Evening of Rum (Fire)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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Fun fact: Jamaican rums are highly regarded mainstays in the global spirits industry. Hampden Estate, the makers of Rum Fire white overproof rum, is the only distillery in the Caribbean making 18th century-style rum utilising long-fermentation, molasses and dunder. These 18th century-style rums are characterised by high esters, pot-distilled via a discontinuous distillation process, and have an appealing aroma. On Tuesday, February 12, Hampden Estate director of marketing and Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel director Christelle Harris hosted the second Evening of Rum in the hotel's El Dorado Room. Over the course of the evening, the dozen specially invited guests sampled five rums curated by Harris and Rum Fire's North American importer, rum connoisseur Dr Nicholas Feris.

Feris noted that there seems to be a local lack of understanding about how revered Jamaica's “national treasure” is in the global marketplace. Rum Fire is one of his most important rum accounts in the United States. Upon arrival, guests received a welcome cocktail — Grace of Grog — created by San Francisco mixologist Jeanie Grant. Grant won the prestigious Iron Tikitender award in 2018 for this cocktail which utilises, yes, you guessed it, Rum Fire white overproof rum. After a glass (or two; wink, wink) of the welcome grog, guests settled around a table ready to taste the five rums curated by Harris and Feris.

Sampled that evening were two Hampden Estate rums — a tropical-aged pure single rum and Rum Fire white overproof rum; a 2005 Foursquare single blended rum from Barbados, Don Q Cristal white rum from Puerto Rico and Rhum JM Gold from Martinique. In addition to sampling, guests received a high-level overview of the rum industry. Did you know that in some countries like Venezuela and Panama, for a product to be called “rum” it has to be aged? And single-estate rums (like those produced by Hampden Estate) have more value as they offer a full terroir experience because each step (from cane to distillation) occurs in the same place.

Rum Fire is exceptionally smooth. The nose of the white overproof rum is full of nutty, vanilla and citrus aromas; the initial sip wallops but has a short finish that is delightfully mellow. Rum Fire gets all of its nuances from being a dunder-style rum. Dunder is the “oily, densely flavourful, highly aromatic, matter left over post-distillation”. During the discontinuous distillation process, the dunder is reintroduced to the next batch of fermenting molasses to create the full-bodied inimitable flavour of Rum Fire. The rum won a gold medal at the 2013 Miami Rum Renaissance Festival and is celebrated amongst bartenders, rum connoisseurs and mixologists worldwide.

After the tasting, guests noshed on rum-infused bites that included cantaloupe (infused with Rum Fire) with aged cheddar; green plantains with Rum Fire chicken confit and salt fish fritters with tropical Rum Fire chutney. Grant made another cocktail — this one steeped in Jamaican heritage. Jasper's Jamaican Punch was invented by a north coast bartender Jasper LaFranc, who worked at the Bay Roc Hotel in Montego Bay during the 1960s. The cocktail is characterised by the addition of Angostura bitters, fresh lime juice and grated nutmeg. It packs quite a punch.

The world of rum was celebrated at the Hampden Estate Evening of Rum. Thursday Food looks forward to the third staging.

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