetness perfectly tamed by the bold influence of a full 12 years in bourbon oak. A beautiful tanic dryness combating the oily cask strength mouth coating, a truly near perfect rum. Then it came to the Mount Gay XO, another bourbon cask aged rum, one difference being the lack of an age statement, the other and much more important fact is that Foursquare is always bottled at barrel proof, whereas the Mount Gay comes in at an underwhelming 43%. The lack of proof didn’t allow for these flavors to come together for me, the bourbon influence was almost totally dominant, bringing dry oak and corn ethanol. However the finish certainly redeemed some of the sips negative qualities, bringing light cinnamon and baking spice out of the drying oak.

 

This illustrates a very important point to me: prior to first hand experience drinking rum, I would have guessed that added sugar automatically made for a worse rum overall, and by deductive reasoning all rum with no added sugar is better overall. But I could not have been more wrong. Now having tried innumerable different rums, I would say that for me personally, most every rum has its application, whether that be a component for eggnog, dark & stormy, maitai, pina colada, daiquiri, or any number of tasty tropical treats, or just a nice sipping rum. Really, whatever you like to drink, there is certainly a rum out there for you, and if you’re anything like me, it will be a ton of fun to find it and the staff at Trailhead Liquor is here to help.

 

 -HB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in an age?

Age statements. What is it? Is it important? And why age?

This is a complicated question that’s answer lies in who you ask. Let’s start with the basic, perhaps obvious definition of what an age statement is. From scotch to rum, many bottles profess their age in bold numbers on the front of the bottle with a significant correlation between older spirits and cost. But what does it mean? In truth, this can vary from spirit to spirit. Case in point, if a bottle of scotch says “Aged 12 Years”, it means the youngest scotch in said bottle is 12 years old. If you see the same statement on a bottle of rum, it means that the oldest rum within the bottle is aged 12 years. 

There is much speculation that the higher the age statement, the better the product. But that is really up to the individual. Personally, I have $40 bottles that are amazing and $300 bottles that are so-so. One thing that is certain is the direct correlation between price and age. One reason is there is more evaporation with a product aged longer so it produces less bottles. Also, the perception that “older is better” can cause price inflation due to demand. A Macallan 18 for example sells for $284.95 and the Bowmore 18 sells for $129.95 (prices as of 8/19). Both are available at Trailhead Liquor, single malt, and aged for the same amount of time. Is the price a reflection of the quality? Perhaps, but one could also argue that Macallan being a more well known brand can charge a premium for their production. In the end, taste always comes down to personal preference. The easiest question to answer is why whiskeys are aged. The aging process takes away some of the harsher elements and “alcohol” taste and can take on various flavors in the barrel they are aged in, such as oak or port. 

Many distilleries are experimenting with “No Age Statement” (NSA) such as Oban Little Bay, which comes in as the lowest priced bottle for Oban. Others are using this to create even more premium products, such as Laphroaig Lore, or further still with Macallan Rare Cask. Often, Trailhead liquor staff are asked about ages on such products because the consumer does seem to expect an age statement at a certain price point. But without an age statement, some argue that a higher quality product can be achieved by combining a variety of ages with a tastier outcome. Some 30 year whiskies may taste like your brothers gym socks while a 7 year might be the nectar of the gods.  

So what is the future of the age statement? Only time will tell. There is buzz that the no age statement movement is a fail and most products will go back to including them on their premium lines. But there is concern about supply as whiskey grows in popularity and collectors become more common. Japanese whiskies have been especially impacted by short supply. Considering they have only been distilling for 90 years compared to Scotland’s 500+, it makes sense why there might be issues.  Nikka has removed age statements altogether, and Suntory has released NAS products to deal with short supply of aged barrels. 

So is older better? Not necessarily. For the true collector, owning a 30+ year bottle can be a wonderful addition. But, there are plenty of excellent whiskies well under the 30 year mark or with no age statement at all that are ripe for your enjoyment. The best course of action is to try as many things as possible and figure out what YOU like. Not sure? Feel free to check with a Trailhead Liquor staff member who can help guide you to your potential new favorite. 

La Jefa


Your Momma Wants Whiskey for Mother’s Day

How Gender Culture is Changing on Whiskey and the Spirit’s Feminist Roots.

