The Beginning of a Very Rummy Summer
It's the day after Independence Day. That painful morning after we've celebrated the founding of this great nation by doing what Americans do best, eating, drinking, and blowing shit up. Shouldn't the 4th always be on a Friday? My East LA neighborhood turns into a literal war zone. Starting a month before the 4th, the pops of M80s and firecrackers down by the river steadily grow into a deafening din of explosions on every corner for miles around. I'm certain I heard someone just shooting a gun into the air last night. God bless America. It's also the only Holiday where nearly everything (except K&L) in LA is closed. It truly unites us like few other events during the year.
It's hard to pinpoint what the 4th means to the most Americans. Some treat it with stoic reverence for the struggle of Independence and the great principles it espoused. Others use it to examine our national character and offer some solutions for a better future. But most people just want to recreate a bit of that ol' American spirit like founding fathers would have: some punch, some beer, some wine, some rye, some rum, some madeira, some sherry, some brandy, some meat, explosions and dessert.
After all, our founding fathers were legendary tipplers. Their reputation for the love of drink withstands the test of time and remains a component in popular culture today. And there's no doubt that 242 years ago, on this day nearly a year after Paul Revere's famous ride and only months before the British offensive defeated George Washington's Army on Long Island, this complicated group of delegates to the second Continental Congress would have celebrated the publishing of their deliberations, an explanation for the creation of a new nation, with some serious libations.
They would have probably had access to the very best in the world despite of mounting military pressure. And likely the most popular beverage during this period the country would have been rum. Sugar, rum and the connection to the revolution cannot be diminished. Nor should Rums inextricable connection to the next massive political upheaval a hundred years later be ignored. While Bourbon may be the national drink, rum is more responsible for shaping the character of our nation than any other spirit. And for all that rum represents historically, we as a populace understand it the least. So let's start now, little by little with these three unusual offerings. All from French speaking islands. Both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were heavily connected to French thought, culture and language. A fitting choice for the day after Independence.
Marc Darroze has spent the last 20 years perfecting the art of aging and blending Armagnac in the house of Darroze, which father Jean had nearly 5 decades earlier. Jean was a restaurateur and enamored with the complexities and diversity of the tiny domaines of Gascogne. Likewise, Marc has taken that endless curiosity and epicurean ideal out to the rest of the world. His line of specially selected spirits from all over France and the rest of the world is called Bapt & Clem. Here he's bottling some of the most unique and interesting spirits on the market today and although he's working closely with suppliers to select excellent stocks, he's not dictating the elevage to the same degree as he might with the domaines he works with back home.
The Oxenham Distillery was founded in 2010 on the Isle de Maurice. The island known as Mauritius in English is renowned for it's unique climate and fertile soils making it one of the finest places to grow cane in the world. The Oxenham family has been importing and distributing wine and spirits on Mauritius since 1932. The confluence of those factors and a greater interest in craft spirits and rhum in general are what encouraged the family to build this tiny distillery in the Wilhems District in the center of the Island. It is truly an honor for Marc Darroze to have been allowed to work with a small portion of some of the distillery's first distillates. This rum was distilled from molasses to 83% alcohol. It's reduced to 70% before being aged in 600L Sherry butts in the hot humid cellar with an average temperature of close to 80 degrees. That means upwards of 8% evaporation and an extremely quick and powerful maturation. So despite the young age expect a ton of rum and sherry character for this unusual offering.
The exceptional Savanna distillery has been notably unavailable on the American market despite accolades from across the rest of the world. The small distillery on the Island of Reunion is probably one of the most exciting things you can't get in this country. It's unique in that it's operated similar to the Agricole distilleries of the Caribbean, but distills rhums from both fresh cane and molasses. In this case the rhum was distilled from molasses supplied by the Bois-Rouge refinery on the island, so it's truly an exercise in rhum terroir. The rhum is distilled in an alembic column still like an Agricole Rhum and aged in the chai on site for 12 years in used ex-Cognac barrels. Marc was lucky to get the keys to the warehouse and selected this special lot of barrels for his new line of spirits. The first rum from Reunion that we've ever sold and hopefully not the last.
The Reimonenq Distillery is one of Guadeloupe's finest. Founded in 1916 by Joseph Reimonenq in Sainte-Rose on the island of Basse-Terre, the distillery was destroyed in a fire in 1970. After being rebuilt and modernized, the distillery launched a Rhum Museum. It’s one of Guadeloupe's most popular tourist attractions, yet the distillery sells no rum in the United States other than this unique offering. Like all Agricole, it's distilled from fresh cane juice. The cane is harvest and crushed in a short period of time to preserve the quality and prevent spoilage. The highly unstable juice is fermented in tanks for up to four days before being distilled on a highly unusual double column still. This design is unique in the West Indies and was developed by the current proprietor Leopold Reimonenq. The fermented juice or "bunch" is heated indirectly by a serpentine heat exchanger. This allows incredible control during distillation and offers one of the highest quality distillates in Agricole Rhum today. The hot humid aging offers incredible depth of character yet doesn't hinder the inherent finesse of this high quality spirit. Considering the incredible cost and significant amount of loss (nearly 70% of the volume evaporates within 10 years) and the extremely high cost of comparable vintage Agricole Rhum, this ones high price tag is understandable and well warranted considering the rarity and complexity of old Caribbean aged Agricole.
More rum to come. It's the next big thing after all...