When it comes to distilled spirits, over the years I've acted like a most typical man and pretty much stuck to whiskies. Bourbon, Scotch, Canadian, Irish, I've known and loved them all. An occasional gin, rarely vodka (not enough flavor), and more recently mas tequila, por favor. I've also enjoyed the happy flavor of rum, but only when I'm feeling tropical (like when I'm in Hawaii or at Trader Vic's), and have never really considered it as an everyday tipple. So I was rather intrigued when I received an offer to attend a Cruzan rum tasting, and since my lovely wife The Rock Star is always up for adventure, we duly returned our acceptance RSVP, and made our way down the Tollway one recent starry night.
First off, I should say that if you want to attend a rum tasting, it is imperitive that it be conducted by someone as delightful as Andrea Bearbower, the Cruzan representative. Fun-loving, knowledgeable, occasionally tart-tongued (she is from New York, after all), and above all professional, Andrea really knows her stuff and is eager to share it. We met in the bar at the lovely Screen Door restaurant in One Arts Plaza, and it was clear from the opening salvo that, although she was quite earnest in her desire to extol the joys of Cruzan rum, the evening would not proceed without hilarity. She had placed her display box on a nearby settee while we were exchanging preliminary pleasantries, and when she turned back to retrieve it, she discovered the sous-chef Terrance rummaging through it! He apologized profusely, as he thought it might have been a package of grits he was expecting. (I think it speaks well of the street-smart, fedora-wearing Terrance; it shows that the restaurant is his domain, and that any unattended packages must explain their presence fortwith.)
Soon enough, Andrea proceeded to break out her goody box, and the demonstration commenced. We learned about black strap molasses (very dark and bitter, with most of the sugar removed), about hi-test (a rich, caramel-colored syrup distilled from cane molasses that is the secret ingredient in Cruzan Rums) and about fusil oil, which is leftover distillates removed in the refining process. Removing as much fusil oil as possible makes for higher quality, better tasting rum, and Andrea was eager to prove it. At her direction, the bartender poured three shots of regular, brand-name white rum and three shots of Cruzan Estate Light Rum. We first admired the color. While the brand-name rum was almost clear, the Cruzan was the color of California chardonnay, its more caramely appearance indicitave of the sugary goodness therein. Next, we lifted glasses to noses and inhaled. The brand name rum was mostly alcohol on the nose, with touches of butterscotch. The Cruzan showed definite vanilla with a touch of oak. Our tasting confirmed these observations. The brand name rum was rather one-noted, mostly the aforementioned butterscotch, while the Cruzan showed vanilla, oak, caramel, and a surprising topnote of cinammon. Definitely the preferred rum for us, and The Rock Star declared her intention there and then to abandon her beloved Malibu in favor of Cruzan. We then finished off the tasting proper with Cruzan cocktails made with blackberry syrup, spices and pepper. Most delightful.
Tasting over, we moved to Screen Door's outdoor patio where we dined on their simple-but-luxurious, Southern Comfort fare (more on that in a later post), and enjoyed the cool, starry evening and Andrea's company well into the night. We motored home happily, convinced that we had made a new friend, found a new restaurant, and discovered the joys of Cruzan rum all in one fell swoop. Website is www.cruzanrum.com, if you would like more info. Embark on your own spirited adventure soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!