I’ve been a whiskey drinker since alcohol first (legally!!) passed my lips, nearly 100 years now! Often greeted with raised eyebrows by bartenders and dates alike, I have been passionate about scotch since the ‘90’s. Luckily my budget has increased since then, giving me the opportunity to expand my whiskey portfolio, as has owning Trailhead Liquor.  In recent years, I’ve noticed a trend that sophisticated lady whiskey drinkers is absolutely the norm. It’s about time!

Sometime in the ’90’s

Did you know that ladies were at the helm of the original whiskey production? The first documented still was created by a lady alchemist in 4th century Egypt. As we know, alchemy is the science of turning base metals into gold, or creating a universal elixir. But turning malt into the amazing potion of whiskey is pretty darn close!  Likewise, throughout the middle ages, women were distillers and brewers until societal hobbling, accusations of witchcraft, and bigotry crept in making it illegal for women to be near alcohol. This followed by 100’s of years of gentlemen’s clubs, whiskey eventually became known as a man’s drink. Women exacted their revenge with the Temperance Movement and eventually Prohibition.  The whiskey market has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, and women make up 40% of whiskey drinkers.

Females have been instrumental forces in brands like Laphroaig, High West, Michter’s, Maker’s Mark and locally, Freeland.

If you aren’t sure about whiskey, I highly suggest going to a local restaurant with a decent list (The Stihl Whiskey Bar and Pine Tavern are good choices) or a tasting event and give it a shot! Ha! See what I did there? I am also a part of a ladies whiskey club. Each month, the host provides a bottle for the group to try. Not a hint of pretentiousness exists when among curious girlfriends.

Here are a couple great articles for overview of whiskeys…

A Comprehensive Beginners Guide to Whiskey
Whiskey for Beginners

Not sure what mom would like? Here are a few of my favorites in each category…

Scotch:

Single Malt: Oban or Dalwhennie

Blended: Monkey Shoulder

Irish:

Red Breast

Canadian:

Pendleton

Japanese:

Akashi

American Whiskey:

Woodford Reserve

Rye:

Michter’s Straight Rye (Michter’s, Pam became the first woman since Prohibition to serve as Master Distiller!)

Bourbon:

Henry McKenna 10 (hard to get so always buy when you see it!)

Bib and Tucker

Local Fav and Women Owned Distillery

Freeland Bourbon

Any Trailhead Liquor staff member can help you select the perfect whiskey for mom, so stop by today!

La Jefa


Portable Plastic Flasks and Fifths

Drinking Guide from a Chronic Dieter

Since my age was in double digits I have been counting calories, carbs, points, metrics, or whatever the diet de jour happened to be. Coming from a long line of fat people, along with a less than perky metabolism, has led me down the road of consistently watching my waistline. I long ago made the decision to only drink calories if they included alcohol, so no sugary mixers for this girl! After my 10,000th vodka soda, I was left wanting more. Read on and I will impart all the chubby girl wisdom I posses to you.

All classic spirits are 64 calories per ounce. We are talking whiskey, gin, rum or vodka. No cordials or extra flavors. Higher end flavored vodkas are fine like Absolut,  Stoli or Ketel One Botanicals to name a few. But nearly all other flavors of vodka and rum are sugar bombs, adding significantly to your calorie count. Another sneaky source of unwanted calories is tonic water. But thankfully we carry diet tonic water from Schweppes and Naturally Lite Tonic from Fever Tree to side step that potential pitfall. Some may argue that clear spirits are “cleaner” but the calories are the same regardless of choice, so I recommend drinking what is the most delicious to you.

Mixers can be the enemy to any calorie counter, but there are plenty of products now to battle the bulge. I am a huge mule fan, and love Cock and Bull or Bundaberg Diet Ginger Beer for a nearly guilt free indulgence. Diet soda or soda water is always a good choice as well. Baja Bob’s makes a full line of sugar free mixers that are darn tasty! I have searched in vain for a mixer made with a more natural sweetener like stevia that is worth drinking, but have struck out so far, despite my best efforts, but will continue my search.

Finally, I suggest embracing drinking your booze strait. A fine scotch like Oban or a whiskey such as Bib and Tucker are simply delicious all on their own without the need for mixer. Clase Azul Reposado tequila is likewise an amazing sipper. No chance of pesky extra calories sneaking in if you don’t mess with a mixer!

I strongly believe that any diet should include the occasional indulgence or celebration, so why not be smart about your choices?

La Hefa

Flasks and Cups

Are You Trail Ready? Spring/Summer Edition

Central Oregon is an amazing place. So many outdoor activities in every direction for the novice to the professional. Here at Trailhead Liquor, we make sure you can find everything you need to be ready for trail, river, camping, or just relaxing poolside. Check out a few selections of the many awesome things we have…

Hydro Flask White Wine

Whaaat??

A Hydro Flask that fits an entire bottle of wine? Keep your Stellar Organics White or other favorite white chilled to perfection all day long!

Flasks

We have an excellent collection of flasks, perfect for sharing the liquor of your choice with your adventure buddies.

Portable Plastic Flasks and Fifths

Portable Flasks and Fifths

Flasks and fifths in lightweight, unbreakable plastic, for hitting the trails or campgrounds.

Hard Seltzer

Hard Seltzer

White Claw or Spiked Seltzer, cold and ready for those calorie conscious athletes.

Buzz Ballz

Buzz Ballz!

These potent little beauties are in unbreakable plastic!

Canned Sterling Wine

Canned Wine

How cool are these? Canned, resealable Sterling Wine.

Canned Cocktails

Canned Cocktails

Tasty, pre-made cocktails, ice cold and ready for consumption.

Trailhead Liquor Gear

Fashionable Lids

How about representing with a Trailhead Liquor hat to keep the sun from your eyes?

Trail Beers

Trail Beers

We have a large selection of local canned “trail beers,” ’nuff said.

Cups to Go

Silipints or enamel cups are perfect unbreakable vessels for adult beverages camping or poolside.

Bombay Sapphire Gin

Gin’s Bad Rap

Recently I have been enjoying a bottle of Nolet’s Silver Gin that was gifted to me. It’s made in Holland and features the unique ingredients of peach, Turkish Rose, and raspberries. With a bottle that just radiates class and quality, not to mention a lid that could hold a door open.

And it compels me to share this unpopular not so secret secret…

I like Gin.

Now, anyone that knows me, understands that I favor nearly all forms of alcohol. I believe that every genre can be good, and that my preference for a drink is always dependent on the moment.

But gin always ranks high on my list, and a few bottles of this botanical nectar always have spots in my collection. But I have found that is not the most popular thing in our store. Even the suggestion of gin can cause an outward expression of confusion, and criticism from some.

While everyone can and should drink their own beverage of choice, I have three reasons why you should try gin:

  • It was practically flavored vodka before flavored vodka. Making of gin dates back hundreds of years, well before rows of vodkas flavored with vanilla, citrus, coconut, and pear appeared. There to provide patrons with the floral smells and the fruity tastes they desired. Gin adds simple and natural yet elegant flavors to your cocktail or glass. Depending on what you are looking for, the variety of flavors in gin is endless. Gompers gin from Redmond, OR for me tastes like biting into a ripe, fresh pear, which blends extremely well with iced tea or tonic water/club soda. Big Gin from Seattle, WA tastes to me of vanilla and baking spices. They even have versions that were finished in peated whiskey barrels. If you like mixing vodka, you should really consider the gin aisle for a more natural flavor.
  • Whiskey lovers who seek depth and layers of flavors in their drinks should seek out gin. If you have ever taken a sip of whiskey and broke down the tasting notes using words like “nuttiness” or “burnt caramel,” then you owe it to yourself to dive into gin. Many good gins are layered with unique botanicals and fruity flavors that take multiple tastings to uncover. And if you want to keep it close to whiskey home, find the barrel aged gin from Big Gin or go for the Monkey 47, a German gin with a molasses distilled base that has 47 botanicals in it. Either way, gin provides a greater tasting challenge to whiskey lovers than most whiskeys.
  • It goes with anything. As a whiskey lover, I have a special place in my collection for ryes. But during the summer months when the temperature is high and the forest fire smoke invades Central Oregon, I find that my rye (and peated) whiskeys take to waiting in the back of the shelves. And that’s when I reach most frequently for the gin, it’s light, it’s crisp and it makes the best summer weather drinks.